Category Archives: Gear

Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

For the last month, I have been testing out the new Bose SoundSport wireless headphones. After running some 300km+ whilst being plugged into them, here is my summary of how they got on.

Overview

The SoundSport are super simple to operate with just one button on the right earpiece. You press this once to power them up, and if you haven’t paired it with your phone before, hold it down for a second and then they search and easily connect with your device. Once you have paired with the headphones once, when you power them up they’ll automatically connect with your device. And what’s great is that they paired seamlessly each and every time, which I haven’t always found to be the case with bluetooth speakers.

Designed with sports use particularly in mind, they are sweat and rain resistant, so you can use them anytime and not worry about breaking them.

 

 

Quick facts:

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Charging time: 2 hours (but I found it does it much quicker than this, around 1 hour)
  • Battery life: 6 hours per full charge
  • Weight: 23 grams

Comfort & Functionality

The battery does last around 6 hours which I think is pretty good. If you have the volume a little lower and aren’t using the remote loads, you might even get a bit more life out of them. They charge super quick – simply plug in the USB wire and within an hour they go from zero to 100% and you’re all set.

The earbuds don’t move about in your ear at all whilst running, never falling out or bouncing around. I had read this in the odd other review, but it really was never an issue for me.

The headphones also benefit from an inline remote. This has the usual one click to pause, two clicks for next track and three clicks for previous track. It also doubles up for handsfree calling as there is a built in microphone, so one click accepts a call and you can chat away as you run – super handy for those long all day kind of runs!! It even says ‘Mum Calling’ so you know whether to pick up or not!

 

Photo 27-04-2017, 16 26 33
Running all afternoon with the headphones whilst altitude training in Tenerife

As you can see from the picture above, they do have a slightly wider profile then traditional wired headphones, but for all their other advantages, this is a small price to pay.

Sound wise, I found them good and perfect for the job. Of course they don’t really compare to over the ear, or super high performing in ear, but that is no surprise. I would quite often have them on max volume, and probably would have gone a click or two louder if they permitted, but actually that probably did my ears some good by not offering it up super loud when you’re in the zone and all hyped up!!

There is also the slightly more expensive Bose SoundSport Pulse wireless headphones, retailing at £199.95, which have the added feature of a built in heart rate sensor, but I personally don’t see the extra value in this, and see this extra functionality as unnecessary for a pair of headphones. I say stick with the SoundSport and save yourself the extra £50!

Verdict

This is my first experience with wireless headphones, and I must say I am a convert for sure. The soon to be obsolete hardwired headphones have always been a nuisance when out running, and there’s no going back for me!

This offering from Bose is just the job. I think the key to a great product is keeping it as simple as possible to fulfil the function, and they have done exactly that with the SoundSport. I will continue running with these, and see no reason to even try out another brand as I have no complaints.


Bose SoundSport wireless headphones £149.95

My Current Ultra Running Trainer: Saucony Peregrine 7

I have been testing out the new Saucony Peregrine 7 trainers over the last couple of weeks, running over 200km of trails in them, including 120km in Tenerife on some very technical terrain. I’m training for the 280km Trans Atlas Marathon and looking to select the best suited trail running shoe for the demands of this ultra, and one which works for my running style and foot shape. The Peregrine 7 is in the mix for use on this gruelling ultra marathon. Here is my review:

Photo 24-04-2017, 19 15 52
A 20km run straight out of the box on technical trails in Tenerife

Introduction:

I was torn between two Saucony’s two premier trail running shoes; the Xodus ISO and the Peregrine 7. Ultimately I decided to opt for what I believed to be the sightly more agile and lighter weight model being the Peregrine 7’s; weighing around 26grams less than the Xodus (which come in at 10.3oz, 292grams) and perhaps just a little less bulky.

Photo 08-05-2017, 13 33 51

Saucony Peregrine 7 Quick Facts:

  • Neutral running shoe
  • Not waterproof
  • Weight of 314grams for UK Size 10.5
    • NB, the advertised weight is 9.4oz (266grams) on US size 9. I weighed the actual weight of my trainer on digital scales, and it was 314grams (see picture below).
  • Heel-to-toe drop of 4mm (the difference in height from the heel to the toe)
  • Stack height of 21.5mm in the heel and 17.5mm in the forefoot
  • Sole features PWRTRAC which is great for grip and durability
  • Highly breathable ‘upper’ part to the trainer

Photo 08-05-2017, 13 32 24

Size, Fit & Comfort

I  wore the trainers straight out of the box for a decent length run and hit 20km and +/-1,200m of trails in Tenerife. After the second day of intense running in them (20km with +/-2,000m), I had a slight hotspot on the heel of my left foot as, under closer inspection, the plastic heel cup at the back (there to protect your heel) on the inside of the trainer is ever so slightly prominent. But my foot soon got used to this and it wasn’t a problem after another day of running, and given the technical and ascents/descents I had been hitting, I think this is pretty decent.

Photo 26-04-2017, 14 41 38
The trainers 3 days in and the challenging terrain making the ascent of Mt. Teide (3,700m) in Tenerife.

I wear the Peregrine 7 in a UK size 10.5. For your reference I am a UK 11 in New Balance, Inov8, Adidas, Hoka, so a half size down from my usual size in Saucony. So if you’re thinking of ordering this online, perhaps factor into your decision.

 

I find this trainer very balanced to run in. I was recently bought a pair of Hoka Challenger III ATR, but have stopped using them and found the stack height of this trainer too much and actually rolled over on my foot quite badly and it’s been causing me problems ever since. By contrast, on making the switch to the Peregrines, I immediately felt more solid, comfortable and planted on the ground and I didn’t feel there was nearly the same danger of rolling over on uneven ground.

Photo 08-05-2017, 13 33 09

The trainers have great traction on the ground. When I was running in Tenerife, I did a run of 30km with 3,400m of ascent/descent (very steep in places) on very rocky/loose gravel tracks, plus it was raining and wet under foot. But I didn’t slip once, so the PWRTRAC (no idea what that stands for!!) that they are made of, worked really well under these testing conditions. The grips on the soles seem to be very effective and a good design, so it’s a tick on this front too.

The upper part of the shoe is comprised of mesh combined with more supportive and structural TPU strips (again, no idea what that stands for!!). But the combination works well and it has good durability thus far. Although after the 200km+ I have run in them so far, there is some signs of wear now (see pictures) and I hope the can last another 280km on the Trans Atlas Ultra ..!

The lacing system is really good – provides even distribution of tightness and support around the shoe.

Photo 08-05-2017, 13 33 19

Verdict

I have really enjoyed using this trainer, it’s a great no nonsense trainer. Never having used any of Saucony’s trainers before, I did wonder how I would get on broadly speaking with the brand’s fit and sizing, but my feet fit and work well in this shoe.

