Cost Smock £110
+ Four way stretch fabric, light, close fitting, simple, good value, thumb loops
- Non-helmet compatible hood. New fabric so untested for long term use
The latest incarnation of the Kamleika range features a new Gelanots fabric with four-way stretch, and a new tighter outer knit to help with water repellency which also gives a softshell feel. Waterproofing and breathability are improved on older models with tests showing eVent-like levels of performance. The fit is close, relying on the very effective inherent stretch to give freedom of movement. With a particularly close fitting hood and all black fabric, wearers may be guilty of feeling like a stealth ninja! The hood fits close, almost like a balaclava, which moves with the head reasonably well on our prototype sample, and this may improve in finished versions. The peak is foam filled and flops against the face in strong winds but again, this may improve before they hit the shops. The main water resistant zip comes to mid chest level and is a two-way zip allowing ventilation from the bottom. A laser-cut external chest pocket is also accessed via a water-resistant zip. Thumb loops are excellent for keeping wrists covered when running and biking but mean there’s no adjustment at the elasticated cuffs if you don’t get on with the loops. Finished off with an adjustable, elasticated waist and plentiful reflective graphics on the sleeves, make this an excellent, simple close fitting jacket for high energy sports. Also available in a slightly looser fitting jacket version with full length zip and handwarmer pockets.
+ Slim fit, weight, pack size
- No hood, value
Designed for runners, this Gore Paclite jacket is unusual in featuring no hood – most runners prefer a hat to a hood. However, most adventure racing kit lists will demand a hood and one can be attached to a Velcro tab at the collar. The cut is athletically slim, clearly designed for lean runners rather than short, barrel-bellied ramblers and there is drawcord adjustment at hem and collar. The Gore Paclite fabric is light and narrow seam tapes help keep overall weight down and breathability up. Aiding this is a permanently open vent across the back of the shoulders, allowing through venting. Opening the high fleece lined collar wide and air will flow through without billowing up the jacket. Fine when training but useless in any race when carrying a pack. The collar isn’t adjustable so if it’s not snug enough you’ll get a bit drafty. Adjustable, elasticated sleeves are long enough to give full freedom of movement and they have enough stretch to allow pulling up when things get warm. The main water resistant zip is backed by a stiffened panel to keep rain out. A small pocket on the right hip will take a mobile, tissue and car keys. There’s some reflective piping along some seams, but not really enough for all round visibility to feel safe on the bike at night. The lack of a hood obviously means it’s not ideal for AR, but as a running jacket it works well and weighs little though is expensive compared to others.
Unique harness system for optimum load distribution
The Enduro 20 features a unique harness that joins at the chest with a large velcro patch to distribute weight across the chest and take some load and abrasion off the shoulders. It feels stable like a packvest but more breathable and durable. The main compartment is accessed by a U shaped zipper across the top of the pack and inside is a bladder sleeve and one central hose exit port at the top of the pack. A hook inside is designed to hold a Nalgene bladder and is a bit awkward with other brand’s designs. There is a small external zip pocket on the front of the pack and there are welcome loops for carrying ice axes or trekking poles. An external helmet holder is a clumsy mixture of mesh and bungee that doesn’t do anything to compress the pack when not completely full but does hold a helmet securely. Side bottle holders are quite tight and hold bottles well, but aren’t the easiest to access on the move. An interesting feature is the waist belt, which closes with velcro and is elasticated for comfort but can also be removed completely, as can the mesh hip pockets which again attach by velcro. The mix of 70 (light) and 210 (tougher) denier fabrics produces a lightweight but robust bag and the smooth fabrics have been well placed on the back of the pack to minimise next to skin abrasion.
A few points since the original review that have been noted. The chest strap configuration can be problematic for bigger breasted women, so one to definitely try fully loaded in the shop before purchase, just in case. Aside from that, the pack has been passed onto other testers and I’ve heard nothing bad to report. I wish I’d had a bit more time with this one to really put it through its paces but that’s the way it works with 8 bags to review at a time, there’s just not enough training hours in the week!
(Review written for UK Adventure Sports Magazine)
It barely seems possible that it’s now a year since my team mates finished the last great expedition adventure race on Earth – The Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race. Not only did they finish, they finished first by a margin of 19 hours after 6 and 1/2 days racing. The same Helly Hansen Prunesco team of Bruce Duncan, Nicola MacLeod, Mark Humphrey and Andy Wilson are now back in Southern Chile within touching distance of Antarctica ready to go through it all again in order to retain their title.
