Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Mandatory Gear 2016

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This is basically a copy/ paste of my 2015 entry with updates as required. Please let me know if you spot any errors, it was done in a hurry…….

The major changes have been noted as 2016 update, I really recommend you speak to one of the local shops like Pace Athletic, The Frontier, Fast Gear or one of the camping stores (mostly around Kent St in Sydney. As you know they are big supporters of ultra running in general. Go and see them or one of the other local shops for your gear and keep that essential local knowledge available!

-I also want to acknowledge the huge help I’ve gained from others. In 2011 I was crapping myself at the huge task I’d jumped into, and probably the best source of info was Nick Weinholt’s Enduroexplorer.com (looks like this is deceased, dammit) website. I’ve since found out that he’s a helpful and approachable bloke too. You should read the website and particularly the training and gear list he did for the 2010 race. And although the Ultra168 guys are a whole new level of crazy (er, I mean commitment) you should read their adventures too- lots of good info there. You should also check out the gear thread on Coolrunning for 2012. Pasty has put another good summary there, and you can ask questions too! Check out the Facebook groups- official, and training.

Ultra168 have added a post that takes in some of the gear (2014) here

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for UTA100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained over the last 4 years of doing this race in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item from the official document in italics, my explanation below-

 

Patagonia capilene mens long sleeve top

Patagonia capilene mens long sleeve top

1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

My wife went to Patagonia in Sydney and purchased for me a Capilene long sleeved top. In her words- the silk weight version probably does not comply, and the lightweight version is ok for summer but probably not a Blue Mountains winter. The Midweight probably best matches the polypropylene specified in the mandatory item description.
Weight 221g

1 x long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

I used a pair of polypropylene thermals I had purchased for a trip to NZ. Fairly lightweight, these were purchased from Kathmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- link
Weight: 173g

Salomon Bonatti WP

Salomon Bonatti WP

1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped (not critically taped) waterproof seams and hood. The jacket must fit the wearer correctly. A recommendation only for a good jacket is one that has a waterproof rating of over 20,000mm hydrostatic head and a breathability MVTR rating of 25,000g/m2/25hrs. (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) 

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. You should get a good one, as there is a lot of weight to be saved here. My Mont jacket weighs 450g, the Salomon Sense Flyweight is apx 120g. Race Director Tom Landon Smith has flagged that in future he wants to enforce a stricter international standard for ‘waterproofness’, but that has not happened this year. It must have a hood AND actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that meets the spec is the Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket at 120g. These are now hard to get as they were a limited release. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus 777 which weighs 140g or the Salomon Bonatti at 190g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec sometime in the future. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here.

homer-hats-beanies-red

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

at Trailwalker 2010 I was given a buff about the halfway point, and it was the most glorious feeling to be putting on something so warm- it has a drawstring so it can be made into a beanie, and I’m going to use that instead of the achingly expensive snow beanie. Remember you lose a lot of heat out of your head, and it’s going to be bloody cold. If it’s reasonably warm like 2012-14 you might get away with a light fabric buff, but in 2011 it was soooo cold!
Weight: 46g

Salomon Running Gloves

1 x full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)

I have some Icebreaker Merino gloves for this purpose, in case it gets really cold! These gloves stayed in their packet, as I have a personal preference for non sweaty hands, and covering them up makes me very sweaty. The best compromise I have found here is some old leather weightlifting gloves that have an open mesh back- they are not full fingered so I have to carry the mandatory gloves as well. Lots of protection for your hands if you fall, but not too sweaty. Remember fairly early in the race you will be going down some stairs with nasty rusted iron hand holds.
Weight: 34g (nylon cycling gloves)

Safety vests

1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 -N Class for night time wear.

*I borrowed one of these from my wife’s work. You might have contacts who can loan you one of these, or you can buy them from Bunnings/ Masters Hardware etc. Not expensive, but make sure it meets the specs- and it needs to go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night- get a large size. If you buy a running vest with reflective steps it probably won’t comply- remember this item must comply with the Australian Standard…… Remember it’s the reflective stripes that allow the night rating. No stripes= doesn’t comply. Weight: 155g

unboxed

Petzl Nao v1

1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)

* My main light here is the Petzl Nao. The new version released in 2014 now outputs up to 575 lumens and has lots of options, the big bonus being it has regulated output- this means that as your batteries wear out it will keep a constant light output- your light doesn’t get dimmer over time.  And it can sense how much light is available and dim itself, saving batteries. At my favourite setting, the battery will last about 6-8 hours which means I should get to the finish without needing to change batteries, but I will be carrying a spare. The Nao will be in my drop bag at CP4, if you are a 16.5+ hour runner you will want to have your headlamp in your CP3 bag.

WARNING- if you use these Petzl lights, be aware that they are NOT fully charged when all the lights are on- you should either use Petzl OS to check or leave them on charge for a while AFTER it looks like they are full……

 

During the day I will carry 2 tiny ‘Keyring Mini Hand Torch‘, these are on the website for $7.98 each- ouch in 2014 they are now $19.98, but Kathmandu is always on special anyway…..
2015 update– those Kathmandu torches take a bunch of LR4 batteries which I haven’t been able to buy in bulk so I will probably use a couple of torches from a $2 shop as my mandatory carry items during the day. Weight is not significant for these.

2016 update– the official documentation now says that you must be able to use these lights to navigate at night. These Kathmandu torches output a surprising amount of light and should be ok, but make sure you don’t ignore this requirement.

*I have spoken to the Race Director about whether a hand held torch is ok rather than a headlamp, and he agreed it was ok. He couldn’t see why you would want to use a hand held torch if a headlamp as available (me too) however it will pass. Weight: 10g  (light until CP3).
Weight: 187g (Petzl Nao with battery)

1 x small backup light in case of headlamp failure but still bright enough for you to walk by and see course markings

* I will use a Petzl Tikka XP2 for my backup light. it is perfectly ok for an event like the North Face 100 as your main light, but I’m lucky that my wife works for the local distributor so these things breed like rabbits in our house. Weight: 10g (light until CP3).
Weight: 88g (Petzl Tikka XP2 including batteries)

1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network)

*Yes Telstra aren’t my favourite people either, but my phone is with them and the network is pretty good. Ouch- upgrading my phone means I am carrying an extra 100g of gear. Oh well, at least the battery should last until I finish! I will be carrying an iPhone 6 Plus including Lifeproof waterproof case
Weight: 278g

1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.

Smallest compass I have been able to find is these at 12 for < $2 ,  Weight: <10g

UPDATE- got an email from the Race Director which says the following- Can I use an iPhone as my compass?  Answer is no.

1 x whistle

*most Salomon packs seem to have a whistle built in, so I have 3. You should either borrow one from someone who owns a Salomon pack, or buy one from a toy or sports store- Rebel Sport will have these, or order something like this which has whistle, compass and backup light all in one.
Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin 12 v3 packs have these inside, or I bought one for about $5 from Khatmandu last year. Hint- Khatmandu seems to always be on sale……
Weight: 55g (or included with pack)

bandage

This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). 

I asked, but never got to the bottom of what makes a suitable compression bandage- common sense says that it’s the elastic in the bandage that will provide the compression. Supplied by my wife from our medical box, but you can buy these from Chemists.
Weight: 45g

1 x full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)

1 x firelighter block for emergency use only (Jiffy Firelighter provided by organisers).  You will need to provide your own zip lock bag or container.

*pretty self explanatory- there will be a table at check-in with these items on it. Grab a small amount and stash them in a zip lock sandwich bag that you have brought along. You’ll need a couple of extras for this and following items. Weight: no idea, say 30g

1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)

*You don’t need to buy a Dry Sack if you put everything in individual zip lock sandwich bags. I also wrote on the outside of each bag what the contents were, and found that I never had to look far for anything. This is important and could save time when you are cold and mentally shattered.
Weight: 3g each, you’ll need about 10 of these

Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)

* My early version of the Salomon Super Advanced XT Wings Wooshka Skinbag comes with a bladder that holds 1.5 litres, so it doesn’t technically meet these requirements. I bought some Platypus bendy bottles and a 2l Platypus bladder and now I have more than enough capacity. Indeed, I could smuggle a cheeky red and some fine cognac on to the course. But won’t. <<<< The Platypus bladders have been updated for a lower depth profile and no longer fit in the Salomon pack. According to Ultra168 the Hydrapak should fit, but if you’re going to a shop, take your pack to try it.

2014 Update
– I now carry 2x 750ml mineral water bottles in the front pockets of my pack, so I am going to go over the course description to decide wether I can leave my bladder at home and simply carry an extra 600ml handheld which will take me over the minimum requirements. Benefits are not having to take pack off, and relatively easy to fill up each bottle when needed. Weight (not measured)
Weight: 2l water = 2Kg, Weight: 157g (bladder)

2015 update– I ran last year with 2 bottles in the front pockets and a 2 litre bladder in the back. I didn’t need the bladder at all so this year I will be using 2x 600ml Powerade bottles in front (they have a big mouth for filling and a great closure with nice high flow) and I’ll make up the rest of the 2l requirement either with collapsible flasks or more Powerade bottles. These weigh 31g each (could I get it down to 30g if I remove the labels?). Technically I could carry 2 of these and 2 Salomon Soft Flasks and meet the requirements at only 120g.  That’s a big saving over the bladder + tube + 2x bottles I carried last year. That makes up for the increased weight of my phone!

2016 update– I will be carrying 2x 600ml Powerade bottle and 2x 500ml Salomon soft flasks. The soft flasks will be folded up and wrapped with a rubber band, stored in an obscure pocket. That gives me 2.2l of fluid capacity and only 122g weight. Nice
Weight: 122g

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

2 x bars / food portions

* When you pull everything out of your pack after the event, you probably won’t remember why you have 2 squished muesli bars at the bottom. These were your emergency food items. Equally important- if you get into trouble, don’t forget they are there!
2014 update- this is probably the only rule loophole that isn’t yet closed. You could theoretically take no extra food portions and claim you had an emergency and ate them. You most likely would not get in trouble for this, but don’t be an idiot- take extra food! I often finish an ultra with enough food to take me another 50km. Ahem.
Weight: 39g (muesli bar) Weight: 33g (packet of Gu chomps)

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

*Oh no! You’ve just added 3g to your running weight! Don’t worry, you’ll sweat it out.

