Top

Gear List: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) || Personal & obligatory gear

Mont Blanc from across the Chamonix valley, on the UTMB course south of Col des Montets

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) and its growing race series (CCC, TDS, OCC, and PTL) are held in the last week of August in the Savoy Alps, an extreme mountain environment. Since the first race in 2001, racers have experienced a wild range of weather: snow, cold rain and snow, fierce winds, relentless sun, and scorching heat.

Conditions vary year-to-year and throughout the course. Elevations are between 800 to 2550 meters above sea level (2700 to 8500 feet), and temperatures and precipitation amounts fluctuate accordingly. Typical finishing times are between 25 and 45 hours, so all racers spend at least one night on the course. And the immense topographic relief produces localized weather patterns.

UTMB gear list: Personal and obligatory gear

Relative to US races, UTMB participants are required to be more self-sufficient. Most importantly, this reduces the potential burden on aid stations and SAR teams in the event of inclement weather. It also levels the playing field, since crews become less critical.

Race organizers enforce this self-sufficiency with a comprehensive list of obligatory gear. These items are checked during bib pick-up and must be carried from start to finish.

Some obligatory items overlap with standard personal clothing and equipment. For example, I would wear a brimmed cap during the race, whether required or not. Others I would consider weather-dependent (e.g. rain gear), or I would plan to retrieve them from a crew or drop bag at a particular spot (e.g. headlamp). Finally, some items are solely for an emergency (e.g. space blanket).

In developing my gear list, I strived to be both properly prepared and compliant, but at minimal weight. With a favorable forecast, some additional weight can be shed while still satisfying requirements; with an unfriendly forecast, preparedness trumps weight — a few more ounces of gear can make the difference between 5th, 25th, or a DNF.


Personal clothing & items worn

These items are like a second-skin: they are worn from start to finish, and other items are layered over them. Exception: the water bottles and poles, which are simply in constant use. These items have been vetted extensively in training and previous races.


Element protection and night kit

If not in use, these items stay inside my pack. (Accordingly, my race pack has more volume than normal.) Even if conditions are favorable, many of these items would be necessary at night, when it gets dark and temperatures drop.


Emergency and ID

Finally, there are a few cover-my-a$$ items, plus required identification, since the course passes through three countries. If I need to dig into this kit, it’s a sign of desperation or poor decision-making, or both.


Alternatives

Your UTMB kit need not look like mine, but perhaps it will be a starting point. Here are few other items that I think are worth consideration:

Shirt & hat. If conditions are cool and wet, which unfortunately is the current forecast for the 2017 race (three days out), a thin lightweight long-sleeve like the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Crew ($50) will provide more overall comfort than a singlet or short-sleeve. For temps below 55 or 60, I find that I also need a Buff Original to protect my ears.

Shoes. I plan to start with the Speedgoat, but my wife will have a pair of Salomon Sense Ultra in the event I wish to swap out. Read my review of these shoes, and my comparative analysis versus the Speedgoat.

Rain gear. The most high-performance ultralight rain jacket is The North Face HyperAir ($250), due to the permanently beading Gore-Tex fabric. Another decent option is the Outdoor Research Helium II ($160), for which there is a matching set of pants, although this has the traditional wet-out problem.

Have questions about my selections? Wish to mention viable alternatives, or seek feedback about them? Please leave a comment.


Disclosure. This website is supported mostly through affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors, at no cost to the reader. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

15 Responses to Gear List: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) || Personal & obligatory gear

  1. Zak Steigmeyer August 29, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    I’m kind of surprised that you’re going with those shoes after not much time with them. I stopped using softer/max cushion shoes after deciding that they make my feet more tired after a while, but that’s just me, and that’s just trying one pair of shoes. . .Haven’t tried Hokas or that shoe in particular. And I know that you’re careful with your decisions, so they must have proved themselves to you.
    The other thing I was expecting to see on your list is something to help cooling- I find it really helpful to have a buff filled with ice around my neck or a brimmed hat that I can put ice in (or both). Otherwise I prefer a visor.

