Damian Hall's South West Coast Path FKT Kit

The gear that helped carry Damian Hall 630 miles along the South West Coast Path as he set a new Fastest Known Time in May 2016.

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Volkswagen New Transporter Kombi Van

We thought being flexible about when and where we slept and ate could be key to our FKT success, so we wanted a van that was reliable, could sleep all three of us (Me, Contours Trail Running Holidays co-owner Mark Townsend and crew man extraordinaire Tom Jones), and had enough room for all our kit and food .We also needed enough USB charge points for phones and GPS watches, as recording GPS evidence was crucial. Admittedly Tom slept across the front seats, but otherwise the Volkswagen New Transporter Kombi was perfect for us and worked a treat.


Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS Watch

I needed a GPS watch that was reliable, could record GPS data for as many hours as possible – a minimum of 24 – and, ideally, could upload data to the internet via a smartphone. Suunto’s Ambit3 Peak did all that and much more (I could have had message notifications sent to my phone – but that was part of what I was trying to escape). Reliability might sound like a given, but I’ve used Suunto’s main rival for a few years and it’s often proved unreliable, turning itself off at inconvenient moments. I set the Ambit3 up to record for up to 200 hours, meaning it updated the GPS every minute. That made the figures such as daily mileage and ascent a little
out, but it was worth it. On reflection I could have gone for more frequent updates, with the Suunto lasting 30 hours. Some nights the watch wouldn’t sync with the Movescount app on my iPhone, but I believe that was due to Cornwall’s patchy phone and internet reception.


Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles

Talking of which, I didn’t use poles much in the end, but I wanted to try these out for UTMB, where I know I’ll use them a lot. At 280g (for the pair; 100cm versions), these are very light. They’re also quick and easy to get out and fold away, fit swiftly and subtly onto the Race Ultra pack and felt plenty strong enough too. I’ve used three alternative poles in the past, but these are the best.


Inov-8 Race Elite Trail Shorts

With so much extra kit to think about, you mightn’t think shorts would be a key piece of kit. At least I didn’t. Until I changed out of these on (I hope my wife doesn’t read this…) day seven. My new pair gave me instant chafing and I was soon right back in these. They’re made from a really stretchy, comfy, breathable (not always a benefit to your van mates) material that has a DWR coating to keep you dry. Excellent.


Inov-8 Race Elite Windshell FZ

I used to think wind shirts were a gimmick, but I wore this almost every day at some point. It’s amazing the difference just blocking out the wind can make to your temperature and comfort – and a waterproof is more likely to make you sweat. A wind shirt or jacket is usually also lighter to carry, and though this one is heavier than some I appreciated the extra protection on the blustery cliff tops. Plus a full zip meant I could stick it on over my pack without having to remove it. Like with the shorts, this was a bit of kit I underestimated.


Rab Neutrino 600 Sleeping Bag

Few things are more satisfying than snuggling up in a thick, down sleeping bag after a long night in the wind and rain. The 800-fill hydrophobic goose down and an Extreme Rating of -10c makes this Rab sleeping bag super-warm, snug and very comfortable. It also boasts a water-resistant shell. I’ve used this many times, including on the Spine Race and always look forward to being reacquainted with it.


Injinji Toe Socks

I wore severals style of sock over the 11 days – as I have over the last few years – but time and again I find Injinji toe socks to be the best. They’re always comfy (and offer a variety of thicknesses), made of wool (so they’re still warm when wet) and as they prevent toes rubbing together they’re very unlikely to cause blisters.



When I’m racing I use CLIF gels and Shot Bloks, but I didn’t want to be relying on sugars here except for energy emergencies – some Shot Bloks got used towards the end. But many CLIF bars were eaten in the making of this FKT. They have a variety of flavours – white chocolate and macadamia, and blueberry crisp, being favourites – so you’re less likely to get fed up of them. They’re made with organic oats, include protein and fat, and are around 250 calories. Yumo.


