Ian is a photographer, writer, reviewer and blogger at iancorless.com. Ian is currently travelling the world capturing stories from some of the most iconic ultras on the planet. Ian is also creative director and host of an ultra running podcast called Talk Ultra. The show is available every 2 weeks 'for free' on iTunes and talkultra.com.
The trail and ultrarunning world was shocked yesterday, Monday November 30th with the news that 2017 UTWT (Ultra-Trail World Tour) champion, Andrea Huser, was killed while training on Sunday November 29th.
Media resource, 20min.ch reported, “The sports scene mourns Andrea Huser: The athlete and mountain bike European champion from 2002 had a fatal accident while training in Saas-Fee.”
Rescue workers from the Saastal rescue station found the 46-year-old dead above Saas-Fee in the Oberi Schopfen area around noon on Sunday. Canton police in Valais, have reported, “she wanted to cross a stream several meters long while training. She apparently slipped and fell about 140 meters down a steep slope.”
Andrea, was reserved and avoided the limelight. She let her performances speak for themselves and her reputation within the sport of mountain, ultra and trail running was without compromise.
Gediminas Grinius, a friend and fellow competitor posted via social media, “I was lucky enough to call Andrea my dear friend & though it feels not fair to loose her so sudden and early, sooner or later we once again be playing together on the endless running trails!”
Known recently for exploits as a trail runner, Andrea was also a world-class mountain biker who In 2002, was crowned European champion and was Swiss champion in cycling marathon in 2004. Triathlon, cross-country skiing and of course running, her reputation was fortified in tough mountain races, “Give me steep climbs, technical trails and fast downhills” she told me on the finish line of Transgrancanaria.
“Many of us have had the privilege of meeting Andrea. She won the UTWT title in 2017. A bright and discreet woman leaves us too fast”
Marie Sammons for Ultra-Trail World Tour via Twitter
“She was an extraordinary ultrarunner, some seasons she literally run everything, linking ultras every week. We’ll miss you Andrea. My condolences to the family and friends.”
Episode 199 of Talk Ultra we talk with Hayden Hawks and Camille Herron who both won JFK50.
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Winter is looming. It’s dark in the morning and darkness arrives earlier and earlier in the evening. The lure of a treadmill or training in a gym is just not an option for some and therefore the need to be outdoors getting in some fresh air is essential for day-to-day function. So, if you are going to keep running during the winter months a headlamp is going to be essential. Here is a guide to help you make the correct choice.
Headlamps are an important piece of kit and arguably one that is ‘mandatory’ when heading to the trails, particularly during winter months or when racing. It may be light when you leave home, but have you noticed how suddenly the light switch is flicked off and how quickly light disappears. If you are on the road (with streetlights) this is not too much of an issue but if you are off-road, you are going to need a light that illuminates the trail, has durability and good battery life.
One thing I hate about running at night is that I eventually fall into the beam and I feel that I am in a tunnel. It affects my mind, my vision and my concentration. Many head torches have ‘beam options’ that usually are ‘narrow’ or ‘wide’. This option is an essential item to allow you to adapt to the environment and your vision needs.
NARROW will focus the beam. For example, you may be running single-track and need vision in a very specific area. You need to see roots, rocks or any other obstacles. The narrow beam will facilitate your vision and allow you to make on-the–go decisions without losing speed.
WIDE as it suggests provides a softer more widespread light that provides a much more general field of view. This tends to work well with clearer skies or on open trail when obstacles are reduced.
Some head torches have two lamps, one wide and one narrow that provides the best of both worlds. some headlamps allow ‘variations’ between wide and narrow.
Brightness is measured in lumens and while many think more lumens are better, this is not always the case. Brightness is a key consideration for faster sports such as skiing and Mountain Biking when the need to react at speed is paramount. But for running, the pace is lower and therefore the need for a really bright light is not essential. Many headlamps have several settings, for example, a 400-lumen product may have a 50, 200 and 400 setting. This is useful when using a headlamp in mixed lighting/ darkness scenarios. If running on roads with streetlights, you may only need to be visible and then 50 lumens is ideal. However, if you are on dark forest trails with no ambient light, 400 lumens will be required.
In addition, some products have a ‘flash’ option that can be used for safety.
Manually adjusting brightness with 1, 2 or 3 clicks is for me preferable to some of the new head torches that ‘auto-adjust’ to conditions. I have issues with these when in fog, mist, rain and so on as the sensor becomes confused. It over engineers a simple problem that a button click resolves.
Be careful of ‘boost’ modes, they are designed to produce brighter light for shorter periods, they will eat through battery life.
Understand your needs and be specific when purchasing. A light that provides too much power can be turned down BUT a light with not enough lumen cannot be turned up.
Also, when looking at power and brightness, this goes hand-in-hand with the beam. A narrow beam may well require less power because the beam is so concentrated, however, when on wide, you may wish to up the power as the light provided is softer.
Battery life, lumen power and weight are a delicate balancing act. Quite simply, autonomy comes from a larger battery and that will always mean more weight. If you are using a bright headlamp on a full power setting, then you need to balance this combination and understand your needs.
If you use a headlamp occasionally, using conventional batteries such as AAA or AA may be an option. However, regular headlamp use will almost certainly require rechargeable batteries which are better on cost and the environment.
Top tip: Choose a headlamp that can switch between conventional batteries and rechargeable seamlessly. Not only does this provide the best of both worlds but it will also allow you the opportunity to always have conventional batteries as a backup.
Another key consideration is the option to use the batteries on and off the headband. The reasons for this are twofold:
The more power/ autonomy you need, the heavier the battery will be. The option to store in a pack or pocket is considerably more comfortable.