For me, the key with picking a trainer I am happy with is one which I don’t really notice; it must be comfortable and feel natural and uninhibited when running in it, with minimal or no blisters/hotspots of course. When running in these, I don’t really notice them, and as far as my quite imperfect science of selecting a pair of trainers goes, I will continue wearing these and be using them as my selection for the 6 day 280km Trans Atlas Marathon.

These Peregrine 7s fit the bill.


I tested the trainers whilst altitude training in Tenerife running 130km with 11,000m of ascent and descent. Read my article on my training here.

Saucony Peregrine 7 cost £105 from the Saucony website

13 Best Running Socks, The Evening Standard

C0055.00_00_06_03.Still002

I got my hands on 13 of the best running socks available on the market today. After testing them in a variety of scenarios over the past few weeks; from running 120km of sandy coastal trails in Portugal, to marathons and 10kms around Hyde Park, here is the low-down on how they performed:

Bridgedale CoolFusion RUN Na-kd

  • 11 grams (per sock)
  • Not foot specific
  • 53% Nylon/Polyamide, 42% COOLMAX®/Polyester, 5% LYCRA®/Elastane
  • 1 year guarantee
  • Adventure Ferg size: Large (UK 9 – 11.5)
  • £9.99

This is the lightest sock I tested, and I must say I was really impressed with it. Fits really well, breathable and still offers protection on the heel and toe from rubbing on your trainer. A great choice and one I will for sure be using going forward when weight is a big factor / going for shorter runs on flat/urban surfaces.

Bridgedale.com

Injinji RUN: Performance 2.0 Midweight Mini Crew

  • 24 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • 30% COOLMAX® 67% Nylon 3% Lycra®
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 10-12)
  • £14.99

I have never used ‘finger’ socks before. And you know what, they’re totally cool! I thought they would mess with my toes, cause extra friction, make it more squashed upfront .. but that’s just not the case. Also, if you’re prone to toe blisters, these are just the job. I have been on some 30km+ runs wearing these socks, and no issues at all. I actually really liked them and will use them regularly; this is a well fitting and durable sock. One of its downsides it the price is towards the top end you’ll pay for a pair of running socks.

Ultramarathonrunningstore.com/injinji

Injinji RUN: Performance 2.0 Original Weight Mini Crew

  • 23 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • 29% COOLMAX® 68% Nylon 3% Lycra®
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 10-12)
  • £14.99

I found very little difference between this and the Mid Weight option (above), so would probably go for this as it’s slightly lighter. Good option if you need a little more cushioning for uneven ground.

Ultramarathonrunningstore.com/injinji

Hilly Marathon Fresh Anklet

  • 18 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • 97% Polyamide, 3% Elastane
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 9 – 11.5)
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • £11

A great all rounder sock. The extra padding sits in just the right places on the heel and toes, and it’s a good mid-weight sock with support under the arch. I found a little extra room in the toe area, so perhaps well suited if you have wider feet. Also, Polygiene is applied to the fabric which is a treatment that prevents growth of odour-causing bacteria. This is ideal if, like me, you’re a little lazy on the washing front so you can use them multiple times without them getting smelly (it’s quite clever stuff, check it out here).

hillysocks.com

Smartwool Phd Running Light Elite Low Cut

  • 19 grams (per sock)
  • Not foot specific
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee, no stink
  • Unisex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: XL (UK 11 – 13.5)
  • 56% Merino Wool, 40% Nylon, 4% Elastane
  • £15.99

This is the only sock in my selection which uses Merino wool (its main component) and is used to great effect in the the thicker padded area around the toe and heel. The nylon is used on the top of the foot and around the arch, ensuring weight is kept down and it performs well with sweat. It is one of the more expensive options, but a really great sock.

Smartwool-socks.co.uk

Thorlo Experia Micro Mini (XCCU) 

  • 22 grams (per sock)
  • Not foot specific
  • Unisex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 10-11)
  • 66% THOR•WICK® COOL , 20% Nylon , 1% Elastic , 13% Polyester
  • £8.99

A really quite thick padded area around the toe and heel. Would be a good option if your trainer was perhaps just a smidgen too large, as they’d help take up that fraction of excess space, or if you were running up/down some steep ascents where extra padding might be handy. For shorter runs (half marathon or less), I would say they are too padded.

throlo.com

Thorlo Experia Energy (XECU) Compression

  • 17 grams (per sock)
  • Not foot specific
  • Unisex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 10-11)
  • 36% THOR•WICK®COOL Copper Polyester , 25% Nylon , 19% Copper Polyester , 13% Polyester , 7% Spandex
  • £16.64

A great lightweight sock, and really impressive. Very well snug fitting sock, and despite being quite light, it still has the support and cushioning where you need it. Found the material mix and ratios worked really well too. One of my favourites, and would perform well in the heat too with great wicking qualities. The only thing is it could have been had a little more length up the ankle, but if you’re not running in sand, it won’t cause an issue (and actually probably saves a couple of grams!). They are slightly pricey, but I think it’s worth it.

thorlo.com

Inov8 All Terrain Low

  • 15 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • Size Large (UK 10-12)
  • 73% Nylon,  25% Techno-P-E, 2% Spandex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Medium (UK 7 – 9).
    • N.B., I opted for a size down to ensure they were a snug fit and wouldn’t have any movement
  • £10

A great and durable workhorse with nylon as the predominant material. It works really well across a range of occasions and demands; tough, durable and lightweight to go with it. Sufficient padding and a good fit.

Inov-8.com

Inov8 Speed Sock Low

  • 13 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • Size Large (UK 10-11)
  • 96% Nylon, 4% Spandex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Medium (UK 7 – 9).
    • N.B., I opted for a size down to ensure they were a snug fit and wouldn’t have any movement
  • £14

Really nice lightweight well fitting sock, the second lightest I tested. Very similar to the ‘All Terrain’ version (above) and I really like this as a versatile option to have for many different runs.

Inov-8.com

1000 Mile Breeze Lite

  • 24 grams (per sock)
  • Not foot specific
  • 1 year guarantee
  • Outer Layer – 56% Nylon, 41% Polyester & 3% Lycra®
  • Inner Layer – 77% Breeze, 21% Nylon and 2% Spandex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 9 – 11.5)
  • £11.99

A really comfortable sung fitting sock. Despite being double layered, it’s not too heavy, too thick or cumbersome and has no extra saggy areas which could be a hotspot for blisters. I really like this sock and would select this if I was using a larger trail running shoe, and going for 40km+ distance.

1000mile.co.uk

1000 Mile Breeze

  • 33 grams (per sock)
  • Not foot specific
  • 1 year guarantee
  • Outer Layer – 56% Nylon, 41% Polyester & 3% Lycra®
  • Inner Layer – 77% Breeze, 21% Nylon and 2% Spandex
  • Adventure Ferg Size: Large (UK 9 – 11.5)
  • £11.99

The heaviest pair of socks I tested, this is a double layered sock with great long lasting qualities. This would be a good option if you were prone to rubbing / getting blisters. For shorter runs, these are too heavy and I would opt for a lighter weight sock, but good for longer distance (marathon+) if you like good padding.

