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planetFear - Articles - The 2009 Mountain Marathon Kit List

The 2009 Mountain Marathon Kit List

Article by planetFear
Friday 16th October 2009
  • This is the 7th year that planetFear has provided THE 'Mountain Marathon Kit List'. Each year we have updated and re-written the previous year's article trying to take into account all the latest equipment and clothing that is available, through planetFear, from the world's leading suppliers.

Above: John Helm sorting through his kit before the 2005 Saunders. Photo Simon Richardson / www.darkpeakimages.co.uk

What sort of weight should your bag be then? An experienced Elite competitor will probably be starting day 1 with a bag (excluding water) that weighs less than 4kg! However, that's only possible because they are prepared to suffer no luxuries, probably be a little cold overnight and spend their money on the best kit. A typical pack probably weighs closer to 6 or 7kg and many first timers will have much, much heavier packs.

If you are unsure of what to take, it's best to err on the side of caution. Snow, torrential rain, high winds and freezing temperatures have all been seen at the UK events and sometimes on the same day! As a more experienced competitor you'll have the knowledge and experience to make informed decisions on what to take and it's more likely you'll be willing to invest in some top quality kit. If you are prepared to pay a little extra for the luxury of saving weight, then there are some great products out there.

For almost all the clothing featured in this article there are men's and women's styles available. Please just click the links.

planetFear Mountain Marathon Kit List - Image Dave MacFarlane

Kitted up for good conditions. Image - Dave MacFarlane / planetFear

Although this article is focussed on mountain marathon equipment for foot races (GL3D, LAMM, Saunders, Mourne and OMM), most of the equipment and clothing would be equally at home at bike orientated events such as the Polaris.

Important Note about this article
Manufacturers have been known to lose a few grams when stating the weight of their products. Therefore, for this article, as well as showing the manufacturer's weights (always the first weight listed) we have actually weighed most items on our digital weighing scales (which is always the second weight listed)! If there is a letter in brackets after our weight e.g.120g (L) it means that weight is for the size in brackets, in this case Large. Otherwise, all weights are for size Medium (clothing). It's important to note with sleeping bags that the amount of down added to the bags varies as they are often hand filled. If your 500g bag weighs 550g be thankful it's warmer and if it weighs 450g be thankful it's lighter! Seriously though, we are happy to weigh sleeping bags before sending them out if you want us to check.

1. Trousers / Tights / Shorts
2. Base Layer Top
3. Underwear

4. Fleece / Warm Top
5. Waterproof Trousers
6. Waterproof Jacket
7. Windproof Clothing

8. Hat, Gloves and Socks
9. Head Torch

10. Food For 36 Hours
11. Compass
12. Survival Bag/Space Blanket
13. Sleeping Bag
14. Rucksack
15. Tent
16. Cooking Stove and Pan
17. Footwear
18. Hydration
19. Misc Essentials


1. Trouser / Tights / Shorts

Trouser / TightsXA Raid Tight
Most events insist that you carry full leg cover even if you run in shorts. If you are looking for something to keep you warm the a pair of lightweight fleece or power stretch style leggings will be fine, something like the Mountain Equipment Powerfleece tight. Alternatively if you are looking for something to actually run in, then some lightweight running tights will be more appropriate, we recommend the Salomon XA Raid tight, which comes in men's and women's fits or the Ronhill XT tight.

 

Also worth considering is a pair of windproof trousers. Although not required in the rules, if the weather really is terrible it's a lot more comfortable to run in these than waterproof trousers. Additionally, some events only specify "Pertex trousers" (Pertex is a windproof fabric) in the rules rather than waterproof trousers. See section below on windproof clothing.

 


2. Base Layer Top

Walking round in the hills can make you sweaty enough but running for hours is definitely going to make you "glow". Investing in a technical, high wicking base layer will make a huge difference to your comfort and warmth. Depending on the weather you may wish to opt for either a t-shirt or long sleeve top. Personally I prefer something with a zip on the chest to help ventilation.

The Helly Hansen LIFA tops are clear favourites with MM competitors and are well known for their extraordinary wicking properties. However you'll go a long way to beat the Haglofs Azer Tops, they come in a long and short sleeve version and provide a technical fit, with the long sleeve coming in a zipped version for extra venting.

planetFear Mountain Marathon Kit List - Image Dave MacFarlane

Helly Hansen Lifa still as popular as ever at the Rab Mountain Marathon 2009 - Image Dave MacFarlane / planetFear   

 

T-shirts

Long Sleeved T shirts   

Although not specifically mentioned in the rules, I'm assuming that most competitors will be wearing some underwear! It's worth considering that many competitors, indeed active outdoors people, spend loads of money on technical, wicking clothing but neglect to purchase any wicking underwear. The result being the most unpleasant sensation of cotton underwear sticking to our groin and making your undercarriage sweaty and uncomfortable. Worth thinking about is windproof underwear for the boys; a cold wind has a certain shrinking affect and can become quite unpleasant after a few hours. We stock the Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 Boxer with fly, they are amazingly comfortable (once you have snipped the inner labels out!) and are essential kit for me now. The synthetic option are the Haglofs Actives Boxer - also a comfortable boxer. For the Ladies the Icebreaker Nature Ultralight Bikini is popular.

