Navigating with Suunto Spartan Ultra

One of the beauties of heading out into the mountains is without doubt finding a new trail. Maybe goat tracking your way up a new peak or simply just taking that road less travelled.

I know for myself quite often the best training days are those where I leave my objectives high in the sky and simply say ‘lets get out there and see where I end up’. No matter where you decide to explore new trails there is one tool definitely worth getting to know how to use when out of your depths… Suunto Find back.

It was about 4 years ago when I first had an ‘experience’ with the Find Back tool from Suunto (back than it was simply breadcrumb). I was on a crater looking plateau in the Aiguille Rouges, France just recce’n a trail that climbed around 2500m (kinda like the moon, for those of you who have been there?!?). As I summited in the late evening I was hit by a rolling thunder/snow storm and found I had very little concept on where I actually was.

Lots of big flat moon looking rocks with great exposures sheering back down a couple thousand meters to the valley. I had very minimal with me but one thing I did have was my Suunto. I knew it was time to actually work out how this feature worked.

Luckily for me, it was pretty simple.

On the new Suunto Spartan Ultra there is a quick menu option to get to what’s called Find back. This feature will guide you by both direction and distance directly back along the trail you came from. Now all though I am definitely one that enjoys wild experiences, it is well worth having the simple knowledge of how to activate this on your watch if the need arises.


From whatever recording mode you’re in, scroll across the screens until you get to the breadcrumb page (swipe or use middle button). From here scroll the page up to access the menu (or push bottom button). Here you’ll find ‘Your Location – Find Back – POIs – Routes.

Select Find Back.

That’s it. Now you will have both a direction arrow with a heading and also a distance to how far you have to travel in that direction. When your back to where you want to be simply bring the menu back up and change it back to ‘Breadcrumb’ setting. While navigating you can tap screen to either zoom in to 50m or 100m zoom.

Another interesting features worth noting on this menu is Your Location. If you ever find yourself in real trouble and in need to give someone your exact location co-ordinates… this is where you’ll find them.

I know to some people navigation can sound like a pretty technical subject but with this feature on the new Suunto Spartan Ultra, you can easily find your way back out of any adventure.

A couple of small notes. its always a good idea to tell someone the area you are thinking of exploring and when you expect to be back, pack necessary emergency gear (light, space blanket, food, water), ensure you have adequate battery levels on your watch and check that you have best settings on GPS accuracy. I would also recommend when exploring new terrain to use some kind of physical markings to remember your route back. Either rock carns, arrows on the trail with sticks or drawn in the dirt, snow markers or simply make sure you turn around and look back every now and then on the trail.


So get yourself out there and explore some new trails knowing – you’ll be able to get yourself back safely too.



NEW Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra review by Coops

Fast, light… flow. Pretty much sums up the new S-lab Sense Ultra

NEW Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra


For those of you with some S-lab experience, I would describe the new S-lab Sense Ultra as a mix between the S-lab Wings SG and S-lab Sense 6 SG. Colours, lacing system, Endofit and Ortholite impressions all standard on the flagship of S-labs premium race trail shoes – so what’s the difference?

Well, for those of you who haven’t quite run in Salomon’s range for very long, here’s a couple of handy tips to help find out if this shoes right for you.

Trail/Mountain/Skyrunning/Soft trail – Yes

S-lab Sense Ultra tread pattern

Road – Very capable, but not its sole design

Normal to Wider fit preferred – Yes

Narrower fit preferred – No (in fact I would say this fits a fairly standard foot, as opposed to some runners I know who find the Speed and Speedcross slightly narrow)

Support/cushion underfoot – Yes

minimalistic/zero drop flat shoes – No

Long distance training/competing (including 100 mile) – Yes

Short distances/speed shoe – can definitely still fit this range but not first choice

S-lab Sense Ultra top view

Dirt/rock/wet/loose – Yes

Deep mud/steep wet grass – not so much


How I use this shoe…

As the Sense Ultra has a heel drop of 8mm (275g), is super light and has the feel of a race shoe with the added bonus of good cushioning and rock protection, I’ll be using this as my main long distance (40km+) race shoe.

