Offa’s Dyke in one sitting

At 5:26 September 11th, I set out from the official start (or end) of the Offa’s Dyke trail in Prestatyn with the intention of ‘running’ – some jogging, some hiking, A LOT of hobbling – the 177 miles to the other end of the trail at Sedbury Cliffs, just outside Chepstow. I did finally get there, just over 3 days later, setting what is, for now, a fastest known time for a self-supported completion of the trail.

I won’t go into the run itself here, suffice to say it was hard! And made harder still by doing it entirely self-supported. I followed the strict Spine race definition, and took no assistance or supplies from anyone or anywhere that wasn’t available to the public. Shops and pubs and, as it turned out, curry houses, were fair game. But other than that I was on my own. That meant carrying all the kit I would need for the adventure and juggling that age old equation of safety, redundancy and durability, against weight, weight, and weight. I’d guess I bought 95% of kit from Up and Under; everything apart from shoes and sleeping bag. I’m pleased to say that I used everything I took bar spare base layers, and didn’t really want for anything bar more socks, as always… The shop has developed a really good range of trail and ultra gear over the past couple of years featuring some brands you don’t see so much of. So, here’s a breakdown of what I took and how it fared.

 




Pack:
Raidlight Responsive 24l
The pack is the most important part of the kit, in my opinion. It’s the interface between you and your gear. Too big and you’ll take too much kit with you. Too small and you’ll either not take enough, or not get stuff out when you need to because of the faff of unpacking everything. Any small rub or niggle can really add up over long efforts of a couple of days. Packs for this sort of gig range massively in weight and often that comes at the cost of durability. The Raidlight pack was just outstanding. It’s not the cheapest (there’s that old ‘pick two’ saying…) but it’s probably the most comfortable pack I’ve run in. Period. The ‘boa’ style adjusters at the side of the pack seem like a gimmick, but they’re genius and allowed me to all but eliminate bounce with the pack fully loaded with over 6kg when food and water supplies were full.

It absolutely swallows gear and seems to take way more than 24 litres. Surprisingly easy to access the rear pockets without taking it off for stuffing away food, gloves, poles, etc (there’s a handy chest pole holder that actually works, too). The front pockets are really well thought out (I’ve had packs in the past where I’ve genuinely not been able to work out what some of tiny pockets were for…) and the water bottles fit really well. One gripe is that the straw type bottles ‘slosh’ as you’re running. But as a wise man once said, if sloshing water bottles are your main problem during an ultra, you’ve got it pretty good. The durability of the pack is impressive too, and it shows hardly any signs of the ordeal it went through with me. That’s even more impressive when you consider it weighs less than 300g! At that weight, and given it also compresses right down, I’d be more than happy to wear it for shorter faster ultras and mountain marathons. It’s a rare thing in the world of increasingly specialised gear; a true all rounder, which makes it pretty good value after all.