Bras - by Heather Clark
For most female competitors, a good bra is essential. Your saggy old cotton favourite is probably not up to the job and, once you've worn a proper sports bra, there is no going back. A good bra for running must be well-fitting, supportive, comfortable and preferably wicking too. I recently acquired a wicking sports bra and the comfort is amazing. There are several styles available from reputable outdoor brands. We recommend a high impact bra for the mountain marathons and any other running.

We normally stock a good range of seamless, high wicking underwear and bra's, which can be seen here


4. Fleece Top / Warm Layer

Some competitors take just a long sleeve t-shirt as their ‘warm top' and may end up shivering their way through the night. Remember that you've got to be fighting fit in the morning so a decent warm top can make a big difference to your comfort. The following selection of lightweight fleece and Power Stretch tops will do the job.

 

  • Patagonia R1 Pullover / £79.99 / 290g / Brilliant lightweight wicking midlayer / Nothing. Read our review of it here.
  • Patagonia R1 Women's Pullover / £69.99 / Brilliant lightweight midlayer / Nothing
  • Patagonia R1 Hoody / £99.99 / 354g(L) / Slightly closer fitting version of the R1 Pullover with balaclava style hood for extra warmth and protection / Nothing
  • Haglofs Wigo Top / £94.99 / 340g / 320g / Made with the best quality Polartec Powerstretch, warm and durable / Expensive.
  • Haglofs Wigo Q Top / £94.99 / 245g / 297g / Made With the best quality Polartec Powerstretch, warm and durable / Expensive.
  • Patagonia R2 Jacket Mens + Wmns / £99.99 / 420g - 365g / 415g - 353g / Very warm for those who feel the cold / Weight and bulk. 
  • Haglofs Single + Q Tops / £44.99 / 235g - 190g / 227g - 183g / Quality lightweight fleece / Nothing.

If you really feel the cold or the weather forecast is particularly cruel then it may be worth carrying some warmer clothing. Go for a down insulated top if you are confident of keeping it dry and warmth/weight ratio is your primary concern. Alternatively go for a synthetic insulated top if conditions are likely to be wet due to synthetic fibre's ability to stay warm when wet, unlike down feathers which clump together.

 


5. Waterproof Trousers

Some events insist on waterproof trousers, others allow you to take Pertex trousers. In the past I've always recommended that people just take Pertex trousers unless the rules insist on waterproof trousers. However, that advice is far from clear cut now with the development of extremely lightweight waterproof trousers.

The Montane Atomic Pants are incredibly light, which when compared to the Pertex Featherlite Pant (110g) makes the option of having fully waterproof pants much more attractive. I leave this difficult choice to you but be guided by the weather forecast on the Friday night.

OMM have an updated range of their very popular Kamleika range out this year. The Pants are all made from a fabric called Gelanots. It's much softer, stretchier and quieter than your average waterproof fabric. It also breathes well so is ideal for wearing for extended periods in events.

The Berghaus paclite pants are a very popular option due to their packability and having zips up the legs allows you to get them on when you need to. They are also well articulated in the knee and come in a wide variety of waist sizes and most importantly various leg lengths to suit most people.

Mountain Marathon Kit List 2009 - Image Dave MacFarlane

Tough navigating in poor conditions - Image Dave MacFarlane


6. Waterproof Jacket

I've recently been using a Haglofs Oz Pullover and it's by far the best waterproof smock that I've used to date. This is a review of it here. If you want to buy the best then buy the Oz.

The Montane Featherlite H20, Stormrider Jacket and Haglofs Lim Ultimate Jacket are also extremely light. The Oz with its Gore-tex Paclite fabric is extremely breathable but then I'm in two minds about how much benefit high breathability is to you when you are running hard in the rain...you are going to sweat and you are going to get wet whatever you are wearing! Sometimes getting a little clammy in your waterproof helps keep you warm.

The Berghaus Paclite jacket won't necessarily be the most technical fit you've ever had but it is lightweight and may offer some degree more protection for say the Polaris when you may be in the saddle for some time. The Montane Quattro and Featherlite H2O jackets are fantastically light but the DT membrane isn't as breathable as Paclite. However as mentioned above, it's important to remember that 'breathability' of a garment in a laboratory under testing, doesn't necessarily mean anything on the hill. When the winds blowing in sheets of rain and you're wishing you were in bed, then the relative breathability of Paclite to Entrant DT etc, will have a lot less relevance. 

  • Berghaus Paclite Jacket / £139.99 / 340g / 280g / Good all-round jacket / Not race fit specific/
  • Haglofs Lim Ultimate Jacket Mens + Wmns / £149.99 / 247g - 215g / ?g / Very packable / Nothing.
  • Haglofs Oz Pullover / £179.99 / 175g (L) / 181g (L) / Weight, small size when packed, best for races by far / Nothing at all!
  • Haglofs Oz Q Pullover / £179.99 / 160g / Well fitted women's version of the brilliant Oz / Nothing.
  • Montane Quattro DT Jacket Wmns / £99.99 / 240g / 243g / Removable hood, light / Nothing. 
  • Montane Stormrider Jacket / £170.00 / 300g / 297g / Extremely breathable eVent jacket / Bike specific cut, so no hood.
  • Montane Featherlite H2O / £60.00 / 100g / 102g / Lightest on test / Lack of features.
  • OMM Kamleika Race Smock / £109.99 / 231g / Gelanots fabric is great for running, good features and performance / Nothing
  • OMM Kamleika Race Jacket / £129.99 / 300g / More features means it's good for general use too / Not as race specific as the Smock.
  • Montane Atomic DT II Jacket  Mens + Wms / £99.99 / 315g / 300g / Fantastic price for a good, light, well specified Jacket / Nothing.