This time the race will start with an 8km paddle across the (in)famous Magellan Straits and then head onwards over land for 600km across the island of Tierra del Fuego using nothing better than satellite imagery to navigate by. They face epic legs totalling 330km on bike, 220km on foot and 60km of paddling, hopefully finishing first in around 6 days. The Patagonian wind is legendary and is already blowing relentlessly, which can be so mentally frustrating when heading into it for days on end, but the guys are tough and they know what they need to do to win so they’ll be giving it their all as always. Just wish I was there! Hopefully there’ll be updates up on the team Facebook page or website during or soon after the race so we can all see what adventures they have been getting up to in the wilds. I’ll report on Twitter when I get any updates too so keep an eye out.
+ Ultra lightweight, simplicity, superb hood
- Long term durability, breathability, expensive
Made from the latest Gore-Tex Paclite fabric this is a weight fetishist’s dream jacket. Haglofs’ clever smock design means the jacket, excluding hood, is only produced from two pieces of fabric. This results in minimal seam taping, hence reduced weight and improved breathability (as seam tape will never be as breathable as bare fabric). It’s squarely aimed at fast and light movers looking for the lightest, most packable fully waterproof shell around and there are none better at the moment. The face fabric, to which the Gore membrane is laminated, is exclusive to Haglofs and is extremely light, which with the minimalist design gives a genuine weight of 175grams for the test size medium. Body cut is slim, as would be expected, and features are sparse to save weight. It does have a laminated front chest pocket, (not big enough for an OS map) and an astounding hood with unusual external compression system.
There is compression adjustment by a toggle at the back of the head, which thankfully doesn’t get in the way when worn under a bike or climbing helmet. Dual toggles adjust the peak position, but in windy conditions I found the peak a bit too floppy and some other reviewers including PTC, have modified their Oz’s by inserting speaker wire into the peak brim. Check out their sites for details on modifications, however, the 2010 Oz, now called the OZO will feature a stiffer peak.
There are thumb loops in the sleeves to keep wrists covered while running, scrambling or on the bike and an adjustable elasticated hem. The fabric was very waterproof during testing, though breathability struggled when working really hard and the inside often felt damp to the touch (not to be confused with leaking). Paclite has a habit of breathing well then suddenly being overwhelmed, creating a damp inner surface. However, those that understand fabric technology will understand that internal condensation is crucial in how Gore-Tex fabrics work, so some should be expected. Additionally, I’ve always been of the mindset for fast moving sports, that if it’s cold enough to need a full waterproof shell, as opposed to a windshell, then chances are you’ll be (or should be) wearing a long sleeve wicking baselayer, so you simply won’t feel any clamminess next to your skin.
Anyway, if weight and pack size are your priorities in a waterproof shell and you want the assurance that your jacket will protect you from the heavens when they open, then look no further, the Haglofs Oz Pullover is a stunningly good jacket. As the 2009 Oz is fazed out and replaced by the 2010 OZO then there are many bargains to be had, in fact a quick search reveals it at half price here. Get there quick!
Weight 410 grams
+ eVent fabric, stretch panels, helmet compatible, breathability, fit
- Stiff feeling fabric at first, expensive
For a company that makes so much excellent lightweight outdoor gear, it’s a little surprising perhaps that this is the first item I’ve had the chance to review for sleepmonsters.com or UK Adventure Sports Magazine. Hopefully it won’t be the last, as the quality and performance of their products is superb and the constant refinement of designs means that over the past few years they’ve really sharpened up a range of ‘Fast and Light’ that’s got to be near the top of most people’s ‘Must Try’ list.
Heavy on features and talking points, the Halo could be the jacket for those looking for bombproof weather protection and excellent breathability . The, unique to Montane, lightweight eVent fabric is as waterproof as it gets with breathability surpassing the best Gore has to offer, meaning it works especially well for those who run hot. It feels stiff at first but after a couple of washes it will soften. Stretch fabric panels on the back, underarms and forearms give extra freedom of movement especially noticeable when wearing a pack while scrambling. The hip and forearm sections are reinforced for durability at minimal extra weight.
The integral wire-peaked hood offers great face protection and will cinch tight around the head as well as accommodating a helmet underneath. It’s a superb fit whether onto bare head or helmet and the neck section is long enough to allow full freedom of movement and with the stretch panels gives a proper ‘ninja’ feel. There are two soft mesh lined handwarmer pockets, which help with venting and there’s a large chest pocket which features a ‘love it or hate it’ upside-down water-resistant zip to make getting something from the bottom of the pocket easy. On the plus side it’s easy to get small things in and out of the pocket and it stops the weather getting in when you need that lip balm hiding in the bottom corner, but it can be easy for small items to fall out when you pull that fat gloved hand out again…swings and roundabouts. Another boon is that the pockets are designed to be expandable so as you fill them, they increase in volume internally instead of stretching the exterior fabric, ultimately increasing comfort.
