With only a few weeks left before the North Face 100, many people will start to turn their attention to the gear they have to carry – or in some cases panic mildly about what they haven’t got yet! It’s fair to say that for this event there’s a lot of it, which is why it pays to make sensible choices about what you should or shouldn’t pick. Of course for some people, cost and price are factors too and we know that not everyone can afford the latest and greatest.
When I personally buy gear, my view is to buy quality stuff that will last and I know I can use it again, which is foremost in my mind as I’ve complied this gear list. Of course, you will have differing opinions for sure, as we all have favourite brands that we like to use. But if you’re stuck for that final piece of gear, hopefully this little lot will help you to get what you need. However do bear in mind this is based on our own personal preferences. Other people have other preferences and there’s no right or wrong, we just hope this little guide helps. We’ve left shoes off the list for obvious reasons – it’s too much of a personal choice for us to be telling people what to wear, but with the rest, we hope it helps you in some way.
So without further ado, here’s our gear essentials for this year’s race:
Running Packs: Salomon SLab 12 pack or UltrAspire Omega
With the amount of gear you have to take for the race, the pack is a big choice to make. No-one wants to be lugging around a massive 20 litre pack, but at the same time you need to make sure you can fit everything in it. The S-lab 12 might be a little hard to come by at times, but if you have a choice, try to get your mits on one of these. Quite simply, they just work and the fit your body like a glove and the assortment of pockets are right where you need them to access all of your items while on the move. We know some people have had issues with the zips on these, but my 12l has around 3,000-4,000kms on the clock and is still going strong.
However, we all know that there is a world outside of Salomon too, and at the risk of being branded biased to Salomon (with a huge total of just four product reviews in the two years that we’ve been in existence), then a good alternative is the Ultraspire Omega, with bags room for all your gear. I’ve also got one of these bags and can thoroughly recommend it, even if the bladder hose is a little weird at times. You can’t go wrong with either if the Salomon is not your bag (so to speak).
Long Sleeve Thermal Top and pants: Icebreaker Merino Wool long sleeve top and pants 200 weight top
There’s a variety of thermals you can buy on the market, from some basic items that hit around the $30 mark, right up to some top of the range snazzy silk numbers. I personally love merino, and when the winter comes along, it pretty much what I’ll wear whilst running as we wait for summer to arrive once again. There’s a couple of schools of thought where thermals are concerned. Sure you can go and buy some $30 cheapies from Paddy’s Market and let them sit in the cupboard for another year ahead of TNF 2013, of you can spend a bit of cash and wear it most of the year round. I sit in the latter category. I also love the fact that you can go online and see which sheep made your gear too.
Waterproof Jacket with hood: North Face “Venture” / “Leonidas” jacket or Montane Lite Speed H2O
As our leader of ultra-running, Kilian Jornet says, “I love the Montane”, and like him, I love the Montane too, and in particular this jacket. Number one, it’s light at only 180grams. Secondly, for that weight it has a hood, and thirdly, Montane is British. Job done.
If you’re after something from the North Face, have a butchers at the ‘venture’ or the ‘leonidas’ too. Similar price-range to the Montane, probably a bit more heavy-duty than the Montane, but for those that are out on the course longer, it could prove a god-send over the very lightweight Montane jacket, which is more appropriate for a few hours of use in cold / wet weather i.e. those under 16-18 hours for North Face. If you think you’ll be around into the late night, then make sure you pack a proper jacket.
Beanie/Balaclava/Buff: Merino wool
See thermals above. I love merino and I will wear it wherever I can. But we all know that a buff is just as good. But as per the jacket conversation above, consider something a bit more heavyweight if you’re going to be in the Jamieson Valley around midnight.
Full fingered lightweight gloves: North Face Runners Gloves
You’d like to think that you won’t use these in the race, but it can get seriously cold up there in the mountains at night. If so, make sure you grab yourself a pair of these. They’re also pretty darn useful if you happen to fall over to help protect the hands too.
