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They say getting to the start line is the hardest part of Adventure Racing. After months of training and preparations, Helly Hansen UK only had the small task of driving to Sweden from Scotland before they could finally get under way in the 2009 Explore Sweden Monster. After four days of driving, Bruce Duncan, John Laughlin and support man Marty Lee rolled into Sundsvall in Mid Sweden, while Nicola MacLeod jetted in from a wedding in South Africa with final team member Nick Gracie and support crew Nicola Wiseman completing the UK posse.
Together at last, we were anxious to see what had been prepared for us, as the only details released beforehand mentioned some of the disciplines and an approximate breakdown in percentages of the time each discipline would take. We were comfortable with the 38% biking and 30% trekking but it was the 6% inline skating that we had our eye on, with an assumption that it would take us far longer than estimated for the native Scandinavians. Once all was revealed we were taken aback. It was definitely a monster of a course, the longest race in the world this year, however, 840km of the total distance was on bike and we were promised the winning team would only take four days to complete the course, so it would be fast progress.
Race Director, Mikael Lindnord, speculated that the race would be extremely technical and our skills would be tested in every single stage, right from the start. “It will be”, he proclaimed, “the shit!”. Of course, the start was just the one we had dreaded; a short run followed by an inline skate up one of the steepest road hills we’d ever seen! After a mass start and the bustle of the first checkpoint where skates were fitted, it suddenly fell quiet as we looked around and realised we were already bringing up the back with the American team Yogaslackers. Thankfully we made it up the hill in one piece and could ditch the skates for the run back down to town. Once there, we quickly donned via-ferrata full body safety harnesses and completed a circuit of a rooftop wire course after which it was back to transition where we collected a map and ditched the skates for 14km of orienteering around Sundsvall. The pace around town was the usual manic style that we all dread in expedition races so we were glad of a little refreshment with a short 150m swim across the harbour. All done and dusted with the short, sharp stages we were glad to get out on the first decent leg, a 120km bike stage.
The stage should have been noted for taking us to the mid-point of Sweden, ‘conveniently’ located at the top of a big hill, but was more notable for the colourful vomit John was projecting after downing too many electrolyte drinks and gels too quickly. Aside from the technicolour masterpiece on show, the associated bout of leg cramps brought the average pace down a few notches until we got sorted and comfortable on the bikes. We were still near the back of the race but feeling buoyant as we began to pass a few teams by riding strongly and navigating smartly.
The end of the bike brought a change back to the dreaded inline skates along a rolling road section with our first taste of extended downhills. Surprisingly, we managed to survive this unscathed with no falls although progress couldn’t be described as rapid! The section finished with a stomp and swim through a filthy marsh in our socks, (everyone else walked around the outside!), then across a warm cleansing river and into a lagoon at the centre of ‘Mid-Adventure’. A low flying helicopter buzzed us as we splashed into shore and set about completing the tasks here to the backdrop of an all-night (though it barely got dark) dance party. A short kayak, run and ropes course followed by a team slide down a water chute and swim were quickly knocked off before getting dried, fed and comfortably clothed for the first major bike of the race.
We set off around midnight for the 250km cycle on a mixture of tarred and gravel roads and had hoped to make the most of the cool night to push hard. However, Bruce was having a hard time with “hollow legs” and generally feeling devoid of energy, so John took his pack and the team worked in a chain gang to give Bruce a rest at the back of the line. Eventually we got a good pace going and caught another team as we rode towards transition at the top of a very long gravel climb. We’d stopped a couple of times on the route for quick cat naps to stave the sleepmonsters off, but in transition we took the opportunity to get into a tent for a good 45 minute doze.