Inov-8 Race Ultras 290 Running Shoes

To me, comfort and a good fit are more important than grip or cushioning for distance running. A bad fit usually leads to blisters and though the Inov-8 Race Ultras 290s were good in training, on the SWCP I realised they were a tiny bit too big for me. I put an extra inner sole in, which put my feet at the wrong position and caused small heel blisters. I switched between New Balance Leadvilles and The North Face Ultra Endurances for several days and both had their benefits. On most days I would experience some sort of discomfort in a new place, simply from so much time on my feet (often over 20 hours), but often a change of shoes was enough to elevate it. However, for the last few days, perhaps because my feet had simply spread or swelled to fill them better, the Race Ultras became my go-to shoes. They were the most comfortable, while superior cushioning meant my knees were less grumpy than they could have been. The grip is really effective too. From rejecting them (I hope they’ll forgive me), I became a big fan.


Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 BOA Pack

I needed a decent-sized hydration bladder and this pack has a two-litre one, and an effective anti-sloshing mechanism (Mark’s Ultimate Direction pack sloshed like an angry washing machine). However, refilling it often meant snacks tumbling out of the main compartment. But the pack was really comfy, chafe-free, the hose sleeve kept the water cool and the cap kept it hygienic – the pack ended up on the dusty floor countless times. (The BOA also includes a 150ml soft cup and emergency blanket, both mandatory kit for UTMB, so I’ll likely use it again there too).


Petzl MYO Headtorch

For multi-stage races and challenges I didn’t want the fuss of rechargeable battery packs, and the Petzl MYO is the most powerful headtorch (370 lumens in Boost mode; 280 in Maximum mode) I know of that uses standard (AA) batteries. The beam switches between wide-angle and spotlight, which is really useful for locating paths in foul weather. It also has an effective warning system for dwindling batteries – plenty of headtorches do this badly, leaving you running with a diminishing light source, and you going slower without realising it. I always use Lithium batteries, which are pricier, but lighter, less likely to fail in cold environments and longer lasting.


Pro-Tec Athletics Shin Splints Compression Wrap

Scott Jurek wore these on his Appalachian Trail FKT to ward off tendinitis on the shins, apparently common for FKT runners in the US and certainly for me during multi-day efforts. I started in them and had no problems. So after a few days I idiotically took them off for an afternoon – and, of course, got tendinitis. I put them back on from then on and by the end my tendinitis was mostly gone again.


Berghaus VapourLight Reversible Race Smock

I’ve been using this for a couple of years now and it’s become indispensable. At 156g (for size large) it’s the lightest insulation jacket around and it adds real warmth to the runner at night-time. It also offers a different level of warmth depending on which way around you wear it. I’m very weight-conscious when it comes to kit, but this is light enough that I’d chuck it in my pack as a precaution whereas otherwise I might risk going without – making me safer. Similarly, Berghaus’s VapourLight Hyper Smock, the world’s lightest waterproof, came in very useful, too.


Therm-A-Rest EvoLite Sleeping Mat

We slept three hours a night on average and I knew I’d need to be as comfortable as possible to maximise the chance of physical recovery after each day’s effort. Along with a huge Therm-A-Rest Compressible pillow, I took the Therm-A-Rest EvoLite sleeping mat, which I’ve used on various camping trips, including for the Dragon’s Back Race, where it was excellent. On the SWCP however, I slept well at first, but less well towards the end. I didn’t account for the hardness of the van’s metal floor and in future I’d probably take something from their Camp & Comfort range, rather than Light & Fast. My misjudgement, rather than the mat’s failing.


Care Plus Camphor Spray

This is my secret blister-preventing magic. I spray it on my pinkies for several days before any big race or adventure, providing an antiseptic protective layer. It’s probably no coincidence that as I got more tired and forgot to reapply Camphor Spray at night I began to get more foot problems on the SWCP.


Originally published 17/06/16

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