1000mile.co.uk

Falke RU4 Invisible

  • 19 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • 50% Polypropylene, 30% Cotton, 18% Nylon, 2% Elastane
  • Adventure Ferg Size 39-41 or 42-43
    • N.B., a bit like X-Socks, the sizing on the socks is large, so be sure to be a size or two down, otherwise they’ll be baggy and cause you problems. The ones I had were UK size 11 – 12.5 (46-48), and these were too baggy for me. So I would go a couple of sizes smaller personally.
  • £14

A nice easy breathing sock, good for mid to long distances. Take attention on the sizing you choose as above.

Falke.com

X-Socks Marathon

  • 18 grams (per sock)
  • Left and right foot specific
  • 39% Polyamide, 32% Polypropylene, 20% Polyester, 9% Elastane
  • 2 year guarantee
  • Adventure Ferg Size: 39-41
    • N.B. I am a UK size 11, which is an EU 46.5. In theory this means I should be TWO whole sizes up in X-Socks, being their 45-47 option. But on buying a pair online and not trying them on beforehand, it quickly became apparent these were WAY too big for me.  On visiting the London Marathon Expo, and popping to the X-Bionic stand, I was advised to opt for 39-41 which equates to 6 – 7.5. I’m not sure how their sizing works, but I am a ‘true’ size in every other brand apart from X-Socks.
  • £15

I love this sock, and it has been one of my running staples for years. I ran a 250km desert ultra marathon in them and didn’t cause me a moment of bother. But do double check your size. Equally I use them for 10km runs in the park and used them in the London marathon.

Xbionic.com

Summary

This was a really fascinating test for me. Socks are a vital choice and can mean the difference of blister / no blister / getting them sub 3-hour marathon time or not / completing a multi-day ultra marathon or not!!

There are so many different factors which come into choosing a sock, so I can’t rank the above in any kind of order, as I would use any one of them in a particular set of scenarios depending on the variables. The factors I would consider when making my selection would be:

  • duration of run (5km/10km/marathon/multi day ultra);
  • soft or firm ground;
  • the topography of the ground (up/down hills);
  • training of racing;
  • what trainer I was using;
  • likely to be wet underfoot; and
  • temperature.

The biggest thing I learned from this is the variation in weight of a pair of socks, and the significance of this. In this sample of 13 different socks, there was a range from 11 grams for the lightest to 33 grams for the heaviest, and that’s per sock. So with a pair, that is a variance of some 44 grams between the lightest and heaviest options. This actually really is a significant weight, and a big consideration when deciding what sock to wear, as any extra weight must be justified.

I think it is really useful to have a number of different socks to use in any set of scenarios, and would recommend having 3 or 4 of the above to choose from. Have options, and consider what your priority is on that particular run on that day – for example comfort vs weight vs durability vs temperature –  and make your choice from there.

Happy running …!!


The Adventure Ferg Size guide above, is a size recommend based off my shoe size of UK 11 (EU 44).

I weighed each of the socks on a mini Salter scale, so the weights I give below are from my own weighing on that specific sized sock, rather than the advertised brand weight.

Photo 19-04-2017, 16 42 07
Weighing each sock

Also, a small aside / tip; if you tend to get blisters / chafing on your feet, I really recommend 2Toms Blister Shield – kind of like talcum powder, you sprinkle a little into your socks before running, and it just helps reduce any friction points.

2Toms-BlisterShield-and-travel-size-300x300
2Toms Blister Shield – great to prevent blisters

Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest

I got my hands on the Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest recently, and took it on a 120km 3 day trail run along the Portuguese coast and put it through its paces .. Let’s see how it got on:

C0055.00_00_54_06.Still006
As you can see from the profile above, the pack really hugs the body very well, and sits nice and high so not to bounce and move around.

Why The Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest In Particular?

I was looking for a pack which would see me good for up to 10 hours on any particular day whilst on the trails in Portugal. I also wanted one which was super-lightweight, fitted like a glove, and had just enough (but not more) capacity to hold some snacks and hydration salts, a good amount of fluids, a windproof jacket, spare buff, first aid kit and SPOT tracker. The options I was considering within the Camelbak range were the Circuit Vest – this is actually the same weight as the Ultra Pro Vest, but it lacked the support and grip around the side which I always look for in my rucksacks. And then there was the Ultra 10 Vest which did look really sweet. But weighing an extra 100grams (280g total) this was a minus point, plus I didn’t need nearly this capacity for my trip, and I wanted to be super minimal. So the Ultra Pro Vest it was.

Photo 13-04-2017, 08 57 34
The back storage sections offering 3.5L (arguably more as the fabric is stretchy) which is perfect for a full day’s trail running.

Quick Facts

  • Price: £84.99
  • Weight: 192grams (see photo below, as this is the weight as weighed by me, so what I would suggest is the ‘true’ weight. It is advertised as 180grams)
  • Water storage capacity: I would suggest a max of 2L. This is comprised of 2 x 500ml “Quick Stow flasks” in the front pockets (which come with the rucksack), and then I fitted my own 1 x 1.5L Crux bladder in the rear (note, this doesn’t come with the rucksack, this is purchased separately). I would say this is the max it would comfortable store whilst leaving a little extra space for other items
  • Storage capacity: 3.5L in the main compartment in the rear
  • Number of pockets: 9 in total
    • 2 large ones on the rear (3.5L capacity);
    • 2 smaller stretchy ones on the size;
    • 3 on the front right (two smaller ones at the top for a gel or two, a compass for example, and one for the 500ml Quik Stow flask at the bottom); and
    • 2 on the front left (one for your phone at the top, which fits an iPhone 6 with case, and one for the 500ml Quik Stow flask at the bottom)
  • AdventureFerg size recommend: Medium (I am 6’2″ and 70kg)

Fit & Comfort

It is unisex sized, and offered in 3 sizes: small (28″-34″), medium (32″-40″) and large (39″-46″). I chose the medium, and this fitted really really well, following the contours of my back, ribs on the side and round onto my front. It has two adjustable sternum straps across the front which I left on a fairly middle ground – it wasn’t necessary to have this absolutely pulled tights as the pack sits snugly without unnecessary tightening around here. Actually I found if I tightened it a bit much, it would rub on my ribs.

Any part of the backpack which is in contact with your body is constructed of “3D vent mesh”. This is actually really a really neat and lightweight material, and provided a really comfortable fit, even when the backpack was fully loaded and I had it on my back for 8 hours + .. There is also a good strip of this material, around 3″ or 4″ high, around the side connecting the front part of the rucksack to the back part, and I always really like having this solid rather than just a flimsy strap or two – I find it grips the body that bit better and less prone to moving around.