At this point we were all feeling physically and mentally strong, and reasonably fresh for the 60km mountaineering section. This took us, first of all, onto Sweden’s most southerly glacier which we traversed to bag a checkpoint at the foot of a great couloir. Unfortunately, the warm weather had created unfavourable avalanche conditions, so we didn’t get to complete the planned near vertical ice climb and instead had to run the 15km to the next mountain with the added burden of our heavy mountaineering boots in our packs. Many other teams had been made aware that the climb was cancelled and had just brought running shoes, not the stipulated boots, so we felt a little miffed at the extra load, but nonetheless, we managed to catch and pass two teams before we ascended the next mountain. The drawback to this fast progress was the pounding our feet were taking and John began to have blisters that would gradually get worse for the rest of the race. To keep our minds off tiredness and pain, the entire local midge population decided to come out for dinner; the problem being, we were on the menu!
The sun set beautifully as we climbed onto the ridge and we roped up for the extended knife-edge arete that straddled the Norwegian border and ascended to our final summit. The ambient light barely dimmed before the sun was back above the horizon again and we had completed the most technical ridge we’d ever encountered in an adventure race. Race Director Mikael’s prediction of high technical difficulty was holding true on this section at least, but we were comfortable with the exposure but once we’d completed the final fixed rope jumar to the summit we were keen to get down as quickly as possible. The map said this would be a long tricky descent down a ridge, but common sense said we should follow the tracks in the snow slope beside the ridge. So with ice axes ready we jumped over the side and slid about 150m down on slushy snow, closely followed by photographer Wouter Kingma with thousands of pounds of cameras swinging from his neck! The 20km trek out that followed was slowed by John’s struggle with blisters and overheating but Bruce was able to tow to repay the help he’d received earlier. After what seemed like an eternity, transition was reached, a quick cooling shower was had and the team remounted their bikes and sped off on rough gravel towards the first of the watersports with John feeling much better.
The watersports consisted of Nicola and John kayaking down a Grade 3 white water river while Bruce and Nick riverboarded. Unfortunately, for John and Nicola, hoping to have a nice rest in the boats, the river turned out to be quite flat for the first 4km meaning they had to tow the lads to speed things up. This was hard work but was well worth it once we reached the whitewater which brought massive smiles all round.
After a short ride into the lakeside mountain resort of Åre, we headed off in the early evening sun for our favourite activity – inline skating. Once again this was up a massive hill, but not before a short downhill to the lakeside road that Nick split into small sections by falling on his backside twice, making the rest of us wince and fear for his coccyx. He bounced well for the old man of the team and thankfully showed no ill effects. It didn’t take long for common sense to prevail and we took the skates off and walked up the steep hill in a heavy rain shower that we decided had very handily made the road too slippery to skate.
Eventually, we dropped the skates with Nicola W and trekked off into the mountains, Bruce picking a great route that avoided major climbs and took us past one team and within sight of another. Reaching the top of the mountain we were excited at what lay ahead. Strapping on body armour, full face helmets and ‘No Fear’ attitudes we grabbed hired downhill bikes and sped off down the mountain trail, becoming very quickly aware that the brakes were set up ‘euro’ style, the opposite of what we are used to.Within ten minutes of starting, the excitement ramped up several notches when a heavy thunderstorm swept into the valley and emptied its contents on us. Thunder crashed, lightning flashed, hair stood on end and stinging rain pummelled our scantily dressed bodies. The spray from our front wheels was like being shotblasted and before long we had lost each other and the right way down. Bruce ended up 2km past town, John and Nicola finished by the lakeside but Nick, the most anxious at the top of the hill, was the only one who managed to find their way into transition correctly!
The next stage was a Canadian Canoeing leg on an open lake, which was looking quite dangerous with all the lightning, so our ever-attentive support crew pulled off a master stroke by setting up camp with two tents in an outdoor shop’s doorway. Marty and Nicola W were really proving to be the best support crew we could have wished for with psychic ability to think ahead about what we might need or just be dreaming of. Nick’s requests for food types were getting stranger as the race went on, but somehow Nicola kept managing to produce the goods in the most far-flung reaches of Sweden!