7. Windproof Clothing

Although a windproof top is rarely specified in the kit list, it's probably the one ‘extra' item that is most likely to be taken and makes a huge difference to your warmth of windy days. The one brand that has stolen a march with windproof clothing in recent years is Montane who now have an excellent selection.

If weight is your first concern then go for the Montane Jetstream or  Featherlite Smock, both of which are made from Pertex Quantum. Look at the Haglofs Kaza if you want a bit more than a super skinny windtop, as it has mesh underarms and chest pocket etc, but be prepared to sacrifice a bit more weight.  

If you're going for a pair of windproof pants then you really can't beat the Montane Featherlite pants, made from Pertex Microlight, they're slightly water resistant but the Ronhill windlite pants have a slightly longer zip on the leg making them a bit easier to get on.


Windproof Tops

Windproof Pants




Mammut Climb Cap8. Hats, Gloves and Socks

Your hat is likely to have one of two tasks; keeping you warm or keeping the sun off. Either way something light and simple will be in order. Warm hats are only likely to be worn at the overnight camp unless the weather is appalling. Some competitors like waterproof hats but I'd consider that an overkill, seeing as your waterproof jacket must have a hood. It may be worth considering a windproof hat though. For something warm I'd go for a powertsretch or similar beanie as the fabric will perform better than wool or acrylic.

Sun Hats

Warm Hats

Gloves

Gloves can be crucial. If the weather is sufficiently cold, wet and / or windy your hands can quickly become numb and useless; eating and navigating immediately becomes tougher as does concentrating. Even a lightweight pair of base layer gloves will make a difference. It is possible to go for some fully waterproof gloves but you'll pay the weight penalty. The Outdoor Designs Poweron gloves are a nice lightweight choice being made from Polartech Powerstretch fabric, however for something a little warmer the Sealskinz Windproof Glove offers a superb combination of warmth and weight.

Socks

Socks are very much a personal choice but stay away from thick socks, which will just get heavy when wet. Super thin lightweight socks are the best option to use in combination with your fell running shoes. Worth considering is a spare pair of silk socks. Don't forget two plastic bags to put over your nice dry socks though so that you can still walk round!


9. Head Torch

The Petzl E+LITE is the lightest headtorch on the market, quickly followed by the Black Diamond Ion. With fresh batteries the Ion provides a surprising amount of light, easily sufficient for walking round the overnight camp, cooking and the slow motion activities. However, if you are looking for a torch to actually aid navigation this isn't the one for you. The E+LITE has lots of smart functions but like the Ion doesn't offer any ability to navigate at night bar the slowest of walks over rough ground.

Next up and probably the most popular headtorch used by mountain marathon runners is the Petzl Zipka Plus, which provides more light than the Ion but is twice the weight. The Zipka will allow you just enough light to finish off your course in the dark albeit slowly.

If you are looking for a headtorch that'll be a true night time navigator but still doesn't weigh much then the best choice out there is a Black Diamond Zenix IQ, which utilizes hyper bright LED technology. Finally, if you think you might get lost or just go really slowly and so spend more time navigating in the dark then the best option would be the Petzl Myo XP. The New Myo Xp boasts a 200% increase in brightness over the older version.

  • Petzl E+Lite / £24.99 / 27g / 28g / Lightest / Can't navigate with it.
  • Black Diamond Ion / £10.99 / 28g / 31g / Very Light / Can't navigate with it.
  • Petzl Tikkina 2 / £19.99 / 78g / 72g / Lightweight / Only two led's.
  • Petzl Tikka XP 2/ £34.99 / 95g / 93g / Good Compromise / Not a true navigator.
  • Black Diamond Zenix IQ / £39.99 / 112g / 128g / Good compromise / Weight
  • Petzl Myo XP / £54.99 / 175g / 175g / True night nav capability / Weight.
  • Petzl Tikka Plus 2 / £29.99 / 78g / 77g / Bright for its size / Can't night nav.
  • Black Diamond Spot / £34.99 / 85g / 87g /  Single led optimises battery / removable headband can be awkward.
  • Black Diamond Icon / £49.99 / 188g / 190g / Various led options / weight.

A popular choice for a team is to have an Ion and MyoXP (for example), which keeps the overall weight down but does give you the option of navigating in the dark if need be. Another consideration is the Petzi Tikka 2 XP that I would imagine would provide a similar level of light to the BD Zenix IQ but I haven't used one and therefore can't be sure.  Don't forget that using lithium batteries instead of the ones normally supplied, really will add a massive amount to the length of burn time you will have from your torch and they weigh less and they aren't affected by cold! It's not a gimic, lithium batteries are much better, so get some!