1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers). At registration, you will be provided with one set of maps and course notes.  You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item below)

* provided on A3/ sometimes A4 paper, you will put these in a safe place and forget they are there. It’s unlikely you will refer to the maps- the course is very clearly marked. You won’t get lost- but don’t forget where your maps are- there was a gear check mid race in 2012 and we had to show them to scrutineers. Weight: 62g (I weighed another competitors handout from 2010)

Sea_to_Summit_TPU_Map_Case__jpg_508x300_q85

1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact

*The best of these I’ve seen is by Sea to Summit, but it isn’t quite a full A4 size. I have a Sealine one that is big and bulky. The Sea To Summit should be available from most of the camping stores around Kent St in Sydney, Weight: 128g (Sealine from 2011).
Weight: 53g (Sea to Summit 2012)

Note– as suggested by Andy Hewat, you can put your maps into an A4 sized ziplock bag. This will pass a gear check, and weighs a lot less than a map case. Honestly, you won’t need to use your maps during the race.

1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)

*self explanatory. Don’t need to memorise it, just know where it is if you get in trouble. Weight: 6g (pretty sure this info is on the back of your race number, so I weighed one from another race)

1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

*remember if you aren’t near the front of the pack you will most likely experience a few weather changes during your event, and you’ll probably want to change clothes. If the extra fleece and waterproof pants are declared mandatory during he race you could be changing both your bottom and top clothing, meaning that the best way of having your race number visible at all times is to have it on a race belt or a SPI-Belt. For some unknown reason Running Wild NSW were giving these away at the Knapsack race (2013?), so I have one- but if you don’t you should find them at Rebel Sport/ Performance Sport or other sports stores. By the way- you should join Running Wild NSW– they have some great events! Weight: 6g as noted above + race belt weight.
Weight: 60g (SpiBelt with 2 pockets)

Salomon Bonatti WP pants

Salomon Bonatti WP pants

1 x long leg waterproof pants

* I bought mine from Rebel Sport for about $40,  they are Team brand. You can get some for about $20, but they were non breathable plastic and looked easy to rip, and very heavy. The Rolls Royce here is the Salomon pants pictured but they are about the same weight as the cheap Team branded ones, but will probably last longer! You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below.
Weight: 191g

North Face Fleece

North Face Fleece

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

* 100 weight polar fleece is not very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. An example of a 100 weight fleece top here, but I actually ordered this 200 weight one here because it was lighter and cheaper. Remember- if you buy a fleece top without a full length zipper it will be more difficult to get on when you are cold and tired. Get a full length zipper version.
Weight: 346g

2016 update– The docs now specify that 100 weight fleece is 214gsm Polartec fleece. I’m assuming GSM is grams per square metre. Wool is specifically banned for this item because of its tendency to retain water when wet.

Here is the explanation of the last two items- the waterproof pants and the fleece taken directly from the website here

*** You will only be required to carry the waterproof pants if weather conditions are wet. You will be notified during the Friday night registration if they must be carried on person from the start, or if they need to be left with your support crew or in a specified drop bag for use during the event.

**** There will be two different scenarios for what you will need to do with your fleece top. These will depend on weather conditions:

SCENARIO 1. The fleece top may be compulsory from the start if weather conditions are expected to be bad. You will be notified at the Friday night registration if the fleece top must be carried from the start.

SCENARIO 2. If not made compulsory from the start, the fleece top will be compulsory to carry from CP4 from 4:30pm and compulsory to carry from CP5 from 7:30pm. Depending on your speed, you will need to have your fleece available at either CP4 or CP5. Please read the following recommendations and decide which option will guarantee you have the fleece top in the right location for when it becomes compulsory:

a) You will definitely be though CP4 well before 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP5 drop bag
b) You will definitely be through Cp4 after 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP4 drop bag
c) You will be through CP4 around 4:30pm or are not sure what time you will be through CP4; either put the items into CP4 drop bag and carry them from CP4 regardless of the time or have two fleeces with one in CP4 drop bag and one in your CP5 drop bag. If you have a support crew this will be easier as they can have your fleece available at CP4 and at CP5. 

Other things to remember- If there is any discrepancy between my explanations and the official line, the officials win. No arguments.

There will be at least one random gear check- usually two. Don’t try to skimp on any of the mandatory gear, it could ruin your race if you have to wait for a crew member to drive one to you- which is the best case scenario.

In 2011 we were required to carry a first aid kit. I use an Aide Void kit which is very small and has lots of worthwhile stuff in it. Declaration- yes my wife works for the company that distributes these but I will carry one anyway in 2012…….and 2013……. and 2014 and 2015 and 2016…..

All of the outdoor shops seem to be on sale right now (Kathmandu permanently!) and I saw some of the mandatory gear at great prices where they all cluster around Kent St Sydney.

Don't forget the Bodyglide!

Don’t forget the Bodyglide!

Recommended items via TNF website:

  • Vaseline, Body Glide or other body lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Spare socks
  • Spare headlight batteries
  • Additional warmer clothing at supported checkpoints
  • A spare headlamp in case your main light stops working.
  • More substantial first aid kit (sterile dressings, roll of strapping tape, blister care such as blister block patches, Compeed or Fixamol, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any relevant personal medications).

I’ll do another post soon about the non mandatory items you should consider……….

North Face 100 Mandatory Gear 2015

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This is basically a copy/ paste of my 2014 entry with updates as required. Please let me know if you spot any errors, it was done in a hurry…….

The major changes have been noted as 2015 update, I’ve also included a bunch of photos from Northside Runners. As you all probably know they’ve been very good to me and are big supporters of ultra running in general. Go and see them or one of the other local shops for your gear and keep that essential local knowledge available!

-I also want to acknowledge the huge help I’ve gained from others. In 2011 I was crapping myself at the huge task I’d jumped into, and probably the best source of info was Nick Weinholt’s Enduroexplorer.com website. I’ve since found out that he’s a helpful and approachable bloke too. You should read the website and particularly the training and gear list he did for the 2010 race. And although the Ultra168 guys are a whole new level of crazy (er, I mean commitment) you should read their adventures too- lots of good info there. You should also check out the gear thread on Coolrunning for 2012. Pasty has put another good summary there, and you can ask questions too! Check out the Facebook groups- official, unofficial, and training.

Ultra168 have added a post that takes in some of the gear (2014) here

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for TNF100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained over the last 4 years of doing this race in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item from the official document in italics, my explanation below-

1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

My wife has just been to Patagonia in Sydney and purchased for me a Capilene long sleeved top. In her words- the silk weight version probably does not comply, and the lightweight version is ok for summer but probably not a Blue Mountains winter. The Midweight probably best matches the polypropylene specified in the mandatory item description.
Weight 221g

1 x long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

I used a pair of polypropylene thermals I had purchased for a trip to NZ. Fairly lightweight, these were purchased from Kathmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- link
Weight: 173g

Salomon Bonatti Jacket

Salomon Bonatti Jacket

1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped (not critically taped) waterproof seams and hood. The jacket must fit the wearer correctly. A recommendation only for a good jacket is one that has a waterproof rating of over 20,000mm hydrostatic head and a breathability MVTR rating of 25,000g/m2/25hrs. (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) 
Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket

Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. You should get a good one, as there is a lot of weight to be saved here. My Mont jacket weighs 450g, the Salomon Sense Flyweight is apx 120g. Race Director Tom Landon Smith has flagged that in future he wants to enforce a stricter international standard for ‘waterproofness’, but that has not happened this year. It must have a hood AND actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that meets the spec is the Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket at 120g. These are now hard to get (it seems Pace Athletic may be out of stock) but Northside Runners may still have your size. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus which weighs 208g or the Salomon Bonatti at 210g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec sometime in the future. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here.

homer-hats-beanies-red

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

at Trailwalker 2010 I was given a buff about the halfway point, and it was the most glorious feeling to be putting on something so warm- it has a drawstring so it can be made into a beanie, and I’m going to use that instead of the achingly expensive snow beanie. Remember you lose a lot of heat out of your head, and it’s going to be bloody cold. If it’s reasonably warm like 2012-14 you might get away with a light fabric buff, but in 2011 it was soooo cold!
Weight: 46g

Salomon Running Gloves

1 x full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)

I have some black mountain biking gloves for this purpose. These gloves stayed in their packet, as I have a personal preference for non sweaty hands, and covering them up makes me very sweaty. The best compromise I have found here is some old leather weightlifting gloves that have an open mesh back- they are not full fingered so I have to carry the mandatory gloves as well. Lots of protection for your hands if you fall, but not too sweaty. Remember fairly early in the race you will be going down some stairs with nasty rusted iron hand holds.
Weight: 34g (nylon cycling gloves)

Safety vests

1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 -N Class for night time wear.

*I borrowed one of these from my wife’s work. You might have contacts who can loan you one of these, or you can buy them from Bunnings/ Masters Hardware etc. Not expensive, but make sure it meets the specs- and it use go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night- get a large size. If you buy a running vest with reflective steps it probably won’t comply- remember this item must comply with the Australian Standard…… Remember it’s the reflective stripes that allow the night rating. No stripes= doesn’t comply. Weight: 155g

unboxed

Petzl Nao v1

1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)

* My main light here is the Petzl Nao. The new version released in 2014 now outputs up to 575 lumens and has lots of options, the big bonus being it has regulated output- this means that as your batteries wear out it will keep a constant light output- your light doesn’t get dimmer over time.  And it can sense how much light is available and dim itself, saving batteries. At my favourite setting, the battery will last about 6-8 hours which means I should get to the finish without needing to change batteries, but I will be carrying a spare. The Nao will be in my drop bag at CP4, if you are a 16.5+ hour runner you will want to have your headlamp in your CP3 bag.

WARNING- if you use these Petzl lights, be aware that they are NOT fully charged when all the lights are on- you should either use Petzl OS to check or leave them on charge for a while AFTER it looks like they are full……

 

During the day I will carry 2 tiny ‘Keyring Mini Hand Torch‘, these are on the website for $7.98 each- ouch in 2014 they are now $19.98, but Kathmandu is always on special anyway…..
2015 update– those Kathmandu torches take a bunch of LR4 batteries which I haven’t been able to buy in bulk so I will probably use a couple of torches from a $2 shop as my mandatory carry items during the day. Weight is not significant for these.

*I have spoken to the Race Director about whether a hand held torch is ok rather than a headlamp, and he agreed it was ok. He couldn’t see why you would want to use a hand held torch if a headlamp as available (me too) however it will pass. Weight: 10g  (light until CP3).
Weight: 187g (Petzl Nao with battery)

1 x small backup light in case of headlamp failure but still bright enough for you to walk by and see course markings

* I will use a Petzl Tikka XP2 for my backup light. it is perfectly ok for an event like the North Face 100 as your main light, but I’m lucky that my wife works for the local distributor so these things breed like rabbits in our house. Weight: 10g (light until CP3).
Weight: 88g (Petzl Tikka XP2 including batteries)

1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network)

*Yes Telstra aren’t my favourite people either, but my phone is with them and the network is pretty good. Ouch- upgrading my phone means I am carrying an extra 100g of gear. Oh well, at least the battery should last until I finish! I will be carrying an iPhone 6 Plus including Gecko waterproof case
Weight: 278g

1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.

