UTMB Gear Quest 2011

Today kicks off the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (summer OR) where upwards of 1,000 outdoor gear vendors (think of anyone who’d sell a product to REI or EMS) get together in Salt Lake City to show off their goods, including new products that will debut in the first half of next year. With this being my fourth summer OR, I know that there’s no better place in the Western Hemisphere to find that just-right piece of gear for any use.

That’s great, because with only 23 days until running this year’s The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, there are very few pieces of gear that I’m settled on… and that’s with an extensive list of mandatory gear. Here’s that list of required gear, in the organization’s own words (but reordered), as well as other items I’ll need. Each items is followed by my current thoughts on what I’ll bring or what I’ll be looking for at summer OR. Please chime in with suggestions. I’ve starred my biggest items of concern or where I think I can save the most weight.

Organization’s Obligatory Material:

  • * Jacket with hood and made with a waterproof (recommendation: minimum 10,000 Schmerber) and breathable (recommendation: RET lower than 13) membrane (Gore-Tex or similar) which will withstand the bad weather in the mountains. – Hold on, I think I need some more details first!? I’ve got a Mountain Hardwear Quark 2 jacket (258g), but I’ll look for something lighter than 9 ounces. Any ideas on other brands or models to look at?
  • Long running trousers or leggings or a combination of leggings and long socks which cover the legs completely – Montbell Ultralight pants (67 g). I brought these to the Marathon des Sables and plan to use them again… unless I find a lighter system at OR. Given that I’ll wear Salomon Exo Calves, I could go with knickers/manpris.
  • Warm long sleeved clothing (type « second layer », cotton excluded) of a weight of 180g minimum – I’ve got a 196g tech shirt made with the same fabric as Mountain Hardwear’s forthcoming Way2Cool shirts. I’ll keep my eyes open for a 180-190g (for small) tech half zip at the show.
  • * Warm and waterproof gloves – Mountain Hardwear Epic Gloves (99g). I’ll look to improve (or creatively interpret the rules) here.
  • * Waterproof over-trousers – Mountain Hardwear Epic Pants (217g). Great pants … for winter sports and very cold weather. Far more than I need at UTMB, so looking for lighter options.
  • Two lights in good working condition with replacement batteries – Super hard call. Do I go with a huge, but super bright Petzl Ultra and a very small spare, such as an E-Lite. Do I go with two Petzl Tikka XP2s? Do I try to get a custom Black Diamond Sprinter that takes replaceable batteries? Do I look for something else?
  • Warm hat – For now, a 45g hat from The North Face. Another place I’ll look to save weight at the show… or possibly with a Buff (38g) from home.
  • Cap or bandana – iRunFar Headsweats hat all the way. (I find it very odd that this is required in addition to a warm hat.)
  • Adhesive elastic band enable making a bandage or a strapping (mini 100cm x 6 cm) – I need a Frenglish translator to figure out what this means. Help!
  • Food reserve – Lots of GU! Sucks that I’ll have to carry 20-30 from the start and again at Courmayeur. I’ll take a few other treats such as Stinger Waffles, Honey Stringer Cherry Blossom Chews, and Chocolate Agave #9 gels.
  • Mobile phone with option enabling its use in the three countries – My iPhone 4 for which I’ve already set up international calling, text & data.
  • Personal cup or tumbler 15cl minimum (water bottle not acceptable) – I’ll buy a collapsible cup in Europe or cut a disposable beverage bottle down once I get to France.
  • Stock of water minimum 1 litre – I’ll have a 1L water bladder in my pack and a very lightweight water bottle that holds another .5 liters when needed. The reason for the extra bottle is refilling at the fountains along the course.
  • Survival blanket 1.40m x 2m minimum – I’ve got a selection of these at home… but you’d best believe I’ll be looking for the lightest blanket and they do differ in weight.
  • Whistle – I have a 5 gram whistle if my pack doesn’t have one.

