Spine: kit

I’m a little bit obsessive (I’m a theoretical physicist...) so I actually enjoyed the process of finding kit that worked for me.

Since finishing safely, and not racing, was my focus I wasn’t too obsessed with weight. But I did try and reign in my ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ tendencies, and cut my starting pack weight down from 10kg (for the Challenger last year) to 9kg, including food and water.  

The one mistake I made was testing kit to breaking point, leading to a couple of panic replacements in the weeks beforehand, one of which didn’t work as well as the original.

Drymax socks
knee length SealSkinz socks
Outdoor Research Flex-tex gaiters
Inov8 Roclite 336 boots
This combination did a pretty good job of keeping my feet blister free. The first pair of SealSkinz leaked horrendously (despite only having been worn once and hand-washed carefully) but the second did their job. The boots were good for grip and stability, but had a bit more cushioning, and were more robust, than the 286s I wore last year. Think they’ve been discontinued though. I changed to a pair a half size larger at CP2 (bought half price from Sport Pursuit). The biggest challenge was finding some gaiters with underfoot straps which were robust enough to last a week on the Pennine Way but weren’t slippery on the flagstones.

Rab Ridge Raider bivy bag
Plenty of room for a (flexible) midget like me and all my kit and a lot easier to pitch than a tent. Used this for stage 2 where I was planning to sleep out.

Terra Nova Discovery lite bivy bag
Carried this for the rest of the race (bought cheap from Field and Trek).

PHD custom made sleeping bag
Based on the Minim 400 with 100g extra down and midget length and narrow to give a comfort temp of -10. The race rules stipulated an extreme rating of -10, but I feel the cold.
Narrow width was a mistake in retrospect as it doesn’t have much room for wriggling.

Thermarest NeoAir short
This had been fine for recces, but for some reason during the race I kept falling off it and wished I’d taken my slightly bulkier Exped SynMat Ultralight 7.

RAB neutrino 250 sleeping bag
In my drop-bag for use at checkpoints. Not too warm and also no need to unpack my rucksack.


OMM Jirishanca 35 litre sack and OMM front pack
I bought a lighter Terra Nova Voyager pack, but it was nowhere near as comfy (or as robust) so I switched back to this workhorse. Never quite needed to fill it. The one plus side of having broad shoulders is that unisex packs fit me OK.
The front pack was pretty much essential for carrying map, GPS, snacks etc. It was one of the items I had to replace at the last minute having trashed the original.

Black Diamond Z-poles

Lots of Ultrasil dry bags in various sizes

Trekmates flameless cooking system
Slower than a jetboil (which I had in my drop bag in case the weather got really cold) but I like it because I can get water to almost boiling point while in my sleeping bag, in my bivy bag.

Petzl Myo RXP
Workhorse headtorch. Good compromise between  brightness, weight and battery life. Newer model designed to work with lithium batteries.

Petzl e-lite

Camelbak insulated bottle

Nalgene bottle and cover
Didn’t get cold enough for water bottles to freeze, but I was prepared if it did.

UVEX Active Vario Sunglasses
Got these post Fellsman 2012 for protection against the wind in overcast conditions. Had googles in my dropbag for blizzard conditions.

Yaktrax run
Used these for the frozen flagstones. Easier to run in than Katoola microspikes.

Harvey’s maps & Garmin Oregon 450 GPS
Since I knew the route fairly well this combination worked OK. I only used the GPS for checking location and the compass function when crossing featureless terrain. Navigating off of the map screen doesn’t really work (c.f. my going around in circles episode after checkpoint 1.5 last year). Something with a 1:25000 scale would have been useful for some of the fiddlier field crossings. Sections of OS map would probably be the best bet. The base map on the SatMap GPSs looks good, but at least some models come with a rechargable internal battery, which would be a faff.

Only got this out on the Cheviots, and wished I’d done it sooner.


BeWell Vegetarian Expedition meals
Ate these at checkpoints as well as mid-stage.