10. Food for 36 Hours

In my opinion, getting your nutrition and hydration right is the most important single factor that determines how well you do and how much you enjoy a mountain marathon. I've suffered from not enough food, I've carried way too much food and I've pissed bloody treacle through dehydration - all of which detract from your enjoyment and performance.

Below I listed some of the more scientific options available for keeping yourself fed and watered, but remember your local supermarket has a surprising selection of dehydrated meals (rice, pasta, and noodles) which often taste better than the specialist meals. Look carefully at the calorific content of the meals though. In fact it's quite good fun shopping for the food with the most calories in it!

Treats like jelly babies, flapjacks and fruit' n' nut are popular and a welcome break from energy gels and bars. You probably know what you like and I suggest you bring it along. Here are some of my super market favourites:

  • Egg Noodles rehydrated with soup
  • Roasted Broad Beans or Chickpeas
  • Thorntons Mazipan Bars
  • Nutrigrain Bars
  • Cannocks Carmel Wafer Bars

Carbohydrate Powder
Many competitors swear by energy powders that can be mixed in with your water. There are 2 main brands: Science in Sport (SIS) and High5 available in the UK. I've used both and do believe that supplementing your water with energy powder helps but it is important to experiment before the event as it is easy to upset your stomach if you get the concentration wrong. The concentration of the powder is a very personal thing and I've found that halving the recommended dose is a good starting point. Currently I've been using the High5; 4:1, which is a carbohydrate protein mix designed to increase endurance. It works for me in doses 2/3 less than the recommended concentration. More>>>

Energy Gels
Energy gels can be total lifesavers. Just as your legs turn to molten lead, down a gel and within 5-10 minutes you'll feel the difference. High5 and SIS make the two best known products and the choice is between carrying a little more weight in the SIS product, which is isotonic and therefore doesn't need to be taken with water, or choosing the High5 gel, which is more concentrated but needs to be diluted with a few mouthfuls of water. I prefer the High5 gels, mainly because they are lighter for long races when you'll have access to water (or carry it) and prefer the SIS Gels for short races when you definitely won't be carrying water. More>>>

Energy Bars
High5 and SIS also make energy bars which are a great way to take onboard more complex carbohydrates whilst racing. Each manufacturer will argue the relative merits of their product but I'd go for whichever one you feel tastes best! Bear in mind that if it's cold these bars get extremely hard and can be nearly impossible to chew. More >>>

Dehydrated Meals
Finally, if you are really looking to compete with a lightweight sack you are going to have to face up to a dehydrated meal at the overnight camp. I've tried a few different types and personally prefer the Reiter Travel Lunch brand. I take two of these for a main meal on the Saturday night and a third one for breakfast on the Sunday morning. More>>>

Nutrition Article. There is an excellent summary of a research paper about the 'Nutrition Strategies of Mountain Marathon Competitors.' Here>>>

And for information on recovery from an endurance event such as a Mountain Marathon, this article gives a lot of helpful info on post-sport recovery. Here>>>


11. Compass

I used to prefer something simple and light (Silver Field 7) but was converted to the more orienteering focused Silva 5 Jet, which has a very stable, very fast needle. Last year's predication that "at this rate Jenny will have me using a thumb compass before I know it!" turned out to be completely true and I am now an ardent fan of the Moscow thumb compass.

Left: Shane Ohly at the 2007 JK Orienteering Festival 'thumbing' the map with a Moscow Thumb Compass. This technique should mean you know exactly where you are all the time... well most of the time anyway!

What I particularly like about the thumb compass is that it usually has a rotating Bezel that means that you can take a bearing off the map as you would with a traditional compass. The biggest benefit of a thumb compass is that you always have your compass at hand and checking you are going in the correct direction becomes as natural as it is instant, furthermore thumbing your location on the map is automatic.

All the compasses featured here have very fast, stable needles designed for faster navigation.

  • Silva Expedition 4 / £24.95 / ?g / 35g / Better for precise navigation / Nothing
  • Silva Ranger 3 / £14.95 / ?g / 35g / Good mid range compass / Slow needle.
  • Silva Field 7 / £9.95 / ?g / 27g / Nice and Simple / Slow needle.
  • Silva Expedition 54 / £59.99 / ?g / 39g / Extremely accurate mirror sighting compass/ Price.
  • Silva Ranger 27 / £19.95 / ?g / 22g / Small mirror sighting compass / Its small size can also be its drawback.
  • Silva 1 JET Explorer / £64.99 / ? / Superior, fast, stable needle / Price. 


    12. Survival Bag/Space Blanket

Some competitors see this rule as unnecessary given that you are carrying a tent and sleeping bag. However, a survival bag really could save you or your partner's life if something relatively mundane happened (imagine sitting still with a badly sprained ankle in a Scottish storm?). Read the rules carefully and check whether you need to carry a survival bag or blanket. Definitely avoid carry heavy duty plastic survival bags which just aren't required.

Once at the overnight camp, use one of your space blankets spread out over the floor of the tent. This will make a real difference to your overnight comfort. Don't be afraid to use your second space blanket (one for each team member) as a blanket should the temperature drop.