Photo 13-04-2017, 08 56 51
The “3D Mesh” inner lining, clearly shown all the way round the backpack in those areas in contact with the body.

Storage

At the rear of the backpack, there are essentially two main areas offering a total storage of 3.5L. Firstly, there is the area which is right up against your back, suited to place a 1.5L bladder (as I did, note this isn’t included when you buy the pack), complete with a hanging loop to hook the bladder onto, and also access for the hose to come out and over the shoulder. Even when the bladder was placed in here full, I found there was space for some energy balls, a small first aid kit and windproof jacket. And the second storage space is a stretchier area which surrounds the primary storage area I just mentioned, and it is comprised of more stretchy and expandable material, great for stuffing extra items of clothing / buff for example.

Photo 13-04-2017, 08 58 08
You can see here the main storage area in the back has a loop to hang your bladder from, plus access over the shoulder for the tube to run through.

On the sides there is one small compartment on either side, which has been formed by placing a layer of stretchy mesh which would be good for stashing bars / gels / smaller items which you needed to hand.

The front pockets are good, with 2 larger ones at the bottom which are designed to house 500ml soft flasks in each (total of 1L of liquid), and these ‘Quick Stow’ bottles are included with the bag. There is then an additional two pockets on the top half of the right hand side, and a larger zip pocket on the left hand side which is ideal for your phone. I stored my iPhone 6 in here which has quite a chunky case on it, and it fitted well. I would say an iPhone 6 Plus or larger equivalent wouldn’t fit.

So the total advertised capacity of the rucksack is 4.5L, but I think with the expandable sections on the back and side, it probably pushes up to more like 5L or 5.5L which is great.

Weight

This was the main reason for being drawn to this vest, that weight was super light. Here is how it stacks up:

  • Ultra Pro Vest The advertised weight is 180grams (without the flasks). However on placing it on my digital scales, it comes in at 194grams. Still, that’s super light and you really do barely feel you have anything on your back.
  • Crux 1.5L Reservoir I used, plus tube weighed 197grams
  • Quik Stow 500ml Flasks x 2 came in at a total of 73grams
Photo 13-04-2017, 09 26 21
Although the dry weight is advertised as 180grams, my weighing check came in at 192grams. Still, it’s a very light pack for what it offers.

So the total base weight of the above rig (backpack, reservoir and 2 x flasks) comes in at 450grams. I think you will struggled to get this much lower. You could of course shave off 200grams by not using the Crux reservoir, but this will no doubt decrease the mileage you will be able to cover without a re-supply.

Verdict

I really enjoyed using this rucksack over the 3 days and 120km of trails. It was barely noticeable, and performed as I had wanted it to. For sure I will continue using this for day long trail running where just a few small items / energy snacks need to be stowed, and 2.5L of water suffice. This is a top recommend from Adventure Ferg, and will be a great piece of kit for the hot running season to come.


The Camelbak Ultra Pro was trialled during a 120km run, click here to read more about that, and see some epic pictures and video clips. 

Sea To Summit Spark SpIII Sleeping Bag

It’s 2am, the stove has burnt the last of the wood we placed in it 2 hours ago and the temperature in our Lavvu has now dropped to around -7 degrees Celsius. My 4 buddies around me snore, toss and turn as we all enjoy a pretty interrupted night’s sleep in this very cold native tipi tent! We are on expedition on the IGO Adventures – N60 Norwegian Challenge.

As I lie here looking up at the canvas, I am cocooned in the Sea To Summit Spark Series III sleeping bag. This was the perfect opportunity to test this ‘best-in-class’ sleeping bag, and it was a piece of kit I was really keen to get my hands on and try out in the field !

20170314-IGO-NW-681
The ‘Lavvu’ we were sleeping in, the native Norwegian tent. These would plummet to well below zero once the wood burning stove had gone out –  this was then the perfect environment to test out the SpIII !

So the Sea To Summit Spark (abbreviated to ‘Sp’) range comes in three different weights; there is the SpI (comfort rating +8 degrees, total weight 388g), the SpII (comfort rating of +2 degrees, total weight 513g) and the SpIII which I was testing, as this is their sub-zero and warmest option. The Spark range is their no frills and top range if your looking for weight vs warmth.

Details

In terms of weight the SpIII really is a bantamweight bag coming in at a total of 690g. But don’t be decided – it packs a real punch keeping you comfortably warm down to -4 degrees (with extreme rating of -20 degrees). Filled with 850+ loft down (98% goose) which itself weighs 400g, this difference of just 290g demonstrates a huge attention to detail ensuring all additional components and materials of the bag are second to none. Frills and excess features are minimal – it has a one directional 1/3 length zip and one toggle at the head area to allow you to cocoon yourself – and that’s literally it! The result is that the SpIII is one of the best warmth for weight minimalists sleeping bags money can buy. This is the raison d’etre of the SpIII; it’s super capable and light and you can feasibly take it on a lightweight run / trek no problem.

Here are the quick stats of the SpIII ‘long’ which I was testing:

  • Price: £450 (from Sea to Summit website)
  • Weight: 690g (nb this is the total weight of the bag, and this is for the ‘long’ version, the ‘regular’ version weighs 625g)
  • Temperature Rating: comfort -4 degrees, extreme -20 degrees
  • Zip: Left 1/3 length zip
  • Fill: 400g of ULTRA-DRY Down 850+ Loft Water resistant down (comprised of 98% goose down and 2 % duck down)
  • Compression volume: 3.7L (the size it would occupy in your bag when in it’s fully compresses stuff sack – it’s not hungry!)
  • Seasons: Spring/Autumn/Winter
  • Uses: Ideal for travel, adventure racing, and ultra lightweight hiking and alpine climbing

Warmth

Despite its compact and lightweight nature, the SpIII is warm, and as soon as you slide your way into it, you can tell the insulation is there. Whilst testing this in Norway, the temperature at the coldest point of the night would push well beyond the stated ‘comfort zone’ of the SpIII (-4 degrees), as we were experiencing some quite harsh weather. So I pimped up the warmth factor by utilising the Thermolite Reactor Compact Plus (263g, £55); a really great sleeping bag liner, to make sure I kept toasty. It is advertised to add up to 11 degrees of additional warmth – although it is kind of hard for one to quantify this outside of a laboratory, it noticeably kept me warmer and I was really really grateful to have it. Also, in milder summer months, I think this liner would in itself be all you need to sleep in – so a good and practical purchase too with scope to use in a multitude of scenarios and seasons year round.