In colder weather, batteries last longer if warm. Storing off the head and in a pocket close to your torso will provide more autonomy.
Be specific. If you run typically 1-2 hours on dark trails, a 400-lumen light will be ideal, and the batteries will last for the duration of the run.
If you are running and you know you will have 8-hours or more under darkness, you will almost certainly need one spare set of batteries and maybe even two! So, the option to change rechargeable batteries and/or use conventional batteries can be a deal breaker. The Silva Trail Runner Free balances this perfectly with multiple options available.
On a final note, batteries can either fit in the lamp unit at the front (typically 2 x AA or 3 x AAA) or at the rear in a battery box that is sealed from the weather. The latter option usually means that you will have more power and the light will have more autonomy, but you will need to check! Is one better than the other? It all depends on your preference; I have found that a lamp at the front and batteries at the back balances the light well when in use. However, I do like the simplicity of everything in the head unit as it does allow you to use the light in other scenarios.
Headlamps will tilt and some swivel. The tilt function is most important and will allow you to adjust the angle of the light based on your running style. This is important as we all have different run styles. You want the beam to be in a natural position taking into account your head angle whilst running and what field of vision you require. Usually, 2-3 meters ahead is ideal as this allows a natural run pace without slowing due to vision problems. If the trail is gnarly, you may need to adjust the angle, power and beam so that you are able to see obstacles.
Fog and mist can cause issues for any headlamp. Instinctively you try to increase the light to improve visibility only to find the light bounces back and makes visibility worse. In this scenario, using a light on your chest or waist can make improvements – just like they way fog lights on a car work. Simply removing the torch from your head and holding in your hand will improve matters considerably. Some actually prefer chest or waist mounted lights all the time. Personally I do not. I think they are a good addition to a headlamp but not a replacement.
Nearly all head torches use an elastic system to stretch around the head and hold the light in place. One or two also include a strap that goes over the top of the head too. This adds extra stability but often is a problem when wearing hats and so on. Ultimately you just want something that is comfortable.
Night running is awesome. If you haven’t tried it, head out with friends at first, you will feel more secure as It can take some getting used to as you may feel disorientated.
But once you have the feel for it, it will be something you embrace and of course it adds some spice to your running.
If snow falls, embrace the opportunity of dark skies, white snow and the glow of a light!
MoonlightMountain Gear provide very powerful lights beyond 2000 lumens HERE
Silva Trail Runner Free specifically for running that takes AAA and rechargeable HERE
A headlamp, a good one! is an essential item for any runner, be that for racing or training. Winter, short days and what can feel like constant darkness can stop training and force sessions indoors, however, a good lamp can make all the difference for helping you get out of the door. Recently I looked at headlamps by Norwegian brand, Moonlight, HERE who produce lamps with serious lumens for running, mountain biking, skiing or any sport that takes place in pitch darkness and bright illumination is required.
Silva with the Trail Runner Free have taken the head lamp to a superb next level offering a specific product for running with 400 lumen output. Comfortable, lightweight with beams optimized for running this is proving to be my ‘go-to’ lamp. The ability to use AAA batteries or an optional rechargeable battery in a Hybrid battery case make this extremely user friendly, even for long and relentless outings.
There are countless pluses to this new incarnation from Silva:
The free in the product name refers to the power cord being integrated into the headband. This provides a comfortable headlamp experience without distracting cords or tangled wires. The headband is soft with a silicone on the inside to stay in place. Gladly there is just one strap that goes around the head, there is no strap over the top of the head.
The weight is super-light coming in at 125g with the battery. Every part of the headlamp has been compressed and the unit only weighs 55 grams.
Hybrid battery case which can be used with AAA batteries (provided) and the option to purchase a Trail Runner Hybrid (1.15AH) battery for increased flexibility. The case has grip friendly surfaces and holds an integrated red rear safety light – adding extra visibility.
Importantly, the battery case can be used on or off the headband. An additional extension cable is provided so that you can store and use the battery in a pocket or a run pack – especially important in cold climates when warmth will allow the battery to last longer.
Customized light distribution via a double light beam with light settings that are perfect for running. A combination of a long reach spotlight and a close floodlight provides an excellent balance of close and long view perspectives which allows one to run with confidence, even at speed.
It has 3 modes of varying brightness, 400, 200 and 50 lumens. In good weather conditions, you can expect 2.5 hours on full power or 12-hours on minimum power.
IPX5 water resistance
77.00 (with AAA)
Hybrid Battery is 32.00
The TRAIL RUNNER FREE H is 109.00 and includes Hybrid Battery.
The TRAIL RUNNER FREE ULTRA is 127.00 and includes 4.0 Ah long-distance battery.
The base version Trail Runner Free is at a great price and is provided with 3x AAA batteries which means you can use it straight out of the packaging. The option to use AAA and a rechargeable is a deal breaker for me, especially if I am out on long adventures or if I was racing. The flexibility to be able to purchase batteries anywhere and use the head lamp is a win!
Choose Trail Runner Free with the Hybrid battery case and 3 x AAA batteries if you don’t run on a daily basis, but still value long burn time.
In reality though, the best option is to purchase the Trail Runner Free H that comes with a Hybrid Battery. I also purchased an additional spare battery for increased flexibility. This allows me to charge a battery while using the torch (I carry 3 x AAA in my pack as spares and for a ‘just in case’ scenario). Equally, I can carry a charged Hybrid battery as a spare too.
If you always run long, the Trail Runner Free Ultra has the largest battery and burn time offering 9-hours on full-power in good weather. This can reduce to below 5-hours in sub-zero temperatures.