High Visibility Safety Vest: Pretend you’re a tradie for the day
No option here but to make out you work on a building site. If in doubt go and spend a day working with Ultra168’s Darrel Robins and he’ll give you one for free.
Headlamp: Ayup Ultra-lite
If you insist on blinding as many ultra runners as possible in one race, the Ayup’s are truly worth it and will make dark appear as day. Quality bit of kit. There are others on the market, but we haven’t really had/given the opportunity to test them yet. Yes they are expensive in the world of headlamps, but there’s a reason for it. It turns night into day. Another contender could be the LED Lenser H7, but it’s not as powerful as the Ayup.
Small backup Headlamp: LED Lenser P5R
OK, so you can go for a really lightweight torch here that has a very low output, but me being me tends to go for something with a bit more grunt. In 2010 North Face 100 edition, my headtorch failed on me as I was going through that crappy last section, so out came the Petzl e-lite. And my word was it useless. My point here is, get yourself something that’s going to at least give you the ability to see. It could make 30 mins difference on the last section if you need to use it. Of course, your decision as to whether you take the chance. For most people, you’ll be fine. For the odd one or two, it will screw up your race.
Mobile Phone: Whatever is in your pocket
I carry an iphone, I guess this makes me an iprick, but you can take lots of pretty pictures along the way and show all your mates on Facebook how great you are.
Compass: Silva or Suunto Ambit
Now we know not everyone has an Ambit, but if you want to fling $600 on as watch with one, this will save you around 30grs in your backpack 🙂
Whistle: Part of pack, of just go into any outdoor shop and bag yourself one
Unless you’re colour blind and can’t follow very bright pink tape then this should never be an issue either. However if you’re feeling like a bit of a dance in the bush and have some fluro gloves to hand, you could always make use of this and start a rave down on Kedumba Pass.
Emergency Space Blanket: Part of Salomon Slab 12l
Or you can grab one of these from a general outdoor shop.
All good chemists, but make sure its wide enough.
Supplied by the organisers as you never know when you might want to get that steak you’ve been saving in your backpack on the go for dinner
Lightweight Dry Sack: Sea to Summit
Pretty easy this one, just get one of these. They work and keep stuff dry – useful if it rains – obviously.
2L water bladder: Hydrapak
The one in the Salomon backpack is only 1.5l. I use Hydrapaks, but again, much down to personal choice. Most generally do what they say they’re going to do, which is hold water and not leak.
Waterproof Map Case
Grab yourself a sanger bag and stuff all the directions in there. Once again, unless you’re from a land where keeping an eye out for obvious landmarks didn’t enter into the local schools, these should be stuffed at the bottom of your bag and act as a cushion for your bladder.
OPTIONAL GEAR (Likely that you’ll need to stash this at CP4 and use it later on)
Long Leg waterproof pants: Berghaus waterproof pants
Again, we all have favourite brands that we like, and I’m no different. I’ve owned my pair of Berghaus waterproof pants now for nearly 8 years and they’re still going strong. They rock.
100 weight Long Sleeve fleece top: Macpac
I have an Underarmour fleece that I’ve used in the past, but I know the MacPac ones are pretty good too and it seems as though they have a sale on right now too. Have a butchers that them.
If you have any advice on gear, it would be great to hear from you in the comments section so that we can add to the every-growing items of gear that people recommend.
Footnote: We’d like to thank Footpoint Shoe Clinic for helping us test some of this gear over the last 12 months or so. We work with Footpoint because they are not aligned to any brand, which means we believe we can get great gear and not be aligned to anyone in particular – it helps us to remain independent and impartial when we give you our opinions. If you need some last minute gear, the guys there can help you out on some of the above items. *Declaration, Ultra168 members are Footpoint Shoe Clinic ambassadors and athletes, and they do supply us with gear to test and review as part of these features.