Fit

I am 6’2″ (188cm) and actually found the length absolutely fine and adequate. On reading some other reviews, I note there was the odd comment of it being a bit restricted or short, but I really didn’t find this the case at all. Admittedly I am a fairly slight build (68kg), but the dimensions were really good for me, including around the torso area too. The 1/3 length zip is of course less flexible in terms of providing varied ventilation, to your feet for example, but again, I didn’t miss this feature at all – and when the emphasis on the design of an article is weight, as with the SpIII, it would be a great shame to go to all those lengths and then needlessly add around 50+grams to the weight for a needless zip.

It has a contoured hood with a draw-cord which you can tighten right up to cover most of your head and just leave a small area to breath through (as I did in Norway on this trip!!), helping preserve more valuable heat!

The sleeping bag stuffs into a small compressions sack which you can compress even further still with 4 toggles. It also comes with a larger storage sack (which they call an ‘expandable Storage Cell’), and this will help prolong the life of the bag by preserving the down loft and its insulation properties.

Conclusion

I was super impressed with this sleeping bag. Admittedly, the price tag is very steep, so it depends on what importance you place on lightweight and optimum performance, and if you can justify it. If money wasn’t too much of a concern – this bag would be my choice. Looked after properly, you should get years of use out of this which perhaps makes it easier to reconcile the spend too. This is a great bit of kit and I’m stoked to have it as my sleeping bag of choice in my kit, and for sure I’ll be using this on many more hikes, expeditions, adventures and races to come.


Sea To Summit Spark SpIII Sleeping Bag

 

Gear Essentials & Review: Snow Marathon, Ski Touring, X-Country Ski & Fat Biking

I took part in an adventure expedition event recently in Norway, called the IGO N60 Norwegian Challenge, a 4-day 4-discipline adventure across the wild Norwegian mountains. We experienced some very cold weather with winds up to around 70kmh, so it was even more important to nail down the kit I was going to be using for this. Also, given the multi-discipline aspect of the event, items would need to be versatile. The following outlines all those different items I used for the event.

Snow Marathon Kit List:

IMG_7772

Trainers – Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX – £125 – I was struggling until just days before the event what trainer to use for this snow marathon stage. I was contemplating using just my regular non Gore-tex trainers, but in the end decided this was too risky, as snow / water could get in. I also needed some great tread to afford good grip in the soft snow. So I  opted for the Speedcross 4 GTX. They weigh 330grams, which is on the lighter end of the scale for a full Goretex trainer – some get near the 400 gram marker, and you’ll really struggle to find one weighing less than 300grams.  They do have a 10mm drop which is the highest I have ever been (normally go for around 6mm), but that didn’t prove a problem. These also have a pretty aggressively gripping sole, with large ribs – the run I was using them for included around 2,000 metres of running up and down snow covered hills, some very steep. The trainers were fantastic. I wore them for a couple of short 5km runs prior to the event to break them in a little. On the day itself, they devoured the 40km run – I didn’t slip once, no water/snow got in, and my feet were exceptionally comfortable with no rubs / blisters. I wore them around the camp in the evenings, and right after the event for our weekend of relaxing, and have been wearing them back in London since – a great trainer, and I kinda like the wacky colour too!

Base LayerNew Balance Heather SS Tech T – £22 – a great fitting base layer tee, super comfortable and deals with the sweat really well. A good wardrobe staple for the whole year.

Mid LayerFalke Men Zip Shirt Light – £60 – long sleeve shirt is a fantastic base or mid layer. I wore it over a thin technical t shirt (the NB as per the item above), and it performed so well. I used this same layering approach for every stage, including the snow marathon run stage (circa 4 hours out on route). The conditions were cold and saw freezing gusts of around 60kmh making for a well sub zero wind chill factor. But wearing just the t shirt and this Falke Shirt as the outer layer throughout the run, it was just perfect. Fits really well and doesn’t restrict movement in anyway. Top recommend.

Outer Shell JacketInov8 AT/C Stormshell Waterproof Jacket – £150 – weighing in at a mere 150grams, this is a fantastic option if you are looking for a waterproof, windproof and super breathable top. It is in ‘smock’ style, so the zip comes down just a short way from the neck, but I find this actually an advantage and improves the performance of the piece. I will be using this frequently on an on-going basis.

 

ShortsMontane Trail 2SK Shorts – £65 – a good all rounder short, and I wore these over the top of the full length tights underneath for a little extra insulation.

Boxer ShortsBB Active Perfomance Shorts – £20 – I never thought I would get so attached to a pair of boxers, but these really are brilliant!! I wore the same pair constantly all week (never came off!), and to be honest I might have continued wearing the same pair on into the weekend (5 or 6 days), and I could have kept going, but thought I should draw the line at that! They fit really well, perform well with sweat, comfortable and I would have a shelf full of these, and no others, if I could have my way..!!

Running tights – Salomon Aigle Long Tight – £45 – a nice option for providing the legs with just that little next to skin insulation and keep the wind chill off. They provide little warmth, as they are mostly constructed of polyester, but this wasn’t what I was looking for in them, as of course running fast would then have meant over heating, so they were just the job.

HatNorrona Falketind Powerstretch Beanie – £29 – this was the perfect thickness and weight to use for the more physically demanding run where a thicker beanie option would have been too warm.

GlovesNorrona Falketind dri short gloves – £79 – these were a great option for all-round use. They are not thick, but they are waterproof, windproof, breathable and lightweight. They were just the job and a top recommend.

SocksFalke RU 3 Running Sock – £15 – These are Falke’s thickest option running sock, and find a nice balance between a ski/hiking sock which is very thick, and your conventional running sock which would be too thin and lightweight for the demands of a snow marathon. These performed really well. I would advise getting the size bracket smaller than you fit in to. My shoe size is 44 (UK 11), and the size of ’44-45′ (UK 11-11.5) I had were just a smidgen big, and the size ’42-43′ would have been better.

GaitersMountain Warehouse Ankle Gaiters  – £10 – these are only basic, but did the job and kept out the snow with the help of some tape on the top to keep them snug against my shin.

RucksackMontane Via Dragon 20 – £125 – I used this for the Wadi Rum Ultra marathon and it’s a great rucksack. I used this on all 4 days of the IGO too, and was just the job.

Rucksack coverVaude Raincover –  £15 – on the first day of the event, it was actually raining, so it was prudent to carry a waterproof cover for the rucksack, to ensure any spare layers / items in the backpack didn’t get wet.

Sun GlassesRudy Project Tralyx –  £134 – I used this for the Wadi Rum Ultra marathon and have used them a lot for all other training, sports in the 7 months since then. This is a fantastic sun glass. You can remove the lens and clean / swap for a different one, and they hardy and can be thrown around too. Normally I find sunglasses don’t fit me too well, but these do and really grip your face well so don’t move around.

WatchSuunto Spartan Ultra Black HR – £559 – I have previously always used a Garmin watch for tracking running and sports I do, but this time I used the Suunto Spartan. It has a good clear display with everything clearly visible, and the touchscreen gives added functionality. It had a different sport mode for each of the 4 disciplines I was taking part in – ski touring, x-country skiing, biking and running – so the fields displayed on the pre-set data screens all had appropriate information on them. Make sure you have this watch fully fully charged, as found it required juicing up part way through the event. A good piece of kit.