Choose Trail Runner Free Ultra if you want to go for really long sessions with the 4.0Ah long-distance battery. With Free Ultra you also get the Hybrid battery case which can be used with either 3 x AAA batteries or by complementing it with a Hybrid battery (1.15Ah).
The head lamp, head band and Hybrid battery case is the same irrespective of which option you choose. Please note that with the Ultra, the larger 4.0Ah battery does not fit in the Hybrid case but can still be used on the head band or in a pocket using the included extension cable.
Comfort level is high with the Trail Runner Free and I would go as far to say, it’s arguably one of the most comfortable head lamps I have used, especially with no cables flapping around. However, because the cables are incorporated within the headband, adjusting is a little more laborious than in others I have used, it’s a minor niggle. On the head band the battery is well balanced, secure and comfortable.
The Hybrid battery pack easily attaches or removes from the head band allowing for great flexibility.
It has an inbuilt red LED for safety.
This rear light has its own switch which you turn on by opening the rear battery cover and moving the small toggle switch, flashing or constant is available. There are pluses and minuses to this. The plus is that you do not need the rear light on, which will save some battery, especially if storing the battery and using in a pocket. The downside is twofold: 1. It’s easy to forget to turn the rear light on. 2. Opening the door and flicking the switch is just one extra thing to do and if it’s cold, almost impossible to do with gloves on.
The lamp itself is small, rotates up and down easily (even with gloves on) and the switch on the left-side is easy to press for illumination.
You press and hold to turn off, if you see a red light, the battery needs charging or changing. If you see green, all is good. There are two lamps, a spot and wide and they work exceptionally well.
At 400 lumens, the head lamp sits at a very comfortable balance of illumination v battery life. Lumens and brightness are not always the be all and end all for a head lamp, especially when running. For faster sports, MTB or skiing, illumination is crucial because everything is moving so much faster, with running, especially at night, everything is a little slower and 400 lumen works really well. I also feel that our eyes and perception adjust accordingly but I am aware that for some, this is not the case.
Not all head lamps are the same and the Trail Runner Free has become my ‘go-to’ and most likely the product I would recommend to others as a first option.
The reason being weight, comfort, price but most importantly the Hybrid battery combination and the flexibility it brings.
I have actually only used the Hybrid case on the head band three times (it was comfortable, no problem.) I have found that the best solution for me is to store the battery pack either in my run vest or in a pocket on my clothing.
The reasons for this are countless:
Less weight on the head.
Keeping the batteries warm so that they last longer.
I can change batteries without having to take the head lamp off.
Another key point is the flexibility to daily use a rechargeable battery (thus saving on costs and the environment) but also having 3x AAA with me should I need to have additional backup power. Of course, you can carry another rechargeable too OR use the larger 4.0Ah battery.
The combination of battery options, free technology, comfort, flexibility and 400 lumens all packaged into a running specific lamp make the Trail Runner Free a winner. There are a couple of minor niggles, but they are nothing to worry about and are certainly not real considerations when considering should I or should I not buy this head lamp. When purchasing, consider which model best suits your needs. But have knowledge knowing that you have complete flexibility afterwards to switch between batteries and how the battery is used. Highly recommended.
The concept of layering clothes for outdoor activity is fundamental, irrespective of the time of year. The three-layer system of base, mid and outer provides the opportunity to regulate one’s temperature whilst moving quickly or slowly for any outdoor pursuit.
The base layer is moisture-wicking layer that fits close to the skin is usually relatively thin and tight-fitting. Its primary goal is to wick sweat away from one’s body allowing the wearer to remain dry, warm and comfortable. Merino wool has long been hailed as the product to use as it has excellent wicking properties and retains heat, even when wet. Many consider the base to be just one layer, but two thin layers are often better than one thicker layer. Or a thin layer with thicker product over the top may well be required in extreme cold. Importantly with base layers, always take a spare with you. The opportunity to change to warm/ dry layers during long activities, particularly in extreme cold can be a life saver.
A base layer for the legs is only a consideration should you be adding a specific outdoor pant over the top. Again, merino works best for the base. If running, specific run tights (winter versions exist with windproof panels) are all that is usually required as the legs are moving constantly and therefore keeping warm. However, in extreme cold and wind one may need to re-think based on activity level. A base layer merino with a loose-fitting run pant over the top is an excellent scenario to start. The run pant could also be waterproof as mentioned below or for climbing, they could be down or synthetic such as Primaloft.
Often considered as an insulating layer, the mid layer also is very important for transporting excess heat from the body and base layer. Unlike the base layer, a midlayer should be looser fitting to facilitate the capture and retention of air. Air between the base and mid helps preserve heat and transport moisture. There is no definitive midlayer and often, the choice comes down to the activity you are doing, in what conditions and how active or inactive one is likely to be. For example, 100% merino is possible, a synthetic product such as Primaloft or a down product. Each has their own unique properties and uses with warmth to weight ratio being a prime consideration, particularly for an outdoor enthusiast. Depending on the product, a Merino midlayer will usually be heavier than synthetic and down being the most lightweight. Volume is a key consideration, down compresses amazingly and can be made exceptionally small fulfilling the best of most worlds, small size and low weight. Merino by contrast will take up a great deal of space with additional weight. The weather conditions will often dictate which mid layer you will choose, Merino is good for all conditions (wet and dry), Synthetic equally works well in wet and dry with a smaller volume size and weight. Down historically has only been good with guaranteed dry conditions as the down (goose or duck, goose being the best) becomes ineffective when wet. However, many brands now treat down to withstand water. This often goes via the name of Hydrophobic. Hydrophobic down has been treated with a durable water repellent that enables the down to dry quicker and resist water for longer, meaning it will perform better in damp conditions. This makes down jackets that utilize hydrophobic down more versatile, as they can be used in cold, damp conditions without being damaged.