My Additional Items

  • * Pack – Despite my stash of a dozen or so packs, I have no option that I’d use. I’m open to all ideas for a 10-12 liter pack. Packs I’m looking forward to seeing at OR: Salomon’s 12 liter Skin pack, Mountain Hardwear’s new 10-12 liter Fluid pack, and UltrAspire’s UTMB-ready model.
  • Short sleeve shirt – Mountain Hardwear’s Way2Cool short sleeve… if I can get this Spring 12 shirt by race day. I’ve worn the singlet and it’s the best top I’ve ever run in.
  • Running shorts – Brooks Infini Split Side shorts. I run in these shorts or their predecessor, the Element, nearly every day.
  • * Shoes – While I need to test them on steep downs, it looks like I’ll be wearing the Montrail Bajada, my Western States shoe choice, again at UTMB. My current backup are the Salomon XT Wings II. I’m still looking for a mud shoe if it rains… and have no idea. I’d need a well-lugged shoe with a standard (10-12 mm) drop that’s supportive yet (and this is very important) drains/breathes well. I’ve got some solid mud shoes, but, oddly enough, they all seem to hold moisture like a sponge in a ziplock bag.
  • Socks – Drymax Maximum Protection socks are it unless my mud shoe choice necessitates thinner socks in which case I’ll wear Drymax Hot Weather socks.
  • Trekking poles – I love my Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles and I’ll likely use them at UTMB. However, I will take a look at Komperdell’s Featherlight poles at OR in case I decide to go with fixed length poles.
  • Sunglasses – I’ve really been enjoying the Julbo Races with Zebra photochromic lenses. I’m also considering the Julbo Trail with Zebra lenses or the simple, yet wonderful Ryders Shot.
  • Time piece – I’ll likely wear my Garmin Forerunner 310XT (despite my issues with it) with the GPS turned off, so I can record monitor and record my heart rate the entire way. There’s a slight chance I’ll simply go chrono or, possibly, go to a heart rate monitor/barometric altimeter combo so I’ll know my heart rate and generally where I am on climbs.

Call for Comments
I’m sure there’s other gear that I need, but that’s a start. Let me know what you think of my options for UTMB gear.

There are 110 comments

  1. Paul Bateson

    I don't think you really need so many gels there is plenty of 'proper food' at the check points so I would think you can save a fair bit of weight and cash by only having a few, personally I think bars would be better as the gels generally require you to make sure you drink enough. Re other posts, Tyvek pants are 'waterproof' paper and not suitable for bad weather in the Alps. Tyvek pants also takes up quite a bit of space in a pack, still say the OMM Kamleika pants and smock are best for severe weather, totally waterproof and 4 way stretch fabric, designed and produced by UK Company OMM (Original Mountain Marathon was the Karrimor) and this is a fast packing, 2 day navigation race generally held in bad weather (UK) so the kit has to be light, packable and work.

    Another post referenced runners just signing a disclaimer but I doubt any races in the USA have 8000 runners, no doubt the top runners would get through but the field is so big that there are bound to be plenty who are under prepared and not used to racing in the unstable Alpine environment.

  2. Simon

    I was in the CCC last year (2010). Bovine 1900m after 64km at 10pm – I can only describe it as a tempest – wind and rain ripping across the mountainside – Every single person in the aid tent was wearing a space blanket (next to their skin, with wet cloths back on top) me included, If i hadn't I would have ended up hyperthermic.

    It changed my mind about the equipment list believe me!

    By the way, I live in St Gervais at the base of Mt Blanc – I know the mountains well and the mountain weather round here – but sometimes it just comes out of nowhere :-)

  3. Jim coates

    Hi great blog, the kit isn't checked at race check in but instead checked randomly through out the race. I was on the start line for Utmb in 2010 (and will be this year too) the guy next to me on the start line had his bag checked about 10 mins before the start which annoyed him a bit! And I wasn't checked! They plan on doing this through out the race at various points I imagine mostly in the food stops rather than half way up a climb!

  4. Jim coates

    Another point I would like to make is that I was on the aguille rouge trail run in Chamonix last September with snow down to 1700 meters. At the first col of about 2000 meters the mountain rescue were there to help runners and I saw at least 5 people with survival blankets on them

    Suffering badly from the cold and altitude. I later found out that some needed air lifted down. Ok the weather was extreme but I think those people were happy to have their survival blanket in the bag!

  5. Chris Wolfe

    Hope you were able to find everything. My family and I will be heading to Chamonix tomorrow. I'm hoping to meet some fellow Americans there, if I don't get to see you, Good Luck!


  6. Jim coates

    The thing that is taking up most space in my pack at the moment is my ice breaker long sleeve "second layer" top. Need to try and find one that takes less space! Any other suggestions?