Smallest compass I have been able to find is these at 12 for < $2 ,  Weight: <10g

UPDATE- got an email from the Race Director which says the following- Can I use an iPhone as my compass?  Answer is no.

1 x whistle

*most Salomon packs seem to have a whistle built in, so I have 3. You should either borrow one from someone who owns a Salomon pack, or buy one from a toy or sports store- Rebel Sport will have these, or order something like this which has whistle, compass and backup light all in one.
Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin 12 v3 packs have these inside, or I bought one for about $5 from Khatmandu last year. Hint- Khatmandu seems to always be on sale……
Weight: 55g (or included with pack)

bandage

This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). 

I asked, but never got to the bottom of what makes a suitable compression bandage- common sense says that it’s the elastic in the bandage that will provide the compression. Supplied by my wife from our medical box, but you can buy these from Chemists.
Weight: 45g

1 x full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)

1 x firelighter block for emergency use only (Jiffy Firelighter provided by organisers).  You will need to provide your own zip lock bag or container.

*pretty self explanatory- there will be a table at check-in with these items on it. Grab a small amount and stash them in a zip lock sandwich bag that you have brought along. You’ll need a couple of extras for this and following items. Weight: no idea, say 30g

1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)

*You don’t need to buy a Dry Sack if you put everything in individual zip lock sandwich bags. I also wrote on the outside of each bag what the contents were, and found that I never had to look far for anything. This is important and could save time when you are cold and mentally shattered.
Weight: 3g each, you’ll need about 10 of these

Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)

* My early version of the Salomon Super Advanced XT Wings Wooshka Skinbag comes with a bladder that holds 1.5 litres, so it doesn’t technically meet these requirements. I bought some Platypus bendy bottles and a 2l Platypus bladder and now I have more than enough capacity. Indeed, I could smuggle a cheeky red and some fine cognac on to the course. But won’t. <<<< The Platypus bladders have been updated for a lower depth profile and no longer fit in the Salomon pack. According to Ultra168 the Hydrapak should fit, but if you’re going to a shop, take your pack to try it.

2014 Update
– I now carry 2x 750ml mineral water bottles in the front pockets of my pack, so I am going to go over the course description to decide wether I can leave my bladder at home and simply carry an extra 600ml handheld which will take me over the minimum requirements. Benefits are not having to take pack off, and relatively easy to fill up each bottle when needed. Weight (not measured)
Weight: 2l water = 2Kg, Weight: 157g (bladder)

2015 update– I ran last year with 2 bottles in the front pockets and a 2 litre bladder in the back. I didn’t need the bladder at all so this year I will be using 2x 600ml Powerade bottles in front (they have a big mouth for filling and a great closure with nice high flow) and I’ll make up the rest of the 2l requirement either with collapsible flasks or more Powerade bottles. These weigh 31g each (could I get it down to 30g if I remove the labels?). Technically I could carry 2 of these and 2 Salomon Soft Flasks and meet the requirements at only 120g.  That’s a big saving over the bladder + tube + 2x bottles I carried last year. That makes up for the increased weight of my phone!
Weight: 122g

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

2 x bars / food portions

* When you pull everything out of your pack after the event, you probably won’t remember why you have 2 squished muesli bars at the bottom. These were your emergency food items. Equally important- if you get into trouble, don’t forget they are there!
2014 update- this is probably the only rule loophole that isn’t yet closed. You could theoretically take no extra food portions and claim you had an emergency and ate them. You most likely would not get in trouble for this, but don’t be an idiot- take extra food! I often finish an ultra with enough food to take me another 50km. Ahem.
Weight: 39g (muesli bar) Weight: 33g (packet of Gu chomps)

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

*Oh no! You’ve just added 3g to your running weight! Don’t worry, you’ll sweat it out.

1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers). At registration, you will be provided with one set of maps and course notes.  You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item below)

* provided on A3/ sometimes A4 paper, you will put these in a safe place and forget they are there. It’s unlikely you will refer to the maps- the course is very clearly marked. You won’t get lost- but don’t forget where your maps are- there was a gear check mid race in 2012 and we had to show them to scrutineers. Weight: 62g (I weighed another competitors handout from 2010)

Sea_to_Summit_TPU_Map_Case__jpg_508x300_q85

1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact

*The best of these I’ve seen is by Sea to Summit, but it isn’t quite a full A4 size. I have a Sealine one that is big and bulky. The Sea To Summit should be available from most of the camping stores around Kent St in Sydney, Weight: 128g (Sealine from 2011).
Weight: 53g (Sea to Summit 2012)

Note- as suggested by Andy Hewat, you can put your maps into an A4 sized ziplock bag. This will pass a gear check, and weighs a lot less than a map case. Honestly, you won’t need to use your maps during the race.

1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)

*self explanatory. Don’t need to memorise it, just know where it is if you get in trouble. Weight: 6g (pretty sure this info is on the back of your race number, so I weighed one from another race)

1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

*remember if you aren’t near the front of the pack you will most likely experience a few weather changes during your event, and you’ll probably want to change clothes. If the extra fleece and waterproof pants are declared mandatory during he race you could be changing both your bottom and top clothing, meaning that the best way of having your race number visible at all times is to have it on a race belt or a SPI-Belt. For some unknown reason Running Wild NSW were giving these away at the Knapsack race, so I have one- but if you don’t you should find them at Rebel Sport/ Performance Sport or other sports stores. By the way- you should join Running Wild NSW– they have some great events! Weight: 6g as noted above + race belt weight.
Weight: 60g (SpiBelt with 2 pockets)

Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Pants

Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Pants

1 x long leg waterproof pants

* I bought mine from Rebel Sport for about $40,  they are Team brand. You can get some for about $20, but they were non breathable plastic and looked easy to rip, and very heavy. The Rolls Royce here is the Salomon pants pictured but they are about the same weight as the cheap Team branded ones, but will probably last longer! You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below.
Weight: 191g

North Face Fleece

North Face Fleece

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

* 100 weight polar fleece is not very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. An example of a 100 weight fleece top here, but I actually ordered this 200 weight one here because it was lighter and cheaper. Remember- if you buy a fleece top without a full length zipper it will be more difficult to get on when you are cold and tired. Get a full length zipper version.
Weight: 346g

Here is the explanation of the last two items- the waterproof pants and the fleece taken directly from the website here

*** You will only be required to carry the waterproof pants if weather conditions are wet. You will be notified during the Friday night registration if they must be carried on person from the start, or if they need to be left with your support crew or in a specified drop bag for use during the event.

**** There will be two different scenarios for what you will need to do with your fleece top. These will depend on weather conditions:

SCENARIO 1. The fleece top may be compulsory from the start if weather conditions are expected to be bad. You will be notified at the Friday night registration if the fleece top must be carried from the start.

SCENARIO 2. If not made compulsory from the start, the fleece top will be compulsory to carry from CP4 from 4:30pm and compulsory to carry from CP5 from 7:30pm. Depending on your speed, you will need to have your fleece available at either CP4 or CP5. Please read the following recommendations and decide which option will guarantee you have the fleece top in the right location for when it becomes compulsory:

a) You will definitely be though CP4 well before 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP5 drop bag
b) You will definitely be through Cp4 after 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP4 drop bag
c) You will be through CP4 around 4:30pm or are not sure what time you will be through CP4; either put the items into CP4 drop bag and carry them from CP4 regardless of the time or have two fleeces with one in CP4 drop bag and one in your CP5 drop bag. If you have a support crew this will be easier as they can have your fleece available at CP4 and at CP5. 

Other things to remember- If there is any discrepancy between my explanations and the official line, the officials win. No arguments.

There will be at least one random gear check- usually two. Don’t try to skimp on any of the mandatory gear, it could ruin your race if you have to wait for a crew member to drive one to you- which is the best case scenario.

In 2011 we were required to carry a first aid kit. I use an Aide Void kit which is very small and has lots of worthwhile stuff in it. Declaration- yes my wife works for the company that distributes these but I will carry one anyway in 2012…….and 2013……. and 2014

All of the outdoor shops seem to be on sale right now (Kathmandu permanently!) and I saw some of the mandatory gear at great prices where they all cluster around Kent St Sydney.

Don't forget the Bodyglide!

Don’t forget the Bodyglide!

Recommended items via TNF website:

  • Vaseline, Body Glide or other body lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Spare socks
  • Spare headlight batteries
  • Additional warmer clothing at supported checkpoints
  • A spare headlamp in case your main light stops working.
  • More substantial first aid kit (sterile dressings, roll of strapping tape, blister care such as blister block patches, Compeed or Fixamol, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any relevant personal medications).

I’ll do another post soon about the non mandatory items you should consider……….

Hoka One One Mafate Speed Review

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Shoe porn, stolen directly from the Hoka website

Shoe porn, stolen directly from the Hoka website

I’ve never done a shoe review before, so please excuse me if some of this doesn’t sound ‘right’. I do however hope it is all ‘correct’!

The shoes were kindly supplied by Northside Runners, they didn’t ask me to write a review but I thought it would be cool since they’ve been so nice to me. Also just because I have a wall full of Hokas don’t think I’m incapable of being brutally honest- I’m really just trying to be impartial, and yes some of it may be uncomplimentary.

But not this time!

The Great North Walk 100s held on the weekend of 13-14 September this year are billed as ‘Australia’s toughest trail races’ and I don’t know if that is true, but the 100km (actually 104km) and the 100 miler (actually 108 miles or about 175km) are pretty damn tough. The trail goes through some beautiful but very unforgiving country, and towards the end there’s  lots of sandstone rocks which can shred shoes and the sheer distance can make mincemeat out of your feet.

It had rained a fair bit before this race and I knew that I needed loads of grip as the trail was likely to be very muddy in parts. As I contemplated the shoe wall I realised that both pairs of Stinsons were getting a bit flat on the bottom and the Mafate 2’s that I had bought cheap last year were just a touch too small for such a long distance race (I’d worn them on the Larapinta and had lasted 3 days before switching to the Stinsons). Obviously the answer was more shoes (as Imelda herself would say)!

I spoke with Michael Delgarno and suggested the Mafate Speeds or the Altra Olympus as I really like a wide toe box, but his advice was to go with the Hokas because the Altra is a zero drop shoe and would require a bit of adaption. He didn’t bat an eyelid when I suggested I wanted to wear brand new shoes for a 108 mile run, good man. It also meant that I would be safe from Roger Hanneys voodoo dolls, at least for a while…….

They ordered in a size 11 and size 11.5, and when I went in to collect them it was immediately obvious that the 11.5 were the winner. Nice and roomy down front and possibly a little less wide than I would like, but these are currently the widest shoe in the Hoka range. I also treated myself to a new pair of Injinji Trail 2.0 socks for the adventure.