Designed to protect you from the elements but equally allowing the person inside to lose excess heat, outer layers are essential for outdoor activities. Many products exist and many varieties exist such as Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, Pertex Shield, Proflex Waterproof, Hyrdroshell and the list goes on. If running and moving fast and light, your choice will be dictated by product weight and size. However, if hiking and mountaineering, a heavier duty and more resilient product will be required. Also keep in mind that pants will or may be required. Again, a running waterproof pant can be minimalist whereas a hiking pant will need to be more durable.
In Scandinavia, insulated shorts are extremely popular such as those by Haglofs. They provide extra warmth, without slowing you down or interfering with your activity. Primaloft Aerogel filling and treated with Fluorocarbon free DWR treatment to withstand all conditions.
Feet, hands and head are key places that need protection during cold and extreme weather. Often, you can get away with less layers on your core if your feet, hands and head are warm.
Most of one’s body heat is lost through the head and quite simply, humans are designed to make sure the head and brain is kept warm. So, in cold conditions, hand and feet warmth will be sacrificed if your head is cold. Adding a layer to your head is a guaranteed way to warm up immediately so treat this as a priority. Equally, if you are too warm, removing a head covering is an easy way to cool down quickly. A merino wool beanie, Buff or wrag is superb for maintaining warmth and just as the base layer, it will remove moisture and still keep you warm even when wet.
Cold hands make any outdoor activity miserable and there is no one definitive answer to how to keep hands warm as there are many variables based on the conditions you will be in. A good place to start is with a Merino liner glove. This liner can also be used as a stand-alone product on days when the ambient temperature requires. Over the liner, one has two options: glove or mitt. Mitts are guaranteed to be warmer, however, if you are climbing or doing a sport where finger dexterity is required, a mitt will not work. So, you need to assess your own personal needs. Finally, an outer waterproof layer can be an excellent idea if persistent rain and cold temperatures are to be encountered. You need to adapt the layers for the conditions and just like a hat, moving and adding gloves is a great way to regulate temperature.
Merino socks are essential for happy feet. In dry conditions they wick away sweat, in wet conditions they retain warmth. Just as with the body, layering socks is a great idea. Most of the time a sport specific merino sock will work, however, in winter, the demands on one’s feet increase. Consider a thin base layer sock with a thicker sock over the top, just like you would with your body. If you anticipate extreme cold and wet, a specific barrier sock may need to be considered such as a Sealskinz or equivalent.
Having multiple layers for any outdoor activity is a key to keeping warm and dry. There is no one-stop solution as the requirements vary from sport-to-sport. However, if you think base, mid and outer, you will be well equipped for any weather at any time of the year.
On October 26th 2020 I released via this website that Kilian Jornet would take on a 24-hour run at the Måndalen Stadium in Norway on November 8th.
This post was news to the ultra running world and it created a stir. It was BIG news. Just the thought that mountain man, climber, skier, alpinist, explorer and adventurer, Kilian Jornet, would contemplate running around a 400m loop was, well, crazy!
My news was copied, posted, re-quoted, shared and many media took my content, provided no credit and then shared the story.
Ironically, the news was short lived. Kilian direct messaged me to say he was too injured to contemplate this and then said via social media:
“Wow! I was all the day out and saw this just now 😅 Thanks for the idea guys!! At the moment I’m trying to get back from a injury (literally did my first run since last weekend) but why not to try to run something that long in the future..”
Suddenly, all the media who had posted were left perplexed and while many supported my news, I received countless negative comments, questions and basically nasty comments. I think the assumption was I had posted fake news, to coin a phrase.
I had been with Kilian at Hytteplanmila 10km Road Race (HERE) where he ran 29:59 in his first ‘official’ road race. He told me of a niggling injury and that he would take a week off. In the following days (w/c Oct 19th), I heard news of the 24-hour attempt. This came from multiple sources, primarily athletes who were being invited to join Kilian on November 8th at Måndalen Stadium.
“In fact, the assault on the 24-hour challenge was scheduled for the first week of November, but Kilian was forced to delay it due to the discomfort that appeared after running his first 10 km race on asphalt, the Hytteplanmila, in 29 ‘ 59 ” in mid-October.” – Albert Jorquera writing for Runedia
It was difficult to confirm the story. That is until Sunday October 25th when a post on Norsk Ultra was made public. It was only a matter of time before this news became available for all.
I wrote my article HEREand reached out for quotes. The post once live went viral. I guess the rest is history… The announcement today by Salomon and Kilian is vindication, albeit the date of the event was wrong (injury doesn’t work to dates), of my original post.
November 15th,Salomon and Kilian Jornet released simultaneously.
The date may have changed (due to injury) but the location and the concept remain the same. Kilian Jornet will run 24-hours on a track.
The release of the news by Salomon is extremely welcome and it so wonderful to hear the Kilian will push himself on a new stage. The original concept was an attempt to break the record of ultrarunnning legend Yiannis Kouros. The reality is 756 laps of a 400m track. Yiannis set the world record at 188.590-mile.
The event will take place at *Måndalen Stadium, and should have happened on the weekend of November 21/22 and as per my original post, the provision of +/- 2-days may need to be considered for weather. (*Lymbus who manage Kilian confirm the location to be Måndalen.)