  7. christian örum


    I just ran a swedish 2 day mountainrace with similar recuerments for gear, this is what i used.

    Montane wind and rain jacket 180gr

    R90 wind pants(Swedish brand)65gr

    Microfleece jacket The north face

    Merinowool baselayer for leggs and upper 150gr/1 m2

    Merinowool socks

    Merinowool buff

    Backpack OMM marathon Classic

    windstopper gloves

    Tent for 2

    Sleeping madrass

    3 meals

    8 gels

    3 bars

    10 portion of energy poder


    First aid kit

    1! snickers bar

    And some chips

    My backpack was at 4.65kg at the start line.

    I was dressed in compression tights(short)

    Race shirt

    Merinowool socks

    Salomon speedcross2

    At the peaks we has 2 degrees and winds of 24m/s

    This was north of the artic cicle


  8. Jim coates

    A bit late now I know, i even think I saw you about town Bryon! I switched between an Awsome gore-Tex pac-lite "norrona" and a marmot light weight breathable thing for which I can't remember the name. They packed pretty small, trousers were from Quechua (our local outdoor warehouse) they were not breathable but waterproof and cost me 11 euros. I didn't fork out much on the trousers because I had no intention of using them, however I did end up wearing them on the utmb and to be honest I was very pleased to have them on certain sections of the course.

    My long sleeved top was an ice breaker 200 half zip which kept me nice and warm during my two cold nights, only down side of this top is
    That it doesn't squash down very small.

    Anyway, I finished but with a limp, swollen ankle from Martigny to Chamonix which had me walking over the line in 44 and a bit hours!! That was one hard course which this year was longer and higher than any previous editions!!

  9. EMRE

    I wanted to share you what we faced in Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in this summer… 120kms of non-stop running and gaining 7.000m of ascent in the one of the world’s toughest ultra-marathon in non-stop 32 hours..

    If you want you can follow the 10 episodes for the documentary that we launch every week… With English subtitles…

    Here is the first one: http://www.izlesene.com/kanal/savoy-dukunun-izind

    If you want to read the full report in English… http://www.geziyorum.net/utmb-tds-rapor/

  10. Emre

    Having raced both finishing UTMB CCC in 2010 and UTMB TDS 2011 I had a quite experience on UTMB races and want to do UTMB 166km in future. This Frequently Asked Questions -UTMB FAQ are formed to ease your planning, racing and other actions before UTMB registration, preparation, getting there, accommodation and racing. http://www.geziyorum.net/utmb-faq/

  11. Ultrawolf

    Hi Bryon,

    You really took THIS pack ? I´ve seen it online before but didn´t get one since I believed it certainly must be too fragile to use for a race like the UTMB. Could you tell more about it & the way you customized the pack ? How did the pack perform, would you use it again for UTMB ?

    (By the way, I hope you´ll be coming again in 2012 !)

    Many thanks for another year of "bringing it on" to us Trail-Junkies and all the best to you, your family and Irunfar !


    1. Bryon Powell

      Ultrawolf, I did use that pack. I cut some pieces off, pulled the bottoms of the shoulder strap cords through a toggle in the front (which I tied in front of the toggle), and velcro-based chest strap I sewed on. I also had two add-on waist pockets made by Terra Nova that I put on the, now, waist strap. All of this was done in Chamonix on Thursday.

      The pack was more than enough for me (no poles, no bladder… though a bladder worked in tests… when hung on safety pins). It was plenty comfortable enough and was, if anything, a couple times to large for my needs. The biggest problem was getting it on and off … it took too long and took too much work. That'd be easily solved by making both the makeshift waist strap clip-based and the sewn-on sternum strap fixed on both sides. (The sternum strap was sewn onto on strap, looped around the other, and then velcroed shut. It was plenty sturdy, but not the quickest.)

      All-in-all, I could easily use this pack again and it'd be even better with a few hours (I'm no craftsman) of further modification. That said, there's a good chance I'd go even more minimal next time. All my gear fit in a quart(liter)-sized baggy, so a simple sleeve with shoulder straps would do the trick.

      Ps. I'll be in Chamonix next summer, but at this point it looks like I won't be racing.

  12. Ultrawolf

    In bikeraces they´re willing to spend truckloads of bucks for saving 5 gramms, you should start the "Lightest Trailrunning Gear in the World" Shop !


    Many thanks Bryon, I see you in Chamonix !

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