I am lucky enough to have built up a good selection of ultra gear to mix and match which is versatile enough to do me for most types of races, so I no longer need to go on a shopping spree every time I enter a big race. My most used kit currently is
- Jacket: OMM Kamleika smock or OMM Cypher Event jacket
- Trousers: OMM Kamleika Race Pants or Raidlight Surpantalon Ultralight
- Base Layer: Helly Hansen or OMM Vector Zip
- Shorts: Ronhill Cargo Trail or 2Xu Compression
- Hat: X-bionic Soma Cap
- Calf Guards: Compressport or CEP
- Socks: Compressport ProRacing High Cut or Drymax Trail Running Socks – 1/4 Crew High
- Pack: Ultimate Direction PB Vest or Raidlight Olmo 20l
- Gloves: Sealskinz Nordic ski Gloves or Asics winter glove
Some of this stuff is quite expensive, but by patiently watching for sales, taking last year’s model or by Santa being generous I have rarely paid full price for it.
Throw in and an assortment of buffs and t-shirts and I am pretty much good to go most places.
There are however, still a few bits of kit on my Birthday, Christmas and lottery win list.
What I need it for
You don’t need much of a head torch for summer running in Scotland so for races like West Highland Way or Great Glen Ultra pretty much any head torch will do. Running in the Alps in late summer is a different matter and with TDS coming up this year I need something which will give me a good bright light for up to 8 hours at a time.
What I have:
I have various head torches which work pretty well to a greater or lesser extent. My main torch is a LED Lenser H7R
It works well and gives a nice big beam especially in darkness. It represents very good value for money and a good balance between price and brightness, especially as I got it in a sale for about £35. Having had it for a few years, I am beginning to wonder if it has seen better days as batteries seem not to last very long any more.
I have run out of patience with batteries – I have tried just about every kind under the sun and still have to change them every few hours. They are worth a separate post of their own…..
I also have the Alpkit Gamma which is the best value head torch on the market, mainly because it is so ridiculously cheap at around £15 but with a good wide beam and decent battery life.
Another very useful piece of kit is the LED Lenser Neo. This is a very small lightweight torch which is perfect as a spare or backup torch and with enough light to get you out of trouble. The battery life is very good indeed so you will get a good 12 hours out of the torch without having to change batteries. Again a very reassuring feature in an emergency backup.
What I want:
I might pick up one of the new model Alpkit Gammas or I might explore some of the high powered LED Lenser torches but I would always end up coming back to the Petzl Nao
This light isn’t cheap at over £100 and I have resisted the urge to buy one so far, but the brightness and battery life are very good and having borrowed my lovely wife’s one I have to concede that it is better than anything I have at the moment. Any torch that you can actually programme from your computer has to be good! If I was buying one I would probably also buy a spare battery for flexibility and to cover those very long races where you might be out for two nights. Again at £25 a go the spare battery isn’t cheap but better to be safe than sorry and with a spare it could be charged up on the go in your pack with a portable charger.
What I need it for
Poles are not allowed in Scottish races so it is really just for overseas ultras that I need poles. There is always a debate about poles but once you have used them in the big mountains you really feel the benefit of them. With more adventures in the Alps planned, I am looking for a pole which is very light weight which obviously means less weight to carry, but also means better balance when running with them in your hand.
They need to be strong enough to survive me being hashy with them, and they need to fold up small enough to fit inside a backpack or strap tightly to a running pack without flapping around. Ideally they will be easy to assemble and take down, especially with cold fingers and in a perfect world the length would be adjustable to allow for different types of terrain.
What I have
I have an old pair of Leki lightweight titanium walking poles. These were top of the range when I got them many years ago. There really isn’t much wrong with them. They are quite robust, are adjustable in height so can be altered depending on whether you are going uphill or downhill. They are pretty light. You notice you have them in your hand but not enough to imbalance you. I used these on the CCC race and never put them in my pack once, but strapping them to your pack can be a bit of a guddle especially when your fingers and brain are a bit fuzzy.
What I want
I am still undecided. I am tending towards the Mountain King Trail Blaze Skyrunner Carbon. This has the attraction that it is very light at only 106g per pole and by folding into 4 sections it will stash away easily and securely in my pack.
At around £90 per pair it feels like a lot of money for a piece of kit which I worry might be a bit flimsy, but the convenience is tempting.
The other pole which catches my eye is the Leki Micro Vario Carbon. This has all the features I am after but while lightweight it is heavier than the Mountain King and it is significantly more expensive at £130-£150.
It is probably more robust than the Mountain King, has a sturdier handle and has the big advantage of being adjustable.
A couple of other alternatives come in to the mix as well. The Black Diamond Ultra Distance Pole which is similar to the Mountain King, but possibly a bit more sturdy if heavier.
The final one which caught my eye was the Raidlight Carbon Trail pole. A bit heavier than the others but still quite attractive and I am a fan of Raidlight gear.
Hard to choose but on balance I would probably go for the Mountain King over the Leki, just because it is the lightest, cheaper and less complicated.
What I need it for
This is a slightly mundane item after the previous two things on my shopping list but a decent pair of gaiters really does help keep dirt and stones out of your shoes. I also need a gaiter which is robust enough to keep excess water and snow from getting in to your shoe and which will give a bit of protection to your ankles from rocks and the odd time you kick yourself.
What I have
I have tried a range of different gaiters. The Dirty Girl ones are quite pretty and keep the dry stuff out, but I find they are a pain to attach to your laces and you need to velcro them on which is also more effort than I can be bothered with. They are thin so they do get wet.
I have tried the Inov-8 sock with the built in gaiter. These are ok, but the socks aren’t my preferred sock so that isn’t a solution on a long race where you might want to change your socks. I have also tried the Inov-8 race ultra gaiter but they have attachments for Inov-8 race ultra shoes and don’t fit other shoes well.
My favourite gaiter so far is the Inov-8 Debris Gaiter 32. This is a thick gaiter with a sock cuff, which covers your laces and which keeps water out as well. My pair has seen better days and the elastic straps which hold them on have worn out, so it is time for a new pair.
What I want
The easy solution to this is just get another pair of the Inov-8 Debris gaiters. There is little to fault them and at around £15 are not going to break the bank.
I am also quite fancy the Outdoor Research gaiter. These are a bit more expensive but might do the trick in very gritty conditions. At nearly £30 these are pricey for a pair of running gaiters.
The final pair on my list is the Raidlight STOP RUN gaiter. This is probably the main contender to replace my Inov-8s. It is pretty robust, and claims to be waterproof and has the added benefit of a wee bit of padding round the ankle bones. At about £20 it is not too expensive