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Kit, glorious kit

by @garyfallsover
Tuesday 14th October 2014
Tags  Gary Dalton   |   Tor des Geants   |   TDG   |   Profeet   |   Brooks Cascadia   |   Montane Aero eVent pullover   |   S-Lab 12   |   inov-8 Racepant   |   Montane prism   |   Dynafit   |   Gearpest   |   Hope One   |   Suprabeam V3plus   |   Petzl e-lite   |   Helly Hansen   |   Skins
 
 

Run247 columnist Gary Dalton takes us through his kit choices for the Tor des Geants

And now for something very very dear to my heart. Something that occupies far too much of my waking time, something that’s been very dear to me since I first discovered my laptop had a secondary use. Kit. And more importantly choosing kit for a big race race. For your A race. For the race where you want nothing at all to go wrong, the race you’ve spent the year thinking about and the years before working towards

For me it’s quite a delicious process in the months before a big race, particularly if that race is either a long one like the Spine or the Tor des Geants, or one with quite a detailed and comprehensive compulsory kit list like the UTMB. I’ve spent hours deliberating over the relative merits of the multitude of shoes I have hidden around my flat, stuffed into every cranny like a alcoholic hides bottles of Teachers. I weigh baselayers and compare the Hydrostatic resistance of waterproofs, I covet  lumens and I scan every available Youtube video of my chosen race to see what those who’ve gone before me have used. But what I do most of all is, I check blogs looking for what worked and what didn’t. And you know what? There’s plenty out there about the races themselves. If you want to know the elevation of a certain section or what aid station has the best pasta it’ll be on the web somewhere. If however you’re looking for what kit worked and what didn’t then there isn’t that much out there. So I decided to list what I used for the Tdg, what was good and what wasn’t. Of course it’s entirely subjective but you never know, it might help someone somewhere along the way.

I’ll need to note here for the sake of transparency that on my journey to the TdG I was lucky enough to be given help and advice by two fantastic companies, one of whom I’ve mentioned before was Profeet in Fulham London, who supplied my footwear and insoles and the other was Gear Pest based up in Aberdeen. I happened to have a chat with one of the owners of Gearpest over Twitter one day and we’ve kept in contact ever since then, mostly through social media where Gus teases me with  tweeted photos of the new season's offerings. Kit porn for the middle aged runner.

So I’ll start with the main stuff, the things I agonised over and what I finally went with. The  kit list is fairly comprehensive so it’s worth noting here that everything I’ll talk about is compulsory. It’s also worth noting, particularly for minimalist runners, that some races in Italy, including the TdG, won’t allow you to run in shoes like Vibram five fingers and Luna sandals. In fact pretty much any superlight weight or minimalist shoes will be barred from the start line.

Run247 columnist Gary Dalton takes us through his kit choices for the Tor des Geants

Shoes: Trail shoes compulsory, categories A2-A5. Checked at kit check

Sponsored by Profeet: I had decided fairly early on to go with what I knew and trusted and for me that meant I had two choices. Brooks Cascadias or Salomon Speedcross. Both excellent shoes but for me the better rock plate in the Brooks and the wider toe box decided it, particularly as the weather forecast for the race was generally good and I didn’t feel the increased grip of the Salomons would be necessary. What was a revelation and saved my race were the insoles I had made by Profeet before the race. Because the race is so technical I had read report after report which described how peoples feet were battered by the end of the week, my insoles acted as a second rockplate which saved them from being bashed about. [If you’re curious about what this race can do to your feet read Gary Morrisons blog about his attempt in 2013. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted.] How well they worked was demonstrated to me when I changed my shoes on one stage and forgot to transfer the insoles over, the next 50 miles battered the hell out of the soles of my feet and I had to stop several times to rest them. However, five days and around 280km, with 21,000m of climb, with not a single blister showed I made the right choice for me.

Waterproof Jacket: Compulsory:  List states Goretex or similar

This was a bit of a dilemma for me, given my already admitted to fetish for waterproofs, but one I bravely tackled with all the gusto you’ve become accustomed to. So for me the choice was either extremely light and packable with the danger of being caught out somewhat in high mountains against a mountain waterproof, capable of withstanding everything the elements can throw at me but sacrificing some weight and size. In the end I went with the Montane Aero eVent pullover.  Basically the smock version of the jacket I used on the Spine race at the beginning of the year. Tried and tested and one I knew would protect me from the worst weather the Alps could throw at me.  Far from heavyweight at 278g but not as packable as its stablemate the Minimus. Big advantage and a feature I really like is the large front pocket, perfect for stashing food, gloves, extra Haribos etc.  In hindsight I could easily have used a lighter jacket as the weather was generally good, but I was happy with my choice. For the sake of a couple of extra grams I had peace of mind and for me that was worth it.