I’ll combine it with the S-lab Wings SG shoe which has a 9mm drop (285g) and use this as my long haul training shoe. There is a definite difference in feel from the Wings to the Ultra, enough to make it feel like come race day – you are strapping on some fast wheels. Yet the two are similar enough, that for conditioning purposes your muscle fibres/lengths etc will be utilised in a similar bio-mechanic.

One thing that was very noticeable about the Ultra is the rocker on the heel of it. Its actually the first S-lab shoe I’ve had that really looks like it will just bounce along the trail from heel to toe (see pic at top).

Sense Ultra in powder

The other main differences would be the grip. The Sense Ultra has a less aggressive grip than the Wings SG (which has a chunkier, more aggressive grip), yet I have found to be very effective on many surfaces including loose rock/grit, mud, snow, large wet boulders. The rubber compound Salomon has used on the Sense is definitely worth its weight in performance. Any trail with a combination of these surfaces, you’ll have no problem going from one to the other in this shoe.

The Wings SG I would take out where the condition were maybe a bit wetter, more fist sized rock/obstacles or you were really going to descend/ascend with some power in slushy conditions.

S-lab Wings SG
S-lab Wings SG tread pattern more aggressive







I’ve only put 300km on this new Sense Ultra, but found it absolutely awesome on anything from single trail, fire road, steep loose rock, wet boulders to snow lined trail.


left to right, Speed, Sense 6 SG, Sense Ultra, Wings SG, Speedcross


A bit of a personal rough guide to what S-lab I’d chose when…

5-15km steep/technical/fast – Salomon S-lab Speed

15-30km steep/technical – Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG or Speedcross

42km Skyrace – Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG or Speedcross

50-100km Skyrace – Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra or S-lab Wings SG

100km+ Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra or S-lab Wings SG

Note. The S-lab Wings and Sense 6 also come with a standard grip pattern that is not as aggressive as the SG (soft ground). These would be a better choice for trail races that are not as steep, aggressive or technical.

left to right, Speedcross, Wings SG, Sense 6 SG, Sense Ultra, Speed


The S-lab line-up. Shoe Vs Race Australia

please note, this is my own personal preference but I have been wearing these for a little while now.

Bogong 2 Hotham- Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG/Wings SG

GSER- Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra

UTA 100- Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra

UTA 50- Salomon Sense 6 SG

UTA 22- Salomon Sense 6 SG

Buffalo Stampede Ultra – Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra

Buffalo Stampede Marathon- Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG

Buffalo Stampede 26- Salomon S-lab Speed/Speedcross

Cradle Mtn Ultra- Salomon S-lab Wings SG

4 Peaks- Salomon S-lab Speed/Sense 6 SG

6 ft track marathon- Salomon S-lab Speedcross

Mt Solitary- Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG/Speed/Speedcross

Mt difficult Skyrace- Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG/Speed/Speedcross

Wandi Cross- Salomon S-lab Speed

Snowtrail- Salomon S-lab Speed/Sense Ultra

GNW100- Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra

Hounslow 68- Salomon S-lab Sense 6 SG/Speedcross

Local fun run- Salomon S-lab (any of them will be fun!)

Alpine Challenge 100 mile- Salomon S-lab Wings SG

Coast 2 Kosci 240 – Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra

GOW100- Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra/Speedcross

To sum it up…

The S-lab range by Salomon definitely have a shoe to match any mountain trail you wish to go play in. I have been running/racing in these shoes for nearly 10 years now, over many terrains, from Skyrunning World 100 mile races to the local fun runs in my home town. To me, fit and feel is what counts most when you are out running in the mountains and thats exactly what I find in the S-lab range.

#salomonrunning #suunto #playinthemountains #feelandfit


‘what’ you teach your kids…

When I first asked Harlow if she wanted to go abseiling today, she automatically replied ‘yes’… her next words were ‘what is abseiling’.

The first smile of my day.

