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Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps
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Daniel Robinson
Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/23/2013 21:49:35 MDT Print View

Hi Everyone,

I’m an ultramarathon runner and a fairly new member of BPL. I’m currently preparing for the 103 mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 6 weeks, a race that circumnavigates the Mont Blanc massif through the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Most of my gear is light, but unlike most races, I won’t be able to access it in “drop bags” at points on the course. Instead, I’m required to carry a rather long list of mandatory gear for the entire race. So I’m counting grams, and trying to determine the optimal performance/weight tradeoffs.

A few pieces of gear I’m still trying to decide on: waterproof/breathable rain coat, waterproof/breathable rain pants, and a headlamp. (I usually would just use a wind shirt, and I have an old Montbell rain coat, but it doesn’t have pit zips and isn’t the most breathable. In this race, I’ll be moving quickly uphill for long periods, potentially in downpours/sleet/snow. Regardless of what Gore and GE say in their marketing, I need pit zips/mechanical venting! For the headlamp, I’m more willing to carry more weight in order to get a lot of regulated lumens to minimize fatigue.)

What would you recommend? Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Rain Shell on 07/23/2013 22:59:46 MDT Print View

For your shell, Gore-Tex Paclite oughta do if you find good pit zips. My favorite is the 13oz Patagonia Super Cell because the pit zips are doubled up for good positioning and the hood stays out of my face. Going lighter on this item means you'll wet out, but going heavier (3-layer) adds weight. Decide if you want to be cold, then pick your evil.

My suggestion for the pants is to sacrifice a couple grams and find full-zips in a light weight. I wish I had a suggestion. What I know is that venting around the thighs makes your whole body more comfortable.

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
Re: Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/24/2013 00:22:33 MDT Print View

I recommend instead of rain pants considering the Zpacks CloudKilt. I just received mine, so no real user review yet but I think it'd suit nicely. It has a cinch cord in the front so you can cinch it nicely around your waist, and you can unzip the back as much as you need to open it up and give you space for a good stride. It'll keep your thighs nice and warm, while being exceptionally light and still breathable. It rolls up smaller than my fist and at 2oz hardly adds much weight to your gear. If you talk to the guys over at Zpacks they might even be able to make one that defaults to a larger stride for you.

You also might choose instead to try the Patagonia Houdini Pants, which are windshell pants and very lightweight. At 3oz they don't take up much space either, but are merely water-resistant. I find that they add quite a bit of warmth!

For a hard shell, I'm thinking you might try the Marmot Super Mica or one of Outdoor Research's TorsoFlo jackets. The cool thing about the TorsoFlo pit zips is that they extend all the way to the bottom of the jacket, making it essentially a poncho if more ventilation is required. Another choice might be the Arcteryx Alpha SL Pullover, which has one enormous pit zip on one side (down to the hip) and one regular-sized (but also fairly deep) one. The large zip is used to make it easier to pull on the jacket, but is also easily abused to add ventilation. There is a snap at the bottom to keep it from flapping around.

I was originally thinking about the Patagonia M10 for you but it lacks pit zips, a pity since it is so light and packable.

For the headlamp, I'm a huge, huge fan of the Petzl Nao. It automatically adjusts between a floody beam for near and a throwy beam for far depending on the lighting conditions and your needs, and you can program it using your computer to set it exactly how you want it. It'll illuminate up to 350 lumens and it is very easy and fast to swap out the battery pack for a spare. Petzl claims it should average about 8 hours of run time on its default Level 2 setting (up to 100 lumens), which is pretty good. The reactive lighting sounds like a gimmick at first, but after using it extensively on a few trips I wouldn't take any other headlamp.

The other headlamp you could consider is the Zebralight H600, which will also create an impressive amount of light and is certainly a cheaper option. However, I find the automatic adjustment feature on the Nao to be absolutely worth it as it is hassle-free and ideal for both looking off in the distance and looking towards your feet.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/24/2013 00:26:30 MDT Print View

"The other headlamp you could consider is the Zebralight H600, which will also create an impressive amount of light and is certainly a cheaper option."

Geez, the H600 is awfully bright on its high setting. It would serve to intimidate some other runner that you are overtaking at night.


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/24/2013 04:26:21 MDT Print View

In 2007 I walked the Tour de Mont Blanc (which is the same trail that the runners use) and bunked with three of the racers in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, all of them elite racers. We spoke quite a lot about the equipment they use. All of them, and quite a few other racers, swore by bicycle rain ponchos, which are shorter than the ponchos used by hikers, but allowed their running packs to be covered, and ventilate very well. Plus they have shock cord in the front to secure around the wrists for when climbing. If you are in Chamonix, you can buy the bicycle rain ponchos in the local bicycle shops, or at a few of the outdoor stores (if you don't know, there are quite a few stores there, some of them quite well stocked).

None of the people I talked to used rain pants, instead wearing long and warm compression tights they allowed to get wet while they were moving. The poncho allowed them to squat down and cover their legs and stay warm when necessary.

