Tips for the Trail – Sea To Summit Ultra Light Sleeping Mat (Extra Small)

A good nights sleep is essential when racing a multi-day adventure if out fastpacking. Without sleep, our ability to recover is compromised and eventually, sleep deprivation will impact on performance, mental strength and even one’s appetite.

Carrying a sleeping mat is essential, however, the weight of the mat is crucial. In most scenarios, we want the lightest possible that is suitable for the conditions that we are running and also provides excellent comfort.

There are many options available on the market and recently I have been testing the Sea To Summit Ultra Light Mat (extra small) which has impressed me in several key areas:

  1. Easy to inflate and default.
  2. Small pack size.
  3. Very lightweight.
  4. Extremely comfortable.
  5. Durable.

Finding a sleeping mat that provides this level of comfort in such a small pack size and weight has been a revelation. I was initially concerned that an extra small mat would be too small… Not the case, this mat has exceeded my expectations.

Under 300g in weight made with 400 TPU Nylon, the mat is durable and hardy to all conditions. The 132 Air Sprung Cells react as one would hope to body weight and provide a supremely comfortable night. In simple terms, the cells don not flatten out under hipbones or shoulders.The addition of a stuff sack and an Air Stream is a nice touch but comes with an additional weight penalty of 40-45g.

Read more Tips for the Trail HERE

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FASTPACKING – A Guide.

Runner’s and particularly ultra-runners have this wonderful ability to cover distance under their own power with very little needs or requirements. Some water, some food, a warm jacket and waterproofs and adventure awaits.

However, you can only go so far without the eventual need to return home.

Fastpacking manages to encompass the world of backpacking and running to create a different adventure, fast and light! Backpackers tend to carry a plethora of equipment and move at a slower pace, happy to adventure for days and weeks at a leisurely pace.

Fastpackers, arguably are runners or hikers looking for the need to travel for multiple day’s but still cover good distances and not be excessively slowed down by weight and excess equipment. The crux though is often the balance of weight and one’s ability to still run/ fast hike.

“Fastpacking isn’t for every outing though. Sometimes you want to take it easy, set up camp, and enjoy a particular area. That’s when backpacking shines. Sometimes you just want to crush through a workout. That’s when you want to go for a really fast run.” Says Simoni, adding that he opts for Fastpacking, “when I want to tag multiple mountain summits in an area at one time, without needing to take multiple trips. If you’re squeezed for time, Fastpacking can really help maximize an adventure. I find it very rewarding to cover so much distance with minimal gear.” – Justin Simioni via La Sportiva

One could arguably say that races like Marathon des Sables, which is 35-years old in 2020, have paved the way for Fastpacking bringing a ‘fast and light’ scenario to a race format allowing participants to cover 250km’s in a self-sufficient manner.

However, Fastpacking has been around for many, many years. Long before MDS, and long before the term Fastpacking. But in recent years, the sport has developed into something else, no doubt boosted by the growth and popularities of FKT’s and lighter, more functional equipment.

It’s important to clarify, that Fastpacking is what you make it. Personally, I enjoy a lighter pack, moving fast (but not running) and being self-sufficient. This allows me to carry a little more weight, travel for longer, enjoy the process and still cover over a marathon per day. You though may prefer to be more minimalist, look at micro/ mini adventures of 2-4 days and aim to run for much of the way. There are no rules to the speed or distance you go.

It’s also important to consider many other factors that come into place:

  • Location and environment – There is a big difference to Fastpacking in Nepal to say the Alps.
  • Time of year – Winter conditions require more equipment and more specific equipment.
  • Weather conditions – Check weather and be prepared.
  • Access to water – Streams, rivers and lakes
  • Access to external help – If you are going remote, be responsible and plan accordingly.

It’s easy to see from the above, there is no one definitive kit list, but there are crossovers that apply to both.

Route Plan

Plan the route in advance, understand the terrain and understand what possibilities exist to obtain water. Importantly, carry a system that will ensure that you can drink water that is available from any source.  Work out how long a planned route will take and then plan for contingency should something go wrong. Note that vertical ascent, descent and technical terrain will require moving slower. It’s not unusual to sometimes only cover 2km’s in 1-hour. Make sure you inform family or a friend of your planned trip, start day and end day. That way you have a backup and someone checking out for you. It may sound alarmist, but should something happen, you may well not be able to call for help. Contact and research with local authorities and ascertain current conditions on the trails and be aware of any restrictions.

The Pack

Typically, a Fastpacker will look for something between 20 and 40 liters. For summer and short adventures, it is possible to go lighter and smaller. In winter, one will need more equipment that is often heavier and bulkier. Quite simply, the heavier the pack, the harder it is to run. So, if the plan is to run as much as possible, you need to go as minimal as possible whilst keeping safe. Make sure when testing and trying a pack that you add weight and understand how it feels when moving. Many brands are now producing packs specifically for Fastpacking. Personally, I like my pack to have a waist belt as this helps distribute the load and make the pack more secure. I would say that a minimum pack weight will be 6.5kg (14.3lbs) with water. Where possible, you would not want a pack to exceed 10kg (22lbs).

Packs with considering:

  • Montane Trailblazer 30ltr HERE
  • Ultimate Direction Fastpack 25 HERE
  • OMM Phantom 25 HERE
  • Six Moon Designs Flight 30 HERE
  • UltrAspire Epic XT HERE (this is a smaller pack)

Tent / Tarp/ Hammock

On a personal level, I would always go with a tent as I personally feel that it will offer more flexibility, especially if one shops in a clever way. My go to tent is an MSR Hubba Hubba NX (1/ 2 and 3 person versions available).

Things to look for in a tent:

  • Weight
  • Flexibility
  • How many season use?
  • Space

For example, the above MSR is a free-standing tent, so, it can be pitched inner only. If you know you are Fastpacking in ‘guaranteed’ good warm weather, you could travel without the fly sheet and basically sleep in a lightweight and bug proof shelter. Equally, if you know that you are fast packing in a bug free (mosquito) environment, you could leave the inner at home and just travel with the flysheet. This then provides a secure waterproof shelter, and, in this scenario, it acts just like a tarp but with more protection.

Tents to consider (2 person):

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 here
  • MSR Carbon Reflex 2 here
  • Nemo Hornet here
  • Nordisk Lofoten 2 ULW here
  • Terra Nova Solar Photon here
  • Marmot superalloy 2P here

Tarps offer a light solution that can be used with trekking poles and if one is going very minimal and fast, they provide a very simple answer for overnight protection. It all comes down to comfort and what one is prepared to accept as ‘comfort’ whilst Fastpacking. Big Agnes make the Onyx which comes in at under 200g. A Tarp is a compromise if you will have bugs such as mosquitos whilst on your adventure.

Hammocks are also an option providing one has trees to secure against. But if you add a bug net and tarp, in my opinion, a tent is a much better option. But a hammock can be a great addition to any Fastpacking kit, I use an Amazonas (here)

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is essential for any adventure but firstly you need to ask some very specific questions before purchasing. I would say that ideally, one potentially could need several sleeping bags based on time of year and weather conditions. Remember, that any sleeping bag can be made warmer with layers. Add a hat, gloves and down jacket, suddenly the sleeping bag is considerably warmer.