The reason I wanted to share this experience with you is because it is a moment in my life (another one) where the realisation of ‘what you teach your kids’ – is so important. But when I say ‘what’… it may be different to what you’re thinking.

Within about 10 minutes we were in the car, munching down breaky and ready to go and see what this ‘abseiling’ thing was about, Harlow’s first time ever time. As we made our way to the top of the mountain, we sang songs, played eye spy, looked out for wildlife and really just enjoyed the time, Harlow seemed to have no thought what so ever of what was coming.

No longer then getting out of the car at the top, Harlow was quickly setup in a harness, helmet and gloves – ready to do this ‘abseiling’ thing we talked about this morning. We met a good friend of mine who is a guide in the mountain. He was taking some other kids for the abseiling experience and we were fortunate enough that Harlow could join.

As we made our way over to where the ropes were, we see Tim standing on the top of a rock boulder, about 10m high. He looked over and said, ‘ok Harlow – its your turn’. Harlow was a little cautious, but equally interested at the same time as she had just seen another little girl clinging to the side of the wall, a little concerned at going off the side.

As Tim got her tied in and explained a few simple steps to follow for safely abseiling, Harlow made her way to the edge of a 10m rock wall… very slowly may I add.

As a dad, this was an amazing experience.

One, I knew full well that Harlow was safe and other then possibly a few scratches from the rock, couldn’t really be hurt at all. But two… I was able to sit back and actually observe how Harlow reacted to a new challenge in life (and a challenge some would see as pretty big in life for a 5 year old – if you’ve ever stood at the top of a 10m wall, that could be a challenge no matter how old you are!).

As parents, my wife and I have never been ones to believe that you need to push kids into doing things they don’t like. We are much more from the belief that if you allow them the time and space to be interested and curious enough… the time will come when they want to do it. So for Harlow going to the edge of the cliff was completely on her own terms.

Her first attempt she only got a few steps and than Tim offered to go down with her, which even doing this would not feel natural to a kid. Leaning all of your weight backwards down a pretty big drop and trusting that you will be held by yourself holding a rope. She managed a couple of times down with Tim and she slowly started to build some confidence.

Next up was a bigger wall just across the gorge. Straight away Harlow was completely energised to go and see (and try) this bigger wall. She watched a couple of the other kids go down and than as Tim called her over she (in her own body) had decided that she wanted to go down by herself!

I was sitting pretty close to her when she said this and after seeing one of the older kids go down (and knowing myself what its like) I asked her if maybe she just wanted to try a couple more times with Tim. Nope she said… its easy. ‘I didn’t really like the little climb over there and I was waiting for the big one to go by myself’. I’m sure you could imagine the smile on my face as she said this to me.

‘Ok’ I said, knowing again that she would be completely safe. It was more the fact that I didn’t want her to scare herself too much in anyway that she wouldn’t quite enjoy it anymore. As I watched my little girl, walking backwards to a cliff (that was probably twice as high as the first one) I couldn’t stop smiling. Sure I spent some time talking to her, reminding her of ‘feet wide apart like riding Shady (her horse), lean back and… thinking of Unicorns riding rainbows (as she quite often does?!?), but inside myself I was bursting with excitement and proud disbelief that she was actually doing what she was doing.

Step by step she made her way closer to the edge, I could see her mind and body working hard to try and co-ordinate the movement necessary to lean back far enough to move but also hold tight enough to arrest your fall. Before I knew it she was a good 5 steps down the wall.

By now, I am sure you could sense the smile that came across me as I watched my little girl go from asking what abseiling was, to actually abseiling off a wall equivalent to about 5 stories high by herself in about 2 hours.

Harlow’s abseiling experience finished not long after this as she made her way all the way down the wall. Boy was she smiling and bouncing at her new accomplishment – and definitely deserved so.

The experience finished and we went for a swim in the lake afterwards (undie swim) as we hadn’t had enough time to pack properly for whatever else we wanted to do in the mountain that day and then made our way back down.

Later that afternoon, when Mum got home from work Harlow couldn’t wait to tell her how easy abseiling was and the fact that all you had to do was put legs wide apart, lean back and think of Unicorns riding rainbows!