Body fit is ‘athlete-ready’ close, though relatively long making it suitable more for walking and mountaineering, than running. There’s not a whole bunch of reflectivity going on, but those looking for such featured are probably in the minority and there are a few patches dotted around to keep your mind at ease for those late night bimbles along dark lanes. Pleasingly, long arms keep wrists covered when stretched out on the bike or jumaring, making this a great all conditions, all-activity jacket ready for the toughest expedition races.
The waterproofing level of the fabric is top of the line as is breathability, so combined with great fit and exceptional freedom of movement, I’m struggling to see any downsides to this jacket. The water repellent treatment on the fabric is still beading up after 8 months of use and when the time comes I know it can easily be revitalised in the washing machine – another of eVent’s many great attributes is its machine wash capability, something that is in fact recommended to be done often to keep it oil and much free and keep it performing optimally. If push came to shove I’d have to say there are other jackets that come close in performance but don’t have the stretch panels, for example, and therefore are on the shelves for a bit less moolah, however, I’ve seen the Halo in the sales for as little as £150 so if you see one, snap it up quick!
+ Weight, fabric, great cut, long arms, hood
- Nothing really
The Momentum is Rab’s lightest eVent jacket to date and is aimed squarely at alpine climbers and adventure racers. It’s made from lightweight three-ply eVent with a micro-grid rip-stop pattern for added strength and there is narrow seam tape on ‘non-critical’ seams to save weight. Breathability is as good as it gets for a traditional hard shell fabric and the close fit helps with the Direct Venting eVent is well-known for. It’s short at the front for freedom of movement and long at the back for backside protection. The hood has a wide range of adjustment and will cover a climbing helmet with wired peak protecting the face. It moves as one with the head and is one of the best hoods we’ve ever come across. Something we’re pleased to see is long arms that keep wrists covered when stretching out – why can’t other manufacturers get this simple, key factor right? There are two Napoleon style deep chest pockets that will swallow OS maps with water resistant zips. Zip garages on the pocket and main zip help stop water penetrating any gaps and the main zip is two-way easing use over a climbing harness. While weight isn’t down there with the sub-200g products, it is nonetheless acceptably light and packed down it occupies little space. At the moment it looks like Rab are onto a winner with this jacket and only longer term use will judge how the light fabric stands up to abuse. So far so very good!
Bottom Line – UK Adventure Sports Magazine Recommended
When you think about it, jackets for adventure racing have a pretty tough set of criteria to meet. For the most critical buyers, they must protect from torrential rain, keep you comfortable when you’re working hard and standing still, be Challenger tank durable, weigh less than a sparrow’s fart and cost virtually nothing. Enough freedom of movement to do some gymnastics wouldn’t be a bad thing either! Of course, life’s about compromises and although a bin bag may be 100% waterproof it offers zero breathability, whilst a tissue-thin, highly breathable, ‘waterproof’ may yield to anything more than fog. Accepting that you can’t get everything for nothing is wise. Light, cheap, and fully functional – pick two.
Sometimes racers that love their gear and gadgets get carried away with features, but it’s worth considering what exactly the jacket will be used for. Mostly competing in sprint races? Well it’s unlikely that you’ll be plodding along with your hands in your pockets, so why do you need them? When the race lasts only a few hours and you’re working hard all the time, do you really need ultimate waterproof protection when light weight, packability and breathability are more relevant? If expedition racing is your thing then it’s key to have trust in the ability of your jacket to cope with the worst weather and be durable enough to survive a tumble or scrapes against rocks. If you’re into both sorts of racing, as well as other outdoor sports, you’ll already realise that you probably need to look at more than one jacket to fit your needs.
Aside from the key factors (weight, price, fabric etc), key things to look for are:
- arms that are long enough to keep wrists covered when stretched on bike or scrambling
- body length short at front for leg mobility and long at the rear to cover your bum on the bike
- close fitting or adjustable hood that moves with your head
A series of reviews from the Autumn edition of UK Adventure Sports Magazine will follow including, Rab Momentum, OMM Kamleika Smock, Haglofs Oz, Helly Hansen Volt, Paramo Velez Adventure Light, Montane Halo Stretch, Gore Running Wear Axis II, and Berghaus Paclite Jacket.
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..
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.