The attempt has now been pencilled for Friday 27th November with a 1030 am start – to be confirmed! Weather looks cloudy with some sun but temperatures could drop to -7 if long term forecasts are to be relied on.
Salomon say, “The start time of Kilian’s Phantasm24 challenge is slightly weather dependent…”
Currently, weather forecasts are very poor with 70/80% chance of snow and temperatures between -1 and -3 during the day, they would be much colder at night. The stadium Måndalen Stadium is outdoor and this in itself brings a whole new dynamic to any 24-hour should this be the confirmed location. Norway in November, minimal daylight and cold temperatures, this will be a tough 24-hour.
To follow all the health prevention measures against the Covid pandemic, the challenge will be closed to the public. But it will be possible to watch live HERE
Titled #kilianphantasm24 – the project will see Kilian push new personal boundaries and at the same time, provide exposure for the Phantasm shoe. I am currently aware (tbc) of several other high-profile athletes who ‘may’ join Kilian on the track, Didrik Hermansen, Simen Holvik, Sebastian Conrad and two more, Harald Bjerke and Jo Inge Norum I believe.
“My hopes are to set a new national record and to have the honor to run 24 hours with these fantastic people.” – Simen Holvik
“So, now we all know! Going to be exiting. I will do the 24h, zero degrees.. hopefully no wind!” – Didrik Hermansen.
For perspective, to break the Yiannis Kouros world record, any runner would need to be able to cover an incredible 7.875-miles per hour. Statistics show that from the ‘test’ run by Kilian earlier in August 2020 that this objective may be possible? He ran 84.89km in 5:58:13 with an average 4:13/km pace. The numbers speak for themselves, it’s a huge undertaking, especially on an outdoor tack. However, it is going to be fascinating to see what happens with each journey of the 400m.
“…and now I am super excited to test myself doing something that long (and far from what I like) but where I will learn so much and grow as an athlete. (And probably doing this 24h in a track because I love that pain feeling.)”
Episode 198 of Talk Ultra brings interviews with Michael McLean, winner of the 120km Thailand by UTMB, Molly Bazilchuk who won the first edition of the Rondane 100 in Norway and Jack Scott from the UK about his recent FKT.
Talk Ultra needs your help! We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON Donate HERE
Pau Capell continued his personal projects and followed up UTMB and Trail Menorca solo by running in Tenerife starting at the sea, summiting Mt Teide and then dropping back down to sea level setting a new FKT 6:13:20 for the 55km route.
La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE Moonlight head lamp review HERE inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE
Italian brand, La Sportiva, take running shoe specialization to the next level with the VK Boa®, a shoe that is specifically designed to go mountain as quickly as possible in the lightest package available.
To understand the shoe, you need to understand its purpose.
The VK in the name refers to Vertical Kilometer® a sport created on the slopes of Monte Rosa in 1994 by Marino Giacometti, the founder and creator of the sport, Skyrunning. Governed by the ISF, the International Skyrunning Federation, the sport is simple in concept – To cover 1000 vertical meters in a course that is less than *5km long with average incline of 20%. Double (2000m) and triple (3000m) VK’s also exist.
Initially created for scientific research the VK concept grew and it has become a staple in the calendar of skyrunning with its own specific calendar and relative world and European champions. Often, a VK would be added on to a race weekend that included another longer race, the Dolomites being a prime example where a VK would take place on Friday and a SkyRace on Sunday. Competitors often do both races. The world record stands at 28-minutes 53-seconds by Philip Goetsch set at one of the steepest VK’s in the world, Fully, which covers the 1000 vertical meters in a course that is only 1.92km long. The finish line is 1500m altitude.
The VK sport was created in Italy and the La Sportiva brand was born in Italy, the synergy between the two is obvious.
To create a specific shoe for VK not only shows the demand, especially in Italy, for such a shoe, but also the enthusiasm for the sport. The 2020 the Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit, managed by SkyMan, was cancelled however, the ISF have confirmed the sport will continue and recently they announced a new 2VK circuit – HERE
La Sportiva VK Boa®
Like track spikes, the VK Boa is a very specific shoe.
It’s all about minimal weight, secure foot hold, grip and a package that turns the eye. I have to say, the classic black/yellow/red of La Sportiva has always appealed and here in the VK Boa® that is taken up a notch to make what I think is a really ‘sexy’ shoe.
The striking look pulls you in and then you pick the shoe up, at sub 200g for a standard UK8 (230g for a UK9.5) this shoe is amazingly light.
The upper is just one seamless sock with a narrow opening from which one inserts the foot. Three wide straps come across the shoe to create the foothold and structure and conventional laces have been removed to be replaced with the Boa® rapid closure system.
A minimal toe bumper offers toe protection.
The outsole is a story of two halves: the front using a black semi-aggressive grip with relatively small lugs (25) the rear has a different configuration in red.
Cushioning, as one would expect is minimal but surprisingly more than I expected.
Drop is 4mm.
The shoe is described as being ‘universal’, but I do feel some support under the arch.
Sizing is true to size.
Firstly, getting one’s foot into the shoe is a little tricky. This shoe is designed like a Formula 1 car and as such, excess is taken away. One you have your foot inside, take time to wiggle your foot, make sure your heel is in the correct place and ensure that you pull the upper up, just like a sock.
There is no tongue. Tightening the shoe is done from the Boa® closure by turning the dial. Do this slowly making sure the laces sit where you want them. Taking time here will ensure a great foothold, particularly on the important Navicular bone.