A brief sleep later, we portaged the canoes across the town’s railway station and into the lake that we paddled to its river outflow. The river, featuring grade 2 rapids, was a great thrill in a canoe and we managed to pass another Swedish team who’d capsized. We were grateful to stay upright after spending a while getting dry and warm following the downhill biking; another unexpected soaking was the last thing we wanted right now.
Passing another team in transition, we were really moving up the race order and spirits were high as we had a feeling that we were getting faster while other teams were slowing. Of course, we’d like to say we’d planned this all along, but the reality was that our inline skating was the discipline keeping us back in the rankings! Completing another linking bike stage we could see we were only minutes behind another two teams, so completed our quickest transition of the race and ran off after them for 3km to the start of the whitewater rafting. We’d been really looking forward to this section and once we’d changed into wetsuits, met our guide, defeated the best efforts of the worst midges in history, carried our boat to the river and jumped aboard, we were totally pumped up! We set off to chase another team one minute ahead of us and enjoyed the thrill of the race, combined with the rush of paddling the grade 4 river, the steepest in Sweden. After a series of waterfalls and mandatory portages, the river shallowed and our guide left us to paddle out across a lake to the next transition.
The support guys had setup our tents again and we got our heads down for two hours to recharge our brains before taking on the longest single stage of the race – a 270km mountain bike leg to Solleftea. Getting comfy in the saddle, we made steady progress and passed another weary looking team and arrived at a ferry to find we’d caught up Team Explore, one of the best teams in the race. They’d been having a poor race, but we’d had our own troubles, so were glad to be getting towards the sharp end of the race. Once on the ferry we had left the team we’d overtaken behind, gaining at least 30 minutes while they waited for the next ferry. The ferry took us to a small island which we had to cross to another ferry to get us back onto the mainland. Team Explore had already figured out that to make the next ferry we would have to time trial at maximum effort across the island and cover the 2.5km in about five minutes. This seemed like an ambitious plan, but when they decided to attempt it we had to follow suit. The sprint across the island must be up there with being one of the fastest sprints ever in an expedition race and it was a successful one! We all collapsed on the ferry and agreed to work together for the rest of the stage at a much more reasonable pace.
Soon after leaving the ferry we passed an excited woman at the side of the road, whom Fredrik in the Explore team announced to be his mother. Not long later we passed an excited man who turned out to be his father. Soon we passed another stationary car where Fredrik’s cousin was yelling encouragement at us! It was a really fun period and eventually we stopped for a break, some photos and a chat with his cousin. After a long spell of riding we all realised we were running short of Clif Bars and set our sights on finding some food in the town of Hammarstrand. However, on arrival we found everything closed and the only food available were a tray of chocolates handed out by a kind lady filling up in the petrol station. Another man said he ran the burger restaurant but had closed for the night, yet he said we should keep on riding and he would bring us some food en-route! Ten minutes later a van sped past us and he jumped out to hand us cold hot dogs fresh from the packet! It was the tastiest nondescript meat product we’d had in several hours…
The long bike seemed to be nearing an end when we sped past a rapidly slowing Norwegian team, but at the same instant John’s brain decided to go to sleep and he began to suffer a serious dose of the sleep-monsters. The rest of the team had to shout, swear, and scream to keep him awake and riding upright while he was off in a dream world of safari animals for the remaining 30km of the ride. The weather was incessant drizzle and stopping for a sleep would have been a cold waste of time, so we had to push on despite John’s constant falling asleep at speeds of up to 50km/hr. Thankfully, a huge team effort got everyone to the next obstacle in one piece and after a coke and some singletrack riding John perked up. We then had to contend with a rather convoluted double crossing of a river on a wooden raft with some hike a bike thrown in for good measure. To further drag out the stage we had to find some orienteering checkpoints, which to Bruce’s clear frustration weren’t accurately described but we had to remind him how important it was to remain positive that we’d done so well so far and were still going strong.
