I got caught in a downpour this week. I was prepared and wearing my Rab Polartec Alpha synthetic fill puffy jacket.
I was not exposed for long and confident on drying out quickly. It could have been very different.
I came across John Barklow (check him out on IG as he has some cool videos on gear) recently. He is with Sitka Gear who produce gear for hunting. You might ask “What has that got to do with trail running?”
It is worth thinking about the ideas that Sitka talk about. Loosely these have their origins in the Navy SEALS and before that Alpine Climber Mark Twight’s book “Extreme Alpinism“
It is not one product but a system of products and how they work together. Each product in the system has a particular function but they need to work together for overall success. Patagonia have their High Endurance Kit. The problem with buying into a system of gear is that if you don’t know what the parts are trying to do then it looses much of its versatility. Certainly this is super clever and versatile but I want to dive into the ideas behind it.
Worth noting is that the Sitka range is aimed at facilitating drying out. Check out this video here:
OK so what can we learn from this:
- Ideas on layering: I have used the “action suit” concept for a long time. For example: pre trail race (or hard outing). The concept is that I want to keep moving as much as possible. Therefore stopping to put layers into my pack needs to be minimised. I try to regulate heat as much as possible with adjusting headwear, arm warmers and gloves remove or add as few layers as possible. I would layer as follows: Base Layer, Windproof, Puffy Jacket. I assume that I am taking off my Puffy pre start. I will be too hot anyway to run in that. A rain jacket will usually be in my pack as emergency kit. In truth I most times prefer to run in a windproof jacket in rain rather than a waterproof.
- Being (or Getting) wet is not the issue. Drying out is! Check out this static rewarming drill:
The huge difference to the first video is that there is no activity to warm us up. Think an emergency where for some reason we are immobile (twisted ankle, assisting another runner, exhaustion). Even if we are able to move I might be helping a slower person and therefore not able to generate enough warmth for me. Very quickly I become the liability. Also we will normally not be soaked like in this video but we will be wet non the less from perspiration, also we will not have as many layers and gear as above. So what gear we do need depends on conditions and should be well considered.
Ideas to consider:
- How do my gear choices enhance or take away from my overall experience?
- Have I got a way to create a shelter? This could be anything from carrying a space blanket to a tarp to a tent.
- How do my layers work together? We know cotton t-shirts are best left for the mall but what about down sleeping bags for a Drakensberg Traverse? There are no absolute answers but I encourage you to consider and question.
- How can I improve the functionality of my gear? This is where my thought process started when I got wet. I was ok when my puffy got wet but I could easily have prevented that by treating the outside with a DWR. Here (and here) are two previous pieces I wrote on this. Servicing gear is like servicing your Porsche (yes one day I will get to drive one). Without it the gear does not work!
Actually come to think of it the above is worth expanding on. The web (and links I posted above) have tons of info so I will try to not bore you but rather give my perspective and spark thinking. Watch this space.