13. Sleeping Bag

A small revolution has occurred with lightweight sleeping bags in the past few years with many competitors upgrading their sleeping bags to new, lightweight and highly comparable down bags. Purchasing a top quality sleeping bag will save you more weight than any other personal item so it is worth investigation the option properly.

If you don't fancy compromising too much on your comfort then the Rab Quantum 250 or Marmot Atom are a good choice. If you feel the cold a Marmut Helium or Rab Quantum 400 will keep you warm and are well worth the extra cost and weight. Coming in on the budget conscious end of things, are the Vango Venom (Lightweight range) and Viper down bags, offering a good alternative to the more expensive options, however there is a pay off with the fill power and quality of down - that's why they're cheaper! Lower fill powers mean you need more down for the same warmth as a higher fill power, which means a bit more weight.

The organisers of the OMM this year are specifying that everyone should carry a '3 season' bag for their event. Although this is a little vague the OMM Mummery 0.5 does qualify and at 460g is just about as light as you can get making it a superb choice.

One final thought; it may be worth opting for a sleeping bag with a Pertex Endurance Shell. Pertex Endurance is highly water resistant and will help ensure that you're down insulation stays dry and therefore you stay warm in a damp cramped tent.

  • Rab Quantum 250 / £189.99 / 630g / 720g / 0°C / Well designed / Weight.
  • Rab Quantum 250 Endurance / £199.99 / 680g / 698g / 0°C / Water resistant outer / Weight.
  • Rab Quantum 400 / £224.99 / 900g / 924g / -5°C / Warmer / Weight.
  • Rab Quantum 400 Wmns / £249.99 / 850g / 872g / -5°C / Slightly smaller women's fit = less dead space / Price.
  • Rab Quantum 400 Endurance / £259.99 / 950g / 942g / -5°C / Water resistant outer fabric / Price. 
  • Vango Venom 300 / £89.99 / 575g / 590g / 7-11°C / Lightweight, cheaper than others / Not very warm.
  • OMM Mummery 0.5 / £199.99 / 460g / ? / Race specific bag, very light / Nothing

How do you get all that kit into such a small bag? Well, here's a little tip: Carefully squash your down sleeping bag into a sealable freezer bag and seal it with some selotape. Now make a small hole through the selotape (this stops the freezer bag ripping) and into the freezer bag and squeeze out all the air slowly. With another strip of selotape seal the hole. You now have a vaccum packed sleeping bag in a waterproof bag. Using this method you can reduce a Rab Quantum Top Special to fist sized dimensions. Or if re-usable is your main requirement, then Exped fold drybags are a means to which you can be confident that stuff in them will stay dry. I use them for all sorts of uses as the roll top closure allows the air the be pretty succesfully squeezed out, and they're light enough to warrant the bit extra bulk. I have managed after a lot of use to rip one, but then you probably aren't going to give them enough abuse over a race to do this. The link here>>> will take you to them and for a few quid these drybags will give you extra confidence that you'll be getting into a dry sleeping bag after a hard day. 

Before talking about sleeping mats it may be worth thinking about synthetic sleeping, which have improved a lot in recent years in terms of warmth to weight ratio. The big benefit of opting for a synthetic sleeping bag is that it'll retain much of its thermal properties even when wet (down doesn't). I'm sure you remember the infamous Howgills KIMM in 1998... But the decision must be made as to whether it is woth the extra weight and bulk.

Finally, don't forget something to sleep on! Some competitors will opt for a Therm-A-Rest, like the Prolite 3, which at least means a good nights sleep but they do weigh a lot compared to the other options. Other competitors go for very thin foam mats; either camping mats (available from most outdoor shops) or carpet underlay (available from DIY centres). Either way, cut the mat down to mirror your body footprint. Alternatively, use bubble wrap. It's surprisingly warm and obviously light but does take up a lot of volume in your bag (available from office super stores such as Staples).

 The Thermarest NeoAir is a recent new development from Cascade Designs, the small size is a great option for events. Coming in at only 260g for a comfortable and warm (if a little expensive) nights sleep is great. The pack size of these is also very small indeed. Unfortunatly the manufacturers sold out very quickly and until 2010 they are going to be pretty rare.

 Another lightweight option is the OMM Duomat - these are designed to slide down the back of an OMM Classic Marathon (both the Classic Marathon's come supplied with them) pack to provide more comfort whilst on the move, you can then remove and sleep on them overnight. They obviously work in any other brand of pack also, not just OMM.

planetFear Mountain Marathon Kit List - Image Dave MacFarlane

Thermarest Neo Air- Image Dave MacFarlane / planetFear

  • Prolite Small / £64.99 / 570g / 578g / Comfort / Weight
  • Balloon Bed / £22.05 / 100g / 120g / Weight / Risk of balloons bursting
  • Balloon Bed Mk II / £23.05 / 100g / ? / Weight / Risk of balloons bursting
  • Gelert Foam Mat / £2.82 / 188g (full length) / Cheap cheap cheap / Bulky
  • OMM Duomat 45 and 50 / £12.49 / Light and cheap / Nothing.
  • Thermarest Neo Air / S-L / £74.99-£99.99 / Incredibly light, uses leading technology and gives superb comfort and insulation / Price.