On entering transition in Solleftea we were given a one hour mandatory rest, which we slept most of and used the rest to patch up blisters and saddle sores. Typically, when the time came for us to set off on the inline skating ascent of another big hill, the heavens opened and streams were flowing down the roads. This wasn’t slowing down Team Explore who came flying down the hill into transition at breakneck speed but perfectly in control! As was our more relaxed style we soon ditched the skates when the climb steepened up and jogged around the orienteering controls we had to collect, making up some time lost on the skates with Bruce’s efficient navigation. Back at transition we were able to leave the skates and headed off on foot for another foot orienteering section encompassing a climbing wall challenge that was completed with more brute force and ignorance than skill and grace. The navigation on the loop was probably the most technical of the race, but Bruce did a great job and we were soon facing our final control, on an island in the middle of a very fast flowing river. Local fishermen were proudly displaying some massive salmon they’d caught at the same spot so we took inspiration and swam for all our worth to avoid being swept downstream.
Once the orienteering was complete we were mentally beginning to feel on the home stretch, with a relatively short ride through the forest taking us to a beautiful Thai Pavilion and the start of the sailing leg. We were lucky to have Marty, a sailor, in the support team and Nicola, a sailing instructor, in the race team, so by the time we had arrived Marty had prepared the boat, Nicola Wiseman had prepared a lot of food and drink and Nicola MacLeod had figured out how to sail our dinghy as fast as possible. With 56km to cover we were lucky to be sailing in a wide river with a tail wind and immediately Nicola’s sailing skill was obvious as she positioned us in the boat for the best trim and we began to really move. By halfway we had made up about 90 minutes on Team Explore in front and were close to catching them, but the wind that had been so good simply disappeared and we slowed to a crawl. Determined to sail and not paddle, we moved slowly for many more hours and watched as Explore paddled away and Team Finland approached us from behind. We knew that both teams would be much faster than us on the final inline skating so we had no reason to rush and enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in the boat and be carried by the current. Eventually, we succumbed to the inevitable and began to paddle to keep warm, with transition finally appearing after 16 hours in our little ‘Fisher Price’ dinghy. It was fun, but it was cramped for four adults and not a place designed to spend such a long period of time, so we were glad to see the back of it!
Having sat on our backsides for so long, it was like watching four young deer on ice as we left the transition on inline skates. Co-ordination and balance had deserted us and we weren’t helped by the increasing traffic flow on the road. Once we’d summitted the first and, thankfully, only hill, we felt better and began to enjoy the long gradual downhills, even picking up some speed and letting ourselves go, all the way down into Sundsvall. Despite this, it still took us twice as long as most of the teams in front of us, so it was driven home again just how much we need to improve for future races.
Our final watersports stage was a very tame, relaxed and enjoyable rafting section on a flatwater canal for 7km, taking about an hour and bringing us into the heart of Sundsvall. From here we had a very quick transition to put some cycling kit on and jumped on our bikes for one last time, to ride through town and up, up, up the switchback climb to our hotel and the finish line!
We crossed the line in a time of 121 hours and 39 minutes, giving us 8th place, behind winners Lundhags, which we were pretty satisfied with. We’d traversed Sweden and back again, in the process riding more kilometres than in the first five days of the 2009 Tour de France! Our support crew had been fantastic and a vital part of our race, so it was great to have them there at the finish line to celebrate with the obligatory champagne spraying. Marty and Nicola had never done anything like this before so they performed above and beyond what we’d hoped for and we owe them a great deal. They were always in the right place at the right time, with the right kit and just the right food, drink and encouragement. They looked after us like children and with the mess we made in every transition it was no wonder they described us as ‘four toddlers’! Thanks Mum and Dad, Nicola and Marty!
The race was a spectacular success as always for Mikael Lindnord, despite being involved in a car accident himself mid-race (he’s fine now), and we felt proud to have completed his ‘Monster’. Everything was top class: the variety of activities; the terrain; the adrenaline and excitement of the discplines; the quality of maps and transitions; and the race hotel headquarters.