Water ReservoirCamelbak Crux 1.5L Resevoir – £20 – I have never used a water reservoir before, and I must say I am a fan! It is super easy and quick to fill up, and little features like the tube can be disconnected from the bladder real easy (whilst full of water) make this the best one to get. Also, this Crux is the new version, whereby it delivers 20% more water when you such the mouthpiece, so you can quench your thirst even easier and quicker.

Insulated Drinking TubeCrux Insulated Drinking Tube – £12 – having wind chill of probably near -15 degrees celsius at times, it is important to ensure the tube you use is insulated, as it will freeze up and you won’t be able to access the water in the bladder (which obviously doesn’t freeze as it’s in the backpack near your back which keeps it warmer).

Dry BagSea2Summit 8 Litre Lightweight Drysack – £11 – keeping items you didn’t want to get wet in here, this did just the job!

First Aid Kit – Assorted bits and bobs –

Ski Touring, X-Country Skiing & Fat Biking Kit List:

The following are the 6 items I switched in, and replaced some of the items from the above outlined kit.

IMG_7767

JacketNorrona Lyngen Hybrid – £259 – I wrote about this item in detail in a separate article on my blog (check it out here). This jacket is the absolute business, and is my top recommend out of every bit of kit I had –  it’s a must buy, and will be useful across all 4 seasons too given its super breathability and ventilation options too.

Base Layer Tights – Falke 3/4 Tights Wool Tech – £60 – I used these for the x-country ski, ski touring and fat biking stages underneath the Montane pants as the outer layer. They were brilliant – the 3/4 length meant my sock didn’t double up too far over them providing a thick area which could cause issues for your boot. They gave just the right insulation coupled with dealing with sweat and heat really well. A top bit of kit for sure.

SocksFalke SK4 Wool Ski Sock –  £17.50 – Of the 4 socks in this range designed for skiing use (so they’re thicker than the running socks I used above), this is the second lightest option. With a merino wool mix, it’s great at wicking away sweat, but keeps your feet toasty warm even when super cold!

Mid LayerNorrona Super Hoodie –  £110 – I am such a huge fan of this brand, and this item completely lives up to it. It fits so well and performs beyond expectation. This is a great lightweight item for any winter activity, super versatile and I’ll be using this one year round.

PantsMontane Super Terra – £130 – I got these at the beginning of the winter, and used them for hiking over new year, and ended up using them for the x-country ski, ski touring and fat biking stages. They were really great – they’re windproof, water resistant, have great ventilation options up the side of the leg for when you get hot, and hard wearing and durable with the extra thick black material on the knees, bum and inside ankle.

HatLyngen Powerstretch Pro Beanie – £40 – I had this as my second option beanie – it is slightly thicker and offers more warmth than the other Norrona beanie outline above. A great bit of kit.

All in all, every piece of kit outline above was really great. There was never a moment when I felt under equipped, and wanted for more.


 

 

 

Norrona Lyngen Hybrid Jacket

The hunt was on for a jacket to take part in a winter adventure quadrathlon race in Norway. I would be using it for day-long ski touring, x-country skiing and fat biking stages, so needed something that would keep the cold weather and wind out, whilst allowing me to, at times, get very hot and sweaty! So on preparing for this event and finalising my kit list, I was seeking out an outer layer jacket which would fulfil the following:

  • lightweight, so I could pack away and carry should I not need it;
  • be windproof and waterproof;
  • was highly breathable so I could get my “sweat on”; and
  • afforded good freedom of movement.

I was looking far and wide across a number of top brands to fulfill this criteria, and it was only when I was in an outdoors equipment shop and trying on a number of jackets that I first got my hands on Lyngen Hybrid one from the Norwegian brand Norrona.

Norrona’s Lyngen range

‘Lyngen’ is Norrona’s ski touring line, and works across a full range, so jackets (shells and downs), pants, midlayers, backpack and beanies. The range is aimed and designed at ski-tourers who need technical lightweight gear which performs when they get super hot and sweaty on steep ascents, yet keep them warm and all good on speedy mountain descents. The Lyngen hybrid jacket in particular is their most lightweight, windproof, waterproof and breathable of the range, and freedom of movement is at the core of its design.

Comfort & Fit

As soon as I got my hands on the Lyngen Hybrid jacket, it was clear everything was of the best quality, and on putting it on to try, the fit was just sensational, in fact it was genuinely the best fitting jacket I had ever tried! Also, it wasn’t the usual ‘shell’ kind of Gore-Tex techy feel you associate with a waterproof jacket; it was a very tactile, stretchy and had a soft feel to it. That was it, from that moment I knew this was the jacket for the job and my decision was made! I normally go for a medium size in jackets (6’2″ and 68kg), but the small was a perfect fit, long enough in the arms and body, and the perfect snug fit around the body whilst still allowing for good movement. There is also still room for a base and mid-layer under it too, and it performed particularly well out in Norway on the comfort and fit front for the adventure race, so I was totally over the moon with on this front!

20170314-IGO-NW-46
The Lyngen Hybrid jacket in action on the fat biking stage of the quadrathlon in Norway

Breathability & Ventilation 

The Lyngen Hybrid jacket in particular is their most lightweight, windproof, waterproof and breathable of the range, with freedom of movement at the core of its design. The brilliant X-open ventilation system under the arms means a huge uninterrupted airflow area which can be unzipped, when you start getting hot and sweaty for those longer uphill sections. This zip runs all the way from the side of your ribcage to your elbow, so you can get really great airflow to your body to cool down – this is such a neat feature.

Waterproof & Windproof

This jacket is perfectly specced to keep out the weather, using two different materials across different parts of the body: it has the highly waterproof and windproof Driflex3 fabric for the most exposed areas – hood, front section, shoulders and arms; and it also has the more flexible Flex1 fabric used on the lower front and back areas providing further breathability. The snow skirt around the waist is also detachable, as well as being modular to the matching Lyngen pants to make an ‘all-in-one’ suit where – the two zip together essentially making a onesie – so no snow can get in. It has integrated hand gaiters and neatly tailored fit. Really strong on all these fronts.

Summary

I can without doubt say this is the best shell jacket I have ever worn! Whilst using it on the recent IGO N60 Challenge, it was the envy of the other competitors, organisers and local experts saw this, and nearly everyone commented on it! I wore it for the ski touring and fat biking stages, and it was just brilliant. Now back in London, I am still totally smitten with it and use it every day, cycling around town, in the rain, walking to work in the morning – it really is so versatile. It is going to be getting a lot of use this Spring, and also Summer and I predict all year long ..!

