Whether you're thinking about taking on 156 miles of desert sand in the Marathon des Sables, 24 hours non-stop running at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc or something closer to home like the 100km Race to the Stones along the UKs stunning North Downs Way, these races all have one thing in common - you need super light kit.
Fast packing - the art of travelling fast and light - is a growing trend. A bit like hiking on steroids, the idea is extreme lightweight self sufficiency that lets you move fast over the trails. Lucky for tech and gear lovers that means there's loads of innovative new kit on the market to help people carry less weight without sacrificing features. From long-last GPS watches to a pot to boil up a brew, Marathon des Sables Top 100 finisher and ultra runner Kieran Alger, gives his top tips on the ultimate tech for endurance runners and fast& packers.
- Check out the best running shoes
Inov-8 Race Ultra 270
For most ultra runs or fast packing challenges you’re only every going to take the shoes that you’ve got on your feet. That means picking running shoes that can handle the terrain you’re taking on is probably more important than how much they weigh. However, if you are focusing on the grams on your feet then these lighter, 270g race version of ion-8’s great Race Ultra offer both. They boast a minimal 4mm heel-to-toe drop, a nice wide toe box that helps blister avoidance and just enough cushioning to cope with stoney trails.
£110.00 | Inov-8
X-Bionic Fennec RT 2.1 Running Shirt and EVO Shorts
Inspired by the Fennec desert fox, the X-Bionic running shirt and shorts are created using a special Xitanit yarn that mimics the foxes fur, reflecting the heat even when you’re striding through the blazing sun. The fabric not only helps reflect heat away from your skin but a special three dimensional weave also moves sweat to areas that need to cool down, saving precious energy you’d otherwise waste self-cooling. The shirt and shorts combo also offer mild compression and, importantly the inclusion of bacteriostatic Skin NODOR than inhibits bacteria growth, helping your kit stay fresher longer.
T-Shirt:£99.99, Shorts:£34.99 | X-Bionic
Yeti Fever Zero Sleeping Bag
The German-engineered Yeti Fever Zero claims to be the world’s lightest sleeping bag. At just 280g it has to be up there. It’s not just light though, it also packs down to 11cm x 18cm, not much bigger than your cooking pot. The secret to its weightlessness? A combination of Yeti's Next to Nothing 2.0 lightweight fabric, an ultra-light, tear-proof, micro-ripstop Nylon with a weight of just 20 g/m2, which is made from super-fine 7D yarn and its filling made from 900+ cuin Pure White Goose Down - the lightest down-proof fabric in the world while a half zip shaves off vital extra grams. The comfort rating ranges from +15°C to Extreme -1°C but in reality you wouldn’t want to be using this in temperatures much lower than 5 degrees.
£305.00 | Yeti
WAA UltraBag Backpack
Designed specifically for the Marathon des Sables, the 20 litre, 590g, WAA isn’t the lightest backpack you can buy but it is full of clever tricks to make carrying your gear far less fuss. The 270 degree opening makes it easy to get at all your kit, while the Nepalese-style head strap gives you the option to transfer some of the weight off your shoulders when you hit the steeper climbs.
There’s a purpose-made storage slot for carrying hiking poles and safety flares and a removable 4L front pouch that can add storage or be used on it’s own.
Euro 189.00 | Waa
Silverpoint Jetflame lighter
You can get away with an 11.4g Bic Mini but when you’re running the trails facing all kinds of conditions, getting your solid fuel stove lit with a standard lighter can be a bit challenging. The 64g Jet Flame Lighter is designed to withstand most winds, with a flame that can reach temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees. At the same time its steel body is robust and the tactile rubber paint coating makes it easier to grip.
£12.99 | Silver Point Outdoor
Iain Sinclair CardSharp Knife
Cleverly engineering a surgically sharp blade into a stashable credit card shape, the classic Iain Sinclair CardSharp knife weighs just 12g thanks to a super light Borealist polypropylene body. The curved stainless steel blade is kept in place by twin Zytel sliders and a safety lock. For those after something a little more sturdy, there are slightly weightier options cut from aluminium.
£20-£55 | Iain Sinclair
Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite Fast & Lite Extra Small
If you’re going for an inflatable mat then the NeoLite three-season is a great option. With tech that’s just been updated in 2015, it features patent-pending, reflective Therma Capture system to traps radiant heat while a special Triangular Core Matrix construction minimizes convective heat loss. For ultra lightweight, the 230g half size is the best bet but if you’re heading somewhere colder the added insulation from the larger sizes are also well worth the extra grams.
£230.00 | Cascada
Gram Cracker Solid Fuel Kit
This innovative Gram Cracker Solid Fuel Kit takes the idea of a stove and pairs it right back to it’s lightest and most basic. The kit consists of a 3g titanium solid fuel stand, two titanium side panels, a protective foil shield, three Esbit fuel tablets and a lighter. Admittedly the Cracker does work best with the added protection of windbreak but in places where you can dig down, add stones or you’ve just got calm conditions, this minimalist system offers the lightest way we’ve found to get your water boiling.
£14.95 | Trail Designs
Gerber Ultralight LST Knife
At just 17g, Gerber's Ultralight LST is perfect for going fast and light. A classic lock back, folding blade, it’s just 68mm when closed - that’s about the height of a box to Tick Tacks - 117mm open and has a 50mm 400 series stainless steel blade that’ll handle most of the small stuff you’ll need to do in camp with ease. If it has a drawback, it won’t be much use for fending off bears and it’s almost so small it’s easy to lose in your kit.
£15.99 | Gerber
Compressport Compression Ultra Race and Recup UR2 Calf Guard
Because keeping your feet in good nick is essential for longer endurance events, you’re likely to carry more than one pair of socks. You could opt for all-in-one compression socks but if you’re looking to shave off grams then you’re better off with one pair of calf compression guards and multiple pairs of lighter ankle socks. The fibres of the Compressport UR2 compression calf guards, are loaded with thousand of tiny little capsules containing muscle soothing essential oils. Meanwhile the Compressport fibres have also been designed to help reduce the movement that causes muscle tears, cutting fatigue and aiding active recovery.
£34.99 | Compress Sport