We have to thank our sponsors for making our great adventures possible, so thank you to Helly Hansen, Nuun, Paramo, 2 Pure/Clif Bar, Marin Bikes. OMM, Exposure Lights, For Goodness Shakes, Nordenmark and Willow, for the loan of our support van. We use our sponsor’s products because we believe they are the best available and we feel we are lucky to work with such great companies..
Salomon packs have been extremely popular in recent years particularly their 20 litre version, now called the XA 20 M. The classic U-shaped zip access remains from previous versions and that’s a good thing as accessibility into the pack is very good. Over time, with regular overstuffing, the water resistant zips can get a bit tired, but you probably need a bigger bag then! Inside the main compartment there is a small mesh zip pocket at the top and some fine mesh covered water drainage holes at the other end. A small horizontal zip on the front of the pack accesses a deep pocket and externally to that is a stretch mesh pocket, but unfortunately not stretchy or big enough to fit a helmet . Hydration bladders slot into a separate zip accessed bladder panel with a couple of velcro loops at the top to accept all manner of vertical bladder types. A bladder hose can be fed through either shoulder strap at your preference, however, it’s a tight squeeze if using a hose with a 90 degree bend. Also on the shoulder straps are clips to securely attach an optional extra chest pouch.
The back is well padded with the Airvent Lite system of expanded foam, which does add comfort, if a little bulk, but at very little weight, so gets the thumbs up. The waist belt is a wide mesh with a real enveloping fit. A buckle clips in the middle but adjustment is made at either end of the strap which has the effect of really hugging the pack in tight to the hips. With a well fitting shoulder harness yoke the bag is extremely comfortable in use. An interesting touch is the zips on the deep hip pockets which are reversed and open forwards to prevent the pullers catching on bushes and splaying open. Personally I’ve never found conventional zip direction a problem and I found accessing pocket contents a bit more difficult this way. Side bottle pockets are easy to use on the go and hold bottles securely. Side compression straps cinch the lower pack in tight for stability, but an external bungee cord tucked into one pocket just confuses. There are a number of loops through which the bungee cord can be passed in whatever configuration the user likes, but it’s not long enough to stash a helmet under and just seems like an afterthought. This lack of external carrying capacity is the only real drawback to an otherwise excellent bag.
Have to make a quick blatant plug for Mrs L’s new website that we’ve got up and running. So if you need physiotherapy treatment in the Swansea area at all – whether sports related or general aches and pains, she can sort you out. She’s a particular specialist on pelvis, lower back and pregnancy pain, but amazing at most things :o)
Review for UK Adventure Sports Magazine AR Pack Group Test
Summary – Exceptionally lightweight racing pack.
Made from the same fabric as their hugely successful Laserlite tent range, it’s thin, superlight, water-resistant and seems to be pretty tough. It has one large main compartment with a vertical water resistant zip, with an internal bladder pouch and a smaller slot pocket on one side. This design can place a lot of strain on the zip if over stuffed, but so far careful packing and a month’s use are showing no ill effects. Packing heavier items low in the ‘A’ shape packs keeps their weight off the zip and keeps the packs stable. External mesh pockets and thin bungee cords provide additional storage, and extra hypalon loops allow you to configure the cords for best compression or helmet carry. At first glance they look insubstantial, but in practice they held trekking poles securely on an extended mountain run. Hip pockets are easy to use and bottle pockets are attached to the hip belt for ease of access. The compression on these is a bit fiddly and can’t be tightened one handed or excessively as the thin bungee seems a bit fragile, but again it is effective. The harness is well fitting, stable and although back padding is just some well placed mesh, it is comfortable. At half the weight of some other packs around, it’s really at the cutting edge of racing equipment design and despite the low weight it still manages to be practical for everyday hill use.