Read an in-depth article HERE.

Down is by far the lightest and smallest packing size, however, down cannot get wet! So, if you think you will encounter damp and wet conditions, you should consider a bag with a synthetic filling. Weight and pack size are important and with sleeping bags, the more you pay, usually, the lighter and smaller it will be.

Be careful on the ‘comfort’ rating of the sleeping bag.

  • Upper limit – the highest temperature the average male can expect to have a comfortable night’s sleep at without too much sweating.
  • *Comfort – the temperature at which the average adult woman can expect to have a comfortable sleep. *This is the ideal for most people choosing
  • Lower limit – the temperature at which the average adult male can expect to have a good night’s sleep in a curled position.
  • Extreme – the lowest temperature at which the average adult woman can survive. This rating comes with caution and additional consideration should be given if you plan to sleep in temperatures this low.

Recommendations:

  • PHD – Make sleeping bags and jackets to order, I am a long time fan here
  • Yeti – Passion One and Passion Three are a good start point here
  • Rab – The new Mythic Ultra is a personal favourite, available in 180 and 360 here
  • OMM -The Mountain Raid 160 is a great bag if you need synthetic filling here
  • Sea to Summit – The ‘Spark’ range have been getting rave reviews here
  • Western Mountaineering – here

Sleeping Matt

The minimalist Fastpacker will go with no matt or a very simple and small pad that provides just enough coverage for one’s hip if sleeping on one’s side. Personally, a good night’s sleep is essential, and a good/ light matt is an essential element to a fast and light kit.

Also, one should consider that in winter/ snow conditions, a matt will be essential for insulation.

Another consideration is potential problems from a puncture. Many inflatable matts become super light by using extremely light material. Be careful when using and make sure any potential sharp objects are removed before sitting or sleeping!

Matts very considerably but a personal favourite is the Klymit V Ultralite slim which offers full length body comfort all for 316g. It also packs very small. There are lighter matts and I list them below:

  • Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite 158g
  • Klymit Inertia X 258g
  • Nemo Insulated Short 278g
  • Sea to Summit Ultralight 294g
  • Exped AirMat HL 304g

Ultimately, the matt you choose may come down to a tradeoff between price/ packing size and weight. Be careful, some matts can be noisy when you move. Ok of going solo but really irritating if you are in close proximity of someone else.

Cooking System

For me, the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe (here) or 2 (here) kit is perfect. It has all one needs in a very small pack size and weight. I use the PocketRocket 2 kit that allows me to place a gas canister inside the 278g kit + a 4oz canister.

Another consideration would be JETBOIL Micromo Cooking System (here) which is the lightest system they do and if you just need to boil water, this is perfect!

Food

Dehydrated food is probably the most obvious option here and there are many varieties on the market. They are a one-stop option that requires water to hydrate and if you wish to be extremely minimal, some options exist that do not require hot or boiling water. A personal favourite is Lyo (here) and Real Turmat (here) – It may sound crazy but they both make foods that I would consider eating when not fast packing. They also do Vegan and Vegetarian options.

Check out Chicken Tikka Masala, Nettle Curry, Penne alla Bolognese and if Vegan, Organic Chilli and Barley Risotto. Breakfasts such as Mexican Scrambled Eggs and Organic Millet Porridge.

For any adventure, I work on a breakfast and a dinner and then carry snacks for during the day, this can be energy bars or if on a long Fastpack, I will even consider carrying another main dehydrated meal. Typical weights are 132g with approx 600 cals.

Other options to look at for dehydrated food are:

Coffee

For me, Fastpacking is fun and adventure. I am not looking for FKT’s and therefore I do allow myself one or two luxuries. Coffee for me is an essential part of any trip and I mean good coffee. I could just take some coffee sachets and have a combined weight of grams.

No! For me, I take fresh ground coffee in a sealed tub and I use one of two coffee presses.

Aeropress here or Espro here

The Espro is my favourite as it acts as a flask/ drinking canister too. But it does come at a weight and size cost.

I fully appreciate that if going fast and light, the above is a complete no, no! But for me, that smell of fresh coffee each morning is worth it.

Water

You are going to be self-sufficient for multiple days, so, you need to find water and plan to obtain water from the route you will take. You can use purification tablets, I take the MSR TrailShot pocket sized filter (here) which meets U.S. EPA drinking water standards* and NSF protocol P231 for removal of bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.9%), and particulates.

Clothing

Clothing requirements depend on the time of the year, the weather you will encounter and the duration of the Fastpack. Needless to say, one has to accept that changing clothes, taking a shower and feeling wonderfully fresh daily is not what Fastpacking is about. Layering clothing is essential to allow for fluctuations in temperature. Do your research, check weather forecasts and plan accordingly. The above photo is my equipment for a Fastpack in Nepal. Make sure you have a ‘Drybag’ to make sure all contents of the pack are protected from the weather, Sea to Summit (here) for example.

A good start point is as follows:

  • Short sleeve T
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Shorts
  • Underwear x2?
  • Socks x2?
  • Hat with peak
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Merino base layer, top and bottom – I use Icebreaker here
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket – I use RAB Charge here
  • Lightweight down/ Primaloft jacket – I use RAB Kaon here
  • Buff
  • Bivvy bag

The above, for most, would be a start point and based on where and when Fastpacking, you could maybe add or takeaway certain items.

If going to more extreme and cold environments, the demand on clothing and what one takes will increase. I wrote an article on Fastpacking in Nepal (here) and this is a worthwhile read. Please note in Nepal, one can use tea rooms, so, one saves on tent/ tarp weight immediately if required.

Tracker/ Beacon

I use a Garmin InReach Mini (here) and it is superb. Small, light, has SOS button and allows for 2-way messaging anywhere in the world. I do not go on any adventure without it now. In conjunction with a mobile phone and associated App, functions become easier to use. Subscription services can be changed monthly and therefore one can add or takeaway facilities as required.

Another option to consider is a SPOT device.

Essential Extras:

  • Water purification
  • Toilet paper/ wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • First-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • Lighter/ matches
  • Whistle
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Earphones

Optional Extras:

Trekking poles – to be honest, for most of my Fastpacks, poles are an essential and especially if one is using a Tarp or similar.

Battery pack for recharging.

Conclusion

Fastpacking for me, is one of the most pleasurable ways to travel by foot. The ability to cover distance, usually in a point-to-point way under ones own power and being self-sufficient is extremely rewarding. You can move as fast or as slow as you like, take as long as you wish and fully immerse yourself in the surroundings and environment.