It fits so well and is technically very capable, and I would highly recommend this jacket. I have it in the ‘Hot Chili’ colour which is great too. Coming in at £259, I think this is really fair price for all this jacket offers. As well as this, Norrona – with the unwavering confidence they have in their product – offer a 5 year warranty on all their gear, so any issues and they’ll replace or repair it for you.

One of my top recommends, this is a ‘BUY’ from me ..!


Product: Norrona Lyngen Hybrid Jacket

Uses: Ski touring, X-Country skiing, skiing, snow fat biking, hiking, general life use

Weight: 605grams

Price: £259.00

Adventure Ferg size recommend: I am 6’2”, weigh 68kg, so an ‘athletic build’ and small fits me absolutely perfectly. Medium would be too baggy.

 

 

 

 

Leica’s New Noctivid Binoculars

Birdwatching was first introduced to me at around the age of 8, when my father would take us off for the day on a Saturday or Sunday. It was our ‘thing’, one of those rare father and son quality bonding times. Perhaps initially I was reluctant, but I quickly embraced it; being outdoors and the challenge of seeing what you could spot. I recall having a little note book in which, for each trip I would record the time, date, weather conditions and every bird we saw on that day’s bird spotting.

Since those early days, I have taken a more passive approach towards bird watching, indeed for the last couple of decades. But it is there, always in the background, as I think things rooted in those formative years often are, manifesting themselves in some form, forever. There has been the odd occasion of heightened activity more recently, such as Dad and I heading to an RSPB reserve like old times (it also happened to coincide with a need to escape the kitchen on a rather stressed Christmas eve!!).

img_5793
Sporting the brilliant Leica Noctivid 8×42 binoculars. The lens’ covers you can see open, which easily push on if you don’t need them and want to keep any rain and dirt off.

Ever since the foundation was laid as a boy, I’m subconsciously listening and looking out for birds every day; a greater spotted woodpecker on the cycle to work through Hyde Park, a pair of Mandarin ducks just this very weekend near Richmond whilst going for a run on the Thames Path; a grey wagtail bobbing outside the window at work. It is such a wonderful thing to have had that sense of nature and surrounding built in from such a young age, and I am so very grateful for that. One’s head is always up, one’s ears are always pricked.

img_5851
Birdwatching in the Swiss Alps over New Year’s 2016/17. Practically no snow meant our ski holiday became a running / hiking holiday! Here I am spotting a Common crossbill, one of my highlights and favourite birds from this trip.

More recently, in the last year or so, I have been taking a more active line once again with ornithology. In fact over the New Year just gone, I was fortunate enough to head to the Swiss Alps, for what was meant to be a week’s skiing. With the snow so terrible [and the weather so good], this actually ended up being more of a hiking holiday. Fortunately I had foreseen this by checking the forecast and webcams, and having being caught with no binoculars whilst hiking in the Alps previously, this is THE most frustrating thing, and I was determined to right that wrong. All these fascinating new birds around you, so much to look at, but simply no means to identify them…! This time I was prepared, and very well equipped …

 

Leica Noctivid 8×42 Binoculars

leica
The Leica’s have great proportions and are so comfortable in hand

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Leica’s latest top of the range binoculars for a couple of weeks, to take on my trip to Switzerland. They were the Leica Noctivid 8 x 42. Taking it to the basics, the ‘8’ is the magnification, and the ’42’ is the field of vision seen through the binoculars.

After two years of development, Leica were sure to make these binoculars the business, and they really are just that. These are without doubt the BEST binoculars I have ever put my eyes to, and put my hands on! My father has always used Zeiss binoculars, and I have always begged, borrowed and stolen these – and don’t get my wrong, I still love them – but these Leica’s were phenomenal and a joy to use.

Here is a summary to the main points I noted whilst using them:

  • The colours you see through the lens truly reflect reality, performing particularly well at dawn and dusk in low light levels. You see every detail of the thing you are looking at;
  • They are very easy and light to focus, so when needing to re-focus on something very quickly, nearer or further, you’ll be sure not to miss a fleeting sight of your desired target;
  • They weigh just 860 grams, so you can happily have them around your neck all day whilst you’re walking, without nuisance or making your neck sore;
  • They are waterproof to 5m, so you can happily have them still out when drizzling or raining and not worry about it;
  • The body is a magnesium chassis with protective rubber varnish make them both comfortable in hand as well as hard wearing, so you don’t need to be precious with them;
  • You can also focus on things so very close to you, just 1.9m away. My father was particularly impressed by this – the older pair of Zeiss binoculars he uses need a good couple of car lengths distance in order to be able to focus on something;
  • They are a beautiful and tactile size, and pack away easily. The Noctivid’s competitors, Zeiss Victory SF and the Swarovski EL 42 equivalents are slightly longer in length, and just don’t have you lusting after them as much as the Leicas; and
  • They come with a ten year warranty too, and you can be sure Leica won’t ask questions when you call them, they’ll just sort any problems right out.
leica-noctivid-binoculars-2
The soft and padded neck strap spreading the weight around your neck make the, already lightweight, binoculars a breeze to wear all day long.

As well as the more quantitate points outlined above, there is also just something so very difficult to put your finger on with all things Leica. They just somehow make you like an 8-year old boy again; you just want them, and they are just so beautiful to look at and to have in your possession!

I was so very reluctant to hand these back, I had really fallen in love with them! The only particular hiccup with these is their price tag. Just like anything which includes the best ‘optics’, with absolutely no shortcuts taken, they don’t come cheap. They will set you back £2,025. BUT, these are one of those investments, quite irrational in many ways, like an expensive watch. If you’re grafting, working for most of your life to earn a buck, I think one is justified on occasion for a splurge like this.


Leica 8×42 Noctivid, retail at £2,025

The Wadi Rum Desert Ultra Marathon, Gear Essentials

I wanted to share with you the kit I used for the 242km Wadi Rum Ultra. Of course much of these choices are personal, but perhaps there will be some useful information for you. If you’re interested in reading my experiences and story of how the event went, you can read that here.

The race took place last October, and was over a total of 5 days, with an overall running time of 29 hours 36 minutes. The longest day was a gruelling 70km through soft sand, and you can be sure you want to have confidence in your gear on a 10 hour day like this! Each morning we started running before the sun rose and midday temperatures soared to 40c.

DCIM100GOPROG0100889.

I would say, do try and get hold of each piece of kit at least 4 weeks prior to the start, although ideally a lot longer than that. With regards to the all important trainers, try to decide a couple of months from your event the particular make, model and size that works for you. I then personally got a new pair just 2 weeks out, and ran about 50km in them – this way they would be broken in, but equally not too worn out to loose any support and cushioning which you obviously want. An example of testing ALL your kit before race day was my water bottles, which started leaking after about 20 seconds from the start line day 1! So I had a wet right knee for the whole 5 days.

