Written By Fergus Scholes
Fergus, or Adventure Ferg, is an adventure journalist and ultra endurance athlete. He’s rowed across oceans and ran over mountain ranges, and in 2016, he completed Wadi Rum Ultra (Ultra X Jordan).
I wanted to share with you the kit I used for the 242km Wadi Rum Ultra. Of course, much of these choices are personal, but perhaps there will be some useful information for you. If you’re interested in reading my experiences and story of how the event went, you can read that here.
The race took place last October, and was over a total of 5 days, with an overall running time of 29 hours 36 minutes. The longest day was a gruelling 70km through soft sand, and you can be sure you want to have confidence in your gear on a 10 hour day like this! Each morning we started running before the sun rose and midday temperatures soared to 40°C.
The following is a full list and review of the kit I used for the marathon. You can also view a short YouTube video I put together of my kit here.
Shoe: New Balance Leadvilles v3
The most important bit of kit you’ll have. I purchased and tried out HOKA One One Mafate Speed 2 (295 grams) and Inov8 RocLite280 (280 grams), but I never really hit it off with either of those. I think the HOKAs could have been good, but I bought a size too big and was reluctant to spend another £110. When running the London marathon in 2015 (03:00:30), I did this in the much lighter and road running orientated Adidas Boston Boost (226 grams) which were great, and I continue using these for shorter 10km type runs now.
Ultimately, for the desert marathon, I came back round to a great solid trainer that I had tried and tested from some years previous. Coming in at 293grams, the New Balance Leadville v3 were my selected trainer – they’re certainly not the lightest option, nor the snazziest trainer in terms of tech or looks. But I wanted a trainer which would be safe as houses and would not cause me a moment of bother over the 5 days and 250km.
I got this pair a couple of weeks prior to the start, and ran approximately 50km in them to break them in. Every other competitor had dreadful blisters all over their feet, nails coming off… some pretty nasty sights! Fortunately, I had no such problems and my feet were in perfect order from start to finish. They were the dream pair of trainers, and I would highly recommend without hesitation. I am still using them for runs now 6 months on!
Gaiters: Raidlight Desert Gaiters
A short stumpy kind of gaiter specifically designed for the desert. These work with a velcro strip (this comes with them), which is stitched directly onto the trainer just above the sole by a cobbler (I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself!) I found a great cobbler near Green Park tube station who turned it around in 24 hours. It was called ‘Sole Man’ on 1 White Horse Street, and they did a fantastic job. The gaiter then affixes onto this velcro strap and is very effective – no sand came in at all, and I had no issues with these whatsoever. Highly recommended.
Socks: X-Socks Marathon
Brilliant socks which I use across the board for any kind of running I am doing. Combined with with 2Toms Blister Shield, my feet were in tip top condition throughout the ultra.
Calf Guards: X-Bionic Spyker
Very effective at keeping away the cramps. I would also keep these on for several hours after finishing running to act as compression and recovery.
Top: X-Bionic Twyce Compression
Despite being skin tight and black, this no doubt kept me cool. I did find I had to tuck it into my shorts to prevent it from riding up at the bottom, but in general I was really impressed with this.
Backpack: Montane VIA Dragon 20
A great backpack with a 20L capacity, although with the roll top it is quite accommodating at squeezing in more if needed. Loads of pockets around the side and on the front for stuffing in gels, dates, music players, sun cream etc.
We actually only had to carry what we needed for the day, so this was plenty big enough. Had it been necessary, would it have been sufficient to carry all my food? It’s difficult to say for sure, but I would imagine so. One of the waterbottle holders on the front is a zip pocket so this would from time to time unzip itself and the bottle would fall out, but other than that a great pack.
Water Bottles: 2 x 750ml Raidlight
Pretty standard water bottles with small mouth piece extenders so you can drink from them whilst keeping them in your front rucksack pockets. I found they would leak from time to time, but overall functioned fine. You unscrew the tops of these to refill with water at the 10km checkpoints, so perhaps not as quick as flip-top bottles.
Arm Guards: Montane VIA Armguards
SPF50, very lightweight and fit the description, albeit they would fall down at the top a little (my arms are quite skinny, but not that skinny!)
Cap: Vertical Sahara
Very good cooling lightweight cap, with the extension to keep the sun off your neck which worked very effectively. This could also be removed to clean it/just remove it if you didn’t need it for any reason.
An essential and versatile piece of kit, great for keeping the sun off your neck, soaking up sweat, and useful for a number of other improvised uses.
Poles: Leki Black Series Micro Vario Carbon
I ran for most of the race, so only used these a couple of times, but when I used them they were very handy. Some of the other competitors used their poles every day and I would say for them they were invaluable. Because they are so light and compact, I carried them with me on the long stage ‘just in case’ I needed them in softer sand.
Windproof Jacket: Montane Featherlite
The world’s lightest windproof jacket at 48 grams is a great piece of kit if weight and size are important factors for your activity. This is more for early mornings or camp use, as it’s not breathable and you sweat quite quickly in it when you start to run. Nor is it waterproof, so it does have limitations, but for just keeping a chill off at the beginning of the day before the stage had started, it was really useful.
Down Jacket: Leki Black Series Micro Vario Carbon
The world’s lightest down jacket, weighing in at a phenomenal 154 grams. Fits very well, packs into nothing, and perfect keeping warm in the evenings, and in the mornings when getting ready. A great piece of kit.
Headtorch: Petzl Nao
Water resistant and with 575 lumens, this torch was just the ticket for running across the desert for three hours before sunrise. A number of brightness and beam width customisable settings too. It is a little on the heavier side (187 grams), but I was happy to carry this extra 50 grams or so over a less powerful equivalent to have great visibility.
Watch: Garmin 920 XT
A great watch, and brilliant battery life which happily got me through the longest day of 14 hours without the battery going.
Sunglasses: Rudy Project Tylex
Lightweight, kept out the wind and sun perfectly, and would withstand drops and being thrown around no problem. Also, the nose supports can be adjusted, so they fit all sorts of shapes really well.
Headphones: Bose SoundSport
Great headphones, with volume and forward/back track control. Once placed in your ear, they don’t move around and gave good sound quality.
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David had previously taken on single-stage ultras, but after being inspired by the stories of the Tarahumara, he made a last-minute call to sign up for Ultra X Mexico and the rest is history!