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Long Term Goal Setting and Planning for Ultra Running

The Long Term Goal

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Recently I have produced several articles that have been created to help runners formulate a plan for a new year of racing and training. The articles have been as follows:

  • Planning a Running and Racing Year HERE
  • To Base Train or not to Base Train HERE
  • Base Training HERE
  • How long should the long run be? HERE
  • In addition, I wrote several articles on walking and how important it is to practice this for:
  • Ultra running HERE
  • Walking with poles HERE
  • Walking efficiency when climbing HERE

Recently I was involved in a series of discussions about the Marathon des Sables. One thing that became very clear is the panic and apprehension many runners feel about a goal that may well be a ‘one-off’ or lifetime goal.

Experienced runners will know how to goal set, they will know how to periodise and plan their training so that they hopefully arrive at a target event in peak form. This was discussed in Planning a Running and Racing Year (HERE). However, goals that go beyond one macrocycle (one year) require a much greater perspective and overview. If you are new to running, well, it can be just terrifying.

A great deal of advice can be extremely counter productive as it makes many runners feel inadequate, inexperienced, lacking confidence and in the worse scenarios even questioning if they should even go ahead with the race.

Let’s be clear. Everyone is an individual, I have yet to find two runners who need the same training plan or structure. However, certain scenarios work for all and it is with this in mind that I am writing this post.

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Why not join our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote with 2x MDS Champion, Elisabet Barnes? Information HERE

Why set a long term goal?

Long term goals provide incredible motivation to step out of the door and to train. You will have heard the saying, ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it!’

To that end, iconic races such as UTMB and Marathon des Sables, are races that for many are the ultimate race, they are races to be built up to and therefore a macrocycle is not enough time to prepare; hence long term goal setting.

Irrespective of experience, two key words come in to play when setting a long term plan: Structured and Progressive.

In this scenario, I am using goal setting for Marathon des Sables.

STRUCTURE

A macrocycle is one training year and this is broken down into mesocycles. It may sound like a fancy word but a mesocycle is a series of blocks of training that make up one macrocycle. For purposes of explanation, let’s assume that you are running the Marathon des Sables which takes place in April 2020.

I always recommend getting a year planner so that you get a big picture of what lies ahead. Fourteen months may seem like a long way off, it is, no need to panic, but also don’t become complacent. What’s important here is experience. I am therefore going to have two runners.

Please Note – This guide below is geared towards someone who aims to run as much as possible at MDS. Very few run all of MDS and most walk considerably more than they think. For me, walking is a key element to a very successful training plan. The structure below still applies, the sessions would adjust accordingly.

Runner A has run a marathon, runs to keep fit and has set the lifetime goal of Marathon des Sables. Priority is completion.

Runner B has been running for years, eats marathons for breakfast, races ultra races regularly and is going to Marathon des Sables as a challenge, to test him or herself and plans to compete over complete.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that runner A and runner B need completely different training plans and strategies. Keeping in mind that A has less experience, more insecurities and a great deal of anxiety about the big target, I will talk through the possible planning cycle for A.

Let’s break down the macrocycle. As I said, we have twelve months (+/-) to play with, so a schedule may look like this:

Phase 1: Apr, May with C race objective (half-marathon).

Phase 2: June, July, Aug with B race objective (marathon to 50km).

Phase 3: Sep, Oct, Nov with A race objective (multi-day race)

Phase 4: Dec, Jan with B race objective and/ or specific warm weather training camp.

Phase 5: Feb, Mar.

Phase 6: Apr – A race.

Phase 1

Is all about consistent and regular running based on available time, ability and commitments. Set yourself a C race target for the end of this period. It could be a half marathon. It’s always good to have intermediate targets to work to and we often use C and  B races as stepping stones to an A race, in this scenario, Marathon des Sables.

Be realistic here, it’s important. Ask yourself a couple of key questions:

How many days can I train?

How many hours a week can I train?

We are going to assume that running three/four days is possible every week with a fourth/ fifth day for cross training and strength work. A microcycle (week) in phase 1 may well look like:

  • Tuesday – key day
  • Thursday – key day
  • Saturday – Cross training
  • Sunday – key day

In phase 1 we want to just walk, run or walk/ run and build a base of fitness from which to build. No need to rush in and panic. Be sensible and progressive. A safe way to do this is build for three weeks and on the fourth week rest and recover, Yes, rest and recovery is just as important as running.

Use the 10-20% rule and never add more time than this to each run. An example for the first month may look like:

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Over this phase, you would eventually cap the length of time for the Tuesday and Thursday runs at 60 to 90-minutes and the Sunday run would progress to 3-hours 30-minutes as follows:

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Use this system in phase 1 building week on week over four months to lay a great foundation of progressive miles and time on feet. If you have built progressively, your Sunday long run will have progressed to over three hours which puts you in a great place for a C run target.

A marathon would be a good C target at the end of phase 1. You wouldn’t taper for a race like this, it would be a training run that would be added to your plan.

Phase 2

You have phase 1 under your belt and the confidence of completing a C target. Phase 2 now builds and at the end of this phase you will have a B race target as a goal. This race should be challenging but not so challenging that it becomes intimidating or breaks you. If you ran a half marathon as a C race, then your B race could be a marathon. If your C race was a marathon, then your B race may be a marathon or 50km race if you feel that training is going very well?

It’s also important now to think ahead to Phase 3 and an intermediate A race target that will motivate you and boost your confidence for phase 4, 5 and 6.

Also think about planning and booking heat chamber sessions or equivalent for the final build up phase just before the race; this usually takes place in the final 2-3 weeks and sessions go quickly.

In the UK, a race takes place in November called the Druids. It’s a three day race where runners take on a marathon for three consecutive days. It’s a perfect ‘mini’ Marathon des Sables scenario and a great opportunity to test clothing, pack, fitness and build confidence.

Assuming that four days training are still possible and that you have had no injury issues or problems, we can now progress training building on endurance in the long runs and adding some faster/ strength sessions during the week.

A week may look like this:

  • Tuesday – Hills.
  • Thursday – Speed
  • Saturday – Cross training and strength.
  • Sunday – Long run.

As in phase 1, progression is really important and the plan would actually change and evolve over this period with each month looking different.

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The above plan is a guide and this is where a run coach can step in and provide structure and remove the guess work away from how the plan is put together. It’s all about placing the right emphasis at the right place and at the right time.

You will see how month 3 changes from months 1 and 2 so that it is specific to the B target at the end of this mesocycle.

Phase 3

You have just completed your longest run in a B race, be that 50k, 50m or somewhere in-between and your confidence is sky high. You now have an A race on the horizon (November) that involves three back-to back marathons and suddenly your appreciation of what is required is much clearer. You respect the Marathon des Sables target but now it is less intimidating as you have moved your way up through logical and incremental steps.

Another three month phase of training that allows is to fine tune and hone in on the racing skills required.

As you may expect, phase 3 starts with recovery from your B race target. You will need to cross train or just run easy for 3-4 days. By the time the weekend comes around, you will feel as though recovery is well on the way, don’t rush. Take your time and the following week run easy Tuesday and Thursday for up to 60-minutes and then do 60 and a 90-minute run on Saturday and build on the Sunday run. An example of phase 3 is below. Please remember, YOU are an individual with specific needs and what I provide below is a possible structure leading to an A race in November.

