Montane Litespeed Windproof

Montane Litespeed Windproof Review

There’s one single piece of trail running and fell running equipment that I use more than anything else: my windproof jacket.  To be more precise, my Montane Litespeed windproof jacket.

I’ve had one for over 6 years now and although I wrote it’s obituary on a previous blog post, I couldn’t bring myself to retire it and so kept on using it.  But now I’ve finally bitten the bullet and replaced it.

Montanr Litespeed jacket

out with the old, in with the new!

What do I look for in a windproof?  Basically three things: it has to be small, lightweight and not least needs a pocket to stow a section of map and a compass for when I’m racing, training or working.  (The need for the pocket is why I prefer the Litespeed over the slightly simpler Featherlite jacket).  So how well does the Litespeed meet these criteria?

Size (I’ve got the small): Packed in its own stuffsack it’s about the size of a large orange .  I rarely use the stuffsack, preferring to simply stuff the jacket into my bumbag or rucksack in order to best fill the available space.

size of a big orange

size of a big orange

Weight:  The jacket feels light and the small version tips the scales at 177g including the stuffsack.

lightweight Litespeed

lightweight Litespeed

Pocket: The Litespeed doesn’t disappoint here, the chest pocket on the new model is even bigger than on my original, and easily swallows a printed section of map without the need to fold it.  The new version lacks the little tab attached to the zipper which makes it tricky to locate the zip (especially if wearing gloves), a minor flaw that I can fix myself.

Montane Litespeed

big pocket easily swallows a map section

Other Features:  The jacket also has an adjustable, stowaway hood; to be honest I rarely use this as I either wear a hat / buff or if it’s really hammering down wear a full waterproof.  However it’s good to know that the hood’s there for the odd occasion I might get caught out.

Montane Litespeed

little red adjustable hood!

Elasticated cuffs give a snug fit and keep the weather out whilst the adjustable hem can be cinched tight to prevent the jacket flapping whilst running.

adjustable hem prevents flapping

adjustable hem prevents flapping

Based on my experiences with my old jacket I can say that the ripstop Pertex is very durable; after 6 years use and abuse it is showing signs of wear on the shoulders under where my rucksack straps go, but there are no holes or snags despite numerous encounters with trees, bushes and other foliage.  The durable water repellency has long since worn off, but that is to be expected.  The once bright red fabric is now faded but the zip is fine and it’s still windproof – it just looks a bit tatty that’s all, so in the true spirit of fell running I’m still going to use it, just not for best!

So my fading star has been replaced by a bright new light – the Montane Litespeed, my favourite piece of running kit.  Here’s to another 6 years!

Montane Litespeed - my favourite bit of running kit

Montane Litespeed – my favourite bit of running kit

Berghaus Voltage Jacket

Berghaus Voltage Jacket Review

Depending on what type of running I’m doing I use different waterproof jackets.  For fell races I go for as small and lightweight as possible and use the Montane Minimus smock. However for day to day use on navigation and guided running sessions or for more serious outings in the winter months I’m prepared to compromise: a little more weight and bulk from something that is a bit more robust.

There are plenty of jackets that fit into that category and one that I would recommend is the Berghaus Voltage

Berghaus Voltage waterproof

Made from Goretex Active fabric the jacket has a full length waterproof zip, two generous sized pockets, volume adjustable roll away hood, elasticated hem and elasticated cuffs with an additional velcro adjuster.  At 365g (Medium jacket) and a small pack size it shouldn’t pose too many problems packing into your running sack.

The 3 layer Goretex feels comfortable on the move yet sturdy enough that it won’t de-laminate when worn under a rucksack (a problem with some super-light jackets).  It also feels a bit more reassuring than more lightweight jackets: you feel like it will keep you dry!