So, how did they go? They felt awesome. I’ve never had so much confidence flying down muddy tracks or climbing up ascents with dodgy grip. More than once I was saved from getting wet feet simply because the foam is so high- as I sank into the mud the water couldn’t get into the upper!

Hoka Mafate Speed- slightly used by one old lady on a Saturday and late into Sunday

Hoka Mafate Speed- slightly used by one old lady on a Saturday and late into Sunday

They did bleed a bit of colour on to my feet, I looked like I had bruised feet after the run. And it took me a couple of goes to get the tongue settled on top of my left foot- it had a crease in it. However this is probably just a symptom of being a new shoe.

And yes, I did have to stop and tape up my little toe, which was bashing against the side of the shoe. Relief came immediately but I’m not marking the shoes down because of that- if I’d been sensible I would have taped the little toes before wearing them for such a long race. There is such a thing as being TOO cocky!

The ride is a lot harder than the Bondi’s, somewhat surprising for a shoe that unashamedly rocks the maximal look. But with a good pair of socks they feel like weapons ready to go to war with the trail. I wanted to compare with something different so I strapped on a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3’s and headed out for a little run this morning. The tongue felt enormous and it took my feet a little while to get used to them however I’d definitely put it like this- Speedcross is a good alternative for any fast gnarly run under about 45km, and the Mafates for anything else.

At the end of the race they still looked 7/10, which is better than I could say for the rest of my body. They have a small hole in the top of the left shoe- I must have dragged it on some rocks. A bit disappointing however not a big deal. They look great for shoes that are nearly 30% through their working life after one race, I think they will last really well. The grip is extraordinary, I think I might be the only runner who didn’t come close to falling over in this race, yes there were some epic spills! OK smartarse, I’m aware that 7/10 and ‘30% of their working life’ doesn’t really inspire confidence, however if I would wash the shoes (or at least rub the dirt and sand off) they’d be an 8/10. Humph.

Now if you think I’m being a bit down on these shoes, let’s take a step back and look at the facts- they had enough cushioning to enable me to complete a 175km run with very few issues. The only blisters I got were in places where I forgot to lube my feet. Yeah, I’m that dumb. They stopped me from sliding around like 90% of the field and prevented me from getting wet feet more than once. They didn’t get too hot, and the terrain didn’t chew them up as much as expected. I’m a fan.

These are not perfect- I would still like 1-2mm more width in the toe box, and perhaps a more hole resistant toe cover, but they get very close. If you need some gnarly trail shoes, you should consider these. I’m actually looking forward to using them at Hume & Hovell.

North Face 100 Mandatory Gear 2014

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This is basically a copy/ paste of my 2013 entry with updates as required. Please let me know if you spot any errors, it was done in a hurry…….

 

-I also want to acknowledge the huge help I’ve gained from others. In 2011 I was crapping myself at the huge task I’d jumped into, and probably the best source of info was Nick Weinholt’s Enduroexplorer.com website. I’ve since found out that he’s a helpful and approachable bloke too. You should read the website and particularly the training and gear list he did for the 2010 race. And although the Ultra168 guys are a whole new level of crazy (er, I mean commitment) you should read their adventures too- lots of good info there. You should also check out the gear thread on Coolrunning for 2012. Pasty has put another good summary there, and you can ask questions too! Check out the Facebook groups- official, unofficial, and training.

UPDATE- Ultra168 have just added a post that takes in some of the gear here

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for TNF100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained last year in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item in italics, explanation below-

1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

My wife has just been to Patagonia in Sydney and purchased for me a Capilene long sleeved top. In her words- the silk weight version probably does not comply, and the lightweight version is ok for summer but probably not a Blue Mountains winter. The Midweight probably best matches the polypropylene specified in the mandatory item description. Weight 221g

1 x long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

I used a pair of polypropylene thermals I had purchased for a trip to NZ. Fairly lightweight, these were purchased from Khatmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- linkWeight: 173g

1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped (not critically taped) waterproof seams and hood. The jacket must fit the wearer correctly. A recommendation only for a good jacket is one that has a waterproof rating of over 20,000mm hydrostatic head and a breathability MVTR rating of 25,000g/m2/25hrs. (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) 

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. You should get a good one, as the rules will allow my Montane this year, Tom Landon Smith has flagged that in future he wants to enforce a stricter international standard for ‘waterproofness’, it must have a hood and actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that has been passed is the Montane Lightspeed H2O at 132g. Unfortunately this may not meet the spec in future years because it is a coated nylon fabric that won’t stay waterproof once the coating is gone- or in other words ‘the only way that jacket will stay waterproof is if you continue to not wear it’. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus which weighs 215g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec in 2013. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here. I have the Montane Litespeed H2O Weight: 132g, which is no longer available, but a mate has bought the North Face Feather Lite Storm and it’s great but expensive….

homer-hats-beanies-red

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

at Trailwalker 2010 I was given a buff about the halfway point, and it was the most glorious feeling to be putting on something so warm- it has a drawstring so it can be made into a beanie, and I’m going to use that instead of the achingly expensive snow beanie. Remember you lose a lot of heat out of your head, and it’s going to be bloody cold. If it’s reasonably warm like 2012 and 2013 you might get away with a light fabric buff, but in 2011 it was soooo cold! Weight: 46g

DHB_ROUBAIX_LINER_GLOVE_MED

1 x full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)

I have some black mountain biking gloves for this purpose. These gloves stayed in their packet, as I have a personal preference for non sweaty hands, and covering them up makes me very sweaty. The best compromise I have found here is some old leather weightlifting gloves that have an open mesh back- they are not full fingered so I have to carry the mandatory gloves as well. Lots of protection for your hands if you fall, but not too sweaty. Remember fairly early in the race you will be going down some stairs with nasty rusted iron hand holds. Weight: 34g (nylon cycling gloves)

Safety vests

1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 -N Class for night time wear.

*I borrowed one of these from my wife’s work. You might have contacts who can loan you one of these, or you can buy them from Bunnings/ Masters Hardware etc. Not expensive, but make sure it meets the specs- and it use go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night- get a large size. Remember it’s the reflective stripes that allow the night rating. No stripes= doesn’t comply. Weight: 155g

unboxed

1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)

* My main light here is the Petzl Nao. It outputs up to 355 lumens and has lots of options, the big bonus being it has regulated output- this means that as your batteries wear out it will keep a constant light output- your light doesn’t get dimmer over time.  And it can sense how much light is available and dim itself, saving batteries. At my favourite setting, the battery will last about 6-8 hours which means I should get to the finish without needing to change batteries, but I will be carrying a spare. The Nao will be in my drop bag at CP4, if you are a 16.5+ hour runner you will want to have your headlamp in your CP3 bag. During the day I will carry 2 tiny ‘Keyring Mini Hand Torch‘, these are on the website for $7.98 each- ouch in 2014 they are now $19.98, but Kathmandu is always on special anyway…..

*I have spoken to the Race Director about whether a hand held torch is ok rather than a headlamp, and he agreed it was ok. He couldn’t see why you would want to use a hand held torch if a headlamp as available (me too) however it will pass. Weight: 10g  (light until CP3). Weight: 187g (Petzl Nao with battery)

1 x small backup light in case of headlamp failure but still bright enough for you to walk by and see course markings

* I will use a Petzl Tikka XP2 for my backup light. it is perfectly ok for an event like the North Face 100 as your main light, but I’m lucky that my wife works for the local distributor so these things breed like rabbits in our house. Weight: 10g (light until CP3). Weight: 88g (Petzl Tikka XP2 including batteries)

1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network)

*Yes Telstra aren’t my favourite people either, but my phone is with them and the network is pretty good. iPhone 4S including Lifeproof waterproof case Weight: 171g

1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.

I’ve bought this from eBay,  Weight: 10g

UPDATE- just got an email from the Race Director which says the following- Can I use an iPhone as my compass?  Answer is no.

1 x whistle

*most Salomon packs seem to have a whistle built in, so I have 3. You should either borrow one from someone who owns a Salomon pack, or buy one from a toy or sports store- Rebel Sport will have these. Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin XT Wings Super Nuclear Speedcross Blah packs have these inside, or I bought one for about $5 from Khatmandu last year. Hint- Khatmandu seems to always be on sale……Weight: 55g (or included with pack)

bandage

This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). 

I asked, but never got to the bottom of what makes a suitable compression bandage- common sense says that it’s the elastic in the bandage that will provide the compression. Supplied by my wife from our medical box, but you can buy these from Chemists. Weight: 45g

1 x full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)

1 x firelighter block for emergency use only (Jiffy Firelighter provided by organisers).  You will need to provide your own zip lock bag or container.

*pretty self explanatory- there will be a table at check-in with these items on it. Grab a small amount and stash them in a zip lock sandwich bag that you have brought along. You’ll need a couple of extras for this and following items. Weight: no idea, say 30g

1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)

*You don’t need to buy a Dry Sack if you put everything in individual zip lock sandwich bags. I also wrote on the outside of each bag what the contents were, and found that I never had to look far for anything. This is important and could save time when you are cold and mentally shattered. Weight: 3g each, you’ll need about 10 of these

Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)

* the Salomon Super Advanced XT Wings Wooshka Skinbag comes with a bladder that holds 1.5 litres, so it doesn’t technically meet these requirements. I bought some Platypus bendy bottles and a 2l Platypus bladder and now I have more than enough capacity. Indeed, I could smuggle a cheeky red and some fine cognac on to the course. But won’t.

2014 Update
– I now carry 2x 750ml mineral water bottles in the front pockets of my pack, so I am going to go over the course description to decide wether I can leave my bladder at home and simply carry an extra 600ml handheld which will take me over the minimum requirements. Benefits are not having to take pack off, and relatively easy to fill up each bottle when needed. Weight (not measured)
Weight: 2l water = 2Kg, Weight: 157g (bladder)

2 x bars / food portions

* When you pull everything out of your pack after the event, you probably won’t remember why you have 2 squished muesli bars at the bottom. These were your emergency food items. Equally important- if you get into trouble, don’t forget they are there!
2014 update- this is probably the only rule loophole that isn’t yet closed. You could theoretically take no extra food portions and claim you had an emergency and ate them. You most likely would not get in trouble for this, but don’t be an idiot- take extra food!
Weight: 39g (muesli bar) Weight: 33g (packet of Gu chomps)

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

*Oh no! You’ve just added 3g to your running weight! Don’t worry, you’ll sweat it out.

