Required material – a proposition

Usually a major pain point in race preparation is figuring out exactly what the regulations for required material actually mean. There’s soooo MANY races being organised nowadays, however there’s no common set of standard rules used across the board, so one has to read the fine print. Every single time. It gets worse with last minute weather changes as well.

Admittedly a touchy subject because sometimes a rule isn’t black or white, but grey and I imagine it won’t be much fun being disqualified at the end a 164km race for “misinterpretation” 🙂

MUCH worse though – the regulations are there for safety. As Paulo Pires always says: “In the mountains, the mountain commands. You merely have some permission to play. And to play safe”. If requirements are “waterproof jacket” and you rock up with a 100g super light Gore-Tex  garment, but temperatures at 2500m altitude would be negative, you COMPLY, but not to SAFETY

The problem


Let’s start with a basic problem definition. Here’s an example from the The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®, which I went through yesterday to see if I’m missing anything for TDS:

“two torches in good working condition with replacement batteries”. Which of the following combinations are valid?

  • What does “good working condition” mean? A 200 lumens light that can still beam 140 lumens?
  • Is one set of extra batteries required for the 2 lamps, or a set for each lamp?
  • Do the torches need to be the same? Can the backup be weaker and lighter than primary?
  • Any minimum lumens specification? You can maybe get by with 30 lumens, but it’s not safe.
  • Can batteries be rechargeable as well?

“stock of water minimum 1 litre”

  • A standard 1L camelback container (aka “bladder”)?
  • Are 2 water bottles of 500ml each sufficient?
  • 500ml water bottle and a camelback reserve?
  • 500ml water bottle and a few small handheld ones?

“warm and waterproof gloves”

  • They have to cover all the fingers too, right?

Thus there’s a LOT that’s open to interpretation, with compliance being any of:

  • Overcompensation – some will depart with a huge 300 lumens light or 2L water, just to be sure and safe
  • On the line – some folks would set out with sketchy and super lightweight lamps, with a 50% chance of going blank at the worst time.
  • “Meh, I don’t care- this is probably fine”

A proposed solution

I come from a technology background, for which the industry is mostly built around a set of strict and well defined standards for interoperation between different parties. It’s also easier to comply with rules and regulations if they are easy to understand. We need an accountant MOST of the time to understand how we should hand over money to the government, but ultra running should just be simple. And hassle free. And fun.



There’s usually multiple layers for safety and regulations. Local government, medical staff, race insurance, the organisation and the athletes. It should be super simple for each of those to speak the same “language”, which means better compliance and better interoperation.



A common language. One that’s not open to interpretation, lawyer or consultant speak. Here’s a few glove examples:

* “[G0] gloves, covers full hand, windproof”
* “[G1] gloves, covers full hand, windproof and water resistant”
* “[G2] gloves, covers full hand, windproof and waterproof”

… and lights:

* “[L0] 100 lumens light, set of extra batteries”
* “[L1] 150 lumens light, set of extra batteries”
* “[L2] 100 lumens light, 2 sets of extra batteries”
* “[L3] 150 lumens light, 2 sets of extra batteries”

Thus for a short race with predictable weather conditions:

  • gloves, G0
  • light, L0

… and mega ultra with unpredictable weather:

  • gloves, G2
  • light, L3

Something similar to Microformats, which is a set of open standards for how to render reviews, contact information etc. on web pages. Athletes and others can click through and very quickly understand what’s required for lights, gloves etc. for any particular race.

A pipeline for brands


I’m a firm believer in consumer products having to be pain killers. And not vitamins – “nice to haves”. For this reason,
having an industry and manufacturers focussed on regulatory compliance, safety, comfort and striving to for example produce the “best possible set of Gore-Tex gloves (full hand)”, everybody wins. Big time. The world doesn’t need yet another variation of a Bonatti®, Hyvent® etc.

This also creates a strong marketing pipeline and consumer feedback from regulations. “For approved L0 and G2 products, click through.” “See reviews for L3 compliant products.”

However, such changes need to start from within the playground – the races. And other events. In the better interests of the athletes. Both in the mountains, and their sanity during preparations.

Just my 2 cents. Tear it up. Or down 🙂

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