If I could change one thing on the Voltage waterproof I would add an external chest pocket for map & compass etc that is easy to get at when wearing a rucksack or bum bag (the two side pockets are good but you need to be careful not to cover them up with your rucksack if you want access to them).  Other than that it looks a great jacket if you want something a little more durable and protective than a super-light race jacket.   See more of the jacket in my video review:

Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket

The Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket is a very lightweight windproof top.

First off, I was really impressed by its weight – or lack of it – the small clocking up only 81 grams on the scales!

Mammut MTR 201

Mammut MTR 201 – very light!

The jacket features a full length zip with a small chest pocket, (a feature I really like for stowing compass, cut down map, gloves etc.)  The pocket has an internal hole for headphones (so that you can take your “multi media device” with you to the hills and listen to man made sounds rather than birdsong, the wind in the trees, the tinkling stream etc!) There are elastane mesh panels below each armpit to assist breathe-ability (I think these will be good whilst running but a compromise to the jacket’s wind proofing and thus not so good if using the jacket whilst standing around), a hem draw cord and something called finger gaiters in the cuffs (basically an extra bit of material that might, at a pinch, keep your fingers warm although I can’t see how these would do the job of a pair of gloves!)  It is DWR treated to make it shower as well as wind proof and time will tell how long lasting and effective this proves to be.  Reflective lettering and logo give a little bit of increased visibility at night.  The jacket easily fits into its own chest pocket for storage.

I tested it out whilst trail running on a breezy but sunny October day.   In action the jacket was very comfortable and whilst the close fit of the small wouldn’t allow it to be worn over bulky layers, as a running wind proof over a long sleeved base layer the fit was excellent.

Mine is a fetching bright green which matches the MTR 141 trail shoe although it should also be available in black.

MTR 201

MTR 201 – very green!

Overall I was very impressed with the jacket, it fits well (I usually find small men’s size to be a bit big!) and is ideal for wearing on a chilly day when you know it isn’t going to rain.  It looks good too – if you like green!

fell running guide

Injinji – Gloves for your Feet

The great thing about fell running is its simplicity.

No expensive kit is needed, there’s no need to keep updating to the latest design, it’s just a case of get dressed and go.  So there’s nothing much to consider when it comes to choosing a pair of socks, right?

Well that’s what I thought until I went to a talk by experienced Ultra Running athletes, sharing their knowledge with runners hoping to complete the Mammut Ultra Tour of the Peak District.  The fact is that during an ultra distance race your body has enough to deal with and so avoiding anything that could slow you down is crucial, things like blisters for example.

An ill fitting sock might not cause you too much trouble on a short run or race but what if you’re on the go for 10 hours or more?  That little ruck in your sock, that little bit of skin rubbing on skin is going to cause a problem.  That’s where Injinji toe socks come in.

Injinji toe socks

Injinji toe socks

What are they?

Injinjis are designed as left and right foot specific socks with each toe having its own little bit of sock – just like gloves but on your feet!  The anatomical shaping helps keep the toes correctly aligned and prevents them rubbing on each other.  Sweat is also removed from the toes and thus the chance of getting blisters is reduced.  The material is a mix of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra giving a snug fit with increased reinforcement at the heel and toes where most of the wear is likely to occur.

What are they like to wear?

My first thought on seeing them was “they look odd!”  Having had thousands of pairs of socks I have got used to what they look like – and these look different, but that’s no reason not to wear them.  The main thing you notice is when putting them on.  After decades of putting socks on without thinking you have to actually concentrate on what you’re doing and line up each toe with its own compartment.  This was a little bit fiddly and certainly not something that you could do in the dark whilst still half asleep!

Injinji toe socks

Strange but comfortable

Having got them on they felt a little unusual around the toes although I soon got used to this.  I first tested them out with my usual fell shoes on a hard hill rep session in the Peak District.  My concern was that as there was more material in the toe box they might make the shoe too tight, but this wasn’t a problem and once my shoes were on I felt just as comfy as usual.  The run had me on my toes on the way up whilst the steep downhill sections was the sort of terrain that forces your feet to the front of your shoes.  The Injinjis were comfortable and supportive (although they didn’t make the hills any easier!)