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The A race at the end of November provides a significant marker in your training. The experience will allow you an opportunity to find out what worked, what didn’t work, how your kit worked, what was good, what was bad and so on.

December is now upon you and Phase 4 is an opportunity to look at weaknesses and work on them so that you are in great shape to take on Phase 5 which is the final period before your key race.

1. If you lacked endurance in your November A race, keep working on consistency and build endurance with time on feet.

2. If you lacked speed and want to run faster, December is a perfect opportunity to cut back on distance and long runs and add some speed work.

3. Due to the demands of running with a pack, running long and all the associated fatigue, make sure that you incorporate a strength and core routine to make you a stronger runner. It’s easy to say here, ‘I don’t have the time!” You do, cut down your run time on a Tuesday and Thursday and free up time for strength and core. Maybe you can even find an extra day in your week (Wednesday) to allow you to work on this. Alternatively, work on strength and core at home maybe while watching television? The time is there, you just need to find it and be creative.

4. Practice walking. Effective and fast walking is a key weapon to a successful race in any long ultra or multi-day race.

With a new year coming, April and the heat of the Sahara looms on the horizon. January provides a perfect opportunity for a warm weather training camp just as the weather is wet, miserable and cold in Europe.

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In conjunction with 2015 ladies Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet BARNES, we run a week long camp in Lanzarote that provides the perfect opportunity to test everything in a real situation. We even provide a bivouac experience. You can ready daily posts and view images from the 2016 camp HERE and you can listen to client feedback below:

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Phase 5 is the last phase and ultimately you have 6 weeks to get prepared and ready for your key race. If you attended a training camp you will now have a full appreciation of everything that you need to do. That may be changing kit, more time on feet, looking at nutrition or even a combination of all elements

Now is the time to make sure you have all your admin sorted – insurance, medical, compulsory kit and so on.

Don’t leave anything to chance now. If in doubt about equipment, contact MyRaceKit, they are able to provide expert advice in regard to everything that you will need.

Think about heat and how you will adapt. With luck, back in phase 2 or 3 you will have thought ahead and booked time in a heat chamber. Ideally this will take place in the final 2-3 weeks before the race. No sessions booked? Train in a gym with additional layers, take a sauna, do Bikram Yoga etc

Again, consistency is key here. You have been training for this long term goal for sometime, don’t do anything silly, don’t do a long run that is really long; you up your chances of injury risk. Remember, training is about ALL the sessions you have done and not just one session

Pack weight is a consideration and get it as close to 6.5kg as possible. On day-1, when you add water it will be 8kg. BE CAREFUL training with too much weight, it is a guaranteed route to injury. For sure, do some sessions with weight, be progressive and slowly build up. Just do one session per week in the final phase and only do 1 or 2 sessions with pack at 8kg and do not go too long.

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Phase 6 is race time.

Be organised, be prepared, think of everything and have the race of your life.

It’s in this final phase when you are so close that little things can go wrong. Be prepared as best as you can. You can’t account for the unexpected but reduce chances of anything going wrong by taking no risks.

The information provided above is designed to provide an outline and a guide on how to plan for a long term goal. Although you may be able to take this plan away and use it, please be sensible and assess your own experience, fitness and goals. Importantly, the scenario provided is with a multi-day race in mind, you would need to tweak and adjust this for a single stage race or a mountain ultra for example.

I can’t emphasise enough that we are all individual, so you need to find out what works for you.

Good luck.

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Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 8

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Day 8 of the 2016 Lanzarote multi-day camp was a cracker. The hottest day of the week with little or no wind, a stunning coastal route with mixed terrain, volcano climbing and descending and of course, stunning views and amazing people.

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As on all previous days, we had three run/ walk groups. Everyone managed to cover somewhere between 20 and 35km and it was interesting to see how during the week, people progressed, not only in fitness but in regard to equipment, planning and preparation.

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We also pushed everyone out of their own comfort zones with some tough climbing, very technical terrain and challenging descents. It’s all about taking things up a notch so that when race day comes around, the runners are prepared.

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“Brilliant MdS training camp in Lanzarote with organiser, coach and photographer Ian Corless and MdS 2015 champion Elisabet Barnes. 100-miles run in the week with some excellent advice and support plus great people!” – Paul Allum

Paul’s thoughts were echoed by so many of the camp attendees. Elinor Evans in particular found the whole experience enlightening and invaluable. During the weekly runs, the overnight bivouac, the volcano walk and the daily talks, Elinor realised that she had the wrong pack for her, the wrong sleeping bag, a need to address her nutrition and look at her MdS admin. Invaluable!

“The Training Camp in my opinion was exceptional and far exceeded my expectations. The whole program start to finish pushed everyone to achieve their potential while taking into account the wide variety of abilities. All of the coaches were supportive and challenging and while clearly experts in their field never made novices like me feel stupid. The information we got was priceless and the blend of commercialism and a genuine desire to want to help people achieve their goal of competing or completing MDS was incredibly well done. I wouldn’t just recommend this to future MDS competitors I’d suggest you add it to your Compulsory Kit list! Simply brilliant!” – Simon Dunn

Listen to camp attendee feedback HERE

“Fantastic week in magical terrain with lovely people – thank you Ian, Elisabet, Niandi and Marie-Paule – Sahara countdown is ON.” – Elinor Evans

The morning run of 3-5 hours was followed with a relaxing lunch and then an afternoon Q&A which addressed many of the issues raised during the week and allowed everyone to clarify and appease their minds ahead of their next multi-day race.

The day finished with 20-30min cool down run and then an evening group meal and drinks. It has been an incredible week and one that has provided inspiration for all concerned. Roll on 2017.

‘How was your holiday?’ ask the lads at work. 

‘Amazing’ I say. ‘Look at these pictures’. ‘That’s how to round tape to ensure you minimize the risk of blisters’. Blank looks. 

‘See her? She’s the 2015 MdS champion putting the needle into my foot’. 

More indifference. 

‘Lads, this is the same you fat bastards going to Weston Karting centre at the weekend and Jensen Button turning up to do the safety briefing’. 

They still don’t get it. 
‘Did you learn much in Lanzarote darling?’. 

‘I certainly did. The WAA bag is a goner. It would be like taking a knife to gun fight. Ok, it would be like taking a clutch bag to an all day shopping trip. You know, when only a tote will do’. 

A nod of understanding, but really boredom turning to neutrality at best. 
‘Was it fun running Daddy?’ ‘It was. Midpack daddy is certainly going to need more fat than carbs to keep him going in the dunes girls’. 

‘Did you bring us back any sweets?’. 

‘No’. 

‘Can we watch TV?’ 
‘How was the volcano mate?’. ‘Wonderful. It was cold, but the stars were out and we all had an amazing time’. 

‘Get much sleep?’ 

‘Yes. In fact I’ve found it hard to sleep since without the sound of Elaine gently rustling inside her tent next to me’.  

These people don’t understand me anymore…. I miss #Lanzarote 
– Rich Carps

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If you would like to take part in the 2017 Multi-Day Training Camp, please go HERE

Many thanks for the support of MyRacekit, OMM, Raidlight, PHD. Scott Running, inov-8 and Berghaus.