Choosing the right pack for adventure racing is
almost as important as choosing footwear. For one to two day races like
the Rat Race Urban Adventure, Polaris Challenge, Open 24 etc, where a
reasonable load needs to be carried, then a 20-25 litre pack is what
most racers are going to need. Key factors in choosing a pack are the
volume, ease of access, comfort, stability, lightweight, hydration
bladder compatibility, volume adjustment or compression, and on the
Some things to look for are hip belt
pockets, adjustable chest strap, external bungees or mesh to hold
helmet or shoes, easy access side bottle pockets and a comfortable
harness that doesn’t dig into your neck. It’s unlikely that you’re load
will be heavy enough to require much padding on shoulder straps and you
may wish to look for optional removable back padding to reduce weight.
Often packs have ‘breathable’ mesh panels to keep your back cool but
rarely do they work well enough to make them a significant buying
A more important consideration is fit and comfort. A bag that bounces around when running is going to cause chafing and discomfort so look for back hugging packs that hold tight but allow you to move your arms and torso without restriction. I recently reviewed a range of packs for the UK Adventure Sports Mag July edition which I’ll publish here in due course.
1. Scattered showers with outbreaks of sunshine and a cold northerly
wind, is your idea of good weather.
2. The only sausage you like is square.
3. You were forced to do Scottish country dancing every year at high
4. You have a wide knowledge of local words, and know: Numpty is an
idiot, Aye is yes, Aye right is No, Auldjin is someone over 40, and
Baltic is cold.
5. You have an irrational need to eat anything from the chippy, as
long as its deep fried – Haggis, pizza, white pudding, sausage, fish,
chicken and battered Mars Bars.
6. You used to love destroying your teeth with – Penny Dainties,
Wham Bars, Cola Cubes, and Soor Plooms.
7. You always greet people by talking about the weather.
8. Even if you normally hate the Proclaimers, Runrig, Caledonia,
Deacon Blue, Big Country, etc, you still love it when they are played in a
club abroad. (in fact you’ll probably ask the DJ to play it)
9. You have an enormous feeling of dread, even when Scotland play a
10. You are proud that Scotland has the highest number of alcohol and
smoking deaths in Europe.
11. You used to watch Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade on a Sunday
Afternoon with his lamp Paladdin.
12. You got Oor Wullie and The Broons books Every Christmas.
13. You only enjoy Weir’s Way on the telly, when you are pissed.
14. You are able to recognise the regional dilect, (Glasgow) ‘Awright
pal, gonie gies a wee swatcha yir paper nat, Cheers, magic pal.
(Aberdeen) Fitlike Loon? Furryboots ya bin up tae? fair few quines in the
night, min. (Inverness) Ah-eee right enuffff! How’s you keeeepeeeen?
15. You know the police are about to arrive when you hear someone
16. You have witnessed a ‘Square Go’
17. You know that when you are asked which School you attended they
really mean, ‘Are you Catholic or Proddy?’
18. You have eaten the following: Mince and Tatties, Cullen Skink,
Tunnock’s Teacakes, Snowballs and Caramel Wafers, Porage, Macaroon Bar,
Baxters Soup, Scotch Pie, Oatcakes.
19. A Jakey has ask you for 10p for a cuppa tea.
20. You wait at the shop counter for 1p change.
21. You know that the right response to ‘you dancing?’ is ‘you askin?’
followed by ‘am askin’ and finally ‘then am dancin’.
22. You associated sawdust with vomit, coz the ‘jannie’ always, used to
pour it over sick in school.
23. You lose all respect for a groom who doesn’t wear a kilt.
24. You don’t do shopping, you ‘go for the messages.’
25. You’re on a bus and the drunk picks you to sit next to.
26. You are able to conduct a 20 minute phone call using three words
only,– Awright, aye, and naw.
27. When you refuse the offer of a drink, you hear, ‘ You no well?’
28. You have heard the following:
You canny fling pieces oot a 20 storey flat,
700 hungry weans’ll testify to that,
If its butter, cheese or jelly,
If the breed is plain or pan,
The chances o’ it reachin earth,
Are ninety nine tae wan.