1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers). At registration, you will be provided with one set of maps and course notes.  You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item below)

* provided on A3/ sometimes A4 paper, you will put these in a safe place and forget they are there. It’s unlikely you will refer to the maps- the course is very clearly marked. You won’t get lost- but don’t forget where your maps are- there was a gear check mid race in 2012 and we had to show them to scrutineers. Weight: 62g (I weighed another competitors handout from 2010)

Sea_to_Summit_TPU_Map_Case__jpg_508x300_q85

1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact

*The best of these I’ve seen is by Sea to Summit, but it isn’t quite a full A4 size. I have a Sealine one that is big and bulky. The Sea To Summit should be available from most of the camping stores around Kent St in Sydney- Update, purchased this 4.4.12 for 15% off at Paddy Pallin, $25.50 apx), Weight: 128g (Sealine from 2011). Weight: 53g (Sea to Summit 2012)

Note- as suggested by Andy Hewat, you can put your maps into an A4 sized ziplock bag. This will pass, and weighs less than a map case. Honestly, you won’t need to use your maps during the race.

1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)

*self explanatory. Don’t need to memorise it, just know where it is if you get in trouble. Weight: 6g (pretty sure this info is on the back of your race number, so I weighed one from another race)

1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

*remember if you aren’t near the front of the pack you will most likely experience a few weather changes during your event, and you’ll probably want to change clothes. If the extra fleece and waterproof pants are declared mandatory during he race you could be changing both your bottom and top clothing, meaning that the best way of having your race number visible at all times is to have it on a race belt or a SPI-Belt. For some unknown reason Running Wild NSW were giving these away at the Knapsack race, so I have one- but if you don’t you should find them at Rebel Sport/ Performance Sport or other sports stores. By the way- you should join Running Wild NSW- they have some great events! Weight: 6g as noted above + race belt weight. Weight: 60g (SpiBelt with 2 pockets)

1 x long leg waterproof pants

* I bought mine from Rebel Sport for about $40,  they are Team brand. You can get some for about $20, but they were non breathable plastic and looked easy to rip, and very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. Weight: 191g

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

* 100 weight polar fleece is not very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. An example of a 100 weight fleece top here, but I actually ordered this 200 weight one here because it was lighter and cheaper. Weight: 346g

Here is the explanation of the last two items- the waterproof pants and the fleece taken directly from the website here

*** You will only be required to carry the waterproof pants if weather conditions are wet. You will be notified during the Friday night registration if they must be carried on person from the start, or if they need to be left with your support crew or in a specified drop bag for use during the event.

**** There will be two different scenarios for what you will need to do with your fleece top. These will depend on weather conditions:

SCENARIO 1. The fleece top may be compulsory from the start if weather conditions are expected to be bad. You will be notified at the Friday night registration if the fleece top must be carried from the start.

SCENARIO 2. If not made compulsory from the start, the fleece top will be compulsory to carry from CP4 from 4:30pm and compulsory to carry from CP5 from 7:30pm. Depending on your speed, you will need to have your fleece available at either CP4 or CP5. Please read the following recommendations and decide which option will guarantee you have the fleece top in the right location for when it becomes compulsory:

a) You will definitely be though CP4 well before 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP5 drop bag
b) You will definitely be through Cp4 after 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP4 drop bag
c) You will be through CP4 around 4:30pm or are not sure what time you will be through CP4; either put the items into CP4 drop bag and carry them from CP4 regardless of the time or have two fleeces with one in CP4 drop bag and one in your CP5 drop bag. If you have a support crew this will be easier as they can have your fleece available at CP4 and at CP5. 

Other things to remember- If there is any discrepancy between my explanations and the official line, the officials win. No arguments.

There will be at least one random gear check- usually two. Don’t try to skimp on any of the mandatory gear, it could ruin your race if you have to wait for a crew member to drive one to you- which is the best case scenario.

In 2011 we were required to carry a first aid kit. I use an Aide Void kit which is very small and has lots of worthwhile stuff in it. Declaration- yes my wife works for the company that distributes these but I will carry one anyway in 2012…….and 2013……. and 2014

All of the outdoor shops seem to be on sale right now (Khatmandu permanently!) and I saw some of the mandatory gear at great prices where they all cluster around Kent St Sydney.

 

Recommended items via TNF website:

  • Vaseline, Body Glide or other body lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Spare socks
  • Spare headlight batteries
  • Additional warmer clothing at supported checkpoints
  • A spare headlamp in case your main light stops working.
  • More substantial first aid kit (sterile dressings, roll of strapping tape, blister care such as blister block patches, Compeed or Fixamol, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any relevant personal medications).

I’ll do another post soon about the non mandatory items you should consider……….

North Face 100 Mandatory Gear 2013

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Sorry for the delay with this- work had to come first, but here it is. The updated gear list, shortly to be followed by a list of non mandatory but recommended stuff…….

 

-I also want to acknowledge the huge help I’ve gained from others. In 2011 I was crapping myself at the huge task I’d jumped into, and probably the best source of info was Nick Weinholt’s Enduroexplorer.com website. I’ve since found out that he’s a helpful and approachable bloke too. You should read the website and particularly the training and gear list he did for the 2010 race. And although the Ultra168 guys are a whole new level of crazy (er, I mean commitment) you should read their adventures too- lots of good info there. You should also check out the gear thread on Coolrunning for 2012. Pasty has put another good summary there, and you can ask questions too! Check out the Facebook groups- official, unofficial, and training.

UPDATE- Ultra168 have just added a post that takes in some of the gear here

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for TNF100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained last year in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item in italics, explanation below-

1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

My wife has just been to Patagonia in Sydney and purchased for me a Capilene long sleeved top. In her words- the silk weight version probably does not comply, and the lightweight version is ok for summer but probably not a Blue Mountains winter. The Midweight probably best matches the polypropylene specified in the mandatory item description. Weight 221g

1 x long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

 I used a pair of polypropylene thermals I had purchased for a trip to NZ. Fairly lightweight, these were purchased from Khatmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- linkWeight: 173g

1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped (not critically taped) waterproof seams and hood (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable)

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. It must meet a reasonably strict international standard for ‘waterproofness’, have a hood and actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that has been passed is the Montane Lightspeed H2O at 132g. Unfortunately this will not meet the spec in future years because it is a coated nylon fabric that won’t stay waterproof once the coating is gone- or in other words ‘the only way that jacket will stay waterproof is if you continue to not wear it’. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus which weighs 215g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec in 2013. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here. I’ve ordered the Montane Litespeed H2O Weight: 132g

homer-hats-beanies-red

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

at Trailwalker 2010 I was given a buff about the halfway point, and it was the most glorious feeling to be putting on something so warm- it has a drawstring so it can be made into a beanie, and I’m going to use that instead of the achingly expensive snow beanie. Remember you lose a lot of heat out of your head, and it’s going to be bloody cold. Weight: 46g

DHB_ROUBAIX_LINER_GLOVE_MED

1 x full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)

I have some black mountain biking gloves for this purpose. These gloves stayed in their packet, as I have a personal preference for non sweaty hands, and covering them up makes me very sweaty. The best compromise I have found here is some old leather weightlifting gloves that have an open mesh back- they are not full fingered so I have to carry the others as well. Lots of protection for your hands if you fall, but not too sweaty. Remember fairly early in the race you will be going down some stairs with nasty rusted iron hand holds. Weight: 34g (nylon cycling gloves)

Safety vests

1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 -N Class for night time wear.

*I borrowed one of these from my wife’s work. You might have contacts who can loan you one of these, or you can buy them from Bunnings/ Masters Hardware etc. Not expensive, but make sure it meets the specs- and it use go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night- get a large size. Remember it’s the reflective stripes that allow the night rating. No stripes= doesn’t comply. Weight: 155g

unboxed

1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)

* My main light here is the Petzl Nao. It outputs up to 355 lumens and has lots of options, the big bonus being it has regulated output- this means that as your batteries wear out it will keep a constant light output- your light doesn’t get dimmer over time.  And it can sense how much light is available and dim itself, saving batteries. At my favourite setting, the battery will last about 6-8 hours which means I should get to the finish without needing to change batteries, but I will be carrying a spare. The Nao will be in my drop bag at CP4, if you are a 16.5+ hour runner you will want to have your headlamp in your CP3 bag. During the day I will carry 2 tiny ‘Keyring Mini Hand Torch‘, these are on the website for $7.98 each

*I have spoken to the Race Director about whether a hand held torch is ok rather than a headlamp, and he agreed it was ok. He couldn’t see why you would want to use a hand held torch if a headlamp as available (me too) however it will pass. Weight: 10g  (light until CP3). Weight: 187g (Petzl Nao with battery)

1 x small backup light in case of headlamp failure but still bright enough for you to walk by and see course markings

* I will use a Petzl Tikka XP2 for my backup light. it is perfectly ok for an event like the North Face 100 as your main light, but I’m lucky that my wife works for the local distributor so these things breed like rabbits in our house. Weight: 10g (light until CP3). Weight: 88g (Petzl Tikka XP2 including batteries)

1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network)

*Yes Telstra aren’t my favourite people either, but my phone is with them and the network is pretty good. iPhone 4S including Lifeproof waterproof case Weight: 171g

1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.

 I’ve bought this from eBay,  Weight: 10g

UPDATE- just got an email from the Race Director which says the following- Can I use an iPhone as my compass?  Answer is no.

1 x whistle

*most Salomon packs seem to have a whistle built in, so I have 3. You should either borrow one from someone who owns a Salomon pack, or buy one from a toy or sports store- Rebel Sport will have these. Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin XT Wings Super Nuclear Speedcross Blah packs have these inside, or I bought one for about $5 from Khatmandu last year. Hint- Khatmandu seems to always be on sale……Weight: 55g (or included with pack)

bandage

This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

1 x compression bandage for the treatment of sprains or snake bite (crepe compression bandages are fine but they need to say they are compression – for sprains and snake bites)

I asked, but never got to the bottom of what makes a suitable compression bandage- common sense says that it’s the elastic in the bandage that will provide the compression. Supplied by my wife from our medical box, but you can buy these from Chemists. Weight: 45g

1 x full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)

1 x firelighter block for emergency use only (Jiffy Firelighter provided by organisers).  You will need to provide your own zip lock bag or container.

*pretty self explanatory- there will be a table at check-in with these items on it. Grab a small amount and stash them in a zip lock sandwich bag that you have brought along. You’ll need a couple of extras for this and following items. Weight: no idea, say 30g

1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)

*You don’t need to buy a Dry Sack if you put everything in individual zip lock sandwich bags. I also wrote on the outside of each bag what the contents were, and found that I never had to look far for anything. This is important and could save time when you are cold and mentally shattered. Weight: 3g each, you’ll need about 10 of these

Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)

* the Salomon Super Advanced XT Wings Wooshka Skinbag comes with a bladder that holds 1.5 litres, so it doesn’t technically meet these requirements. I bought some Platypus bendy bottles and a 2l Platypus bladder and now I have more than enough capacity. Indeed, I could smuggle a cheeky red and some fine cognac on to the course. But won’t. Weight: 2l water = 2Kg, Weight: 157g (bladder)

2 x bars / food portions

* When you pull everything out of your pack after the event, you probably won’t remember why you have 2 squished muesli bars at the bottom. These were your emergency food items. Equally important- if you get into trouble, don’t forget they are there! Weight: 39g (muesli bar) Weight: 33g (packet of Gu chomps)

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

*Oh no! You’ve just added 3g to your running weight! Don’t worry, you’ll sweat it out.