Overall I liked the Injinji toe socks and will be using them for long days out fell and trail running in the Peak District where the real test will come – but it will take more than gloved feet to turn me into an Ultra runner!

Montane Minimus Smock

I really rate Montane jackets for fell running & mountain walking.

I have a Superfly jacket for long days on the hill where I’m likely to be walking rather than running and my most used piece of running kit is my trusty Litespeed windproof jacket.  So I was keen to get my hands on the Minimus Smock, reputed to be one of the lightest, truly waterproof jackets on the market.

My first impression was Wow – that’s light!  The kitchen scales showed it to be 144 grammes (for the small) including stuffsack. Take off the weight of the sack and you get 136g.  I then weighed my Litespeed which was 145g without sack so the Minimus is actually lighter.

Montane Minimus Smock

Wow – it’s light!

So it’s minimal in weight but what about features?

The material is Pertex Shield, a highly breatheable, lightweight waterproof fabric with micro taped seams.  The zips are YKK (if you’re precious about your zip manufacturers!) Aqua Guard with storm flaps.

When I’m leading a run or teaching navigation I need constant access to map & compass so a pocket is a must.  The smock has a handy chest pocket that easily swallows a section of map, compass, gels etc.  The interior of the pocket is mesh so you can open the zip to vent if things get too warm.  It has an elasticated hood, cuffs and hem (which I prefer to a drawcord) and gives a snug fit when worn over a simple long sleeved base layer.

Handy zip for map & compass

Handy zip for map & compass

My first chance to try it out was on a group guided run in the Peak District.  The weather was cold and foggy with a threat of rain, conditions when I would have normally worn my Litespeed.  A few runners commented on the good looks – a distinctive electric blue with orange zips.  The day was a stop start affair, frequently pausing to look at the map and so with the chance of getting cold. The Minimus certainly kept out the chill wind and pulling up the hood and running for a few moments made a real difference and I found I quickly warmed up again.

group run

Distinctive colours

I like the idea of a smock; no faffing around trying to do up the zip on a windy day with cold or gloved hands and also less weight and less to go wrong.  The zips do have extenders making gloved use more easy.

A second, more rigorous test came when I was caught out in squally shower with hailstones mixed into the almost horizontal rain.  It was great to have a hood to prevent rain going down my neck and the Minimus did a great job of keeping out the weather.

dealing with bad weather

The Minimus dealing with bad weather

One thing I’ve struggled with in the past is what to use on a windy day with the forecast of rain.  The Litespeed is great in wind but is mine has long since lost its DWR coating and so I need a waterproof as well.  I have a Kamleika smock which is great but quite a bit bulkier than the windproof.  It seems that the Minimus answers the problem – it’s as light and compressible as the Litespeed and waterproof too so could be the “one size fits all” solution.  Whilst supporting a recent Bob Graham round I knew I would be on the go for 8 hours or more and that saving weight in my pack was crucial so the Minimus was the obvious choice.

Races run under Fell Runner Association (FRA) rules stipulate that windproof / waterproof clothing must be carried on certain races.  Again the dilemma of “what to take?” is a common discussion point between runners on the start line.  For me from now on it’s a simple answer “the Minimus” it’s as light as a windproof but it’s also waterproof.

Any downsides?

There’s no such thing as a waterproof, breatheable jacket! – if you’re running hard in wet conditions your sweat will condense on the inside to some extent.  This is true of the Minimus, but no more so than with my OMM Kamleika smock or a Lowe Alpine top I used previously.

The super light fabric seems that it might not be very durable, but only time and repeated use will tell.  As with any waterproof it needs to be looked after; washing with soap and reproofing occasionally with Nikwax TX Direct.

My one gripe is that having used the Litespeed for years I am used to reaching for the pocket zip with my right hand but the Minimus zip closes left to right (as worn) so needs the left hand!  I’m sure I can live with that.