29. You know that going to a party means bringin a Kerry oot.
30. Your holiday in Benidorm is ruined when you hear there is a heatwave
31. Scotland go 2-0 up against the French, and you immediately think,
getting beat 3-2 was ‘no a bad result’.
32. You can pronounce: McConnochie, Ecclefechan, Milngavie, and
33. You love deep fried Pizza.
34. You can’t pass a Kebab shop after being at the pub.
35. You are used to four seasons in one day. (winter, winter, autumn,
36. You can fall when drunk and not spill your drink.
37. You see people wearing shellsuits with Burberry accessories, and
think ‘thats class’.
38. You measure distance in minutes.
39. You understand Rab C. Nesbitt.
40. You go to Saltcoats because you think its abroad.
41. You can make a whole sentence using only swear words.
42. You know what haggis is made with, but you still enjoy it.
43. You know someone who planned their wedding around the football
44. You have been to a wedding and the football results have been
announced in church.
45. You are not surprised to find one shop selling ALL of the following:
Pizzas, Nappies, Fags, Curries, Milk, Paint, Shoes etc.
46. Your seaside home has Calor gas under it.
47. You know that Irn-Bru is a good hang over cure.
48. You could swear before you could count.
49. You would ‘nut’ a terrorist if they tried to bomb your Airport.
50. You are not only Scottish but Glaswegian when you understand the
following- How’s it hingin’, clatty, boggin’, cludgie, Ba’heid, bawbag,
and double nougat.
I recently finished reading an interesting and amusing Adventure Racing book which is basically a collection of short essays on racing experiences. It includes tales from pioneers and prominent racers in the sport over the past two decades through to marshals, first timers and consistent back of the packers. It’s definitely worth looking out on Amazon from the link below.
The introduction has the following manifesto that I really liked. Apologies to the author, I can’t recall your name!
If you’re not hungry, you’re carrying too much food
If you’re not thirsty, you’re carrying too much water
If you are warm, you have too many clothes
If you’re not wet, scratched and bruised, you took the long way
If you’re not frightened, you have too much gear
If you’re not tired, you’re going too slowly
If you’re not drop down sleepy, you’re getting too much rest
And if you finish the race on schedule, it was too easy anyway!
I’m testing a batch of waterproof jackets for UK Adventure Sports Magazine this week from Paramo, Haglofs, Rab, and Berghaus. Hopefully a few more will show up, but I wasn’t expecting the little surprise that arrived with Mr UPS from Germany. Seems I was sent a Gore Running Wear Air System Gilet to review alongside the other jackets, but this one is a little bit different so I’m not sure it really fits in. Will probably have to look at it separately and in more detail.
It’s constructed from a mixture of different Gore fabrics, Performance Shell and Paclite along their Comfort Mapping theme – putting tougher fabrics in higher wear spots and lighter, more breathable fabrics where they can get away with it. You might spot the unusual looking matrix across the front, which continues on around the lower back. This is an air chamber that can be inflated by blowing in the black valve on the chest, creating a web of small compartments on the inside. These trap warm air next to the skin, in the same way as down or synthetic insulation does, however, being Gore, the outer fabric is waterproof, making this a pretty interesting piece. So its a waterproof gilet with adjustable insulation, that won’t stop performing if it gets wet like down, or becoming sodden like Primaloft etc. I’ve yet to try it in anger, but I can see it being quite versatile meaning days on the hills with a windproof need only be augmented by the gilet if the weather turns shit. Keeping the core dry is clearly the most important point, which this will do. Still getting chilly or stopped at a belay point midway up a climb? Just blow in the valve for some instant insulation. Ready to move again? Just release the valve and be on your way!
I’m keen to see how it works out and about on the hills, but in the short term I quite like this, but that’s maybe just because its different and I welcome Gore’s attempts to bring something different to the market. My only niggle at the moment is a lack of handwarmer pockets, but hey it is designed for runners and who runs with their hands in their pockets?
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