1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers). At registration, you will be provided with one set of maps and course notes.  You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item below)

* provided on A3/ sometimes A4 paper, you will put these in a safe place and forget they are there. It’s unlikely you will refer to the maps- the course is very clearly marked. You won’t get lost- but don’t forget where your maps are- there was a gear check mid race in 2012 and we had to show them to scrutineers. Weight: 62g (I weighed another competitors handout from 2010)

Sea_to_Summit_TPU_Map_Case__jpg_508x300_q85

1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact

*The best of these I’ve seen is by Sea to Summit, but it isn’t quite a full A4 size. I have a Sealine one that is big and bulky. The Sea To Summit should be available from most of the camping stores around Kent St in Sydney- Update, purchased this 4.4.12 for 15% off at Paddy Pallin, $25.50 apx), Weight: 128g (Sealine from 2011). Weight: 53g (Sea to Summit 2012)

Note- as suggested by Andy Hewat, you can put your maps into an A4 sized ziplock bag. This will pass, and weighs less than a map case. Honestly, you won’t need to use your maps during the race.

1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)

*self explanatory. Don’t need to memorise it, just know where it is if you get in trouble. Weight: 6g (pretty sure this info is on the back of your race number, so I weighed one from another race)

1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

*remember if you aren’t near the front of the pack you will most likely experience a few weather changes during your event, and you’ll probably want to change clothes. If the extra fleece and waterproof pants are declared mandatory during he race you could be changing both your bottom and top clothing, meaning that the best way of having your race number visible at all times is to have it on a race belt or a SPI-Belt. For some unknown reason Running Wild NSW were giving these away at the Knapsack race, so I have one- but if you don’t you should find them at Rebel Sport/ Performance Sport or other sports stores. By the way- you should join Running Wild NSW- they have some great events! Weight: 6g as noted above + race belt weight. Weight: 60g (SpiBelt with 2 pockets)

1 x long leg waterproof pants

* I bought mine from Rebel Sport for about $40,  they are Team brand. You can get some for about $20, but they were non breathable plastic and looked easy to rip, and very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. Weight: 191g

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

* 100 weight polar fleece is not very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. An example of a 100 weight fleece top here, but I actually ordered this 200 weight one here because it was lighter and cheaper. Weight: 346g

Here is the explanation of the last two items- the waterproof pants and the fleece taken directly from the website here

‘***You will only be required to carry the last two items listed above (waterproof pants and 100-weight fleece) if weather conditions are bad. The organisers will notify you at the Friday night registration if these two items must be carried on person from the start, or if they need to be left with your support crew or in a specified drop bag for use during the event. The most likely scenario (in fine weather conditions) is that you will leave these additional items with your support crew or in your Checkpoint 4 drop bag and you will be told at Checkpoint 4 if you need to carry these additional items. These items may become compulsory to carry at any time during the event irrespective of whether previous runners have already passed through Checkpoint 4 prior to the items becoming compulsory. In that case, only runners departing the checkpoint after the items become compulsory must carry the items.’

Other things to remember- If there is any discrepancy between my explanations and the official line, the officials win. No arguments.

There will be at least one random gear check. Don’t try to skimp on any of the mandatory gear, it could ruin your race if you have to wait for a crew member to drive one to you- which is the best case scenario.

In 2011 we were required to carry a first aid kit. I use an Aide Void kit which is very small and has lots of worthwhile stuff in it. Declaration- yes my wife works for the company that distributes these but I will carry one anyway in 2012…….and 2013

All of the outdoor shops seem to be on sale right now (Khatmandu permanently!) and I saw some of the mandatory gear at great prices where they all cluster around Kent St Sydney.

 

Recommended items via TNF website:

  • Vaseline, Body Glide or other body lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Spare socks
  • Spare headlight batteries
  • Additional warmer clothing at supported checkpoints
  • A spare headlamp in case your main light stops working.
  • More substantial first aid kit (sterile dressings, roll of strapping tape, blister care such as blister block patches, Compeed or Fixamol, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any relevant personal medications).

I’ll do another post soon about the non mandatory items you should consider……….

Making Your Own Energy Gels- Simpler Recipe

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I make my own gels and use them for any event/ training run where I’m likely to use 4 gels or more. This is because each flask holds about 3 gels. For any shorter event I use commercial gels and I particularly like the Accel Gels from Advantage 1 which have a bit of protein in them.

 

accel-gel-lime41

I got to wondering recently if I could simplify my gel recipe even further (here’s the previous post). Have you seen that cookbook ‘4 Ingredients‘? They take a bunch of stuff that is often already pre made, then combine it to produce something that you might potentially eat. My sister quite rightly calls it ‘food assembly for bogans’.

But I don’t care about that- I care about making the best possible gel mix in the fastest possible time, and I’ve discovered something worth sharing.

Cottee’s seem to be switching all of their cordials to a double strength version, and they were on special at my local shop so I bought a couple of flavours to sample, Coola and Raspberry. I need to tell you- Coola flavour is my favourite ever cordial flavour, it’s like a little bit of my childhood.

Cottees_Coola_1L_OpenLid_581x243pixels

This means I can delete 3 ingredients from my previous recipe- brown sugar, honey and water and substitute for cordial, but how much cordial?

240ml of cordial contains 240x 0.67 = 160.8 g of sugar
so in 32ml we would have 9.12g of sugar
150kj

so

serving size 32ml
simple carbs 9.12g
Complex Carbs 16.8g
Total Carbs 26g
total Kj 280+150= 430kj

which is a little higher than the last recipe, you can compare with commercial gels here

Compare this with
Endura- 26g carbs, 444kj
Gu- 20-25g carbs, 420kj
Torq- 29g carbs, 468kj

here’s the recipe-

Using double strength Cottees Coola cordial

280g maltodextrin
1/4 teaspoon salt
50ml lime juice
240ml of cordial

Yes it really is as simple as mixing it all together in a big bowl, working the lumps out and then putting it in the flasks, which then go straight in the freezer in a sandwich bag. Easy.

4 Ingredients…. is this a cooincidence? I left in the lime juice because it may be acting as a preservative, you can probably leave it out if you fancy living dangerously.

Anyway it tastes great, and doesn’t look like baby poo so I’m happy.

Petzl Nao Headlamp Review

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Here’s a brief overview- full review to come. I’m very lucky to have been sent a Petzl Nao headlamp for testing and review. What makes me so excited? Well, it truly is a new technology applied to an old concept. For a full description, check out this video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZb3k_x067w

It’s an ambitious goal, and it mostly works well as I’ll explain. I’ve been using the Nao for over a week both in  built up areas and in the bush.

The Good-
It’s amazingly bright- my Petzl MYO RXP has about 140 lumens, the Nao is 350 (and the MYO RXP is pretty bright to start with!). Even on the low setting straight out of the box other runners were saying they thought a car was coming up behind them. The battery pack is lighter than the MYO RXP. The reactive circuits work as advertised, and they’re amazingly fast. The headlamp is held on to your head by a new system that puts less pressure on your head than the old elastic strap, and it’s easy to adjust.  It has a square, rotating momentary switch on the front that allows you to turn it on and adjust easily even with gloved hands- this is a major improvement over the RXP- I loved that lamp but the ‘on’ button was a pig to use. Running at the front of the group along some quite technical single track was just a joy- I’m not a fast runner but others in the group were calling on me to slow down- it was a great feeling. I don’t think the lamp makes me run faster, simply that I had more confidence than the others because of the light output. OK, maybe a little bit faster? It has an uncanny ability to adjust when you swing your head around and up the trail. When standing around in a group, it turned itself down so that it didn’t annoy others. It’s particularly good when there isn’t much light ‘pollution’ around, or bright spots (reflecting packs etc).

The Bad-
The Nao initially doesn’t feel ‘right’ when I put it on- the cable that leads to the battery hits the top of my ear which is very annoying, and it’s not long enough to re-route. It doesn’t feel symmetrical on my head, but perhaps that is my head! After a while, I forget about this and it’s no problem but I’ve experienced this every time I’ve put it on so far. There’s a few circumstances where the reactive lighting is incredibly annoying. Running along partly lit streets at night, the Nao keeps on making wild adjustments to the light output which is disconcerting to watch. Also when in a group, if you’re travelling along single track and you have someone in front of you, the sensor will detect any light reflecting from that person and turn your light down! Have you noticed how much reflective stuff is attached to the back of your gear? The effect can be vicious, making you work harder to see the trail than if using a normal headlamp. On wider tracks, you can avoid this by simply running to one side of the person in front, which is best practice anyway as you can see more of what is coming up.

I should point out though that this is simply the way the Nao works- you can program the light modes using your computer and a program called OS by Petzl, which is a free download. Unfortunately it doesn’t recognise the Nao battery yet, meaning I could not change the reactive lighting modes or simply use regulated mode.

(UPDATE- this is why I’m not a real journalist. If I’d given the instruction manual more than a cursory glance I would have realised that you can easily set the headlight into regulated mode by simply holding the momentary switch for 2 seconds. I also found that Petzl have a way to re route the battery cable so it doesn’t hit my ear. So I’ve gone from cranky to amazed, and all it took was a bit of RTFM). So that’s 2 out of my 3 grievances with the product gone, time to give it a higher score!

Regulated mode means that the headlamp regulates the power output (and therefor the light output) so that the lamp stays at the same brightness, without dimming as the battery runs low. So most of my concerns about this headlamp can be fixed by simply programming a mode that does not use the reactive mode. This might sound counter intuitive to not use the technology available in the lamp, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s strengths lie in being in front, or not in suburban streets! One mode for bush running, one for street running- perfect! Using the instructions provided, I have figured out that this sequence will be best for me during the North Face 100- turn it on, then hold the switch for 2 seconds to put it in regulated mode, then one more click to put it in level 2 (approximately 88 Lumens output). This will give me a burn time of approximately 8 hours, and I should only need about 6-7 hours. Perfect!

The Ugly-
It’s not available Nao, er I mean now! Official release date is July. I’ve already had several offers of cash under the table to part with it. And I’m wondering if I can keep it long enough so I don’t have to be without one for long. Before I used this headlamp I wondered why I could possibly want another one- we’ve got others in just about every room in the house. But this is definitely a headlamp that will be added to my collection. If not Nao, then soon!

