The Spine Challenger has a pretty extensive compulsory kit list and carry out thorough checks at registration. I’ve summarised the kit list below before giving a brief layout of what I used and how it performed.
Backpack: I used my trusty OMM Classic 25l which has done me well on races including Marathon des Sables. My kit was a bit snug for this race but had no issues fitting everything in and having the important stuff to hand. Waist belt pouches are always awesome to grab food on the go. https://bit.ly/2T89rxO
Map: The A to Z of the Pennine Way South is perfect and easy to use as it’s in book format, so no folding maps as you progress through the race. Also means you don’t have to buy and carry 4 maps if using OS ones! https://bit.ly/2CHQxqo
GPS: Garmin E-Trex. Super easy to use with the supplied GPX file uploaded to the device through Garmin XXXXX which is free. The route was relatively easy to navigate anyway, even more so with a little arrow telling you if you were on the right track or not. The AA batteries lasted a good 15 hours before requiring a change. https://bit.ly/2FVME4k
Goggles: My military issued goggles were rejected at kit check and everyone seems to use the £10 from Amazon (including Jayne and the guy who I borrowed from). Weather wasn’t bad enough for us to use them, but some people reported eye ‘issues’ on our race in the high winds. https://amzn.to/2AXZ9Js
Headtorch: We both used the Petzl Myo which performed really well, and I’ve always preferred a rear battery pack to balance out the torch when running. My main issue was the 3 hour burn time on its highest setting (300 lumens). We met a Belgian guy on the course who educated us that if you used the second setting (less bright), you get an extra 3 hours burn time. He was completely correct. Too bad we learnt this with only 18 miles to go. https://bit.ly/2FLouKy
Waterproof Jacket: The race specifies a jacket with taped seams, so I took my Innov 8 Storm Shell, however this just wasn’t warm/robust enough in my opinion. We both opted to take our Paramo smocks on top of the required jacket as the race doesn’t accept these as a waterproof. My Paramo was absolutely perfect. I was warm and perfectly dry the whole race. There were a few occasions where I got a bit sweaty on the ascents but that was far outweighed by its overall performance. Jayne has the exact same opinion as me comparing it against her OMM jacket. https://bit.ly/2Ht8v5Q
Waterproof Trousers: We both used Montane Minimus pants which performed perfectly. They kept us dry and worked well as a windstopper layer for the legs in the cold. https://bit.ly/2Dv2r8A
Hat/Gloves/Neck Gaiter etc: I took an old Hagloffs waterproof hat which has been bomb proff since using it in the Army, but never needed it on the race. I took two sets of gloves – Alpkit Haline waterproof and Trekmates Chamonix gloves. The Haline gloves performed well but did let the cold in during the night time ascents. My Trekmates were perfect for when the temp dropped and kept me warm and dry throughout but weren’t very dexterous over the Halines.
Socks: I’ve used Injinjis for the last year after switching from Hilly Twin Skins and I’ll never go back. I used the trail mid weight crew and mini crew socks for the race and had no issues and no blisters, however other than a race in Costa Rica I’ve never really had blisters. Jayne used the same socks but did suffer quite badly with blisters, however they have never failed her before so we reckon the heavy pack contributed to it. https://bit.ly/2sF5HYY
Base Layer Top: Old Skool Helly Hansen all the way! No issues with these at all and kept me warm throughout whether wearing on its own, with a t-shirt over it or under my insulation jacket. I’ve always used them for winter running with great success. https://bit.ly/2MsP7Vk
Base Layer Bottoms: I took some old long johns but never needed them.
Race Clothing: I used Kalenji (Decathlon) running leggings which were great and dry quite quickly as well as keeping legs pretty warm. However, we did have our waterproof trousers on for around ¾ of the race.
Insulation Jacket: I used the Alpkit Katabatic. THE. BEST. JACKET I’ve ever bought. Kept me super warm when I needed it but is also pretty breathable. It also got wet and still performed really well. https://bit.ly/2sFK7DN
Footwear: I’ve recently switched to Hoka One One more specifically the speed goat 2 model as I was sick of the Salomon Speedcross shoes splitting every 3 months. I used the mid boot version as well as the trainer version of the speedgoat for the race and was very impressed and the extra cushioning was most welcome! https://bit.ly/2U65Jou
Sleeping Bag: The Alpkit Pipedream 400 received a lot of good reviews from spine vets due to its weight and comfort rating as well as its price. It packs down really small (use a different compression sack) and whilst I didn’t really get to test it on the race, it was super comfy in CP1! The race organisers are very specific with what ratings are acceptable, so read up on the requirements carefully. https://bit.ly/2DwONC3
Roll Mat: I took the Alpkit Numo as again, light and packable but is comfortable. Unfortunately didn’t get to test it on the race. https://bit.ly/2DvuZza
Bivvy Bag: Alpkit Hunka has a great reputation so it was a no brainer but sadly not tested on the race. https://bit.ly/1nzfwAz
Stove: I took a Jetboil while Jayne carried the Alpkit Kraku to save space and weight.
Food: You have to take 3000kcals of food from the start. This is obviously personal preference but worth considering carrying a mix of boil in the bag and freeze dried meals. Boil in the bag can easily be eaten cold (certain meals such as beans and sausage) meaning we could eat on the move without boiling up water. Freeze dried are lighter and pack down smaller so were useful to save a bit of weight and used at CPs where hot water was provided which meant we never had to actually use our stoves.
Water: You need to have a 2litre carrying capacity. I just took 3 650ml bottles and Jayne took a bladder. There were plenty of opportunities to top up water, so I left my 3rdbottle at CPs in my drop bag and didn’t suffer for it.
Shelter: We opted not to take a tent which is allowed if you have a bivvy bag and were very happy with that decision. Even if you wanted to sleep on the route, I think a tarp would have been more than sufficient with the bivvy bag combo.
Overall, very happy with kit choices and how it all performed, although I fully understand that our conditions were a little more forgiving than in previous years. However, I chose all this kit with tough winter conditions in mind and pretty confident it would have still performed well.
What would I change? Despite learning about the extended burn time of the Petzl Myo, there are some head torches out there that have burn times of up to 12 hours at 300 lumens which can be charged via micro USB. This would mean carrying way less batteries and I was already carrying a mobile charging unit for my Garmin watch so wouldn’t be carrying anything extra.
More savoury/less processed food as it played hell with my stomach throughout the race but that’s something I need to figure out with elimination of foods etc.
Extra dry bags to individually proof hat/gloves/buff/balaclava as some of it got wet just by being next to my wet gloves in my paramo front packets. Even just small ziplock bags would have been fine.
All in all my pack weighed around 12.3kg including water. I could easily save a kilo on batteries with a more efficient head torch!!