As a member of the Trail Team 2014 my natural habitat is trails, mud, hills and, when I get the chance, mountains. Berghaus and LED Lenser very kindly provided the Trail Team with lots of excellent kit to help us run around the countryside, staying dry, warm, comfortable and safe. I’m still living in the sticks with footpaths right from my garden gate and enjoying my trail running every opportunity I get, but circumstances now mean that I’m working in London during the week. The occasional run at home before work has gone out of the window now that I’m on the 6.59 train. Some evening jaunts on my local trails have had to be shelved because the reliably unreliable First Great Western train service has failed me. So, to avoid becoming one of those sedentary, dead-eyed commuters who pop open a can of Stella on the way home to wash down their stinking McDonalds I’ve taken to run-commuting and making very good use of all that fantastic kit in a different environment.
When faced with a choice between standing wedged between other humans in a giant metal tube, with somebody’s rucksack in my face and, on one occasion recently, somebody using my arm to rest their book on so they could read more comfortably, or running along the canal to and from work, the canal wins every time. It’s not without its drawbacks. I live in fear that I will fail a drugs test because of the amount of weed fumes I inhale running through Camden. I almost stepped on a very laid-back rat the other night (come to think of it, that was quite near Camden). But run-commuting feels great – I feel like I’m sticking it to the man and beating the tube every time I do it.
Run-commuting has logistical challenges and this is where having good kit comes in. I’ve tried many running rucksacks over the years and there’s always some sort of compromise in size, comfort, pockets, jiggliness etc. The Berghaus Vapour 15 served me very well at the UTMB and it’s equally good for commuting. Those small zip pockets on the front were perfect for things I needed to get hold of easily at UTMB – gels, bars, wrappers and my fold up mug – and now they’re equally useful for those items important for commuting – my season ticket and my phone (so I can check how late the First Great Western trains are tonight). At the UTMB it was the perfect size for all my mandatory kit – waterproofs, hat, gloves, bandage, survival blanket – and now it’s the perfect size for all the mandatory work kit – work appropriate clothing, a door pass with a funny photo of me on it, iPad to do some reading on the train, car keys. Its contents may be much less exciting but it’s just as useful.
The LED Lenser head torch (SE07R for the head torch geeks) proved itself a fantastic companion in the mountains at night and now its super powerful beam alerts me to rats, those evil looking Canada geese, drunks and discarded food lying on the tow path. Less glamorous than lighting up Mont Blanc but practical nonetheless. The Berghaus Hypertherm, a ridiculously lightweight jacket which folds down to the size of your fist but has all the technology to keep you insulated and warm is always in my pack when I’m out on a long run, particularly at night, now. It’s also the perfect thing to put on to stave off the cold when you get to the station a bit sweaty and discover that your train’s been delayed. I’m pretty sure Berghaus didn’t have First Great Western’s unreliability in mind when they developed it but it’s certainly been a very useful bit of kit in a commuting survival situation.
I’m sure that my kit longs to hit the hills, just as I do whenever I’m sucking in London air, but we’re making the most of it. We grin and bear it during the week and I reward it with a day out on a coastal trail or on a nice country route at the weekend. During the week we rush around and take each other for granted but at the weekend we spend quality time together.