The heel box is really impressive and rightly so for a shoe that is designed for going uphill. A lack of secure hold at the rear and it would prove really problematic. I’d go as far to say that the VK Boa® has the most secure and tight-fitting heel box of any shoe I have tried.
The toe box area, just like socks, is free of any reinforcement and extremely slipper like. It is not narrow and not wide, but the freedom of movement offered by the bi-elastic mesh would make this shoe work for most people. La Sportiva call it Low Volume which is designed for a tight fit following foot shape.
The outsole is very clever, La Sportiva know that when doing a VK, the front of the shoe is used almost 100% with only occasional use of the shoe rear. The outsole reflects this with two different grips and notably there is ‘rock-guard’ only at the front of the shoe. The outsole is designed to have as many contact points as possible. Frixion Red is a combination of grip, long-lasting wear and shock absorption. VK’s take place on grass, rock, stone, scree, mud and even ice, the outsole does a great job of handling each of the conditions.
The cushioning is compressed EVA and I was surprised how much cushioning was in the shoe, but it is designed for softer ground where the requirement for shock absorption is reduced. Completely understandable for a shoe designed for VK’s.
This is a very specific shoe and as such will have a very reduced market. It’s not a shoe that can-do multiple tasks, having said that, they VK Boa® may work exceptionally well on a short mountain race but downhill support and comfort would be compromised.
This shoe is designed to go up.
Considering that most VK’s are completed in 30-minutes for the elite men, around 35/40 minutes for the elite women and then 60 to 90-minutes for mortals, you get a picture that this shoe needs to be light.
Light they are; super light! They really do fit like gloves and I am still surprised at how well they hold the foot. I have had mixed experiences with Boa® closure systems previously but on this shoe it all clicks together. The Boa® (L6 type) system is a logical closure step allowing the top of the shoe to be free of seams and additional stitching and the three straps, just like in cycling shoes, comes across the foot to create a really superior hold. It’s all about efficiency and it makes a really nice aesthetic.
The shoes are extremely flexible and notably they excel in three areas.
The hold in the heel area is superb, no, it is brilliant! The lack of slipping in the heel area for a shoe designed for going uphill is absolutely crucial and the VK Boa® may well be the best I have tried.
The soft and flexible upper manages to provide enough structure and support but allows the foot to move and bend in the propulsive phase without restriction. Crucial for a VK when pretty much the entire race or run will be undertaken on the front of the shoe.
The outsole is designed for purpose and I love the specific grip and rock-guard just for the front of the shoe where it is needed.
Precise, reactive, great foot hold, excellent proprioception and extremely flexible, the VK Boa® really is beautifully designed for the task it was created for.
This shoe is not for everyone and I applaud La Sportiva for creating such a specific shoe. Light and minimalist, they excel for the designed purpose and there is little to fault.
They look great, the Boa® system is a superb addition to the shoe that maybe is the best use of this product I have seen in a running shoe.
RRP is 170 euro, so, they are not cheap. However, such a specific shoe will have a long life as they will only be used for VK racing or training. More often than not, VK’s are located close or near cable cars, so, the need to run back down is not required. Having said that, if one does need to run down, the VK Boa® does lack some of the structure a conventional run shoe would have, so, that needs to be considered.
If VK’s and going uphill as fast as possible is your think, the La Sportiva VK Boa® are most definitely worth checking out.
The tagline, ‘Darkness is not an excuse anymore’ most certainly rings true with the head torches from Norwegian brand, Moonlight Mountain Gear.
Based in Burtfjord, Northern Norway, Moonlight have a great opportunity to test and build head torches to survive the cold and relentless darkness of Norwegian winters. It’s with that in mind that the ‘Bright as Day’ (BAD) products were created.
Quite simply, the engineers wanted to ski at any time, regardless of conditions. They have products that provide 3200, 6000 and 12.000 lumen.
There is a head torch for everyone and the ability to interchange components for increased flexibility.
I have recently been testing both the BAD700 and BAD2000 lumen products, for mountain, ultra and trail running, these two products work perfectly. The beefier and more powerful BAD 3200 is better suited to skiing, mountain biking and sports that are taken at a faster pace and when visibility and response time is crucial.
The 2000 is a new product, updated from the previous 1800 lumen version. In addition to 200 extra lumens, electronics have been upgraded and the cooling system allows the torch to deliver a full 2000 for the battery life. Covering 15-30 degrees the torch will last 1.5 hours on full power, 3 hours on 50%, 6 hours on 25% and 20 hours at 5% all provided by a rechargeable Li-ion 2 cell 9600mAh 3.7v battery that has a life go 500 cycles. Charge time is 3.5 hours.
One of the unique design USP’s is that the lamp head attachment system is compatible with GoPro QuickClip, therefore, as way of an example, you may have a GoPro attachment on a helmet for action filming, this attachment also takes the head lamp. Equally, head straps and other similar products from the GoPro range are compatible.
With an IP 67 waterproof rating, the head torch will function in heavy rain and humidity.
An LED inside the light housing indicates battery level, blue 80-100%, flashing blue 50-80%, red 30-50% and flashing red is less than 30%. When the torch reaches 10% or lower, the lamp head will flash three times and then drop to the lowest power setting. This is a feature that acts as a warning allowing you to reduce pace (for safety) and make adequate decisions so that you can return home OR change the battery with a spare.
Charging is via USB cable and the battery is USB C.
The Moonlight batteries are interchangeable between all the lamp heads and importantly can be used on or off the head strap. A 1-meter extension cable is provided. This is really important in subzero temperatures.
The facility to store the battery inside a jacket and keeping it warm will ensure a longer life. Also, when running, the ability to use a heavier battery without it adding weight to the head area is a key feature. A spare battery in 999 Krone which equates to £80.00
The head torch in not cheap, 2299 Krone if £185.00.
