Eager to take on the 20-mile Outside Hope Valley Round challenge? From lightweight waterproof jackets to ample storage running packs, Peaks-based runner Tom Stones review the essential gear needed for this ‘must-do’ challenge in the heart of the Peak District.
A ‘must do’ challenge
My name is Tom and I moved to Sheffield in the spring of 2022. I've worked at Outside for a year and a half now. I'd call myself a jack of all trades as I love rock climbing, running, biking, swimming, hiking, and winter mountaineering. I first heard about the round on one of my first days working in the shop, while a couple of my colleagues were trying to suss me out.
They asked me "So you think you're a runner hey? Well, we've made this route called the Hope Valley Round. It's pretty gnarly, we do it after we close the shop, it's 20 miles if you think you're hard enough. " It immediately went on my big days out list of challenges to do in the peaks. With 1360m of ascent, and over 32km, I knew it would be a challenge but definitely within my range.
I've done a few runs in the peaks that mostly are sections of the round. When working in the shop we get lots of people saying the same and that they love how it links up sections that they know really, but that it also explores some more adventurous spots that they didn't know were out there.
One of my favorite things about the round is the sense of community it brings. We see so many groups of people go out together and come back all sweaty and tired. I'm sure when they go up to the cafe for their free tea and cake, they share stories of the day, remember times they have been out in the past, and plan other activities for the future.
Below are a few of my tips and ideas to make your go at the round the most fun and hopefully the most hiccup free it can be. Firstly, the weather. We all know how the weather can make or break a trip out, so always make sure you check before you go. The joy of running, in my experience, is that you can go out whatever the weather. Obviously, there are better days to do it, but if you're well prepared and have some strong willpower, there's no reason why you can't have a great day out. The best time of year to do the round would be either the spring or the autumn, in my opinion. A nice overcast day, with a bit of breeze, is perfect.
For really ideal conditions, a day following a few warm, dry days means the ground isn't too soggy. It helps to keep those socks dry! The wind can be another big factor. A great feature of the round is that it is, well, round. This means even with a strong headwind after about halfway it suddenly becomes a tailwind. Some of the edges are quite exposed, however, so do check before you go, as you don't want to get knocked over on the top of Mam Tor. Another thing is the sun. If you're attempting the round in the middle of summer, sun cream, a hat, and some sunglasses are essential.
A couple of other bits worth mentioning is a map of the route. So you know where you're going. Many people have it on their phones, however, having done some fairly big days out in the Scottish Highlands, a good ol' paper map never runs out of charge. We sell some small Harvey's ones at Outside if you don't want to ruin or carry a nice OS map.
Another thing to be aware of is nutrition. You're gonna be out for a while, so consider taking some snacks. Clif bars, gels, and other energy bars are a great compact way to get the fuel you need on the go. Of course, you’re going to end up at the Outside Cafe, so your after-run meal is sorted. Also don't forget water, this is vital. Taking chlorine tablets, or a life straw water filter can be really useful if you do run out.
So, time for the fun part, the gear I would recommend for taking on the Hope Valley Round. As I've mentioned previously, the weather can have a massive effect on your enjoyment of the round, so a good waterproof is essential. Montane does one called the Minimus Lite Waterproof Jacket which, having tried it myself, is perfect for the job. It's nice and light and it packs down rather small, so it doesn't fill up your whole bag. It is still, however, fairly robust, so you won’t rip a huge hole in it whenever you look at a gorse bush!
Unlike some uber-lightweight jackets, the Minimus still comes with a bunch of great features. The hood, for example, has got three points of adjustment for those that need the perfect fit. You'll also find a cord on the hem, to keep that warm air in when the wind starts to whip across. The cuffs on the sleeves have an elasticated section that can stretch over a watch, and yet still sit comfortably close to your wrist.
My favourite feature of this jacket is the way it feels. If you've been running for a while you may have some experience of the bin bag-like jackets of the past, the Minimus, however, is just glorious in comparison. It's soft to the touch, so even when over just a vest, it doesn't feel like plastic against your skin. It's also rather stretchy, so offers restriction-free arm movement for when you're powering up the steepest sections of Win Hill.
Why every runner needs a running vest
The next piece of kit I need to mention is a good running vest. Everyone will have their own preference of what they want to carry with them and Montane have a range of running pack sizes available to choose from. My personal preference is the Gecko VP 5L+ running vest. It’s got a pocket for everything, yet it still has a great airy feel even when fully loaded.
I use mine on most runs that require more than what I can get in my pockets (which for me is anything longer than about 3km.) It comes with two 500ml bottles, but the stretchy pockets can fit most other brands of the same size if you have a favourite. The pockets are also nice and high on your chest so even without straws you can still get down to the bottle without straining your neck. It's got two chest straps for a specific fit as well as a larger bottom strap to really lock it in. Another nice feature is the stretchy pockets on the back, at the top. This is ideal for when you've whipped your jacket off but don't want to faff with zips or clips. Alternatively, it allows for speedy deployment when you get caught in an unexpected shower.
The best thing I've found with this vest is the odour control fabric. It uses Polygiene permanent odour control to minimise the smell that is created by a person after 20 miles on the hill. And let me tell you, I've seen some sweaty people in my time, but it's nothing compared to those that did the round on a sweltering day in late July.
Other things to mention are obviously your running clothes. There's nothing worse than buying a new top or shorts, heading out on a long run and realising there's a label or tag that annoys you and niggles away at you all day, until eventually you get so annoyed you tear it off in anger and ruin your new piece of kit (speaking from experience.)
That's why I would recommend the Montane Slipstream Trail Running Shorts. They also do a tights version for colder days on the trail. These are my go to shorts for all types of running. The inner, tights like layer stays close to your skin whilst remaining breathable and the outer layer floats over the top.
The zippered back pocket is super stretchy as well as being big enough for a standard smartphone. It is also ideally situated right in the middle, at the back as well as being combined with the drawcord at the front, so if you are doing a shorter run where you have no bag, your shorts aren't going to fall down if your phone is in there. That's another thing I've learnt from previous experiences with different shorts.
As with the shorts, a base layer or top is very important to get right, as it sits against your skin all day. That's why I use a Montane Dart. The ideal shirt for those sunnier days or as a base layer on those chillier outings. The dart has the same odour control materials as the Gecko as well as low profile, flat locked sewn seams so you don't get those annoying spikes or itchy bits.
Finally, hats and gloves. These are the pieces that might stay in your bag all day or they'll be on and off constantly so it's important to get the best for you. In the summer a trail cap is really useful. There are a few out there that have a split peak so it can fold in half for in your bag. In the winter a beanie and a pair of gloves can really take that edge off. Especially when you stop for a break or you come out of the woods and get hit by the wind.
A really interesting piece of gear for winter running is the Montane Switch Glove. It's not something I have used myself, but a colleague from the shop has and said they were fantastic. They consist of a granite stretch softshell glove with a leather palm for use with poles, combined with a primaloft insulated pertex mitt that pulls over the top. Great for those changeable peak district conditions, when it can't quite decide what it's doing.
Take on the challenge
Sound good? If this has shot to the top of your ‘must do’ challenge list, head to our dedicated Outside Hope Valley Round page to find out more and get involved.