The rest of the day passed and we went back on with the things we just do on the weekend.

Later that night, I caught myself still smiling at the days events. Sure, there was a part of that smile dedicated to the fact that Harlow actually enjoyed abseiling and was already looking forward to doing it again, but I think even more so, was the fact of seeing what’s truly important in teaching your kids at an early age.

And this is where the ‘What’ may be different to what you were thinking.

You see, it was definitely not teaching Harlow how to abseil, use ropes, hold ropes, move your feet, lean backwards into a gully that drops off a long way… it was anything but this. The ‘What’ was teaching Harlow from a very young age to experience new things, to encourage her to be curious, to understand that its Ok to feel that funny scared feeling inside, but also teaching her what to do with that when she feels it.

Teaching her that feelings don’t always mean how most people react to situations, that sometimes those feelings are just there to remind you to take a breath, relax and maybe, just maybe pause for a minute or at the very least… just take a baby step.

The other teaching was for Leeah and myself. Constantly reminding each other as Harlow grows up to simply stand back a little more and let her explore her own experiences, limits, feelings.

Many people would probably comment to my wife and I that ‘Well Harlow has two parents that get out and do almost anything and everything anyways’ so it just makes sense that she would do something like this easy. And although true, (although I still don’t believe Leeah would abseil of that cliff as Harlow did today), this is an instance where she went into a situation which has never been in before, didn’t know anything about or how to do it. And it’s obviously something that’s caught my attention – otherwise I wouldn’t still be sitting here smiling and writing this blog about it.

So what can we do as parents in teaching our kids to be more curious and engage in new experiences/adventures? It’s simple.

Be that yourself!

Its often far to easy as mums and dads to jump into our child’s life and steer them where we want them to head, how we want them to react, what they should be scared of, what it means when we feel scared, happy, sad and which things in life make us feel these things… that’s just natural instinct as a parent.

But is it doing more harm then good? Remember, this isn’t a matter of doing things right or wrong as a parent, as Leeah and I would confess we would do many things that maybe we would liked to have done better or different. Its more a matter of just creating some space to see what your child may make of it without your input.

To stand back as a parent and pause for a moment when they are about to experience something new in life may just be one of the greatest gifts you could give both your child AND yourself (Of course we are talking about doing this in a safe environment and we wouldn’t let our kids just wander curiously across a 4-lane highway to be curious).

Remember, as a kid (and even as an adult), experiencing something brand new is an incredible feeling to have in life. Finding out how something new works, taking a baby step into a direction you’ve never been before or just experiencing a new feeling from doing something you never thought you could do is what life is truly about.

When we influence our children with our own beliefs, worry’s or fears, just try to be aware if this is actually really teaching them the best thing. Perhaps when we pause and think about it for a moment, we are just teaching them something we were taught as a child ourselves and therefor it became hard or scary or a belief that we didn’t know what to do when we felt that feeling.

The ‘What’ we teach our kids that’s so important is far from the actual details of a situation, movement or sport itself (like Harlow and the abseiling)… it is simple to be curious in life… to be open to new experiences, explore new boundaries, see the fun in doing something new and embrace the feelings we get when we do these things (even if they are a little scary feeling).

And at the end of the day… if the only thing that comes from doing this is your child see’s you looking at them and smiling – well, what more do we need to teach!

Thanks kindly to Tim from Absolute Outdoors and Sarah (our friend from Wandi) for the photos.


Trailmade Autumn Development Camp

As the sun sets on another amazing Trailmade camp – I simply sit and smile.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s the runners who come to camp or me… who get the most from our time together in the mountains!

Thanks to a great team of mountain runners, Pioneer Garden Cottages Bright, Sixpence Coffee, Salomon Running, Suunto, our wonderful mountain energised co-hosts- Gretel Fortmann and Caine Warburton and most importantly… Leeah, Harlow and Team Coops!

Let the bells keep ringing in the mountains til next camp! See you for Trailmade Winter!