The OMM is a two day navigation event that requires paired runners to carry all of their equipment including kit for an overnight camp.
The OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) takes place in October, when weather conditions in the UK can be bad, and visits remote upland terrain. Thus competitors are faced with a conundrum:
To go fast and light, carrying as little kit as the rules allow and thus skimping on comfort or..
Take a bigger pack and more comfortable kit but at the expense of having to carry the extra weight around the hills for two days.
A glance at runners’ pack sizes on the start line clearly shows those who have opted for a decent sized tent, roll mat and warm sleeping bag whilst others seem to have hardly brought any kit at all (and are facing the prospect of a cold and uncomfortable night ahead!)
My partner Spyke and I entered the Elite class with the intention of being competitive and so opted for the minimalist approach (what’s one night of discomfort between friends?) aiming to limit the amount of weight carried as far as reasonably possible.
The weather forecast for the event was for bitterly cold northerly winds with possible snow showers which had some bearing on my kit choice. Here is a breakdown of the equipment I carried with some explanations of my choices.
Mandatory Kit (each competitor must wear or carry the following):
Taped waterproof jacket with hood
I used the latest version of the OMM Kamleika smock. Not the absolute lightest of waterproof jackets but more robust than some very lightweight options and likely to keep me a little warmer if the weather was as cold as forecast. I ended up wearing the jacket continuously whilst running and taking it off to use as a pillow overnight.
Taped waterproof trousers
Again I chose OMM Kamleikas for the above reasons although mine are an earlier model. They stayed in my pack during the day but I rolled them with the jacket as a pillow at night.
Clothing suitable for mountain running and walking
I wore a long sleeved merino wool cycling top. It was quite thick and whilst I have lighter base layers I felt that I needed something a bit more substantial given the forecast. It had quite a deep zip that I could undo to regulate heat.
I chose a pair of Ashmei 2 in 1 shorts with a long merino wool inner. These really help keep my glutes, hamstrings and quad muscles warm and so are more comfortable than a pair of tights. These combined with knee length CEP calf sleeves meant that only my knees were exposed to the elements. I chose calf sleeves over knee length socks because they stay fairly dry allowing me to keep them on at camp whilst swapping my wet socks for a dry pair. The calf guards also gave some protection to the lower legs when running through deep vegetation (we encountered heather, bracken and gorse on both days).
Spare base layer top
This was an old Helly Hansen and was the lightest base layer I had. I put it on over my merino top as soon as we reached camp.
Spare full leg cover
This was a pair of Asics tights and again these went on over the top of my shorts as soon as we got to camp.
Warm layer top
I chose my OMM Rotor Smock. This primaloft top has really good warmth to weight properties, retains its insulating properties when damp and packs down very small. I put it on as soon as we reached camp and slept in it.
Hat, Gloves & Socks
On my head I wore a simple windproof beanie with a buff round my neck which I pulled up over my nose and mouth when the wind was coldest on day one. I wore a pair of Rooster Sailing liner gloves and carried a pair of Goretex Extremities Tuff Bag mitts in case the weather got very cold and wet (I didn’t actually need these but they stayed easily accessible in the jacket pocket of my waterproof jacket).
Socks were a pair of 1000 mile trail socks with a spare pair of lightweight Salomon socks for the overnight camp. I put the wet ones back on to run in on day 2 – nice!
Footwear designed for trail and fell use
I used the trusted Inov-8 Mudclaw 300s for the maximum grip possible, particularly useful for the steep grassy downhills but generally good on all off road terrain.
Head torch capable of giving useable light for a minimum of 12 hours
This was a tiny Petzl E+Lite. I would have struggled to run or do much meaningful navigation with it but I figured that if we weren’t back at camp by nightfall then we wouldn’t be running anyway.
Whistle & Compass
Whistle was an integral part of the strap on my pack. Compass was a Silva Race Plate Zoom chosen for its fast settling needle. It doesn’t have bearings marked on the dial which takes some getting used to and means that you can’t set a pre taken bearing.
Map (as supplied)
Harveys 1:40,000 handed out at the start of each day.
Insulated Sleeping system
This was the OMM Mountain Raid 1.6 sleeping bag. The Primaloft fill means that it is still effective when wet so is a good choice for bad weather. My concern was that at only 450g it wouldn’t be warm enough. My sleeping mat was just a small piece of foam carpet underlay to which I’d stuck a layer of bubble-wrap. It only weighed 55g and was just long enough for me to fit hips and shoulders on it if lying in the foetal position. We also used our emergency survival bags as additional ground insulation and protection from the damp sides of the tent. This worked to some extent but they rustled at the slightest movement and mine wouldn’t repack into its bag in the morning and had to just be stuffed into by pack.
First aid equipment
A few basic bits from a standard first aid kit plus 6 sheets of toilet roll and four paracetamols.
Pen/pencil and paper capable of being used in wet conditions
This was one sheet of Rite in the Rain waterproof paper and a stubby Ikea pencil. I also carried a permanent marker in my pack hip pocket in case I wanted to mark anything on the map (not used).
The First Aid kit, notepaper and pen plus head torch were carried in a tiny dry bag.
Survival bag (not a sheet)
I used an Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy. This is a really useful bit of kit to have with you for remote runs.
This was my Inov-8 Race Elite 20. (no longer available) It is a very lightweight pack with zipped hip pockets for access to food and was just about big enough to fit everything in.