Also, at the time, one of the racers told me that the race officials were recommending drinking, of all things, Coca Cola as the drink to keep moving. It seems a lot of people were getting nauseous on a lot of other drinks, but Coca Cola seemed to work best for keeping food down and blood sugar up.

Just some things I heard. I'm not mountain marathoner, so don't really have much more to offer.

Paul Gilbert
( - F
UTMB Kit on 07/24/2013 04:34:56 MDT Print View

So I'm European and an Ultra runner, so I can equate to your requirements. What the other posters don't understand is that full body cover is mandatory equipment and that means seam taped waterproof jacket and pants!

I'd re-think the pit-zips; all of the jackets mentioned are VERY heavy by current mountain running waterproof standards - and they will also be bulky (smaller volume pack will pay-off in reduced bounce).

Look at the Pertex Shield+ tops: Montane Minimus Smock (5oz), Rab Pulse Pull-on (6.25oz), Rab Pulse Jacket (7oz). Of these, I chose the Pulse Jacket because, for the slight increase in weight, I can actually put it on and off OVER my race vest (even with UK 100 miler mandatory kit, which is close to the UTMB Kit list)- this encourages you to take the jacket off early if conditions such as a long uphill slog warrant it!

Both Rab 'Kinetic Pants' (6.5oz)and Montane 'Minimus Pants' (4.5oz)'match' the above; the Minimus are a bit better cut for running (they have two lower leg Velcro 'wraps')BUT they only have a quarter zip, while the Rab's are three quarters, with two way zippers (i.e. you can open the zip above the knee.

I would use the weight saved to choose the best windproof you can; all things being good, you won't wear the waterproofs (though that hasn't been the case in recent years!) but you will live half the race in your windproof. If you wear a Pertex Quantum windproof, they get pretty clammy whereas the new generation of 'nearly windproofs' are better suited to running - I'm thinking of something like the Montane Mountain Star.

Enjoy Chamonix!

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: UTMB Kit on 07/24/2013 05:14:36 MDT Print View

So I'm European and an Ultra runner, so I can equate to your requirements. What the other posters don't understand is that full body cover is mandatory equipment and that means seam taped waterproof jacket and pants!

Paul, it's not that I don't understand, it's what I was told and shown by the runners (all European) I met back in 2007. Maybe the rules have changed since then. I don't know, but I watched the runners run with that gear.

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Carry versus wear. on 07/24/2013 05:59:40 MDT Print View

Hi Miguel,

I think that you and Paul are probably both right, but looking from opposite sides. Quite possibly the runners in 2007 had very similar mandatory requirements, but as Paul intimates, these are the minimum required to be carried. You can carry anything extra that you like, and also use it in preference to the mandatory gear. Hence the suggestion for the windshirt. Quite possibly the runners you saw wearing capes had a jacket in their packs.

For the OP, I'd also be suggesting that you look at how the jacket works with your pack. You may find that pit zips are not very functional with a vest style pack, and that the front zip is most important. I also use the technique of pulling my sleeves up to my elbows to dump heat. This is an Andy Kirkpatrick trick that works great. The bare skin here with big veins close to the surface allow you to regulate really well. Also much quicker and simpler to achieve when you're tired.

I found WP pants to be a pain in the arse, and pulled them off after about 4hrs of rain, even at 1-2C, because they kept sliding down and binding my legs. Trash bag skirt for me next time, so choose the lightest, cheapest pants you can.

I use the zebra light h51 and used two aa batteries over 24 hours. I was using Eneloops, but lithiums would be lighter, and I'd take 3. The single battery design was great for simplicity of change over when required. I had plenty of light, but I'm pretty comfortable with running at night, and the nav was pretty simple.

Good luck, and have a blast.


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/24/2013 06:13:33 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 15:05:30 MDT.

Ito Jakuchu
(jakuchu) - MLife

Locale: Japan
Re: Re: Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/24/2013 06:23:26 MDT Print View

Second the Montbell Versalite. The pants for me wetted out in torrential rain (personally ok with that), and it's a pity that there are no thigh zips. But the pants weigh less than 100gr.

As an alternative for the shell I have the Marmot Super Mica. Very light for a jacket with pitzips, good hood adjustment, used in several typhoon rain storms (that were intense but didn't last more than a couple of hours). Never had a problem yet. Very nice for when you want a light jacket that you don't mind just keeping in your pack. My size Large weighs 262gr.

Edited by jakuchu on 07/24/2013 17:26:07 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: UTMB mandatory gear on 07/24/2013 09:11:46 MDT Print View

The vast majority of the UTMB field won't be using their mandatory rain gear, unless conditions get really, really bad.

For this reason OP, I'd get the most compact, cheapest stuff you can find. Non-breathable cycling rain jackets might be a good option. Bring your windshirt, as that will be a more usable solution most of the time.