Inov8 Race Sac
14. Rucksack

Deciding on which rucksack to use depends largely on what kind of equipment you are going to be carrying. For first timers I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than 30 litres so it's a straight choice between the classic OMM Classic Marathon 32L and the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon 32. If you have invested in a lightweight tent and a modern, lightweight down sleeping bag you should be able to comfortably fit everything into a 25 litre rucksack, so here the choice is between OMM Classic Marathon 25L and a Lowe Alpine Rush 25 (25L). For competitors taking the ‘zero luxuries' approach then the OMM Running Light 20SL is worth serious considerations. Finally, I have seen people using the OMM Last Drop (10L) in conjunction with a bum bag!

If you are intending to use your pack for adventure racing as well it's worth having a close look at the Raidlight packs, which are packed (no pun intended!) full of innovative features.

planetFear Mountain Marathon Kit List

A well fitted sack, correct length in the back and snug on the shoulders - Image Dave MacFarlane / planetFear.

By far the most popular sacks seen at any mountain marathon are the OMM 32 and 25L sacks. Whichever sack you go for I'd make your choice based on the compressed size of your sleeping bag and tent. It is worth remembering that if you go for a small sack you won't easily be able to share your load with your partner should one of you be struggling a little, two different size and weight packs can be a good option though to enable swapping between the pair when one partner tires and the other feels stronger. A final note on the OMM sacks; many of the features are now designed to be cut off should you want to lighten up your sack.

 It's worth just mentioning the new Terra Nova Laser 20l Elite pack - it's small at just 20 litres but very, very light at 210g! Check out Nik Cook's review of it here.

   There is an article here on how to customise your running sack to save a few extra grams!

planetFear Mountain Marathon Kit List

A crowded base camp on the Rab Mountain Marathon 2009 - Image Dave MacFarlane / planetFear

  


15. Tent

Investing in a good tent will save you the most weight possible in one purchase as a team. For any team wanting to minimise weight and buy the best race tent then the Terra Nova Laser Photon is for you, at 790g, it is the updated lighter sibling of the Laser Comp. It still has two skins and it's very lightweight (only a little heavier than the Sup'Air, which no longer seems to be available anyway).

The only problem with the Laser Photon is the length of it and if you are over 6ft tall then I'd consider the standard Laser, which is 10cm longer and still only 1.19kg (minimum weight). If you are looking for something with more versatility (i.e. you want to use it for hiking and back packing trips as well) then consider the Super Light Voyager.

The Marmot EOS 1P is great value 1 person camping tent that can also be used to squash two people into for a mountain marathon. It's a good choice for your first event and versatile enough for normal camping activities and won't break the bank.

One of the criticisms of the really lightweight tents is that the fabrics are so light that they can tear easily and this seems to be the compromise you have to make. Most competitors only use their lightweight tents for events (up to 5 per year) and don't expect the tents to last more than 3-5 years. Bearing this in mind the Hilleberg Akto and Nallo 2 have good reputations for durability and it may well be worth paying a little bit more (either in weight or cash) for a more versatile tent that'll last, however the Nallo 2 is quite a bit heavier than the other options listed here, so check out the spec first.

  • Terra Nova Laser / £233.99 / 1190g / ?g / Best compromise / Nothing.
  • Force Ten Vapour 100 / £149.99 / 800g / 813g / Very light / Single skin.
  • Force Ten Vapour 200 / £179.99 / 1100g / 1190g / Very light / Single skin.
  • Hilleberg Akto Tent / £280.00 / 1600g / 1690g / Extremely well made / Weight.
  • Hilleberg Nallo 2 / £394.99 / 1900g (min) 2100g (max) / 2120g /  Superbly made / Weight!!!
  • Terra Nova Laser Photon / £310 / 740g / ?g / One of the lightest tents on the market / Nothing.
  • Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite / £329 / 660g / The new lightweight standard - this is the one / Nothing if you can fit in it!
  • Force Ten Helium 100 / £149.00 / 1100g Great price v's weight / Not as light as  above.


16. Cooking Stove and Pan

A lightweight gas stove is generally considered the best option and there are a number of really good products to choose from. The MSR Pocket Rocket is simple, light and great value, the Optimus Crux is a fantastic little stove at 93g, it weighs a little more than the Pocket Rocket, but the design is flawless, with its head folding flat for storage. There is even a light version available to shed those extra grams, coming in at 72g.The Crux Lite fits nicely inside the Optimus Terra Solo Cookset also - check out our review here.

Mountain Marathon Kit List 2009 - Image Dave MacFarlaneplanetFear Mountain Marathon Kit List

Optimus Crux Lite Stove and Terra Pan Set - Image Dave MacFarlane / planetFear

 

Don't forget some tin foil to use as a windbreak. Included below is also the MSR Reactor system, which i really had to think twice to include here. At 539g minimum, it's no lightweight by any stretch of the imagination. However remember that this is the weight for stove and pan.  Yes it still weighs a lot more than the other stoves here but its benefits are in that it is super efficient especially in bad weather. The 125 and 250 size gas canisters will fit inside and so will the stove unit. The option is there anyway, if you ever think that you may get caught out in horrendous weather this is an all-in-one system that can make a difference of getting fed and watered quicker with more efficiency from your fuel.