    • Andrew Skurka August 29, 2017 at 10:11 am #

      I’m fortunate to review lots of shoes, and in that process I’ve become pretty good at determining early on whether a shoe will work for me or not. (I think I have also learned to adapt to more shoes )

      I have 150+ miles on my original Speedgoat 2’s, and would have used them for UTMB had Hoka not been willing to send a fresh pair. They had compressed some and lost some tread, but they were good for a 100-miler still. In this pair I did a handful of 50k’s on Boulder’s trails and I set a new FKT in the Pawnee-Buchanan Loop, a 27-miler with 7k vertical climbing in the Indian Peaks.

      That said, I’m still hedging my risk — Amanda will have the Sense Ultra in the crew bag.

    • Andrew Skurka August 29, 2017 at 10:13 am #

      Re cooling, you’re right to identify this as an ommission — if the race were today, we’d be boiling up. This year, however, even the nicest forecast looks chilly, with highs in the low-50’s at the lowest parts of the course.

      • Zak Steigmeyer August 29, 2017 at 10:20 am #

        Wow, that is cool temps. I’d probably be going with the light long sleeve shirt, to push the sleeves up for the uphills and pull them down on the downs. I think you mentioned that in your options.
        Good luck out there, I’ll be watching and rooting for you! Run your own race!

  2. Jim Dean August 29, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    Best wishes for a safe and successful race- however you choose to define it! This is really informative as a safety-first trail running minimum for long distances!

  3. Michael August 29, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Good luck! I’ll be rooting for you!

    Out of curiosity what swayed you to Speedgoat 2 vs Sense Ultra? I know you’ve got both but curious what made you choose to start with Speedgoat and see if Sense Ultras are needed, and not the other way around?

    • Andrew Skurka August 30, 2017 at 3:39 am #

      The Speedgoat are the plusher of the two shoes, and I am hoping that they can spare my legs some early pounding. They were also the recommendation of my coach, and he knows a thing or two.

      Ultimately I think either shoe would be fine. You could almost flip a coin and be happy heads or tails.

      • Michael August 30, 2017 at 7:37 am #

        That makes sense. I’ll be interested to see your post race thoughts.

        Also, we actually have the same coach. I reached out to him because of your first articles on training with him. I’m not on your level though, so I’ll have to live vicariously through you for UTMB.

        I’ll be sending you all the good vibes and rooting for you. Race day is almost upon us.

  4. Travis August 30, 2017 at 6:58 am #

    Looks like an interesting choice in gloves. Are those gardening gloves?

  5. Ben Zuehlsdorf August 30, 2017 at 8:39 am #

    Here’s a potentially crazy option to consider in the future:

    https://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/the-shell.html

    Does 10,000 satisfy UTMB requirements? I think it does.

    Have you run in the Hyper Air? I lve always been curious about its breathability compared to the UD Ultra Jacket. Are you obliged to wear the Ultra Jacket over the Hyper Air?

    Also, did you consider using a series 4 Vest or not enough time to test fully?

    • Andrew Skurka August 30, 2017 at 10:04 am #

      I’d prefer the HyperAir over the HMG shell, which uses eVent and which therefore will have a wet-out problem, due to degradation of the DWR.

      I don’t think any WPB shell can keep up with perspiration while running. That’s why ventilation is so critical, yet designers don’t understand this — Gore has fooled them, too.

      Did not get enough time in G4 sig series packs. I’m initially skeptical of the designs due to extensive use of sil-nylon. They look like they could be sweat traps.

      • Ben August 30, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

        Completely agree that today’s waterproof designs and fabrics can’t keep up with runners. There is only a slightly better experience with jackets utilizing underarm pit vents (love the UD design here to save weight) AND ideally a similarly deigned back venting system. Very, very rarely does rain or water cause issues with soaking through in these areas for runners.

  6. scott August 30, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    “Portable cup/bowl Bottom 4 inches of old Platypus SoftBottle”

    You put this in the next picture, not the one you mention it in.

    Also…that’s a Sawyer! Sponsored by Platypus or something? 😀

    • Andrew Skurka August 30, 2017 at 11:18 am #

      Good catch on the organization, thanks.

      I like Platypus bottles more than Sawyer, but happened to have a Sawyer bottle around the house (new, never used, because I saw too many of them rip in the field and don’t trust them, valid still or not).

  7. RB August 30, 2017 at 10:40 pm #

    All the best in the race Andrew, I appreciate all the amazing content you provide for free on your site…also congrats on having Amanda help you out, she’s awesome! # UTMB

Leave a Reply