I am not a fan of the headbands that come over the top of the head and around the head. However, if using the battery on the headband for the 2000, the middle strap is important to help distribute the weight and stop any movement. It’s a problem if you want to use a peaked cap but no issue if wearing a beanie, Buff or headband.
The weight (298g) is at the manageable end of comfort for a torch that provides such brightness. But as a preference, for running, I have preferred to store the battery in my run pack. It is much more comfortable, and it also means that I can adapt the headband and not use the elastic that goes over my head, just the strap that goes around.
Brightness and spread of light are superb. In all honesty, the 2000 lumen setting is not really required for running, it’s almost too bright. The only time I used at this power was on technical sections when I really needed to see what lay ahead, even then, with reduced pace, 50% power or less was more than adequate. You need to ask do you really need 2000 lumen head torch, if not, the BAD 700 is the way to go…
The 2000 is a brilliant light for fast trail runners who really need to see everything and react in a split second, but for me, it’s better suited to mountain bikers and skiers.
Keeping in mind that the BAD 700 is 1199 Krone (£100), a considerable £85.00 cheaper than the BAD 2000, you really need to ask yourself as runner, do I need more lumen than 700?
Personally speaking, I think not.
700 lumens really are very powerful on the trail. When one considers night running pace, 700 lumen power really illuminates the trail to show you everything that you need to see, and it allows you enough light to react and change direction.
All the features of the 2000 or in the 700 including GoPro compatibility, 15-30 degree light scattering, guaranteed light consistency and so on. Weighing in at 180g with battery (head lamp 40g) is 118g lighter than the 2000, that is significant when running!
As with the 2000, an LED inside the light housing indicates battery level, blue 80-100%, flashing blue 50-80%, red 30-50% and flashing red is less than 30%. When the torch reaches 10% or lower, the lamp head will flash three times and then drop to the lowest power setting. This is a feature that acts as a warning allowing you to reduce pace (for safety) and make adequate decisions so that you can return home OR change the battery with a spare.
One of the plus sides of the 700 is that it is compatible with other batteries in the Moonlight range. By way of example, you could purchase the 1800/2000 Im 3.7v battery (which powers the 2000) and use it with the 700 head. This would extend the full power autonomy from 1.5 hours to 4.5 hours and at the lowest setting, you would get a whopping 60 hours!
Like the 2000, the battery can be stored on or off the headband and a 1m extension cable is provided.
The flexibility with GoPro fittings is superb and allows multiple options for attaching and fixing.
Charging is via USB cable and the battery is USB C.
For running, the 700 is perfect for me and if the battery is mounted on the headband, preferable to the 2000. The weight balance is ideal when running, whereas, the 2000 battery on the head feels a little too heavy.
The beam is perfect and consistent which is extremely important and for most, 50% or 25% would be enough for most runs, this provides 3 to 6 hours of life. If you occasionally go to full beam, then you can estimate 2 to 5 hours.
A spare battery is 799 Krone which equates to £65 and this would be a good purchase so that you can alternate batteries or carry a spare on the trail.
Easy to use, consistent power and great durability make this a ‘go-to’ product that really withstands harsh weather.
The head torch market has a plethora of options out there and it’s extremely competitive. It’s possible to purchase budget products that kind of ‘do the job’ but one always feels a little compromised. There also products out there can adjust power automatically – I have yet to have one work correctly! Some connect to your phone via an app, others state a really long life only for you to find that burn time is a fraction of what is stated.
Moonlight is lacking in frills. They have great design, awesome products that does what the manufacturer says. They burn for the length of time expected and without losing brightness as the battery loses its power. The removable battery, extension cable, interchangeability and the GoPro mount flexibility make them an excellent choice.
The BAD 700 is the way to go for runners, however, some of you out there may well need that 2000 blast, only you will know that!
Although not cheap, you get what you pay for and one thing is for sure, they will last.
Runner’s strive for the best of all worlds in one shoe – lightweight, feel for the ground, cushioning, support, lack of support, grip in mud, grip on rock, low drop, high drop, grip in the wet and the list goes on and on. The reality is, there are few run shoes that will be a ‘one stop’ package and this why so many variables exist.
When possible, we choose specific shoes for a specific task.
Boots are not something that a runner would usually look at unless going on a specific hike. Even then, if moving fast and light, a good durable run shoe is usually preferable.
In 2018, I was once again planning a fastpacking trek in the Himalayas but this time, my journey would take place in December. Previous trips had taken place in November and more often than not I had used the inov-8 Trail Talon which was perfect for long days. December in the Himalayas and I knew I would encounter snow and on occasion would need to use micro-crampons. I was reluctant, very reluctant, to use a boot, especially for long days… Too heavy, too cumbersome, too stiff and the list goes on.
I was introduced the Roclite 345 GTX with Graphene grip and the 325 GTX boot. These boots were a revelation providing all the feel, grip and upper of a conventional run shoe but with the addition of ankle support that was designed in a way that would facilitate running with very little compromise.
In 2019 and in 2020 I have been using the Roclite G370 for specific trips, by way of example, the Himalayas in November, Toubkal in Morocco (January) and the mountains of Norway for occasional trips when snow and tough conditions would challenge. A prime example being the highest summit of Norway, Galdhøppigen at 2469m with snow conditions. With 6mm studs, 9mm drop, 9/18mm cushioning front and rear and only weighing 388g for an EU44.5 (I went 0.5 size bigger than usual to allow for winter socks.) These have proven to be great boots when I needed more warmth, grip and comfort in extreme conditions without compromising a run shoe feel. They are highly recommended!
