With the UTMB now less than 2 weeks away it’s finally time to make some decisions on that all-important kit. I’ve done plenty of testing for weight, chafe potential, annoying jiggliness, warmth, waterproofness and possibility of swishing noises driving me mental. I’ve performed the ultimate test: race testing. How easy is it to get a gel out of that pouch in race conditions? Can I save precious seconds by not taking my pack off when I go to the toilet? Stuff like that. So, for anybody interested, here’s the verdict:
1. Backpack. Very important. This will be on my back for 30 something hours, it has to have space for all my mandatory kit and it all needs to be easily accessible. I’ve tried a few different brands over the last couple of years but I’ve found my ideal pack in the Berghaus Vapour 15. It’s just the right size for everything I need, it’s a good secure fit (I have to pull every adjustable strap to its absolute limit but that’s fairly normal for me), it has a couple of nice zip pockets at the front on the belt, ideal for gels, gloves etc, and the water bottle sits horizontally at the bottom of the pack (it takes a bit of practice to access it on the run but it means it doesn’t slosh around or make your pack heavier on one side).
2. Poles. A must-have for me on a race like this. I love my Black Diamond Ultra Distance poles. So light, so clever the way they fold up and stash away, so helpful on the big climbs.
3. Jacket. Another really important one on a race where the weather is so unpredictable. Again, I’ve tried out a few but settled on the Berghaus Vapour Storm. When I first saw it I thought it looked more like a walking jacket but it’s actually really light, it’s a great tapered fit (so it doesn’t rustle) and for a Gore-Tex jacket it’s really breathable. There are nice touches like thumb loops on the sleeves and a small zip pocket on the chest. I’d trust this jacket in rain or snow.
4. Trainers. The jury is still out on this one, depending on the weather (though with a drop bag I’ll probably use 2 pairs). My trusty Brooks Cascadia have seen me through the CCC and TDS (not the same pair, obviously) and they are very comfortable but they’re not as grippy as other shoes. The Berghaus Vapour Claw is much grippier, it’s got a nice big toe box and they dry out quickly when they get wet. I’ll probably use both.
5. Gaiters. Anything to keep out the tiny rocks, dust and mud is definitely worth a go to stave off the blisters. I’ll be using Inov-8 gaiters, tried and tested in the volcanic sands of Transvulcania.
6. Mid-layer. It’ll have to be twinned with another layer to meet the UTMB guidelines because it’s so light but one of the best bits of kit I’ve tried this year is definitely the Berghaus Vapourlight Hypertherm jacket. It packs up really small and it’s reversible: one side keeps out the wind and keeps you warm, the other side allows it to breathe, when you’re working hard but just need another layer. It’s pretty much always in my pack (it’s great to throw on if you stop to eat/read a map and get a bit chilly) and it’s so versatile that it even makes a lovely pillow when twinned with a dry bag full of clothes (I discovered this weekend).
7. Gloves. Another important one. There’s a big difference between ‘water resistant’ and ‘waterproof’! After trying lots of ‘waterproof’ gloves, some of which didn’t keep the water out, some of which just made my hands sweaty, I’ve settled on my Black Diamond fleecy gloves with a very thin Extremities Gore-Tex overmit over them when needed.
8. Head torch. As I’ll be out for 2 nights it’s important the power lasts a long time (or I’d need a pack full of batteries), and it needs to be light and comfortable. The LED Lenser SEO7R fits the bill. There’s no separate battery pack – it’s all contained in the bit at the front – and it’s really light and powerful but the batteries will last all night on power-saving mode. You can adjust the lens to hone in on things (e.g. is that a course marker, or perhaps is that really a fairy or am I hallucinating after 2 nights without sleep at UTMB?) and angle the light to your choice.
So, kit sorted, training sorted, just need to run the UTMB now. Yikes.