Essential Gear | James Forrest On the Kit That Helped Him Break a Record - Outdoors Magic

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Essential Gear | James Forrest On the Kit That Helped Him Break a Record

Long-distance hiker James Forrest recently set a new record for a self-supported, solo walk of the National Three Peaks. He climbed Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – and walked every mile in-between them – in 16 days, 15 hours and 39 minutes.

The inov-8 ambassador walked 17 marathons in 17 days to complete his 500-mile journey on foot, setting what is believed to be a new self-supported record. The previous self-supported record of 19 days, 18 hours and 35 minutes was set by Tina Page in 2017, while the overall record – with a support crew – is held by ultra-runner Tom Mountney with 9 days, 11 hours and 39 minutes.

James, an outdoors writer from Cumbria, almost had to abandon his attempt at the foot of Snowdon. After 16 days of walking, he succumbed to sunstroke in a searing hot Llanberis and suffered a bout of vomiting. But, narrowly avoiding an eleventh hour failure, he regained his composure and made it up and down Wales’ highest mountain to complete the long-distance challenge. He said: “It was an absolute rollercoaster of an adventure: dizzying highs and crushing lows, with hardship and euphoria in equal measure.”

Hiking alone with no support crew or pre-arranged help, James carried all his kit and camping equipment on his back. His set-up was ultralight and minimalist, with a base weight of just 4.6kg. He re-supplied with food en route and stayed in hotels in more urbanised areas. Speaking exclusively to Outdoors Magic, below James outlines his five favourite items of gear from his challenge.

All images: credit to Dave Macfarlane /


Inov-8 Lightweight Clothing

I wish I could talk about the inov-8 boots I wore, but they are under a strict embargo at the moment. They’ll be launched to the public soon – the first-ever boot to feature graphene in both the foam midsole and rubber outsole – and I think they’re exceptional. I’ve done over 1,000km in the same pair! Putting footwear aside, I like my clothing to be light and fast-wicking with an athletic cut – the inov-8 range hit the spot for these criteria. I kept things super simple, mostly hiking in just a pair of inov-8 Race Elite 6” Shorts 2.0 (115g) and an inov-8 Base Elite Long Sleeve Base Layer 2.0 (96g). In bad weather, I’d pull on my inov-8 Ultrashell Pro – an insanely light waterproof jacket at just 107g. It’s rather thin and flimsy (and I did accidentally rip it slightly on some brambles), but for summer hiking the impressive 20,000mm hydrostatic head kept me dry.

Zpacks Nero 38L

I am a complete convert to frameless ultralight backpacks – for minimalist loads, they are wonderfully light, comfy and streamlined. I’ll never look back. The Zpacks Nero 38L is an iconic pack amongst US thru-hikers, but little known in the UK. I managed to get my hands on one this summer and it didn’t disappoint. I’d give it a five out of five stars rating. It proved durable, weatherproof, comfy, spacious, fully-featured and – best of all – insanely light at just 375g (including the hipbelt I added). Due to a complete absence of ventilation, it did leave my back very sweaty most of the time, while the unstructured build means you have to pack the interior carefully otherwise you’ll feel lumps and bumps on your back. But, all in all, this pack was an ultralight revelation.

Gossamer Gear The One

For just 505g, I found this single-skin trekking pole tent really spacious. The two-pole structure created a high peak and near vertical walls, ensuring excellent head room and surprisingly good liveability. It kept me dry on several rainy evenings and, during a gusty night at Angle Tarn near Scafell Pike, it held up firm against strong winds. The sewn-in mesh interior was perfect for keeping the dreaded Scottish midge at bay too. The negatives? The tent was rather draughty (due to the fact it has big cut-outs in the fly and doesn’t peg down flush to the ground) and it was always sopping wet every morning (I never suffered from water ingress but a daily dry-out of the tent was necessary).

PHD M.Degree 300 K Down

This sleeping bag proved an absolute revelation: cosy, warm and unbelievably light. It weighs a remarkable 445g in the standard size, no-zip version I have. The incredible weight-to-warmth ratio is achieved through the use of the highest quality, 1000 fill power goose down. Such down is rare and, therefore, very expensive – the price-tag is somewhat eye-watering – but the quality is undoubted with a voluminous, super-fluffy loft. PHD don’t publish EN/ISO ratings, citing flaws in the system, but instead state an in-house rating of -3C. I reckon that’s overly optimistic (for me, as a cold sleeper), but certainly on this summer challenge it kept me warm enough even on colder nights.

SAXX Merino Boxer Brief

During some of my spring and summer training hikes – including the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and West Highland Way – I really struggled with chafing around (ahem) my under-carriage and intimate areas, due to friction, sweating and poorly-wicking underwear. To solve this problem I decided to try SAXX boxers and the chafing problem completely disappeared. I found the SAXX boxer briefs super-comfy (particularly the  Ballpark Pouch, the brand’s key feature) and fast-wicking. I won’t hike in anything else now. My full recommendation for these.

James’ Full PackList


  • Backpack: Zpacks Nero 38L + hipbelt – 375g
  • Drybags: Exped fold UL x 7 – 195g
  • Tent: Gossamer Gear The One (trekking pole tent) – 505g
  • Pegs: Sea to Summit tent pegs x 11 – 99g
  • Sleeping mat: Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite (small) – 168g
  • Sleeping bag: PHD M.Degree 300 K Down – 424g


  • Spare underwear: Saxx Merino Boxer Brief x 1 – 95g
  • Spare socks: Darn Tough x 2 – 95g
  • Thermal baselayer: inov-8 Technical Mid Layer (small) – 156g
  • Thermal trousers: Helly Hansen LIFA pant – 130g
  • Insulated jacket: Haglofs LIM Essens Down – 156g
  • Waterproof jacket: inov-8 Ultrashell Pro – 107g
  • Waterproof trousers: inov-8 Ultrapant – 78g
  • Cap: inov-8 Race Elite 2.0 – 36g


  • Toiletries bag + first aid – 679g
  • Plastic Spoon – 9g
  • Toilet roll + hand sanitiser + trowel + ziplock bags- 97g
  • Water bottles: 1L Vapur Anti-bottle x 2 – 86g
  • Powerbanks x 2 (1 x 20,000mah, 1 x 10,000mah) – 556g
  • Plug, charging cables, Jaybird Vista 2.0 earphones – 218g
  • Headtorch: Petzl Bindi – 35g
  • Tracker device – 75g
  • Waterproof phone cover: Aquapac – 37g
  • Phone – 190g
  • Bank cards + house key – 15g

Total Base Weight

4,616g. Or, including food for 1.5 days (1,297g) and water (1L at 1,000g), 6,913g.


  • Boots: inov-8 non-GTX prototype boots (coming soon) – 800g (pair)
  • Socks: Injinji 2.0 Liner Crew Toe Socks / inov-8 Speed Sock – 69g
  • Underwear: Saxx Merino Boxer Brief – 95g
  • Shorts: inov-8 Race Elite 6” Short 2.0 – 115g
  • T-shirt: inov-8 Base Elite Short Sleeve Base Layer – 79g
  • Mid-layer: inov-8 Base Elite Long Sleeve Base Layer – 96g
  • Smartwatch: Garmin Solar Instinct – 54g
  • Trekking poles: Gossamer Gear LT5 Carbon – 278g
  • Buff: inov-8 buff/running wrag – 33g


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