The Essential North Face 100 Gear Checklist

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

Jacket

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.

A sweet jacket from The North Face
A sweet jacket from The North Face

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.

Compression Bandage

All good chemists, but make sure its wide enough.

FireLighter block

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.

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Dan
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

11 thoughts on “The Essential North Face 100 Gear Checklist

  1. As an alternative jacket check out the montane minimus smock. Lighter than the h20 and used it this weekend in the torrential rain on Saturday morning. Weighs in at 138g for the small size and still has hood and taped seams although you lose the full length zipper. If you are faster and the weather is dry this is the perfect jacket as it packs up to size of an apple in the stuff sack.

  2. Try Patagonia capilene thermal underwear, if you are like me and can’t wear wool. I have pieces that are going on 20 years old and still work . They have an anti-microbial treatment, so that they dont smell even after years of use, keep you warm and dry and you can throw them in a warm or cold wash and they can also survive the dryer . The Midweight capilene or No 3 is the best for the TNF recommended gear, but I’m also wearing the silkweight capilene as a running top on the day. Its not cheap, but like you say, you pay for what you get.
    I’m running with a Petzl Tikka XP headlamp as I’m a bit biased that way, but am I only doing the 50k so hopefully it will stay in the bottom of my pack with my maps ! Good luck to all running the 50 or the 100k.

  3. That is a lot of kit mate 😀 Garmin Fenix is cheaper than the ambit, and it is as good. Also the Garmin 910xt can hold up pretty well too, but the 310xt can be a fantastic choice, cheaper too.
    The Montane minimus or spectre smock are again very pricy. We use these equipments in horrendous conditions with a backpack. They do not last for years, regardless the price and quality. I destroyed many expensive gore-tex and event coats during falls and bush wacking. I say get the cheapest but quality stuff, and update your gear regularly for safety. So the Montane litespeed H2O, the Inov 8 raceshell 220 or the OMM Kamleika will do the job very fine under 100bucks. With some proofing spray we can prolong their lives.
    Salomon bag can be replaced with some raid light, OMM or inov 8, as comfortable, half the weight, half the price. Actually the new inov 8 bags are really rocking.

    This is not a critique or being smart. I just know that a lot of people don’t know that there are other brands outside salomon and north face, and they are really in trouble choosing the right gear according to the price/quality ratio. The english brands are fantastic, as they are made for fell running, in wet and cold conditions, not that expensive, light, and can be ordered from wiggle.
    OMM, Inov 8, RonHill, Montane. Couple of guys will pair up and can obtain a hefty discount with free post and package.

    Good luck on the North Face 100 – it is going to be tough.
    http://evolutionexpress.blogspot.com
    youtube.com/EvoExpress

  4. Great article Dan. Good choices all round. Ok their options to consider include Ferei headlamps, icebreaker merino for buff and gloves. But I would suggest trying it all out prior to race day to ensure it all fits and nothing new on race day. Keep the Salomon bladder – its plenty for this time of year, just add those bottles gel and perpetuum to the front pockets.

    1. Hey Leonie, I think I might need to get all my gear and do a post / picture post how to pack. The main thing is to compress pack everything into sandwich bags and push out all the air. Whack elastic bands around them all as well, particularly gear you know you wont use and shove it to the bottom of your pack. Remember to that you have pretty large side pockets on the slab 12l too… I used these to good effect last year for some gear that fits around the contours of your body too like the thermals. The 12l also has the front pockets for storing food as well.. so plenty of opps to get things where you need them. I’ll see if I can post some pictures as to how I did it last year as well. Remember too that although you need to carry a 2 litre bladder, there are no rules about having to carry 2 litres of water… a mistake many people make in actually carrying far too much water.

      1. Is the rule that you need a 2L bladder? To quote the Mandatory Gear list it says “Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)”. So if I have the Salomon Slab 12 with the 1.5L bladder and carry a 600ml bottle (in one of the front pockets), do I meet the reqt?

        I’m a first timer so just want to get that right – as I’ll need to buy a new bladder if i’m wrong 🙁

  5. if you want to support the Locals there is a Australian Baselayer called I/O Merino (www.iomerino.com) that is worth a look. I used it for TNF100 in 2011 – worked a treat….ribed long sleeve plus a wool T over that plus Wool leggings and wool fleece for the cold night (yes I was still out there in the dark)

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