This was basically the extra food that I didn’t eat on the hill. For each day I carried 3 packets of Clif Shot Bloks, 3 Nakd bars (or Aldi equivalent) and a couple of gels. I had a packet of Shot Bloks, a Nakd bar and a gel left at the end. I find the Shot Bloks very easy to consume even when I’ve got a dry mouth. They are a lot more expensive than Jelly Babies but I find these way too sickly and can’t stomach them.
Water carrying capability
This was simply a 1 pint milk carton cut down to make a cup which I clipped to the waist belt of my pack. I didn’t take a soft-flask because 1; my pack didn’t have the pockets to carry one and 2; I wanted to keep my hands dry when refilling from streams and this is virtually impossible with a soft-flask. The plan was not to carry any water at all whilst running but to drink from natural sources as we came across them. This just about worked as the weather had been dry in the lead up to the event and some of the upland streams shown on the map weren’t flowing sufficiently to drink from. Day 2 was warmer and I did slurp from a couple of sources that I would normally have avoided but fingers crossed I haven’t suffered any ill effects! The home made cup system worked really well apart from occasionally rattling around on my waist belt buckle which annoyed me!
Water was available on the overnight camp and Spyke carried an empty 1.5 litre bladder that we filled and used for cooking and brewing up.
Spare warm kit and insulated sleeping bag must be waterproofed (i.e. in a drybag)
As the forecast didn’t indicate heavy rain I chose to put my sleeping bag, spare base layer and leggings in a plastic bag sealed with tape. My Rotor Smock went into another smaller plastic bag, again sealed with tape. I planned to use these bags over my dry socks once in camp but other than getting up to the loo, once in the tent I just stayed there rather than wandering round camp. Had the forecast been for heavy rain I would have probably chosen proper dry bags for a better seal on the second day (it was difficult to get the used tape to reseal).
Mandatory Kit, each team must carry the following at all times:
Cooking equipment including stove with sufficient fuel for duration of the race, plus some spare for emergency use, left at the end of the event.
I carried a titanium gas stove (weighing 48g although some are now even lighter) with a 100g gas canister (200g when full) which nested inside a titanium Alpkit Mytimug 650ml. The Mytimug was used for boiling water and I used it as my bowl for breakfast. I used a simple Fire Steel as a lighter and took a small plastic spoon.
It would have been possible to save weight here as alcohol stoves or hexamine type fuel would have been lighter. Although a gas canister is heavier it is simple to operate, clean, adjustable and there is no danger of spilling it. I wanted to be able to get the stove going as quickly as possible with minimum faff when cold and knackered at the end of day 1. We used 60g of fuel. The Fire Steel (28g) was preferred to a lighter as it still works even when wet.
Food for 36 hours for two people
We took 2 x dehydrated chicken curry meals (600 kcal each) plus some dried couscous for the evening meal, a couple of handfuls of salted peanuts, some porridge for breakfast and 6 tea bags (we only used 3). No pudding, no hip flask, no luxuries!
Tent with sewn in groundsheet
This was Spyke’s Laser Photon, only really designed for one person so it was a bit of a squeeze! Weight with tiny titanium pegs was around 650g. Spyke carried the tent, I carried the stove and food.
The final weight of my pack was just less than 4kg but this was before the overnight food was added.
Overall thoughts / what would I change?
My main concern prior to the event was that I would be freezing overnight. I hadn’t used the sleeping bag before and so wasn’t sure how warm it would be. My plan was to wear every item of clothing I had with me, including waterproofs in order to stay warm overnight. Although temperatures fell below zero overnight (I know because my shoes started to freeze!) I managed without the waterproofs, just wearing 3 layers plus hat and buff (which I pulled up over my face and nose whilst trying to sleep). Luckily I had stayed dry during the day so I didn’t need to take any wet layers off or lie in damp clothing. I wasn’t warm by any means but I managed not to lie there shivering all night. However, with two people in a tiny tent you have to expect a long uncomfortable night with little sleep! I’m only 5 foot 3 and don’t take up much space which makes things a little more bearable – for my tent mate at least!
My sleeping mat was minimalist and not particularly comfortable but it was the size of the tent that prevented me from getting comfy rather than anything else. I think I could add an extra layer of bubble-wrap to make it a luxury edition!
Kit worn on the hill was fine. Day 1 was very cold at times with strong winds and a few snow showers but all zipped up and moving I never felt cold. Had the snow showers continued I’d have put on my Goretex mitts so although I didn’t use them they were worth taking. Day 2 was warmer although not enough to take off the jacket when in the cold wind so it was a case of zip up on the tops and unzip in the lee and on the climbs. Towards the end of the day I could have done with taking the jacket off as I was getting too warm but I didn’t want to waste any time.
I found using a compass without bearing markings to be odd. It also meant that we couldn’t check each other’s bearings. In hindsight I’d have been better with the Silva 360 Jet instead.
I was also unsure about how much food to take to eat on the hill as in the past I’ve overestimated. I think I just about got it right in terms of quantity with a bit left over at the end counting as emergency food. I struggled on day 1 and probably didn’t eat enough and in hindsight should have taken more gels or some baby food sachets that are easier to eat when your mouth is dry.
Camp food was just enough. I struggled to eat the porridge and even resorted to adding a chocolate gel to it to make it more palatable. It didn’t work! Oh and we took too many tea bags!
More details of the OMM here https://theomm.com/
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