Backpack: Compulsory: Waist or backpack

I went with an old favourite, the original S-Lab 12. For me the original is still the best. Enough space in the main compartment for all the required kit with room to spare. Remember to use a drybag to keep clothing dry though, as the pack is mostly made of mesh; loads of space on the sides for snacks, hats gloves and those bits and pieces of kit you’re always getting out and putting away every ten minutes. What I did find helpful was to carry a small water bottle in the front chest pocket, it made it easy for me to refill from rivers and streams whenever I felt the bladder was running low. There’s little nicer than clean, fresh and cold mountain water during a race, having the bottle meant I wasn’t always drinking body warmed water from my bladder. Not my actual bladder obviously, that’d just be weird.

Waterproof trousers: Compulsory: inov-8 Racepant

Not a great choice in the end, though the inov-8’s do exactly what they say on the tin the fact that they have elasticated hems made it very difficult to get them on and off over shoes, making me less likely to put them on until absolutely necessary. If I did the race again I’d look for trousers with either zipped or button seams.

Gloves: Warm and waterproof overgloves

Like most I’m always on the lookout for the perfect glove and in the Montane prism I may actually have found them. They’re slightly lighter than a sparrows fart. If you don’t think these gloves are the best thing since sliced chips I’ll personally follow you on your next race and blow gently on your hands. Combine them with Haglofs Gram shell mittens and your hands will thank you forever.

Running trousers or leggings: Compulsory

Now this caused the most angst of all. Normally I’m a shorts kinda guy. Not short shorts thankfully, no one wants to see that, but whatever the weather, I’m generally happiest in shorts. However I didn’t really want to have to carry a pair of leggings as well as my waterproofs if I didn’t have to. So I thought I’d try some three quarter length leggings, after all 82% of French trail runners can’t be wrong can they?

Well yes they can. Combined with my calf guards and the 25 degree plus heat every day, they weren’t my best idea. Particularly after a week. Trust me on this. Wear shorts if you so desire, no one seemed to mind.

Long Sleeved microfleece/Warm clothing: Compulsory: Dynafit sponsored by Gearpest

The day before I left for Italy I received a package from Gus at Gearpest with a bunch of stuff to test. Now normally I’d avoid new kit on race day like a hippie avoids soap, but there was some gorgeous stuff there from a brand I vaguely knew from doing the UTMB the year before.  If you’ve never heard of Dynafit, they’re an Austrian ski and mountain wear company who in recent years have developed their range to suit the trend for faster summit ascents. What I liked immediately was that the quality of the kit was exceptional. Think brands like Noronna, Haglofs or Salomon before they went mass market. I used the Trail jacket as a light windstopper and a jacket called the Traverse Hybrid as a warm night time layer. The Traverse had the same stretchy windstopper type material on the arms but with a thin down on the body. Worked absolutely brilliantly and both packed down to the size of a large orange. I’ll do a more complete review of them and some other Dynafit kit in a couple of months when I’ve had a chance to give them a proper run out, but these items were a revelation.

Headtorchs: 2 compulsory to be carried at all times

Again I was in a quandary with this one, my Hope One has served me extremely well over the last few years, so I had no good reason to look elsewhere, but that’s not really the point is it? What I was concerned about with the Hope was that, though it’s incredibly bright, it is fairly weighty. What I was looking for was something almost as bright, but lighter. I thought I’d found it in the Suprabeam V3+. Initially I was really impressed, burn time on lowest setting claimed to be up to 30 hrs, felt light on my head and was easily adjustable. Unfortunately what I didn’t notice at first and what really bothered me after a little while, was the purity of the light. What I mean by this is that with my Hope torch the light is consistently bright throughout the spread of  the beam. Whatever setting I use there’s an even spread, there are no dim spots at all and it was only when I used the Suprabeam that I noticed how distracting it is when the light spreads in concentric circles. It actually got quite confusing as I had to move my head from side to side to ensure I could actually see every part of the trail. Not ideal whilst trying to climb a scree slope at silly o’clock in the morning. So I went back to the Hope in conjunction with a Petzl e-lite which worked brilliantly.

For the rest I used what I’d been using for years, Helly Hansen base layers on top, Skins compression underwear and the always brilliant Drymax socks used in conjunction with Sudocream.

Run247 columnist Gary Dalton takes us through his kit choices for the Tor des Geants

So that’s pretty much it for my kit list, some stuff was great, some stuff was a bit meh, but apart from the headtorch which I swopped over after the first night, I didn’t really regret using any of my stuff. A fair part of the preparation for any big race for me is making sure I have the right kit, long days and nights on high mountains demand you get it right. I know I’m never going to be right at the front, challenging for a podium, so those compromises of weight and size aren’t really an issue for me. I know if I slow down during a cold night I have the right clothing to keep me safe and warm. For me that’s worth a couple of hundred extra grams. And for me it’s fun, who doesn’t like shopping?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 

 
 
 
 
 

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