“Really great few days, some invaluable experience and some valuable miles in the legs. Kit choice, food, packing the bag now all things I’m ready for. Thank you to the organisers and thank you to the fellow participants for making it such a nurturing environment in which to prepare for the MdS.” – Leon Clarance

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 5

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It was day 5 of the Lanzarote 2016 multi-day training camp and what a day…

Leaving the resort at 0830, three groups covered 4-hours to 5hours 30-minutes on the challenging trails of Lanzarote in three groups: walking, walk/ running and running.

It was a tough day, the clouds cleared, the sky came a deep blue and the heat started to slowly rise but all the time it was masked by the ever present winds coming from Morocco.

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Starting at Club La Santa, the groups moved along the coastline, moved inland to Soo and then re-navigated back to the coast and the village of La Santa before heading out on new coastline. Lanzarote’s mixed terrain provides the perfect environment for a multi-day camp and today, camp attendees enjoyed a real mix os sandy access roads, volcano trails, climbing, coasteering, volcano climbing and then out-and-out technical dried lava.

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Elisabet Barnes from MyRaceKit and sponsored Raidlight athlete guided the ‘fast’ group over 5-hours and 15-minutes and although it’s her first time on the Canarian island, she is taken back by its unique beauty and its specific trails.

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“Lanzarote is just amazing. The climate and the trails are just perfect for Marathon des Sables training. La Santa and the surrounding area manages to throw everything at you that you will experience in a typical edition of the iconic Moroccan race, even down to the strong winds, variable heat and especially the mixed terrain. Soft sand, stoney ground, hard trails, tough climbs and beautiful views; what more could you ask for?”

Like any training camp, mixed abilities are catered for and Niandi Carmont has guided a run/ walk group and Marie-Paule Pierson (who recently competed Atacama) has guided and paced the walkers.

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After a midday break, the afternoon had a foot care seminar hosted by Elisabet Barnes where she clearly explained the pros and cons of specific foot treatments and she also provided some very clear and highly informative ‘taping’ workshops.

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Tomorrow is another long day with a 2-hour run at 0700, a seminar late morning and then in the afternoon a 2 to 3-hour run will be followed with an overnight bivouac.

If you would like to join our 2017 training camp, please go HERE.

Many thanks to Raidlight, OMM, inov-8, Scott Running, Berghaus, PHD and MyRaceKit of the support of this camp.

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 4

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It was an active recovery day at the 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp. It was kicked off with a guided 3-hour walk through some of the islands most stunning volcano sections close to the Timanfaya National Park.

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Famous for it’s volcanic landscape, today everyone was able to appreciate up close how dramatic and tough these trails can be. Black lava sand, interspersed with jagged rocks but ultimately everyone was blown away with the dramatic and somewhat eerie vistas. In the early 1700’s, this area had six continuous years of volcanic eruptions that created this stunning landscape.

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Elinor Evans, a yoga expert undertaking Marathon des Sables for the first time in 2016 commented after the walk:

“It’s been a really special day in this environment. We have walked with our packs, covered some miles and in the process had a wonderful learning experience. It has been magical.”

It was a sentiment echoed by everyone in the camp and with 5-hours of running waiting for everyone tomorrow, the opportunity to walk today was welcome.

The evening discussion was all about food and hydration for multi-day racing and we discussed the different nutritional needs for someone who may be looking to compete, the mid-packer and the walker. Of course, it’s all very personal, but many similarities from all three scenarios crossed over providing all the participants with plenty of key and essential information that they can now take away and formulate their own strategies for their chosen race.

Tomorrow, Sunday, kicks off with a 5-hour run along a new coastal section that will involve some climbing, scrambling and of course a plethora of mixed terrain.

If you are interested in a multi-day training camp, our 2017 dates are set and you can view HERE

Many thanks to:

Raidlight, OMM, inov-8, Berghaus, PHD, MyRaceKit and Scott Running for the support with this camp.

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 3

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The 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp really got underway today with a full day of activity. This morning was a 4-hour run or hike over some very specific terrain that provided every participant a full-on appreciation of what terrain they may encounter at a race such as Marathon des Sables.

Mitch Keene, on the training camp with his wife, said post run:

“It was great to experience the sort of terrain that we are likely to come across when we get to the real event. To understand what it is like to run in some deep sand. It was also great camaraderie on the run. It’s good to know that there is going to be people around you who are in the same sort of position as you are and learning from them. And then there is just some basic stuff like understanding that wearing very short socks is a bad idea when running in the sand. So really simple stuff that you think you know when you set off but don’t. The whole learning experience is phenomenal out here and I really enjoyed it.”

The morning session took a relatively flat run out over very mixed terrain (sand, rock, lava, dunes) in three groups. Elisabet Barnes leading the runners who are able to hold a faster and more consistent pace. Niandi Carmont leading the runners who will run and occasionally walk and then Marie-Paule Pierson leading a small group who intend to walk the whole event. Ian Corless moved from one group to the next.

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“It’s nice meeting people who actually want to talk to you while you are running. I have found it quite difficult taking up running again on my own and going to events on my own,” said Leon Clarance. “People are usually polite but today people were actually chatting about their own experiences and it was nice to meet some likeminded people.”

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At the coastal resort of Famara, everyone turned 180-deg and the re-traced along the coastline but this time taking in the small mountains and hills that back on to the sea in this area. At times rocky and technical, everyone had a real insight into the complex terrain that one may encounter in a multi-day event. At the summit, one or two runners experimented with foot care and treatment; a key element of successful multi-day competition.

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“It’s ben a real eye opener,” said Alan Guthrie. “I have been behind with my training and today I managed my longest session for some time in some very specific terrain that directly relates to my chosen event; Marathon des Sables. It’s been a tough session but I have loved every minute of it.”

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Post run stretching relaxed tired muscles and 2-hour break was followed with a talk and discussion called, ‘What goes in the Multi-Day Pack?’

And just when the runners thought it was time to relax and chill-out an ‘optional’ 20-30min shake out run fired everyone up for one last effort, making the day a very successful and tiring one. Evening drinks, relaxing chat and good food was extremely welcome. Tomorrow we have a structured group walk in the Timanfaya National Park in a series of volcanoes followed with a talk on nutrition and hydration.

Many thanks to MyRaceKit, Raidlight, OMM, PHD, inov-8, Scott Running and Berghaus for the support.

If you would like to take part in a multi-day training camp like this, dates have been set for 2017 and it’s possible to book HERE

Click on an image to view today’s gallery

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 2

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The Lanzarote 2016 multi-day training camp got underway today with an easy 1-hour run along the coastal trails of La Santa to Famara.

In total, we have a group of 27 runners with a broad range of 2016 objectives such as Marathon des Sables (Morocco), The Coastal Challenge (Costa Rica), Big Red Run (Australia), Cape Wraith Ultra (UK) and the Everest Trail Race (Nepal).

It’s always great to see so many runners of mixed ability come together with one goal in mind; completion of a challenging multi-day race!