The following is a full list and review of the kit I used for the marathon. You can also view a short YouTube video I put together of my kit by clicking here:

nb

Shoe: New Balance Leadvilles v3
The most important bit of kit you’ll have. I purchased and tried out HOKA One One Mafate Speed 2 (295 grams), Inov8 RocLite280 (280 grams), but I never really hit it off with either of these. I think the HOKAs could have been good, but bought a size too big and I was reluctant to spend another £110. When running the London marathon in 2015 (03:00:30), I did this in the much lighter and road running orientated Adidas Boston Boost (226 grams) which were great, and I continue using these for shorter 10km type runs now. Ultimately, for the desert marathon, I came back round to a great solid trainer that I had tried and tested from some years previous. Coming in at 293grams, the New Balance Leadville v3 were my selected trainer – they’re certainly not the lightest option, nor the snazziest trainer in terms of tech or looks. But I wanted a trainer which would be safe as houses and would not cause me a moment of bother over the 5 days and 250km. I got this pair a couple of weeks prior to the start, and ran approximately 50km in them to break them in. Every other competitor had dreadful blisters all over their feet, nails coming off, some pretty nasty sights! Fortunately, I had no such problems and my feet were in perfect order from start to finish. They were the dream pair of trainers, and I would highly recommend without hesitation. I am still using them for runs now 6 months on..!

raidlight
Gaiters: Raidlight desert gaiters
A short stumpy kind of gaiter specifically designed for the desert. The way these work are that a velcro strip which comes with them, is stitched directly onto the trainer just above the sole, by a cobbler (wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself!). I found a great cobbler near Green Park tube who turned it around in 24 hours. It was called ‘Sole Man’, 1 White Horse Street, and they did a fantastic job. The gaiter then affixes onto this velcro strap, and is exceptionally effective – no sand came in at all, and had no issues with these whatsoever. Highly recommended.

x-socks
Socks: X-Socks marathon
Brilliant socks which I use across the board for any kind of running I am doing. Combined with with 2Toms Blister Shield, my feet with in tip top condition throughout the ultra.

x-scks_calfguards
Calf Guards: X-Bionic Spyker
Very effective at keeping away the cramps, and I would also keep on for several hours after finishing running to act as compression and recovery.

1n4a7459

picture above: after day 4 of the Wadi Rum, myself and fellow competitors getting out of the sun in recovery mode!

xbionics_top
Running pants and top: X-Bionic Twyce compression gear
Despite being skin tight and black, this no doubt kept me cool. I did find I had to tuck into my shorts to prevent from riding up at the bottom, but I was really impressed with this.

montana_viadragon20
Backpack: Montane VIA Dragon 20
A great backpack with a 20l capacity, although with the roll top it is quite accommodating at squeezing in more if needed. Loads of pockets around the side and on the front for stuffing in gels, dates, music players, sun cream etc. We actually only had to carry what we needed for the day, so this was plenty big enough – had it been necessary to be sufficient and carry all the food, it’s difficult to say, but I would imagine so. One of the waterbottle holders on the front is a zip pocket so this would from time to tim unzip itself and the bottle would fall out, but other than that a great pack.

riadlight_bottles
Waterbottles: 2 x 750ml Raidlight
Pretty standard water bottles with small mouth piece extenders so you can drink from them whilst keeping them in your front rucksack pockets. I would find they would leak from time to time, but overall functioned fine. You unscrew the tops of these, so perhaps not as quick as flip-top bottles to refill with water at the 10km checkpoints.

montane_armguards
Arm Guards: Montane VIA Armguards
SPF50, very lightweight and fit the description, albeit they would fall down at the top a little (my arms are quire skinny, but not too skinny)

vertical_cap
Cap: Vertical Sahara
Very good cooling lightweight cap, with the extension to keep the sun off your neck which worked very effectively. This could also be removed to clean it / just remove it if you didn’t need it for any reason.

monatne_buff

Buff: Montane
An essential and versatile piece of kit, great for keeping the sun off your neck, soaking up sweat, and useful for a number of other improvised uses.leki_poles

Poles: Leki Black Series Micro Vario Carbon
I ran for most of the marathon, so only used these a couple of times, but when I used them they were very handy. Some of the other competitors used their poles every day and I would say for them they were invaluable. Because they are so light and compact, I would carry them with me on the long stage ‘just in case’ I was to need them in softer sand.

yeti_jacket
Down Jacket: Yeti Strato (154 grams)
The world’s lightest down jacket, weighing in at a phenomenal 154 grams. Fits very well, packs into nothing, and perfect keeping warm in the evening, and in the morning when getting ready. A great piece of kit.

montane_featherlite
Windproof Jacket: Montane Featherlite 7 (48 grams)
The world’s lightest windproof jacket at 48 grams is a great piece of kit if weight and size is an important factor for your activity. It is more for early mornings or camp use, as it’s not breathable and you sweat quite quickly in it when you start to run. Note, it isn’t breathable  so if you start exerting yourself and get a sweat on, it gets pretty saturated on the inside. Nor is it waterproof, so it does have limitations, but for just keeping a chill off at the beginning of the day when the stage had started, it was really useful.

patzl_nao
Petzl Nao Headtorch
Water resistant and with 575 Lumens, this torch was just the job for running across the desert for 3 hours before sunrise. A number of brightness and beam width customisable beam settings too. It is a little on the heavier side (187 grams), but I was happy to carry this extra 50 grams or so over a less powerful equivalent and have great visibility.

garmin_920
Watch: Garmin 920 XT
A great watch, and brilliant battery life which happily got me through the longest day of 14 hours without the battery going.

rudy_project
Sunglasses: Rudy Project Tylex
Lightweight, kept out the wind and sun perfectly, and would withstand drops and being thrown around no problem. Also, the nose supports can be adjusted, so they fit all sorts of shapes really well.

bose
Headphones: Bose SoundSport
Great headphones, with volume and forward/back a track control. Once placed in your ear, they would not move and gave good sound quality

nano

iPod Nano
An essential piece of kit to have, and my old Nano which had been kicking around in a bedroom draw for some time came in perfect. It stood up to the temperatures, sand, sweat and drops etc just fine. Although I didn’t use it the whole time, I used it for at least a couple of hours each day. And my top tip on what to download is a whole load of Kirsty Young’s Desert Island Discs .. these 40 minute capsules are just fantastic and help alleviate many a boring hour of running!!

gopro
Video: GoPro Hero4
Highly recommended piece of kit. The battery would last a good couple of days, and safely on selfie stick, it tucks into your backpack easily and is to hand to capture any interesting moments quickly

All in all, I was really happy with the choices I made with kit. I don’t think I would make any changes if I was going back out there tomorrow and had the choice of any piece of kit.

1n4a6948

photo above: Lee Fudge topping up one of my water bottles at one of the many, many, many 10km checkpoints!!