How to pack for the Winter Spine Race

Ultra running champion Simon Roberts is no stranger to the Winter Spine Race, having already conquered the Challenger North route. With the full Winter Spine Race now in his sights, we asked him to share what he’ll be carrying with him this time around…

Taking on the Winter Spine Race is no mean feat. Our first big race of the year is notoriously a brutal one and pushes even the most experienced participants to their absolute limits. #TeamMontane ultra-running athlete Simon Roberts knows this well, having won the Challenger North route back in 2022. This year he is returning to take on the full route, fresh off the back of winning the Montane Cheviot Goat Ultra 2023.

Simon shares his thoughts on the Winter Spine Race and reveals the essential kit he will be carrying to help him tackle the Pennine Way’s challenging terrain and weather conditions this January.Cheviot goat ultra 2023

Overview of the Winter Spine Race

The Winter Spine Race is a 268-mile footrace along the Pennine Way in Winter. Nicknamed Britain’s Most Brutal Race, it’s a non-stop journey up the Spine of Britain. The terrain is unforgiving with mountains, rivers, rocks, mud and peat bogs. When mixed with the winter weather, it’s one hell of a challenge. 

Every year in January, racers gather in the Peak District in Edale to begin their journey to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. The weather on the Pennine Way in January hits the extremes and you can see torrential rain, strong winds, and snow. 

Cross Fell, which is England’s second highest mountain outside of the Lake District, has some of the coldest temperatures recorded in the UK, it is also is home to the only named wind in the UK which is the ‘helm’ wind. The wind on Cross Fell can knock over a fully grown human! 

winter spine race route

Montane Gear Essentials

To complete this task, the correct kit is needed to keep racers dry, warm and safe whilst they're out there during the days and nights. There is a kit list distributed by the race organisers which lists the minimum kit that is required to start the race. Racers are required to demonstrate their kit at ‘Britain’s Most Brutal Kit Check’ before the race.

 Here are some key items that are required for the race and what i’ll be carrying with me on my Spine Race:

  • Montane Gecko VP 20L+ running vest pack
    There is an extensive list of kit to carry during the race. This 20-litre pack can carry everything. It’s a vest pack so it has a slick, snug fit which means you can move fast and agile over any terrain. It’s super lightweight and comfortable. The pack has many different pockets and compartments, which are easily accessible. 
  • Montane Phase Nano Waterproof Jacket
    Whether the racers are fighting the torrential rain or the strong winds, this is the jacket for the job. It has Gore-Tex’s guaranteed to keep you dry protection and it’s extremely lightweight and packable. Despite how lightweight it is, it’s protection is not  compromised making it the ultimate option for wet weather on the Winter Spine. 
  • Montane Unisex Minimus Nano Pull-Over Waterproof Pants
    The pants provide great protection from the elements, they slip over the leggings very easily. These pants are super packable, they pack down into a tiny ball so don’t take up much space in the pack. 
  • Montane Dart XT Thermal Zip Neck Long Sleeved Top
    The layering system is so important for a race like the Spine, or any race that is in the winter. The layers are needed to retain heat to your body, when it could be exposed to subzero temperatures. The layering system always starts with the base layer. The Dart XT from Montane is a great insulated base layer and keeps you warm whilst wicking away sweat. It also has a zip if you ever need to cool off a bit!
  • Montane Fireball Nano Hooded Jacket
    Second in line on the layering system is the mid layer. The fireball nano is a great insulated jacket for fast paced activities. It’s a great insulated layer to retain heat, but is also importantly breathable. It packs down into its own pocket which can be easily stowed in your pack. The jacket is also treated with a DWR, so offers some protection against light rain. 
  • Montane Prism Dry Line Waterproof Mitts
    The Winter Spine Race takes place in incredibly wet and cold conditions, non-stop rain and sub-zero temperatures. So the prism dry line gloves are perfect to protect the hands. They are heavily insulated and are waterproof. Also, being a mitt, they are very easy to slip on and off when you have freezing fingers. 
  • Montane Slipstream Thermal Trail Running Tights
  • A great winter running essential! The race exposes participants to freezing temperatures and strong winds. These leggings keep the legs warm and toasty. They are a great fit and very agile - perfect for moving fast.

    Additional Packing Essentials

  • Sleeping system
    It’s a requirement to have the appropriate sleeping system for the race. This is needed if racer gets into trouble and needs to get into the sleeping system to wait for rescue. It’s also needed if racers need to catch some zzzz’s on the trail. A good sleeping bag that meets the comfort requirements, a sleeping matt and a waterproof bivvy bag are required for this sleeping system. 
  • Headtorches
    As racers we will be going through the night - the winter days have more darkness than daylight afterall. Headtorch systems are essential. Navigation in the dark can be challenging, so a good bright torche is needed to spot stiles and way markers across fields. A spare headtorch or spare battery will also be required. My recommendation is the Silva Free 2000 M. 
  • Footwear

    When running on your feet for multiple days, it’s important to have some comfortable shoes. The shoes need good cushion and good grip for all the mud you’ll encounter along the way.  My recommendations are the Scarpa Ribelle Kalibra & Scarpa Spin Planet. winter spine race

    Simon is taking on the full Winter Spine Race, which kicks off on the 14th of January. Keep up with all the race action on our dedicated event hub.