Canberra Marathon/ 50km Ultra 2012

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It was 5.5 degrees celsius when we got up at 5:30am for the Canberra marathon. I had to make a decision whether to wear my NRG singlet, or the Mt Solitary top that has pockets and sleeves. Easy decision right? Of course I had to wear the singlet! This turned out to be the right decision and the weather was just about perfect.

Packed a bunch of gels in and off we went. Maria took a pic of most of the runners, and we lined up for the start. What did I expect? Well, I generally have 3 goals.

1. A stretch (outperform) goal

2. a ‘very happy’ goal

3. a ‘good enough’ goal.

In reverse order these were

3. Finish

2. 3 hours 55  minutes

1. 3 hours 45 minutes

Honestly after a bout of man flu last week I rally doubted goals 1 and 2, but anyway…..

After the gun went off I tried to settle down into a rhythm, and felt terrible. I now realise that this is normal- I don’t seem to feel comfortable until about 8-10km in. At 8.5km I felt better and proceeded to watch my pace and nutrition, slowly getting past the 3:45 pacer yet knowing that he would get past me by the end! Had a great conversation with a guy who wants to resurrect the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra, but no thanks, I’ll be happy to cheer the starters. He took one look at me and said ‘you’re a skinny bastard and I’m a fat c@nt’, but it didn’t take long for us to work out that I weigh 5kg more than him, he was just a bit more ‘compact’. At 24km I was starting to get scared of the pain when I hit the wall but seemed to be coming along quite well, still doing 5:10- 5:20 pace, until we hit the 30km mark and I was running out of people to talk to, put the headphones on at 32km and tried to pretend that it didn’t hurt. By this time my pace was getting a bit raggedy, and slipping to 5:40s and the 3:45 bus went past. Strangely enough it took them a long time to get away from me, but I’d decided to do the ultra and not kill myself in the marathon. At the back of the 3:45 bus was Leah Evans, one of the people training for The North Face 100. I was great to chat to her for a while, but I stopped to have a salt tablet, ran too hard to catch up and eventually had to let her go chase the bus. She did really well to finish in 3:45, just behind the pacer, well done to her!

By the time I finished she was just out of sight (exactly 30 seconds in front of me), and my finish of 3:46:05 put me just about at my stretch goal- actually only 6 seconds outside of a 3:45 finish. Whoa. Fantastically happy, but it wasn’t over yet……

It’s a bit weird to be hitting the ‘lap’ button on your Garmin instead of the ‘stop’ button at the end of a marathon, but that’s what I did. I was hunched over, gasping into the dirt and a medic came up to me and asked me if I was alright ‘yes I’m fine’ I replied, ‘I’m just trying to figure out if I’ve got enough energy to do the 50’. Then a few gasps later I heard the announcer say ‘and here comes Michael McGrath across the finish line’ and I thought to myself, he’s a tough bugger, I can’t let him do the 50 and not do it too. So I trotted 50m up the road while thinking ‘you could have stopped, this is the worst decision you’ve ever made. Think of the simple beauty of sitting in a freaking CHAIR right now you idiot’. An NRG runner (Brett I think?) offered me some gels which I accepted, and about 300m later I caught up with some other competitors ‘are any of you Michael McGrath?’ ‘no’ they all replied. It seems I had let my brain order my body around for no reason. Oh well, it’s only 8km, how bad could it be?

Honestly? Pretty bad.

I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do the extra 8km unless I had a good chance of finishing in under 5 hours. So I practised left, right, repeat until my rapidly dissolving brain threatened to send me sideways into nice folks walking in the park (the extra bit for the ultra is along the side of a body of water, and you share the path with walkers, cyclists etc). One of the walkers said in a hushed voice ‘look at the colour of him’ but I didn’t have the energy for a chorus of ‘bitch I’m faaaabulous!’ I started to cramp, and immediately realised that in my desire to finish the marathon, I’d forgotten a couple of salt tablets and missed a nutrition slot. One salt tab and gel later, I walked for about 1500m until the cramps went and then tried to start again. A final km of apx 5:50 and I came through the gates a very happy man in a total elapsed time of 4:42.

 

in case you’re interested I had gels at 8km, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33, 38, 45. Too many? Probably, but the one time I missed a slot (43km) I bonked badly shortly after.

Yes it's as painful as it looks. No I did not need to go to the toilet

 

Statistics

Garmin

Marathon

Ultra

 

North Face 100 Mandatory Gear

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Update 12.4.2012

Lowes sell a hi-vis vest that complies with the required standard for $14.95. Yes I know this one says $9.95 but in the store it was $14.95……….

Anaconda seem to have 20% off North Face fleece at the moment. I now own my first piece of North Face gear, and it’s very nice- $80 marked down to $64

Anaconda also have a combined whistle and compass for $2.99 though make sure the compass works before you buy one, it’s not the best piece of gear you’ll ever buy, but you’ll never lose it. it’s huge. And yellow.

-Most current Petzl headlamps include a whistle. If you have a Tikka XP2 or similar, have a look at the headband tensioner- you might be surprised to find a whistle moulded into the plastic. I certainly was!

-I also want to acknowledge the huge help I’ve gained from others. In 2011 I was crapping myself at the huge task I’d jumped into, and probably the best source of info was Nick Weinholt’s Enduroexplorer.com website. I’ve since found out that he’s a helpful and approachable bloke too. You should read the website and particularly the training and gear list he did for the 2010 race. And although the Ultra168 guys are a whole new level of crazy (er, I mean commitment) you should read their adventures too- lots of good info there. You should also check out the gear thread on Coolrunning. Pasty has put another good summary there, and you can ask questions too!

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for TNF100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained last year in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item in italics, explanation below-

1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

My wife’s work distributes a New Zealand brand called SilkBody. After much searching I found that silk does have the thermal properties required, and so I used a piece of this. I had to email the Race Director Tom Landon Smith to have this approved. For the record, I love silk, but I’m going to save up for something nice instead of the fashion crime that I wore last year. Weight: 151g

Update 2 (12.4.2012)- My wife has just been to Patagonia in Sydney and purchased for me a Capilene long sleeved top. In her words- the silk weight version probably does not comply, and the lightweight version is ok for summer but probably not a Blue Mountains winter. The Midweight probably best matches the polypropylene specified in the mandatory item description.

I had an email from Tom the Race Director indicating that the fleece needed to be synthetic and that silk or wool was not appropriate. I’ve moved it to the bottom of this article because I made the mistake of thinking he was talking about the thermals however he actually meant the 100 weight fleece top. D’oh!

1 x long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

 I used a pair of polypropylene thermals I had purchased for a trip to NZ. Fairly lightweight, these were purchased from Khatmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- linkWeight: 173g

1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with hood (plastic rain poncho etc. not acceptable)

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. It must meet the international standard for ‘waterproofness’, have a hood and actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that meets the spec is the Montane Lightspeed H2O at 132g. However- in an email from the Race Director Tom Landon Smith, he says that although this jacket will pass, he would recommend going up to the Montane Minimus which weighs 227g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here. I’ve ordered the Montane Litespeed H2O Weight: 132g

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

at Trailwalker 2010 I was given a buff about the halfway point, and it was the most glorious feeling to be putting on something so warm- it has a drawstring so it can be made into a beanie, and I’m going to use that instead of the achingly expensive snow beanie. Remember you lose a lot of heat out of your head, and it’s going to be bloody cold. Weight: 46g

1 x full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)

I borrowed some lovely powder blue coloured gloves from my wife, it’s not too hard to find these. The borrowed gloves stayed in their packet, as I have a personal preference for non sweaty hands, and covering them up makes me very sweaty. The best compromise I have found here is some old leather weightlifting gloves that have an open mesh back. Lots of protection for your hands if you fall, but not too sweaty. Weight: 34g (nylon cycling gloves)

1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 -N Class for night time wear.

*I borrowed one of these from my wife’s work. You might have contacts who can loan you one of these, or you can buy them from Bunnings/ Masters Hardware etc. Not expensive, but make sure it meets the specs- and it use go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night. Weight: unknown

1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)

* My main light here is the Petzl MYO RXP. It outputs 140 lumens (160 in boost mode) and has lots of options, the big bonus being it has regulated output- this means that as your batteries wear out it will keep a constant light output- your light doesn’t get dimmer over time. I also used the hideously expensive Lithium batteries, and they lasted for several months after the event was over- I could almost view them as good value! During the day I will carry 2 small cheap lights from a $2 shop. I’ll have the good lights in my bag for checkpoint 3. Update- ‘cheap’ didn’t work- I walked into Khamandu and they had exactly what I wanted, at 5x the price I wanted to pay- I picked up 2 tiny ‘Keyring Mini Hand Torch‘ at $10 each- and that was 50% off! Yes I felt dirty paying $10 each for a 9g torch that would sell in Shenzen for 20c, but that’s life. *I have asked the Race Director for a ruling on the torch vs headlamp description, will update when I receive a reply. Weight: 10g  (light until CP3). Weight: 134g (Petzl MYO RXP with batteries)

1 x small backup light in case of headlamp failure but still bright enough for you to walk by and see course markings

* I will use a Petzl Tikka XP2 for my backup light. it is perfectly ok for an event like the North Face 100 as your main light, but I’m lucky that my wife works for the local distributor so these things breed like rabbits in our house. Weight: 10g (light until CP3). Weight: 88g (Petzl Tikka XP2 including batteries)

1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network)

*Yes Telstra aren’t my favourite people either, but my phone is with them and the network is pretty good. Weight: 150g

1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost (while we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly)

 another key item with lots of questions. Yes I actually saw a few people last year get through by explaining that their iPhone has a built in compass, and you may be able to convince someone that your phone won’t run out of battery when you need it. HOWEVER- don’t go trying to bend the rules just because you can. Get a real compass. Raid your kids toy box, go to Toys R Us and have a look. Find a small compass that works and isn’t too crappy and you’re done. I bought my 2011 compass from an Australian Geographic shop- it looks a little like the Silva, but was half the price. It isn’t truly crappy and may make the cut for this year, but it weighs 48g, I’m sure I can get something smaller……. No link, does not seem to be currently available. OK, I’ve just bought this from eBay, should weigh about 10g, Weight: 48g (to be updated with a lighter one….). Weight: 10g (this is the lighter one for 2012)

UPDATE- just got an email from the Race Director which says the following- Can I use an iPhone as my compass?  Answer is no.  ‘It can be a watch as the gear list states but you need to be able to calibrate the watch compass correctly.  The phone is no good as it is needed for calls and the more use it gets the more chance of getting wet and not working any longer.  The compass is most likely to be needed if it was wet so big chance of drowning the phone especially when trying to make a call at the same time.’