So for me it’s a winner; racing, training, guiding runs – from now on I’m going Minimus!

Putting the Minimus through its paces

Putting the Minimus through its paces

Fell Running Guide

Montane Litespeed my Old Friend

We’ve been together a long time my Montane Litespeed and I.

running in the Montane Litespeed jacket

running in the Montane Litespeed jacket

Seen some good times, some pretty rough ones too and it’s certainly not always been easy, not always fun;  Remember that time on Kinder when the visibility was so bad that I had to have the map in hand all day?

Bad weather navigation

Fog on Kinder

Or when we found ourselves thigh deep in snow when I thought it would be a good idea to do a winter run, off tracks in the Peak District – it took us ages!

snow wading

deep in snow

Or this winter when the wind was so strong I had to wear goggles and the drifts were so high it was incredible.

deep drifts

deep drifts

But we’ve had some good times too; the stunning winter day on Cranberry Clough, just us two and not another soul around all day.

Stunning winter running

Stunning winter running

And the fantastic views from our favourite run up Win Hill.

Blowy day on Win Hill

Blowy day on Win Hill

Down from Win Hill

Down from Win Hill

You’ve been around the country with me, done loads of races (even won a couple) and always looked after me (a lot better than I’ve looked after you), even on the darkest of nights.

dark nights

dark nights

Now it hurts me to say this, but you’re starting to fade, to get old, you don’t shed like you used to…. I know, I know, it’s my fault; I didn’t read you right, you always said “non bio and re-proof” but I ignored you and just chucked you in with everything else.

fading favourite

fading favourite

I’ve been looking around recently, seen someone else, a younger model with a lot to offer.  It doesn’t mean that I want you to go, you’ll still be there, just that we won’t be spending as much time together that’s all.  We’ll still do the odd trip, I’ll take you along on sunny days when conditions are right. Course I still love you, just in a different way.

So, thanks for the memories, for being there when I needed you, for putting up with the conditions and, my Montane Litespeed, for being my favourite piece of kit.

Keep the snow out of your shoes

Inov-8 Debris Sock Review

I recently won a pair of Inov-8 Debris Socks.  Designed to keep grit and stones from getting into your shoes I promptly put them to the back of the drawer thinking they’d come in handy next summer.

snow wading

shoes full of snow!

However during last month’s running when I yet again ended up with shoes full of snow I remembered that I had them and wondered if they’d work in snow.

The socks are basically just that; nice, comfortable Coolmax sock but with an extra bit of sock that folds down over the laces of your shoes and hooks onto the lace with a metal hook – just as with normal gaiters.  I wore them over a pair of thin wool socks and pulled them up over the bottom of my leggings – this was mainly so they could be seen on the photos, I would normally wear the leggings over the top.

They have 2 thin plastic hoops that act as stirrups, going under the shoe to prevent the socks from riding up.

inov8 debris sock

hooked onto the laces

inov8 debris sock

securely attached with stirrups

Using the socks with a pair of Inov-8 Mudclaws, the lugs gave a secure grip for the stirrups and I experimented with several different positions (under heel, under instep etc.) all of which seemed to work.

So, how did I get on?  Well basically they did what I wanted them to do which was preventing snow getting into the gap between shoe and foot.

inov8 debris sock

effectively keeping snow out

inov8 debris sock

no snow in my shoes!

 

Running through deep snow lead to snow building up on the sock material  but not getting behind the tongue or into the shoe itself.

As with any wool mix sock they are not waterproof and my feet did eventually become damp, although not cold.

Another advantage was that they prevented the laces from freezing up which made untying them at the end of the run easier than normal.

The one thing I did find was that they were fiddly to get off with cold hands after the run.  My fingers were too cold to pull the stirrups off and I found that taking them off whilst they were still attached to the shoe was the best method.

I have since used the Debris Socks on all runs where I have anticipated deep snow and I’m glad that I discovered them.  I’m now looking forward to using them on dry, dusty summer runs!