Mule bars (summer berry & mango tango)
Got a bit hard in the cold, but I didn’t have to resort to the ‘stick them down the bra’ trick. Went off summer berry after a couple of days.

Mars bars
I don’t usually like them, but discovered them on my final recce and ended up eating lots, 3 or 4 per day...

caffeinated Gu gels
A small number of these were good for much needed quick boosts. Should have packed more.

Hula Hoops
My favourite running food, unfortunately a bit bulky.

Ritz crackers

Cashew nuts

Dominos margherita pizza

Wish I could have resupplied mid-race.


Patagonia bra
Stayed on all week and didn’t rub/chafe at all.

Patagaonia Capilene baselayer + Rab Meco LS tee
This combination kept me warm and my inner layer dry. Swopped to heavier weight versions mid-way.

Raidlight microfleece jacket
Only used this for the coldest hills (Cross Fell and the Cheviots).

Gore running and North Face winter tights

Rab Meco & Capilene baselayer tights
Didn’t get cold enough to use these so (apart from stage 3 where I wore them for the first 5 mins of Great Shunner Fell...) they stayed in my drop bag.

Haglofs Actives Warm Q Knicker
Stayed on all week. Warm, comfy and fairly decent for wandering around checkpoints in (at least compared with what some of the Europeans were wearing...).

Icebreaker 260 gloves
Love these. Fairly warm even when wet. Wore them up to the Cheviots (swopped to a clean pair half-way through the race).

Montane prism gloves
Carried them as a back-up and put them on for the Cheviots. Mainly because they feel really cosy and I fancied a treat.

Mountain equipment Epic Glove
Bought these two years ago after seeing people use them to satisfy the UTMB ‘warm and waterproof’ requirement. Had always worked perfectly in the past but one hand started leaking before Kinder Scout. Probably shouldn’t have washed them pre-race...

Sealskinz 4 seasons gloves
Brought as a back-up to the Mountain equipment gloves, they leaked even worse. Leaving me out of waterproof gloves at the end of stage 2.

Buffalo mitts
Back-up to the back-up, but saved the day. Not waterproof, but kept my hands warm in the cold/wet/windy conditions.

X-bionic Bondear headband and Rab meco hat
Kept my ears warm and my head warm and dry throughout.

Merino wool buff
Kept it round my neck for most of the race. Not sure why. I really don’t like stuff covering my mouth, so didn’t use it for its intended purpose.

Integral Designs primalid beanie
Carried throughout, put it on for my snooze just before Byrness and kept it on until just before the finish.

X-bionic Balacava
In my drop-bag just in case, but never needed it.

Montane Fireball smock

Wore it while bivying and carried as a back-up throughout.

Montane Prism pants

Carried as a back-up from stage 2 on.


OMM Kamleika pants
OMM Cypher jacket
Mammut Convey jacket
North Face paclite (not sure of model)

Buffalo smock (not waterproof, but it fits best here)
The Cypher jacket had been my workhorse ‘really bad weather’ jacket for several years, but the seam taping came off en masse during my final long weekend recce. I bought a replacement online (painfully paying nearly RRP), however it seems they’ve changed the cut of the hood and whatever I did I couldn’t get it to cover my face (my head’s big but not that big...).

I put the Mammut jacket in my drop bag in case I decided to use the Buffalo smock (as the OMM jacket wouldn’t fit over the top of it). I didn’t, but used the Mammut jacket instead of the OMM for a day mid-week. It kept my face protected, but the cuffs wouldn’t go over my Buffalo mitts and it didn’t cover my bum properly so it got cold and wet. Bum trumped face and I switched back to the OMM jacket.

The Kamleika pants were on their last legs after 4 years of fairly extensive use. By day 6 they were falling to pieces and I switched to my heavier duty back-up waterproof trousers. Should have got a new pair before-hand.

Thing I didn’t have but wish I did

Bothy bag

Saw people using these effectively for quick power-naps.