Tomorrow, 4-hours of classic desert terrain awaits the runners as they depart in three groups lead by Elisabet Barnes, Niandi Carmont and Marie-Paule Pierson. Ian Corless, camp co-ordinator and planner, will move through the groups, running out-and-back to ensure that everyone is on track and comfortable.

In the afternoon, a group talk and discussion followed with an easy 30-60 min run.

Lanzarote, situated off the coast of Morocco provides the perfect environment to simulate many of the conditions that runners will experience in a classic multi-day race; wind, sand, rocks, tough terrain, climbs and maybe even a little scrambling.

If you are interested in a multi-day training, dates for 2017 have been set and you can view HERE

Many thanks to the following brands for helping with this camp:

MyRaceKit, OMM, inov-8, Berghaus, PHD, Raidlight, Scott Running

 

Marmot24 2015 – Race Summary and Images

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The inaugural Marmot24 took place in 2014 and it proved to be one of the most challenging races of its type on the race calendar. Using a score format, participants raced over 12 or 24 hours on tough northern Lakeland terrain. Adding to the difficulty, the weather was grim. Yes, it was one seriously tough race.

This year another tough and challenging course was created in Southern Scotland (the Lowther Hills close to Dumfries) by Gary Tompsett. Once again using a score format (all controls had the same points) the objective for participants was to visit and accumulate points from as many controls as possible spread over an area of 200 square km’s. Needless to say, the potential for any 1 or 2-man (or woman or mixed) team to gain a 100% score was almost impossible.

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However, several teams excelled in the tough conditions.

In contrast to 2014 when the 12-hour runners started at midnight, this year, all competitors started at midday. A centrally based camp would allow runners to return as often as they like to rest, sleep, eat and then go back out on the course. For the committed, they never returned until the end!

100 runners took on the challenge and although clear blue skies bathed base camp and the northern hills, the southern part of the course had looming clouds that unfortunately (unexpectedly) provided a very wet and miserable day.

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From the off it was apparent that the northern fells seemed to be the preferred choice with clusters of controls offering good point scoring potential. The terrain may well have been more demanding in regard to elevation but underfoot it was dry, firm and fast. The south by contrast was flatter but extremely boggy. This boggy ground combined with wet weather made the south of the course not ideal. But sometimes you only find this out once you have committed yourself.

Route planning was extremely varied; some teams would start south, others in the north. Clockwise or anti-clockwise. The route options were endless and thus tracking and following of the event was very much a lottery.

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One consensus for many appeared to be the potential to spend 10-12 hours on the fells, call in the HQ for food, maybe some sleep and a change of clothes and then head back out. However, once you get back in camp, immerse yourself in a warm sleeping bag, it can be difficult to get back out on what turned out to be a very chilly July night.

Rain had been falling for hours in the south and this resulted in many a runner bringing their race to an end with the 12-hour cut off. However, those who had gone north were much better prepared for a night out and some wild camped, bivvied or pushed on through.

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Jim Tinnion, a regular competitor at these events (The Spine, Dragons Back and so on) commented post race:

“Lowther Hills was a super tough location with running as rough as you can imagine and some desperate descents. Happy with 2nd mixed pair: we didn’t quite have enough to match a great run by Simon and Carmen. Amazing stars last night at a freezing bivvy. Sleeping in survival bags isn’t ideal but we got a couple of hours sleep 15 miles after dinner in the Wanlockhead Inn. Brilliant event, very highly recommended but far and away the hardest mountain marathon challenge I know of.”

Teams had travelled from all over the UK and Europe to participate in this new and ground breaking event. Post race, they all concurred that the terrain and the difficult conditions had provided them all with an ultimate test. Bogs, marshes, bracken and ferns were a new experience to the ‘Europeans’ and it was clear to see the impact. ©iancorless.com_Marmot242015-3202

Top honors in the 12-hour went to Chris Baynham-Hughes who sweeped up a remarkable 25 controls. He was fast, in control and used supreme navigational skills and fitness to dominate the tough and challenging event. He timed his run perfectly finishing at Dursideer HQ in the final 15-minutes before the midnight chime. Full 12-hour results HERE. Sarah Fuller was 1st lady and Hamish Waring and Andy Heaton were the first pair.

The 24-hour race came down to a nail biter between Peter Wilkie and Rick Ansell. These hard core mountain men stayed out all night, pushed on through and looked to gain maximum points before returning back to base. They both accumulated 36 controls but Rick Ansell took top honors as he returned just 6-minutes before Peter. They don’t get much closer than that! Full 24-hour results HERE. Barry McElearney and Graham Cleminson were the first pair and Charlotte Turner and Lydia Farzin-Nia were the first ladies pair. No solo ladies ran the event.

Post race participants recovered with a bowl of hot chilli and of course route choices and course discussions took place, one thing became apparent; he combination of tough Scottish terrain, variable weather and wide spread controls set the Marmot24 apart from other events and it’s a format that was welcomed. Roll on 2016!

A full set of race images are available HERE

Race website HERE

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PHD v YETI v OMM – Sleeping Bag Review

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If you are running a self-sufficient race or if you are going fast packing, a sleeping bag is going to be an essential item. The need to carry all your supplies in your pack quite simply means that you are constantly having a battle against weight and functionality.

It’s fair to say, that for most people a 20 ltr pack has now become the ‘norm’ for multi-day adventures and they vary considerably. But hey, we are not here to talk about packs, we are here to discuss the sleeping bag that will go in the pack and importantly provide you with warmth and comfort during the night so you feel fresh for the following day.

I have just returned from working (3rd consecutive year) at the Marathon des Sables. Arguably, MDS as it is affectionately known is the daddy of multi-day racing. To draw a comparison, it holds the same allure and respect that Western States holds for the 100-mile distance.

Now in it’s 30th year the race has seen it all. Today, the British contingent are the most represented nation at the race, closely followed by the French. Following online forums as the 30th edition came close, one question was repeatedly asked, ‘What sleeping bag are you taking?’

It was a good question and on the face of it, a question that could easily be answered by each person clearly writing the name of their chosen product. However, nothing is ever that simple and sleeping bags (along with which pack) may very well have been the most argued and discussed topic prior to the race.

One thing was apparent from a British perspective. Three names repeatedly cropped up – OMM, PHD and YETI. Armed with this information, I decided to take all three to the MDS and test them, ‘in situ’ and feedback my thoughts.

Are you running a multi-day race? Join our Lanzarote Training Camp which takes place in January every year with two-time Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes. Along with Sondre Amdahl and Shane Benzie.

Check it out HERE

Firstly a little background history.

OMM 1.6

OMM – (website HERE) OMM stands for Original Mountain Marathon and they have pioneered apparel, packs and products to enable runners to move fast and light in challenging terrain for multiple days.

Minimus

PHD – (website HERE) PHD stands for Peter Hutchinson Designs is a UK based company who provide a range of functional and technical apparel for adventures all over the world. They offer a range of ‘off the shelf’ designs but they are renowned for their bespoke services. You can read a profile here.