  • MSR Pocket Rocket / £29.99 / 86g / 86g / Light & great value / Need to remember your lighter.
  • Optimus Crux  / £49.99 / 93g / 91g / Incredible design / Nothing
  • Optimus Crux Lite / £39.99 / 72g / 72g / Weight / Nothing
  • Coleman F1 Lite / £24.99 / 77g / 79g / Price / Durability.
  • MSR Reactor /  £119.99 / 539g (min) / 553g (min) without gas / Efficiency / Weight.
  • Optimus Crux Lite stove / 72g / Great design and very light / absolutley nothing, a fantastic stove.

In terms of saving weight on your cooking pot, look no further than the MSR Titan kettle. However, you'll need to leave the lid and handles at home and then the weight is reduced from 118g to 72g. If you are not prepared to spend nearly £40 on a kettle only to dismantle it then check out the Primus Litetech Trek kettle. The disadvantage of taking a kettle is that they are only any good for boiling water (hot drinks, dehydrated meals, pasta, noodles etc). If you are taking a meal that needs to go in a pan to be cooked then choose something larger like a Titan Mini Cook set that includes a 1.5L pan. Don't forget some tin foil to use as a lid.

Aluminium Foil Pans are a brilliant option for anyone looking to save weight, but are very easy to damage. If you want to use anything like these then take two (packing them together) with your sleeping bag inside them, before packing carefully at the bottom of your bag...if you are very lucky they won't leak much! Personally, I think that the Aluminium Pans are ok for MTB events but not appropriate for foot mountain marathons.

   
  • Aluminium Foil Pan / £2.20 / 12g / 12g / VERY LIGHT / VERY Easy to damage, difficult to pack
  • MSR Titan Mini Cookset / £79.99 / 272g / 280g / Full cookset / Price.
  • MSR Titan Kettle (Customised) / £38.69 / ?g / 72g / Light / Expensive
  • MSR Titan Kettle / £42.08 / 118g / 130g / Light / Expensive
  • MSR Stowaway Pots (Various Sizes) /  from £12.99 / 270g - 550g / Stainless steel means very duravle / Heavier though.
  • Optimus Terra Weekend .95L / £25.00 / 222g / ?g / Slightly more capacity than solo / Nothing
  • Optimus Solo .6L / £20.00 / 166g / ?g / Light and small / Nothing
   


17. Footwear

For my first mountain marathon I didn't own any fell shoes and turned up with some old trainers that I wouldn't mind trashing... I quickly lost count of the number of times I fell over and learned that decent, studded fell running shoes are totally essential.

Inov8 quite literally turned the fell running shoe market on its head when their first shoe was launched in early 2000. Since then they have gone on to develop a stable of superb, innovative fell running shoes. If you want a pure race shoe then the Mudclaw 270 is hard to beat. Its sole unit is incredibly aggressive and ideally suited to wet, muddy and steep terrain, as well as contouring and descending. Being the shoe of choice for the 2005 LAMM and KIMM elite winners it's hard to argue with its pedigree! However, I'd personally go for the Mudclaw O 330, which has the same aggressive sole unit but a more substantial and comfortable upper.

The Mudroc 280 has a less aggressive sole unit than the Mudclaw 270 and a more traditional lacing system, which will probably be to more people's taste. The Roclite 315 is more of an off road trail running shoe and offers more comfort, cushioning and support than either the Mudroc 280 or Mudclaw 270. However, it still has a studded sole unit and would make a good choice for a mountain marathon on sun baked ground or someone less concerned with speed than comfort.

Montrail entered the fell running shoe market in 2006 with the Highlander and with a great reputation for ultra running and trail shoes it's no surprise that the Highlander has all the hallmarks of a great fell shoe. I see the Highlander as somewhere between the Roclite 315 and the Mudroc 280 i.e. it offers a comfortable ride but still has an aggressive sole unit.

Salomon have been in the adventure racing game for some time now, and know a thing or two about making running shoes, however a lot of their shoes perform better on harder packed terrain such as trails etc. The best shoe here for fell running would be the XT Wings, with its more aggressive sole unit and deeper lug of the tread, it will give much more grip than the XA Pro range for instance.  Any shoe however is only as good as its fit, if it doesn't fit you in the sense of width etc, then it won't be much use to you. 

