It was fairly easy to decide to run across Tasmania, but only afterwards when the organisation and training starts did I begin to realise what a challenge we’d taken up. One area I’d thought little about before committing to the run was kit. In this article I’ll give a quick overview of my four favourite pieces of kit we used on the run, why I liked them and if there was anything I’d change about them. For full disclosure several of the brands mentioned in this article have supported The Great Australian Triathlon by way of free or discounted kit. Okay let’s go!
1. Mountain King Trail Blaze running poles.
I’d never run with poles before training for Tassie, but having talked to few fell running mates I was persuaded by the promise of ‘less weight on the knees’ and ‘increased stability on the rough stuff’. So I picked up some Mountain King poles and started training up in the Brecon Beacons. I was sold. For me personally, after a year of physio on my knees, the reduced force through my knees and increased stability while running was a very pleasant surprise. I used the poles on almost every day of the run across Tasmania, and found I could run faster and more comfortably on almost every surface with the poles than without. When not in use, the poles fold easily into four pieces, meaning they packed away very easily onto the outside of my bag. We also found they made great posts to hang washing lines from!
What I liked:
- Light: My poles (110cm) came in at 122g.
- Strong: I was initially worried that something so light might not survive the rough ride we gave them, but while they showed an occasional bit of flex when putting a lit of force through, the aluminium alloy tubes never seemed close to breaking.
- Compact size: Each pole folds down to less than 30cm long, so they could be stored pretty much anywhere.
What I would change:
The poles have hook and loop straps which hold a cord in place. I found that on occasion the strap would come undone while running. While this didn’t affect how the pole functioned at all, I found it to be a little bit annoying.
If you’re doing something like this, definitely get some running poles. And if you’re getting running poles it’s well worth trying out the Mountain King Trail Blaze and seeing if they work for you.
2. Garmin GPSMap 66i.
This device is one of Garmin’s most up to date GPS units (allowing all the usual navigational aids) combined with satellite communication technology. For us this meant not only could we easily follow routes I’d plotted in advance on the laptop back in England, but we could also share our location and tracking data with friends and family. While crossing Tassie we were regularly in areas with no mobile reception,so and having the ability to text contacts over satellite to relay important information was incredibly useful. The GPSMap 66i also has an SOS function allowing you to request emergency assistance in the most remote of areas. Obviously its not a feature I’d like to use, but it was good for peace-of-mind to have the option if something major occurred.
What I liked:
- Functionality: This device does everything. We navigated exclusively off the Garmin for 20 days in some pretty remote areas. We also shared a live tracker of our progress for friends and family back home to follow along. We were able to contact people in areas with no mobile reception and call in detailed weather forecasts via the satellite network. All in all, very, very, useful.
- Battery life: The Garmin lasted about 3 days of continuous use when tracking and a lot longer in ‘expedition mode’. Not at all bad.
- Rugged: The Garmin survived multiple drops and heavy rain no issues. Definitely useful when you’re relying on it!
What I would change: I’d love to be able to switch out the battery so I could just carry spare batteries and not have to worry about charging from solar or mains power.
Overall: On the run I found the Garmin GPSMap 66i indispensable. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a high end GPS and/or satellite communication system.
3. MSR Pocket Rocket stove.
An army marches on its stomach, and so does a Cianchi… During the run, hot food became massively important for team morale, especially on the cold nights in highlands of central Tasmania. As such we needed a stove that would quickly cook up a meal for the group, but was also small, light and robust enough to throw it in my bag and forget about. The Pocket Rocket did just that. With a minimal size and weight and reasonably fast boiling time it suited us perfectly.
What I liked:
- Light: when you’re carrying everything on your back over some pretty difficult terrain, it pays to be light. The stove came in at 73g, what’s not to like!
- Boiling time: For a small stove I thought the boiling time was pretty reasonable (somewhere around 3.5 minutes for a litre of water according to the official boiling stats), and as such, we were never waiting too long for dinner.
What I’d change: Difficult to simmer. Most small stoves seem to struggle a bit trying to produce a lower heat option. Not a massive issue though as long as you frequently stir your food!
Overall: Small, light and fast enough to forget it’s even there. The MSR Pocket Rocket Stove is definitely a worthwhile option if you’ve got access to camping gas.
4. Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35.
With all this gear you need some way to carry it! Running bags are pretty specialised bits of kit, it is not an easy task to evenly distribute weight across your upper body and hips while ensuring the bag stays fairly still as you throw your body up and down hills. But for me, the Fastpack certainly achieved that balance. Bags are pretty personal and what fits one person can be very uncomfortable for another.
What I liked:
- Large size: this is a big bag with around a total of 37 litres of carrying capacity. This means you can fit a lot of gear in, in fact enough to run across a full Australian state!
- Adjustable: despite the quantity and weight of kit carried, I found the bag to be very comfortable once adjusted properly. With the shoulder straps, waist strap and chest straps all easily adjustable I didn’t find it too difficult to get the bag sitting how I wanted it.
- Pockets: the bag has shed loads of pockets, so many I’ve lost track. This makes it really easy to organise all your gear; from having a cereal bar or two accessible at all times, to safely stowing valuables.
Things I’d change: I’d like the bag to be a bit easier to use a water bladder with. A small hole for the tube at the top would sort this issue nicely.
Overall: I really loved the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35 bag. It got me through a very tough run with no major issues and will definitely be a go to of mine for weekend missions back in the U.K.
I think that’s enough of my rambling for now, hopefully next time you hear from me I’ll be on the Australian mainland writing about kayaking the Bass Straight.
Cheers for all of your support so far, Ben.