Yeti Passion One

YETI – (website HERE) YETI are a small German based company who specialise in down sleeping bags. They also making clothing and accessories.

THE TEST

Before I get down to the nitty gritty, I must clarify certain things. Firstly, the weather at MDS in 2015 was quite variable, we had warm days, plenty of variable wind (including sand storms) and at night temperatures dropped considerably towards the end of the week.

I alternated between bags and in particular on the first night (particularly warm) I slept in all three bags for approximately 90-120 minutes each. Also, I did this on the coolest night which coincided with the longest day.

So that you can draw comparisons, here are my personal body stats:

  • Height : 5ft 9in.
  • Weight : 73 (ish) Kg.
  • Waist : 32″ inch.
  • Shoulders : 40″ chest.

It will soon become apparent why the above stats are important. Each night I used a sleeping matt and a small travel pillow. I also had a TNF down jacket that weighed 250g as an optional ‘warmth’ layer if required. For consistency I used a ‘Exped’ dry bag for all my sleeping bags. It does add extra weight (36g) but I like the security of a bag like this protecting my sleeping bag from the elements.

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Lets look at the sleeping bags in detail

OMM

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OMM provide two sleeping bag options, the 1.0 and the 1.6 (as tested). As you would imagine, OMM want to make a bag or bags that are light, functional and pack small. I like two key things about the OMM bags: they are cheap in comparison to the competition and the filling is not down. By using Primaloft the OMM is functional in varied weather and as such, this bag can get wet and it will still remain warm. This does not happen with down! Of course, rain in the Sahara may well be far from your mind but remember, MDS is just one race… I am sure you will use your bag for may adventures.

OMM say:

The bag is made from a combination of materials to ensure maximum performance. The Purist bag for the Minimalist, The shell is made from PointZero, It has a DWR treatment to the fabrics face to give it a degree of water repellency and also extra stain resistance. The synthetic insulation is Primaloft Gold to give the best warmth to weight ratio available on the market, we have used different weights per panel to ensure the best technical usage of the fill. The base sheet is filled with Primaloft Gold 60g, we then put the Primaloft Gold 100g on the top sheet. The footbox is also shaped and filled with Primaloft Gold 100g to keep the feet warm. The construction is also considered as we have a loose laid outer shell and the inner stitched through to the insulation again this is to maximise insulative value and eliminate cold spots.

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OMM do not provide a rating for their bags and this does cause some issues for many people. I can understand why, no rating does leave a question mark on how warm the sleeping bag will be. The bag is mummy shaped with a short zip that sits in the middle of the bag and not at the side. It has a drawstring hood and is silky soft to touch. As mentioned this bag is fast drying and has an element water repellency.

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The bag only comes in one size, so, if you are taller than 6ft it’s not the bag for you. In addition, as with all the bags in this test, they are designed to be minimalist and therefore some compromises must be made. When zipped up I personally had little room to move around in the bag, this was not a problem for me. However, if you have a big chest and shoulders you may want to make sure that it’s comfortable. At £170 this bag is a bargain and I would really recommend it. On the warm nights at MDS, particularly the first night, I was able to open the zipper which allowed me to get air to my torso and cool down. On the coldest night, I zipped up, put my head inside the hood and I used the draw string to keep out any drafts. I took a TNF lightweight down jacket but did not need it, however, the addition of a sleeping bag liner or lightweight thermal top and pants would be recommended for the coldest MDS nights

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Weight is good (426g) but it’s the heaviest bag here and the bag packs down really small.

PROS:

  • Primaloft fabric is extremely versatile.
  • 1/2 zip keeps weight lower and does offer ventialtion.
  • Soft feel and comfortable.
  • Price.

Price

CONS:

  • Not the lightest bag
  • You need to be under 6ft tall
  • Not warm enough on the coldest night.
  • Need a liner or base layer clothing for colder nights

What 2015 MDS participants said:

Henry Potter Had the omm, was cold after about 2 am every night. I’m usually a petty hot person so thought I would get away with it. Also being 6,1ft it was a little on the small side!

Mark Gibson Used the OMM. Felt cool in the night but not uncomfortably, I like to spread out so the narrow end took some getting used to. Would use it again.

Ben Daly Omm1.6 cold between 3 and 5am every night and I’m quite brave when it comes to the cold

 

PHD

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PHD make several sleeping bags and the Minimus K has become a regular at MDS. As mentioned, PHD make custom products for the entire range, however, it is possible to purchase the Minim Ultra K (330g from stock) at a cost of £263 in ‘standard’ fit. The big plus of PHD over other sleeping bags is how it is possible to customise a bag specific to your needs:

  • Length – short, standard, long and extra long
  • Width – slim, standard, wide, extra wide
  • Outer fabric – MX or ultra shell
  • Zip – no zip or short zip

Adjusting all of the above obviously alters the price, but if you are tall, wide, get cold feet, require no zip or require a half zip, PHD can give you exactly what you want! I recommend you allow time for this… don’t try to order a bag in March when you have a race in April…

For example, lets say you are small, slim build and require a half zip – Cost is £335 and the weight is 372g.

By contrast, lets say you are very tall, have huge shoulders and require a half zip – Cost is £458.28 and the weight is 588g.

A standard ‘off the peg’ Minim Ultra K with no zip in standard length and width weighs 330g and cost £263.

PHD say:

This K Series product has been created for one single reason, to take warmth-for-weight performance to the limit of what’s possible. Unique 1000 down, super-light materials, and specific design features mean that the word Ultralight now applies to this wide range of gear that will take you to the Poles as well as on a Sahara Marathon.

To those who like to shave every gm of weight off their load, the Ultra K sleeping bag is designed for you. The 10X inner brings a new soft comfort as well as reduced weight, while the unique 1000 down ensures max warmth per gram. An ultralight dream at 330gm (11.5oz).

Minim Ultra K.   330grm  (Mostly selected for weight saving).
Minimus K.         380grm  (designed for 5c nights – for a good nights sleep and recovery. This is the most popular choice)
Minim 400 K.     585grm  (mostly selected by those that do feel the cold)

Zip options are interesting. We find for MdS we’re sometimes putting in a short zip and occasionally just a foot zip. The Design Your Own Sleeping Bag site allows foot zips:  http://www.design-your-own-sleeping-bag.com/

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The PHD was actually too warm for me on the warm nights and was perfect on the colder nights without any base layer or liner. It’s a real plush bag and very comfortable. The lack of a zip means temperature regulation is cumbersome. My only option was to pull the bag below my arm pits or push down around my waist. I personally would order a custom bag with a half zip given the choice. The fill is 1000 European goose down (hence the warmth).

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The bag tapers nicely and doesn’t restrict in any way. The construction of the bag guarantees a great spread of down and it packs small and weighs a very competitive 380g.My bag actually weighed 392g.

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PROS:

  • Warm
  • Packs small
  • Comfortable
  • Customiseable

CONS:

  • Off the shelf it has no zip
  • Maybe too warm for some (without zip)
  • Lighter than OMM but not as light as Yeti
  • You don’t want to get the bag wet.

