Photos: No Limits Photography
Pushing limits on Scottish trails is what #TeamMontane athlete Debbie Martin Consani lives for! This year, she set herself the challenge of taking on the Cape Wrath Ultra, based in the far north of Scotland. Discover more about this 400km, 8-day ultra running adventure through the stunning Scottish Highlands, and why Debbie couldn’t have done it without her trusted running pack.
My name is Debbie Martin-Consani. I’m a Glasgow-based runner with over 15 years of ultra-distance experience. I love running on all terrain, so my kit needs to be versatile enough for ‘traditional’ Scottish weather on roads, trails and winters on the hill. I’ve been using the Gecko range for a few years now and am so impressed with these packs. The Gecko VP 12+ running pack is my go-to for longer (or higher!) days.
It’s the perfect capacity for events that require mandatory mountain gear. Anything smaller, and the kit will press against your back and cause discomfort. Anything bigger, and you will just overfill it! I’ve used it for many long training days, but also for races like Lakeland 100, Arc of Attrition and more recently the Cape Wrath Ultra.
The Cape Wrath Ultra is a 250-mile, eight-day stage race in Scotland that starts in Fort William and finishes at the lighthouse in Cape Wrath. It’s remote and wild with miles of pathless terrain, many river crossings and lots of bog and mud!
Although the event sets up camp and provides breakfast and dinner, participants need to be self-sufficient throughout the daily run. There are no checkpoints or aid stations. I only recall passing one café during the event, so stopping into Tesco for resupplies was never an option. So my pack needed to have enough accessible pockets to store food and energy snacks for up to 12 hours of running.
Despite being at the end of May, we know the weather in Scotland can turn in an instant. This year, the weather gods were kind to us as we were blessed with many fair days – optimal even. There were two cold, wet and windy days to at least justify the stipulated kit list.
How the Gecko VP 12 + Performed?
To ensure safety in remote and inaccessible terrain, the kit list is (quite rightly) fairly extensive. If you get into trouble or need Mountain Rescue, it will be a long time until help gets to you. To put it into perspective, the race has boat patrols on some of the sections. Again, the pack had to be fit for purpose for carrying all the kit.
When packing, I like to separate things by must-haves and emergencies. I keep food and essentials in the front and side pockets. Along with my phone, because I do enjoy a mini photoshoot! Anything that I hope not to use goes in the main pocket in the back – base layers, waterproofs etc. This also helps to distribute the weight, so it feels more comfortable. I really don’t want the faff of taking the pack off, so everything needs to have easy access. Otherwise I’ll delay getting what I need and get myself in trouble. I often fold my Minimus jacket into its pocket and it fits neatly in the side. Then I just wear the jacket over the pack.
The two soft flasks are perfect. There’s space for a bladder, but I like to see how much I’m drinking. For Cape Wrath, I didn’t need to carry much fluid, as there are plenty of rivers to top up from. Nothing tastes as good as fresh chilled water from the Highlands. The soft flasks meant I could easily pick up water and pop in an electrolyte tab or energy drink on the go!
Personal hygiene is a low priority on the Cape Wrath Ultra. Other than a few lame attempts of washing in a cold river or loch, the lack of showering facilities was a real challenge for my sweatiness. Plus, the Scottish summers can be humid and sweaty business. Luckily the Gecko is treated with POLYGIENE which inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria, stopping the smells at the source.
I love the Gecko 12+ mainly because it’s blue. Shallow, but true! And it fits perfectly. I have a small frame, so I need to ensure it fits snug, but is not restrictive and doesn’t bounce or move when I run. Any movement and it will cause friction and chafing. I’ve had packs in the past that have been too long on the body and caused major skin abrasion on my lower back. Anyone who has had this will know how deeply uncomfortable this is – and possibly race ending. The Gecko 12+ feels like I’m wearing it, not carrying it.
I wear a size small. I can use the straps to adjust, depending on how many layers I have underneath. I wasn’t blessed with boobs so, even for A-cup gals like me, the pack pulls in enough to fit flush against the body.
Debbie reviewed our Gecko VP 12 + running vest, these come in a variety of sizes, to suit your running needs, see the full range here. Need more convincing? Don't miss #TeamMontane Howard Draccup's thoughts on our Gecko running pack in his dedicated review.