On first impressions this version of the Roclite does not look like any previous Roclite that has come before, the look and feel is completely different, especially in the stealth black look. Almost looks like a boot for the SAS or Special Forces.
Weighing in at 421g for an EU44 the boot is also more substantial than previous incarnations. But I need to clarify here that the new Roclite Pro G 400 is designed for a different purpose in my opinion. It is much more akin to a normal hiking boot but at a fraction of the weight.
The fit scale is 4 just like the Roclite G 370 listed above, however, I would disagree here. The G370 is more of a 3 fit and the new G 400 a 4. There is a distinct difference in feel between the two boots, the G400 most definitely allowing for more toe splay.
Drop is 8mm which is ideal for long days, the lugs are 6mm which provide great grip on a multitude of surfaces, especially with the addition of Graphene which extends outsole longevity. Cushioning is notably plush with 12mm at the from and 20mm at the rear.
Like the G 370, the G 400 is Gore-Tex and this does a great job of protecting against the elements, especially wet, mud and snow. The weak point is always where the shoe stops and quite simply, if water or snow goes over the top of the shoe, you will get wet feet. This is where Gore-Tex can be a problem; there is no way for the water to escape! Therefore, a key recommendation, from experience, is to use Merino socks that manage to retain heat and warmth when wet. Use Nylon socks and you risk cold/ wet feet. Merino wicks sweat excellently too… Also, a risk with a Gore-Tex product as they are obviously warmer.
The upper uses Schoeller® ceramic-coated fabric which is an abrasion-proof, heat resistant fabric which sees ceramic particles – said to be as hard as diamonds – coated onto polymers for applications in the likes of protective, outdoor and military apparel. In simple terms, this fabric is incredibly durable to the wear and tear that one would encounter in extreme and harsh environments.
There are many notable differences in comparison to the G370 and like I said previously, I see the two boots having different uses with some crossovers.
The G370 for me still feels like a run shoe. It laces up like a run shoe, feel for the ground is like a run shoe and the overall structure is more shoe like – there is less shoe if you know what I mean.
The G400 is considerably more robust in key areas:
The toe bumper is harder and more substantial.
The laces start higher up the shoe keeping the all-important flex area behind the metatarsals free.
The lace eyelets are solid/ robust metal with 5 on each side, the upper 2 have the inov-8 foot on, a nice touch!
The tongue is gusseted and maybe(?) a little more padded.
The heel protection is more substantial and padded.
Support for the heel area is considerably more reinforced and spreads down the left and right side of the shoe.
Cushioning is increased.
The outsole is completely different.
The G400 is a lightweight hiking boot that manages to combine all the great features of the previous models and then beef them up in a more robust package.
The G400 works alongside one of the other Roclite boot models, be that the G 286, G 335, G 345 or the G 370 but does not replace them. Important to consider that the choice provided (G 286, G 335, G 345 or the G 370) all have different drops, fit, uppers and cushioning, so, that is also an important factor.
The G 400 is just a great all-round boot that is light enough for fast hiking, fastpacking, daily jaunts and day-to-day adventures. It manages to combine all the features and support of a boot double the weight. By way of example, I have a pair of lightweight Haglofs which are still over 100g heavier per shoe without the level of protection the G 400 offers.
I have been using the zero drop Terraultra G270 run shoe and although the outsole configuration is different, the grip is comparable with comprises coming in very sloppy mud – the lugs are just not aggressive enough for these conditions and I would not expect them to be. This outsole needs to perform on a multitude of surfaces, and it does that exceptionally well.
The cushioning is very notable and on a couple of long days this proved to be really welcome, especially with the 8mm drop.
The shoe has ‘Meta-Flex’ which is designed to allow the front of the shoe to bend behind the metatarsals for that all-important propulsive phase. In the G 370 this works really well with plenty of flex. The G 400 less so. The sole is much stiffer, and it is here that there is a notable difference between say the G370 and the G 400 and why the G 370 feels more like a run shoe and the G 400 like a boot.
Sliding one’s foot into the shoe, it feels plush and the room in the toe box is notable. The lacing is fixed for the first 3 eyelets and the top 2 are open allowing ease for tightening, loosening or different lacing configurations. With the laces pulled tight and adjusted around the ankle, the foothold is spot on and the padding is superb. The back of the shoe drops away slightly avoiding risk of irritation on the achilles.
The back end of the shoe is beefy with a great deal of support to help reduce ankle roll. This is really noticeable to the G370 which has minimal additional support. Again, this is the run shoe v boot comparison.
The G 400 is a really great boot that is absolutely ideal for long mountain days when you need all the support and features of a traditional boot but in a considerably lighter package. It has great grip, durable upper, great comfort and superb weight. It’s hard to find a fault, especially when one compares to the competition.
Despite all of the above, the G 400 would not replace my G 370’s which feel lighter, faster and more like a run shoe.
Quite simply, I am in the fortunate position to have both and I can gladly mix between the two.
So, if you can only buy one, which should you go for?
If you are primarily a runner looking for a durable winter solution for all elements that will allow you to still run and cover ground fast, then one of the G 286, G 335, G 345 or G 370 models will more than likely be preferable. Make sure you check cushioning, drop and other key features.
If you are a hiker or fastpacker who will do a little running, the G400 would be a better choice and serve you for a multitude of uses.
Ultimately, whichever way you go you will win. The inov-8 boots have worked well for me for the last 2-years and the new G 400 is working exceptionally well now alongside my G 370’s.