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Spine Race

Named after it’s venue – the “Backbone of England” – the Spine Race follows the Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm. Participants have seven days to complete the 268 mile course, carrying their shelter, sleeping bags, clothing, food, cooking kit, etc. with them. The route takes in windswept moorland, wet bogs, steep rocks, forest and more besides, and as it’s in the middle of winter in the Pennines, there’s ice, snow, biting winds and horizontal rain to deal with too.

There is a shorter version, but 108 miles of Pennine winter in 60 hours means the Spine Challenger isn’t an ‘easy’ option, as such.

Spine Race Sleeping Bags

The Spine kit list recommends a bag suitable for “Sub Zero/0°C”. Of our down bags, the Minim 400 and Minim 400K would be most suitable, providing lightweight warmth down to -5°C.

However, for wet conditions, synthetic insulation can often be preferable as it’s far less moisture sensitive than down. Our Zeta 1 Primaloft bag was originally conceived for climbers’ bivouacs on exposed ledges so, at less than 800g, it’s ideal for the harsh weather often encountered on the Spine.

The basic figures for the above bags:

S-bagTOT (Min Temp)WeightPacked size
Hght x Diam (cm)
Minim 400-5236702428 x 17382
Minim 400 K-5235852128 x 17505
Zeta 1-4257772723 x 40322

Additional points:

  1. TEMPERATURE RATING: Put simply, these are the temperatures at which you should be able to get a night's sleep in normal circumstances. For fuller details about the TOT rating see this Technical Briefing.
  2. LINERS: A liner will add to the insulation, but as always there is a trade-off between the extra weight and bulk, and the warmth you gain. Silk liners add roughly 2°C but only weigh around 140g so they’re a popular choice. If you’re particularly concerned about cold, our K Series Filler Bag is 100g heavier than that but will add 10°C.
  3. CLOTHING: Thermal baselayers obviously help to keep you warm, and lightweight warm layers such as our Sigma clothing boost the performance of the bag considerably. See the Clothing section below for more details.
  4. FABRIC OPTIONS: The Minim 400 and 400K come with M1 and MX outer fabric as standard, but for damp winter racing, we’d recommend that you choose the Drishell option (Ultrashell for the K Series). These fabrics are highly wind/water resistant but do not add significantly to the weight of the bags: Drishell adds about 40g, Ultrashell adds about 18g.
  5. ZIPS: The Minim Bags do not have zips as standard. Zips are an option, but most competitors don't ask for one. A short zip with draft tube adds about 50gm (2oz): a full zip and tube adds about 110gm (4oz). Zips also add to the packed size. The Zeta has twin zips for the particular demands of Alpine bivis, but is available with a side zip or, like the Minims, no zip at all.
  6. PACKED SIZE: PHD stuff sacs tend to be on the loose side. All these bags can be compressed further in your pack.

Spine Race Clothing Selection

Racers obviously generate a lot of body heat when moving, so the contrast when they stop for the night in the middle of winter is quite marked, making warm, lightweight, compressible clothing a must.

As with sleeping bags, it’s worth considering synthetic options such as the Sigma Jacket and Vest. Although a little heavier and bulkier than down, their advantage is that synthetics outperform down in the wet. As well as coping better with wet weather, this also means they’re suitable for wearing while running.

Down clothing is smaller and lighter however, and our Ultralight range of clothing was designed to meet the need for ultimate weight/space saving. The Ultra Vest K weighs only 150g, which is lighter than most T-shirts, yet it will provide real warmth down to approximately -5C. The Ultra Pullover K is, for the same reasons, another good option. At 230g it's about half the weight and bulk of a conventional fleece jacket and 100% windproof as well. Lighter still is the Wafer range: warm down to freezing point but weighing less than 200g.

Both options – down and synthetic – will increase the performance of a sleeping bag, whether it’s a top for a boost of core warmth, or as part of a head-to-toe Sleep System. Cold feet can interrupt even the most exhausted of sleepers; Wafer Socks weigh just 45g but can make a significant difference!

The next Spine Race will take place between 12th and 19th January 2020:

Photo: simonsimages