The trusted gear that FKT power-couple Jason Hardrath and Ashly Winchester have used to set 166 speed records.
When you’re racing against the clock, you don’t have time for gear issues.
Just ask Fastest Known Time power-couple Jason Hardrath and Ashly Winchester, who have earned more FKTs than any other man or woman, respectively. Between the two of them, they have a collective 166 speed records to their names.
Jason loves going after routes that combine running with mountaineering, rock climbing, and canyoneering and he was the first athlete to crest the 100-FKT mark. And he went big for his 100th FKT, climbing the 100 highest peaks in the state of Washington in a 50-day push.
Ashly has 54 records to her name and also loves routes that challenge her to apply a variety of athletic and backcountry skills, including routes like the remote Tuckup Trail, a multi-day effort through the far corners of the Grand Canyon.
With so much FKT experience, and so little space for bad gear, Ashly and Jason are the perfect duo to offer gear recommendations for FKTs and backcountry adventures. They could probably host a multi-day talk just to cover all of their gear thoughts and experience, but here’s a quick rundown of a few of their favorite things.
You can always find a COROS watch on Ashly and Jason’s wrists because it’s a critical part of an FKT attempt.
“If your watch dies, your FKT doesn’t count,” says Jason. FKTs require multiple layers of accountability, including the original data file from the effort, like the GPX track that your watch records.
One of the reasons they both love COROS watches is because the battery life is almost too good to believe. The COROS Vertix 2 advertises 140-hours of GPS tracking.
Jason also takes advantage of COROS’s offline navigation feature, which allows athletes to upload routes and maps and use on-wrist navigation to stay on track. This is especially helpful for Jason when he’s navigating more technical terrain, like glaciers or off-trail scrambling, and has his hands full of gear. “I can just look down at my watch for topo lines and tracks, instead of needing to pull out a phone or map. It’s a gamechanger for off-trail, technical terrain.”
The Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System is a go-to piece of gear for both Ashly and Jason.
“It’s like gold,” says Ashley, who loves that it’s a quick and easy way to filter water from streams, creeks, and lakes so that she doesn’t have to carry every ounce of hydration she needs from the start. Jason agrees that the Katadyn is the way to go for water filtering, saying it’s the lightest, simplest, easiest filter out there.
And if they’re adding anything to their water – it’s Gnarly Nutrition, for the double whammy of easy-to-digest calories and hydration on-the-go.
Ashly and Jason love Leki trekking poles for steep and rocky trails, in both the uphill and downhill direction. And, Jason appreciates that their trigger shark system lets him hold and use the poles without wasting any grip strength – which is especially great for more technical routes when he needs his grip strength for scrambling around 4th and 5th class terrain, which generally requires some hands-on-rock climbing.
For overnight efforts, Ashly and Jason both love lighting the trail with a Kogalla light, which shines an impressive 800 lumens and offers a visual depth that they don’t get from headlamps alone. If you’re falling asleep on your feet, Jason promises that the flood of light will help you stay awake. “It’s like trying to sleep with the TV on.” And Ashly loves that it’s a warmer, brighter light than the cool, blue light of most headlamps. “It’s like sunshine in front of you,” she says.
Neither Jason nor Ashly swears by just one clothing or shoe brand. Instead, they’ve each assembled a quiver of gear that they draw from depending on the profile of the route they’re going after. This is a glimpse into some of their current favorites.
Jason has tried many different running shoes but he is currently a big fan of norda, a Canadian brand that’s on a mission to make light, durable running shoes that can handle a variety of terrain. Mission accomplished, says Jason. He thinks these shoes perform great on long running approaches and the more technical and scrambly terrain he likes to climb.
“They’ve got cushion and they’re super responsive and grippy,” says Jason. “I can feel good in them on high-risk terrain.”
He also says they’re “stronger than steel” and the upper material has held up against some seriously rugged running and scrambling. Norda constructs their shoes with a material called Bio-Dyneema to enhance their durability.
One of Ashly’s current shoe favorites is The North Face VECTIV Enduris, because she’s found it’s also capable of handling a variety of terrain. “It’s got enough cushion to be comfortable and it’s also got more aggressive grip that’s great for short, techy stuff.”
Jason swears by Path Project running shorts. If you need a convincing reason for his allegiance, how about this: Jason wore the same model of Path Projects shorts throughout his entire 50-day Bulger’s FKT and he never chafed. Not once. In addition to the smooth ride of these shorts, he loves that they come with a trio of pockets that can hold gels, keys, and devices like phones and SPOT trackers. Jason takes advantage of this feature when he’s close to a summit and wants to drop his full pack for the final push – but still carry a few essentials up the peak with him.
Both Ashly and Jason love this Oregon-based brand. Jason has worn the Rock Hoody while setting records through slot canyons because it’s so tough and durable. “Anything I wear in slot canyons is usually a one-and-done situation, but the Rock Hoody can grind on rocks all day.”
The Sun Hoody is another favorite, since sun protection is a must for long days in the sun, especially when in the alpine. And it’s comfy enough that they both opt to wear it a ton out of the sun, too.
And Ashly loves the thicker Black Spider Hoody for a heavier layer because “it’s extra warm and super comfy.”
One of the things that Jason appreciates most in a piece of gear is if it’s light enough that he doesn’t even have to think about whether he’ll pack it. A wind/rain layer is one of those things.
“Of course I’m going to bring it,” he says.
Ashly agrees, saying it’s an essential for managing core temperature and dealing with big temperature swings or unexpected weather. Her current favorite is the Dynafit Ultra GTX Shakedry that’s thin, light, and breathable.
A breathable rain layer is a must for Jason, who says his “engine runs hot.” And adds a great piece of advice for gear in general: “know yourself and your body” so you can choose the gear that’s going to perform best for your individual needs.
“Anything can happen” when you’re out on trails or in the mountains and both Ashly and Jason have plenty of stories to confirm that things can and do happen. From learned experience they promise that you want to be prepared for when something goes wrong.
Ashly and Jason both carry safety essentials like a SOL Emergency Bivvy, a headlamp, and a SPOT tracker. (Pro tip: don’t forget to replace your headlamp batteries and/or carry extras, says Ashly. She had to finish a route on the Lost Coast with the help of her cellphone flashlight and she does not recommend.)
The SPOT tracker can use satellites to communicate your location to Search and Rescue if you need help. It is one of the most important things that Ashly and Jason carry because it could save their lives if something went really wrong. While they will nitpick specific brands and functionality for some gear, they say just get whatever satellite device is affordable and accessible for you, because “which one you have is less important than carrying one with you in the backcountry.”
When you go out on a backcountry adventure, there are no aid stations or crew members to help you out. If there’s one thing this FKT power-couple knows it’s that, “you’re in a committed relationship with that gear,” says Jason. So, their final tip is to always take your gear out for trial run so that you can trust it when it really counts.