1 x whistle

*most Salomon packs seem to have a whistle built in, so I have 3. You should either borrow one from someone who owns a Salomon pack, or buy one from a toy or sports store- Rebel Sport will have these. You can go there after you’ve been thrown out of Toys R Us for being disruptive. Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin XT Wings Super Nuclear Speedcross Blah packs have these inside, or I bought one for about $5 from Khatmandu last year. Hint- Khatmandu seems to always be on sale……Weight: 55g

1 x compression bandage for the treatment of sprains or snake bite (crepe compression bandages are fine but they need to say they are compression – for sprains and snake bites)

I asked, but never got to the bottom of what makes a suitable compression bandage- common sense says that it’s the elastic in the bandage that will provide the compression. Supplied by my wife from our medical box, but you can buy these from Chemists. Weight: 45g

1 x full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)

1 x firelighter block for emergency use only (Jiffy Firelighter provided by organisers).  You will need to provide your own zip lock bag or container.

*pretty self explanatory- there will be a table at check-in with these items on it. Grab a small amount and stash them in a zip lock sandwich bag that you have brought along. You’ll need a couple of extras for this and following items. Weight: no idea, say 30g

1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)

*I bypassed buying a dry sack, and put everything in individual zip lock sandwich bags. I also wrote on the outside of each bag what the contents were, and found that I never had to look far for anything. This is important and could save time when you are cold and mentally shattered. Weight: 3g each, you’ll need about 10 of these

Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)

* the Salomon Super Advanced XT Wings Wooshka Skinbag comes with a bladder that holds 1.5 litres, so it doesn’t technically meet these requirements. I bought some Platypus bendy bottles and a 2l Platypus bladder and now I have more than enough capacity. Indeed, I could smuggle a cheeky red and some fine cognac on to the course. But won’t. Weight: 2l water = 2Kg, Weight: 157g (bladder)

2 x bars / food portions

* When you pull everything out of your pack after the event, you probably won’t remember why you have 2 squished muesli bars at the bottom. These were your emergency food items. Equally important- if you get into trouble, don’t forget they are there! Weight: 39g (muesli bar) Weight: 33g (packet of Gu chomps)

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

*Oh no! You’ve just added 3g to your running weight! Don’t worry, you’ll sweat it out.

1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers). At registration, you will be provided with one set of maps and course notes.  You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item below)

* provided on A3/ sometimes A4 paper, you will put these in a safe place and forget they are there. It’s unlikely you will refer to the maps- the course is very clearly marked. Weight: 62g (I weighed another competitors handout from 2010)

1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact

*The best of these I’ve seen is by Sea to Summit. I have a Sealine one that is big and bulky. The Sea To Summit should be available from most of the camping stores around Kent St in Sydney- Update, purchased this 4.4.12 for 15% off at Paddy Pallin, $25.50 apx), Weight: 128g (Sealine from 2011). Weight: 53g (Sea to Summit 2012)

1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)

*self explanatory. Don’t need to memorise it, just know where it is if you get in trouble. Weight: 6g (pretty sure this info is on the back of your race number, so I weighed one from another race)

1 x timing band to be worn on your left ankle (provided by organisers)

**don’t put this on too tight. Having blood gush out of your leg because the timing chip dug a hole in you is not a good look. Yes, I’ve done it. Weight: if you really want to know, email me and I’ll ask Tom the RD

1 x race number to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers).  A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing.  You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

*remember if you aren’t near the front of the pack you will most likely experience a few weather changes during your event, and you’ll probably want to change clothes. If the extra fleece and waterproof pants are declared mandatory during he race you could be changing both your bottom and top clothing, meaning that the best way of having your race number visible at all times is to have it on a special belt or a SPI-Belt. For some unknown reason Running Wild NSW were giving these away at the Knapsack race, so I have one- but if you don’t you should find them at Rebel Sport/ Performance Sport or other sports stores. By the way- you should join Running Wild NSW- they have some great events! Weight: 6g as noted above + race belt weight. Weight: 60g (SpiBelt with 2 pockets)

1 x long leg waterproof pants

* I bought mine from Rebel Sport for about $40,  they are Team brand. You can get some for about $20, but they were non breathable plastic and looked easy to rip, and very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation on the website. Weight: 191g

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

* I borrowed a piece from my wife in 2011. 100 weight polar fleece is not very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation on the website. An example of a 100 weight fleece top here, but I actually ordered this 200 weight one here because it was lighter and cheaper. Weight: unknown. Don’t want wife to catch me raiding her closet. Again. (2011). Weight: 346g (2012 bought my own)

UPDATE- I’ve just had an email from the Race Director which says this- Does the synthetic fleece have to be synthetic or can it be wool? ‘ The answer is it does need to be synthetic as synthetic fleece doesn’t get wet fibres whereas wool fibres do absorb water and can end up being wet, and therefore clammy and colder.  Even though equivalent weight wool tops are probably warmer when dry.’ I’ll need to look at some polypro clothing to substitute for my silk. No big deal.

Other things to remember-

There will be at least one random gear check. Don’t try to skimp on any of the mandatory gear, it could ruin your race if you have to wait for a crew member to drive one to you- which is the best case scenario.

In 2011 we were required to carry a first aid kit. I use an Aide Void kit which is very small and has lots of worthwhile stuff in it. Declaration- yes my wife works for the company that distributes these but I will carry one anyway in 2012…….

All of the outdoor shops seem to be on sale right now (Khatmandu permanently!) and I saw some of the mandatory gear at great prices where they all cluster around Kent St Sydney.

 

Recommended items:

  • Vaseline, Body Glide or other body lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Spare socks
  • Spare headlight batteries
  • Additional warmer clothing at supported checkpoints
  • A spare headlamp in case your main light stops working.
  • More substantial first aid kit (sterile dressings, roll of strapping tape, blister care such as blister block patches, Compeed or Fixamol, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any relevant personal medications).

I’ll do another post soon about the non mandatory items you should consider……….

Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set

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Skinbag 12 (L), Skinbag 5 (R)

I’ve owned the 5 litre version of this pack for some time, but there’s enough differences to make a review worthwhile. The ’12’ in the description refers to the load capacity of 12 litres. Well, I can tell you that there’s bugger all chance of fitting 5 litres of stuff into the ‘5 Set’, and no way to fit all of the mandatory equipment for The North Face 100.

The 12 Set looks much more like it will fit everything. I used a Salomon XA-20 in 2011 and it easily fit all my gear. I’m becoming much more of a ‘weight weenie’ this year in an attempt to make my race a bit easier. Paradoxically, both the ‘Skin’ packs seem to weigh more than the XA-20 but they are much easier to carry on long runs. A note about the name- I took the name of this post directly from the Salomon website, but have a look at the url- it’s really called the ‘skinbag 12’! That’s a much better name….

http://www.salomonrunning.com/us/minisites/skinbag/skinbag-12.aspx

To the details-

The 5 litre has one zippered pocket on the back that can hold a mobile phone, wallet and a few bits and pieces. The 12 has more pockets, and the outside one has a zipper that goes down the side as well, allowing you to open it up completely. Another difference is that the lower side pockets that are difficult to access on the 5 are a little easier on the 12. They also have a large ‘bin’ on each side where these pockets are. There’s a closure system whereby you can pull a string to keep things inside, and a handy pocket to insert the excess string so it doesn’t get in the way. I’ve done a long run with a 500ml collapsible bottle in each side and barely felt the extra weight. At a rest stop, I removed each bottle and dumped the contents into the bladder, then rolled the bottles up and put them back in the side pouches. Worked like magic.

Platypus Soft Bottles

http://cascadedesigns.com/en/platypus/water-bottles/softbottle/product

The pockets on the front are good for storing gels, but I’ve found that sharp ones can poke out the side of the thin mesh and scratch your arms on long runs.  One other very good but poorly executed detail is the spare pockets that attach by velcro to the front left hand side of the pack. Two are provided, but there’s only one spot to attach, so you can pre fill the other and slap it on at a checkpoint for a quick fill up of whatever will fit in it. Or alliteratively you could put something like a phone in it and switch packs- to move your phone across just rip it off one pack and slap it on the other at a checkpoint. Oh, look, it’s about the same size as an iPhone……. but no, an iPhone doesn’t fit! No, I don’t really have 2 iPhones, or the need to swap mid race, so I suppose it’s not really a design fault. Might be best to put the gels there, but they aren’t quite as accessible- salt tabs? Ventolin?

The Ugly

Both the 5l and 12l nominally have a 1.5l bladder. I have an early version of the 5l which comes with a ‘Source’ bladder. The Source will actually take about 1.7l, the closure is decent, it comes with a quick release tube which is insulated. The tube has great flow and doesn’t add taste to the water. Unfortunately it has started to leak, and based on photos of the leak, my supplier has asked me to return the bladder. On the other hand, the 12l ‘Skinbag’ has a Hydrapak 1.5l bladder with strict instructions not to overfill. It’s closure is great, easy to use, but we’ll see when it’s as old as the 5l- it was easy at the start too! Unfortunately it added a nasty plastic taste to the water, the (removable) tube is non insulated and the valve won’t flow as much as I need. Bottom line- the North Face 100 requires the ability to carry 2l of fluids, so I’ll be looking to swap this bladder for something else. Update- another runner (Geoff Evison) has purchased a couple of 2 litre Hydrapak bladders that will apparently fit into the pack. I tried the ‘Source’ bladder from the 5l pack but the 12l pack seems to have a narrower opening- you can’t get it in when really full, and it isn’t easy to swap out.

The Platypus Big Zip SL

Update 2- I bought a 2l Platypus Big Zip SL and it fits really well into the Skinbag 12. I think I’ll buy another one for the 5l pack and ditch the ones they came with. It has a nice high flow valve too. the only issue is that the tube exit is on the wrong side of the bladder- I’ll have to get a ‘U’ shape piece of pipe to modify the outlet. I think I’ll have to forget about swapping bladders mid race- it’s too hard to remove and re fit when there’s other stuff in the pack. It will be best to fill from bottles or fill the bladder while it is in the pack- and now a bit easier that the Platypus stick out a bit further. And it now means that I can meet the requirement of being able to carry 2l of fluid for the North Face 100.

1.5l hydrapak on left, 1.5l Source on right

Also the pack is a multi purpose adventure race pack, and includes a bunch of elasticised ties hat Salomon call their ‘4D’ attachment system for ski poles etc. I personally don’t like having things attached to the outside of my pack, it costs energy to have them bouncing around, and even a soft item can get very annoying if it hits you for hours…… I’m going to investigate taking these bits of elastic off, or at least tucking them away. Surely there’s an aero advantage there? No?

Overall I love both packs, they’re pretty close to perfect for trail running. It’s obvious that  people with lots of experience had a hand in creating them.

If you’d like to know more, have a look at the review by the Ultra168 guys at-

http://ultra168.com/2011/09/21/review-salomon-advanced-skin-12-l-s-lab-pack/