What 2015 MDS participants said:

Leigh Michelmore Used the PHD Minimus during MdS and found it to be perfect for what I needed. Compact, lightweight and very comfortable. It may have actually been a little too warm as I had one or two nights where it did too good a job. Overall very happy with it and will use it again!

Mat Needham I used the minimus Ian.

Super warm and I had to sleep partly out of the bag due to how well it performed, there were a couple of nights where I had to fully get in but that was more to do with the wind and sand blowing in the tent. Fitted in my small pack perfectly and very light. I would definately recommend it to others.

Dafydd Lewis I used the PhD minimus. Brilliant bag, really warm and light enough. Would definately take again……if I go again!!

Rich Torley Had issue with the zip on the PHD Minimus: would jam frequently and mostly during the night when I needed to escape for a pee. Wondered if it was to do with sand but never proved conclusively. Grew quite jealous of the Combi being doubled up as a jacket, especially on the colder mornings.

YETI

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YETI (new bag, Fever Zero above) are specialist sleeping bag makers. They offer a range of products so that you can decide on the exact bag for your needs and requirement. However, unlike PHD, they only offer ‘off the shelf’ products. The Passion One bag was extremely popular at the 2015 MDS for two reasons: small pack size and low weight. Weighing just 320g this bag has a full zipper, a real bonus for hot nights and it has Goose Down class 1 filling. It’s worth noting that if you require more warmth, a Passion Three (465g) and a Passion Five (690g) is available.

The Passion One is silky smooth, soft on the skin and on the first night in camp it was a real pleasure to have a full length zip to allow air to get around my body and regulate temperature. However, on the coldest night, I found the Passion One on the cold side and found the need for an additional layer.

YETI say:

Perfect for people who experience adventures while others sleep; who enjoy a trip with good companions; who consider flirting an adventure as well; who believe life is too short for bad design; who do not consider fashion and nature to be inconsistent with one another; who dream about flying; who believe their eyes travel as well; who consider the lightness of being absolutely bearable.

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In comparison to the PHD and OMM products, the Passion One felt ‘too light’ which I guess is a good thing.

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The scales confirmed that my bag was 304g, so, a good 100g lighter the the PHD Minim Ultra K and 122g lighter than the OMM 1.6. However, weight isn’t always everything… like the PHD, the Passion One comes in a choice of sizes: M, L or XL. The M is Ideal for me as I guess I am pretty much ‘standard’ size, however, big shoulders, extra height and you may struggle so rest assured that Large (6′ 3″) and Extra Large (6′ 9″) are available – obviously weight increases. The cost of the Passion One is £300

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As with all the bags in this test, space is at a premium. It’s the nature of travelling light, however, I did find the Passion One offered a little more room in the toe box.

PROS:

  • Lightest bag in the test.
  • Full length zip.
  • Draw string hood.
  • Small size.

CONS:

  • Not warm enough on the coldest night.

What 2015 MDS participants said:

John Evans Took the Yeti Passion One without liner, cover or mat. Found that stuffing it into my bag nearest my back provided good cushioning and saved 40g on carrying the cover  The bag itself was fine, a little too warm on the first few days but the full length zip was fine for temperature adjustment; got cool on the later stages when the wind was up (i was sleeping in the centre of the tent with most airflow) and body reserves were low, but manageable. Stuck it in the washing machine when i came back which seems to have screwed up the lining.

Melissa Venables Yeti – freezing cold with silk liner most nights except the warmer night where I did hang a leg out. Stage 4 I got in it with the space banker they had also given me and did that for a few nights (sorry tent 183 for rustling like a crisp packet)
The last three days it started shedding down everywhere as the material is so thin it split (inside)
I am a cold person hence taking liner – chose it because it was small and at one point I was going with a 14 l pack. Wouldn’t take again I would go for something warmer even if it meant a little more bulk and weight!

Rob Shaw I used the Yeti one. Very light and packed up small. Decided at the last minute not to pack the silk liner and regretted it. Very cold on the later days of the race mainly due to wind blowing. It’s a warm bag but if you are in a draught the wind blows right through it. If you can drop a side of your tent to block the wind it certainly helps.

Dave Benison Yeti Passion One with no liner. Perfect choice for me. Full length zip allowed for legs to pop out on the warmer nights, and during the sandstorms the drawcord around the top meant I could really batten down the hatches & keep sand free inside. On the cooler nights I would say it was ‘just about’ warm enough, and only had to reach for my Ghost Whisperer jacket once (at about 4am after the long stage.)

For what it’s worth…

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Another popular bag/ combination at MDS is the Raidlight Combi Down Sleeping Bag / Jacket. At £170 it represents real value for money as it combines a jacket and sleeping bag in one package. This obviously sounds like a great idea… However, the weight of the Raidlight is 700g. I personally prefer the flexibility of a sleeping bag and separate lightweight down jacket as this not only provides extra flexibility but reduced weight.

Raidlight say:

Raidlight’s ‘Combi Duvet’ dual purpose Sleeping Bag and Jacket. It is down-filled for great warmth to weight ratio. Perfect for use on multi-day races such as MdS or any event where duel purpose is key. At night, a warm sleeping bag and by day just unzip the arm holes, fold the bag up inside the back section, and it’s a really warm jacket.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, purchasing a sleeping bag is not as easy as you think, particularly when you are trying to pack this in a pack with all your food and other equipment for a multi-day adventure. You need to ask some very specific questions to ensure that you get a bag that works for you and fulfils your needs:

  • Are you tall?
  • Are you wide
  • Do you sleep cold or hot?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want to use your sleeping bag for other trips?
  • How important is weight?
  • How important is pack size?
  • Will you carry an additional base layer and/ or down/ thermal jacket?

One you have answered the above you can be very specific about what you need and it should, I hope become obvious which of the above bags is likely to be suitable for you.

I of course need to stick my neck on the line and say what my choice would be!

To be honest, it’s a relatively simple decision, I would go for a custom made PHD Minim Ultra K with zip so that I could regulate my temperature. With this bag, I would not need to carry an additional down jacket (weight saving 250g) and I could carry a small wind shell as a layer when not sleeping. Bag and wind shell £320.

But, the OMM 1.6 represents real value for money (if you are under 6ft). It provides a sleeping bag that can withstand the elements (rain) and the money saved on the bag would allow me or you to spend up to £200 on a real super lightweight down jacket that would offer great flexibility not only at a race such as MDS but at other events. Combined bag and Jacket price £370.

If I was an out-and-out racer looking for the lightest bag, the Yeti Passion One with full length zip and options of M, L or XL make this a tempting choice. But for me the money spent on making this bag small and light is potentially outweighed with the need for an additional warm layer that not only adds cost but weight. I would say that this bag and jacket may well come close to a combined cost of £500.

The curve ball comes with the Raidlight Combi Down Sleeping Bag / Jacket that provides great value for money. It’s certainly warm and the flexibility of the jacket option is attractive for some. However, it does weigh slightly more and packs larger. The cost at £170 is a bargain.

So what do you think…. what would you go with?