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
Lamp on 07/24/2013 09:27:32 MDT Print View

I was reading in another thread that ultra runners are all over the Zebralight H51F head lamp. As a trail runner myself, I've used the Petzl Tikka XP2 for years because of the lumens and the distance. However, you traditionally had the tradeoff of spot vs. throw. The H51f combines the best of these words which means you don't have to carry a second hand-held light (or strapped around your waist). It has an insane amount of illumination settings for both parts of the light and the battery consumption varies depending on these settings. Very ingenious! It is also very light and can be used as a headlamp or as a handheld. I'm planning on buying one myself soon. Good luck with your race.

I'm still looking for that perfect set of trail running rain gear myself. I personally use the GoLite Malpais rain jacket and the GoLite Tumalo rain pants. They are fine. The jacket has the most annoying sticky zipper in the world and no pit zips, but it is light and waterproof enough if you keep it vented. The pants are great. I'm sure you can find better and lighter.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: re: UTMB mandatory gear on 07/24/2013 15:19:40 MDT Print View

I don't think you can "just bring a wind jacket".
You have to have a rain jacket waterproof (recommendation: minimum 10,000 or higher).
You don't need a waterproof pant though.

I would go with the versalite jacket and a montbell Dinamo wind pant, 2.6 oz.
This gives you 9.3 ounces for the pair.

I am also an ultrarunner. The single battery headlamps I would suggest are the Fenix HL20, or the Princeton Tec Remix Pro.

I don't like zebralights because they just flood way too much (there are a few that don't flood as much though).

If you're not going to use poles, I would prefer a flashlight over a headlamp any day. The shadow the flashlight throughs on the trail is so much easy to run with than a headlamp.
With a flashlight, it is also easier to hold on to a 2 cell aa or 2 cell cr123 light.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: re: UTMB mandatory gear on 07/24/2013 21:46:59 MDT Print View

"The vast majority of the UTMB field won't be using their mandatory rain gear, unless conditions get really, really bad. "

The vast majority of the UTMB field have used EVERY bit of their mandatory rain gear and more just to get through the abbreviated course changes the last three years. The last few years has been a shit storm on the UTMB course with course reroutes and abbreviations due to consistently horrendous weather.

Here's what runners who have run UTMB are carrying in their running packs:

Mike Foote from Montana, 11th place UTMB 2011 (1st American):

Sebastien Chaigneau UTMB gear list overview (*definitely watch this one): did a UTMB logistics article that seems to be a goldmine of information:

It doesn't make any sense in skimping on gear for an event as big as UTMB. You've likely spent years and countless hours training and qualifying just to have a shot at UTMB, so get yourself the best gear for you that feels right and is up to the demands of the course.

Edited by Eugeneius on 07/24/2013 21:49:32 MDT.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: re: UTMB mandatory gear on 07/24/2013 22:14:02 MDT Print View

"Mike Foote from Montana, 11th place UTMB 2011 (1st American)"

yeah baby! oh.... carry on

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Re: re: UTMB mandatory gear on 07/25/2013 07:39:50 MDT Print View

I can't find a link to her gear list,
but just to keep this thread gender neutral,
lets not forget Krissy Moehl ...
who finished 1st female and 11th overall in 2009.

the UD Omega pack was supposedly created specifically for her run.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
UTMB mandatory gear on 07/25/2013 09:49:02 MDT Print View

That would be the very, very bad part Eugene.

Digging deeper, I see that breathable is part of the mandatory jacket and trousers. Too bad: if you're going at race pace in an ultra during a sleet storm, I don't think there's going to be much functional difference between a Pertex Shield smock and a plastic rain coat. We're talking warm and wet in either case. Venting zips are a joke in this context.

Op, I'd get a Montane Minimus smock and pants. More athletic fit than just about any other option, and better DWR than anything of comparable weight. (Montbell DWR is not so good.) Anything heavier or bulkier is a non-starter, as you'll most likely be carrying it.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: UTMB mandatory gear on 07/25/2013 09:55:43 MDT Print View

+1 on the Minumus smock.

I don't own one but recently did a trip with someone that does and was impressed. Light enough to function as a windshirt, compacts small, the cut is good, and it's raingear. The smock and pants are on my purchase list for running events this Fall/Winter.

Paul Gilbert
( - F
Beware of kit list from previous years on 07/25/2013 11:29:09 MDT Print View

1. It's obvious, but the only list you can trust is the current year's!

2. It's easy to misread it, but WP Pants ARE mandatory.

3. I've no doubt that in 2007 French runners were wearing capes - until very recently, Raidlight actually marketed a strange half cape with sleeves! But that was before two really bad years for weather and also before the current crop of very light and genuinely waterproof kit!

4. Unless you are genuinely 'Elite', I wouldn't assume that you won't wear the waterproofs; if you doubt me, read this

5. It's a fine line, but if in any doubt that your windproof might not be enough (no, before you have that doubt!)get the waterproof on! Believe me, I HATE running in waterproofs - but not as much as I hated DNFing with hypothermia because I though my Pertex was enough as long as I kept the pace up!

Hopefully all this planning will immunize the event against bad conditions this year and you'll never have to do more than pull-on your arm warmers!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Ultramarathon gear advice needed for major race in the Alps on 07/25/2013 13:33:04 MDT Print View