 

  • Inov8 Mudclaw 270 / £64.99 / 270g / 258g / Super aggressive sole unit, weight, mesh upper / Lacing system not to everyone's taste
  • Inov8 X-Talon 212 / £74.99 / 212g / Great new racing shoe, very light / Not as aggressive a sole unit as some.
  • Inov8 Mudclaw 330 O / £64.99 / 330g (UK 8) / 314g / Still the aggressive sole but more durable and comfortable / Heavier than 270's
  • Inov8 Mudroc 280 / £64.99 / 280g (UK 8) / 280g / Traditional lacing system, aggressive sole unit, mesh upper / Nothing
  • Inov8 Roclite 315 / £64.99 / 315g (UK 8) / 315g / Comfortable; good for hard ground / Less aggressive sole unit
  • Inov8 Roclite 318 GTX / £84.99 / 318g (UK 8) / 318g / Good level of cushioning / Gtx perhaps not necessary. 
  • Salomon XA Pro 3D Mens + Wmns / £74.99 / ?g / ?g / Good for harder trails / More shallow tread.
  • Salomon XA Pro 3D XCR / £84.99 / 420g (UK 8.5) / 423g / As above / Gtx possibly not suitable.
  • Inov8 Roclite 305 / £64.99 / 305g (UK 8 ) / 305g / Comfort through cushioning / Only suitable for harder trails.
  • Inov8 Terroc 330 / £64.99 / 330g (UK 8) / 330g / Good all-rounder / Again better for harder trails.
  • Salomon XT Wings / £79.99 / 360g (UK 8.5) / 363g / Great sole unit / Nothing
  • Inov8 Terroc 308 / £64.99 / 308g (UK 6) / 308g / Womens fit / Only for harder trails.
  • Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Mens + Wmns / £74.99 / 390g (UK 8.5) / 391g /  Stable in the heel / Sole Unit.

If you're concerned about how your feet are going to cope with the rigours of a mountain marathon or adventure race, then Anna McCormack's article, 'The Hardcore Approach to Foot Care' should scare and/or help you. 

   

Platypus Big Zip SL 318. Hydration

Staying fully hydrated during an event is difficult and mountain marathon competitors face unique challenges (there is a comprehensive article here)

Your first choice is whether or not to carry water. The benefit of carrying water is that you 'should' stay hydrated at all times. However, there is the weight penalty of carrying water with you at all times. Additionally, it's worth remembering that if you use a bladder, you won't be able to see how much you are drinking as easily. Bear in mind that an elite competitor may have a starting sack weight of circa 4kg, if you were then to add 1 or 2 litres of water, that's 1 or 2 kg of additional weight! Some competitors run with just a small plastic mug that they can quickly use to drink from streams as they pass. From personal experience I prefer to carry a small 0.5L water bottle with a wide lid. This allows me to fill and drink from quickly, but also mix in energy powders and carry for short periods if necessary.

If you are going to take a bladder, don't take anything but a Big Zip Hoser or Camelbak Omega...they are 1000 times faster to fill from a stream compared to the standard, cap closed bladder. However regular Playpus bladders are included here as so many people seem to use them, perhaps due to them being cheaper than others. Also, consider a pack that allows you to store the bladder on the outside as this will save a lot of time when refilling.

   

If you want to use a hydration system try wrapping a bungee cord around the bladder. This will force the water out under pressure and it actually makes it easier to drink while on the move as less sucking is required.

Although most people will be happy to drink straight from the streams and rivers during an event you may feel it necessary to purify your water first. This is particulatly important if you have just completed a course of antibiotics, which may mean your stomach isn't as robust as normal. Full details here>>>.


19. Misc Essentials

Rucksack liners
If the weather is forecast to be really terrible then an additional rucksack liner will help keep everything dry. Worth adding to your Friday night bag just in case. More>>>

Stuff Sacks
Can be useful for keeping all your kit organised and dry but don't over do it... I know one competitor who insists on putting every item of kit in a separate stuff sack, which costs time (try putting on your waterproof trousers) and adds weight (10 x 10g etc). More>>>

Insect repellent & Midge Net
This may sound like a real extravagance but at my first LAMM, competitors were outnumbered by midges by about a billion trillion to one and I wouldn't have exchanged my midge net for a kilo of gold! I always stick one in my Friday night bag so at the very least I can be comfortable the night before. More>>>

Ear Plugs
The overnight camp is going to be crowded and you'll be camped very close to your fellow competitors. If one of your neighbours likes to snore or shag (yes it has happened!) then your ear plugs will be very welcome. More>>>

Freezer Bags
Sealable freezer bags are great for all sorts of things. I take three large ones with me. One for each foot (for keeping my feet dry at the overnight camp) and a third one to use as a water carrier, which saves me going back and forth to the water source.

First Aid Kit, Compeed & Pain killers
Most events insist on ‘bandage and wound dressing' as a minimum. I made a trip to my local Boots and bought the smallest bandage and smallest wound dressing in the shop. After an unpleasant experience with a blister (above) I supplemented this kit with some compeed second skin. All this is sealed in small freezer bag and weighs very little. More>>>

Tin Foil
This acts as a windbreak around your stove and pan lid. Only needs to be one layer thick and this improves cooking efficiency dramatically.

Emergency Rations
Let's face it you're not going to starve to death, should the worst happen. Therefore the emphasis is on taking as little as possible whilst still complying with the rules. I bought the smallest, lightest packet of powdered soup and the smallest, lightest bar of chocolate I could find. End results: some emergency rations that weighed in at 43g.

Whistle
I don't think we need to get too technical here! It's worth noting that the new OMM packs come with a whistle built into the buckle so no chance of losing or forgetting it. More>>>

 

Finally

We hope that you find this article informative and useful. Any suggestions on your weight saving ideas are welcome and any great ones will be add to this article. In the meantime the major UK mountain marathons are:

... and we look forward to seeing you there!

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