Adventure racing is one of the most fun endurance sports you can think of.
Triathlons are boring, running on the flat, around the track in a space age bike and swimming in the sea.
Adventure racing is awesome!
- they drop you in the middle of nowhere
- you get to see the countyside
- there is a sense of teamwork, camaraderie
- you get covered in mud, saltwater, mud, blood, sweat, tears and tears
- adventure legs include orienteering, rogaining, trail running, kayak or ocean surfski, ocean swimming, mountain bike, abseiling, rock hopping ...
Races vary from 3 hours long to more than a week. What you take will depend on the legs you will need to cover, the race conditions and terrain and personal skill and preference.
Individual kits such as medical / survival kit / paracord items are well described in the instructible community. I take my hat off to the following people for their good and relevant ideas:
as well as many more on the site!
In this 'ible I will make some suggestions as to what to take along with you to make the race a little more enjoyable.
This 'ible is a 'serving suggestion' for a 24-28 hour race with trail run/rogaining/surfski/ocean swim/mountain bike legs. The race conditions I had prepared for included rain and excessive heat (4oC to 45oC) common in Australia, but not snow or sleeping in sub-zero temperatures.
I optimised the kit for light weight and my budget was fairly unrestricted. If you are on a budget or you aren't too fussed about how fast you go, then there are many more options.
The most important things not to forget on any adventure race:
A sense of fun and adventure!
A trust in your own abilities and limits, and those of your team
I'm sure I have forgotten something or described too much. And that is what happens every race!
Step 1: The Trail Run
I haven't covered nutrition and clothing in a lot of detail. Comfortable running gear like compression tights and a running shirt work well for me in many conditions. Layering is good, learn to tie the clothes to your pack. For food, trail nuts and fruit, and fresh fruit work well as tins of tuna, crackers, museli bars etc. Light and packed with long-lasting energy. Avoid things with sugar except for boosting morale.
In the trail run / rogaine leg (or legs) you will be running and walking over all sorts of countryside.
Some examples are up a muddy rock face in the rain, through thick bush land or across a river.
Unlike a fun run, adventure racing involves using a map and compass to find out where you need to go.
Here is a list of ideas for the trail run leg with a rationale for each.
running shoes - some people like trail shoes or boots but I prefer my running shoes with quick release laces. These will get covered in mud and wet. When you get home put them in the washing machine.
extra socks - in a plastic bag. This is the best thing you can do short of taking water and a jacket on a race. socks are handy makeshift gloves, scarf, bandage, bike chamois and you will get fewer blisters. Don't use cotton, use a synthetic like coolmax as it has better wet properties.
medical kit* - there are lots of good medical kits out there. Please do a first aid course before you go, it is handy after the race too! I have a 'special' one modified for australia and some of the things that have come in handy for me.
space blanket - doubles as a water catcher, tent, blanket, signal mirror, back padding etc.
waterproof watch / gps/ heart rate monitor* - gps systems aren't allowed on most races and spoil the fun compared to using a compass. I once lost two compasses on a race so lucky the watch had a light and compass for night! Also great as a stopwatch for splits. Heart rate monitors are useful for pacing yourself and also keeping an eye on a patient.
gloves - if required or cold. These will protect your hands from spills and from branches.
compass (wrist compass)* - get a good one with large card / display
sunnies / goggles - comfortable and polarised is best for water. With a lanyard
waterproof map case on lanyard - these are great for carrying other stuff as well eg. pens, first aid papers, cash
spare compass - see above
hat (visor / beanie / cap / skull cap) - depending on conditions
shemagh* - this is one of the more useful things you can take on a race. Use it as a sponge, sunhat, bandage, rope, scarf, headband, bag, filter, water catcher ......
gaiters - these are good for blocking out scrub cuts etc.
head torch* - take some sort of light even if you intend to be out only during the day. I have a single colour one with adjustable angle which is handy. Some people swear by the multicolur ones.
carabiners* - for clipping bags, clothes etc. to yourself or pack. connecting stuff with a carabiner and paracord comes in very handy!
notepad and pen* - where was that last checkpoint? what time is sunset? we are lost, how do we leave a note for others?.... I have the waterproof notepad variety.
markers - see above. good for prototyping your planned trail on the map case.
waterproof jacket* - I have one made from e-vent material which is comfortable, breathable and light. It has pockets to keep stuff in, a hood for real rain, and doesn't get too sweaty when it's hot.
paracord and whistle* - a portable plan B to wear on your wrist. Catches sweat too.
hydration pack* - size it up according to the time you will be out. don't put the recommended amount of electrolyte in there, use less. Wash and dry it AS SOON AS you get home otherwise it will get really black and festy!
anti-chafe stick* - this is a fantastic thing to prevent chafing. You will nod your head if you have been chafed in a race (anywhere).
spare batteries - for the torch
energy gels* - a form of race nutrition. You will be sick of these by the time you finish the race. Take the wrappers with you, it is better for the environment, you can use them for signalling and if your bike tire gets a tear.
antiseptic wash - for the 500+ cuts you will get from the bush.
lighter in plastic bag - waterproof! other methods as a plan B for starting your fire
blister repair - you will get blisters on an adventure race.
(walking stocks) - I haven't used these but apparently these help you go faster for longer.
phone in waterproof pouch / tunes* - just in case!
sunscreen - for when it is hot, or in australia when it's not.
* these things are also used on the bike leg
If I could only take four things on the trail run leg, what would I take?
Step 2: The Bike Leg
This is a fun leg. You will be covered in mud at the end of this leg(s). Your legs will be wobbly and adrenalin will course through your veins. That is, if you and your bike make it through!
as well as the stuff marked from the previous section, here are some ideas for what to take:
bike! - I built my own XC carbon frame 29er. My team mates have their own style and type of bikes. It's up to you!
helmet - light weight and you can strap some stuff to this with cable ties (eg lights, energy gels, paracord etc.
clip-in shoes - if you are going back to base and can guarantee a drop of your shoes, then clipless are good as they give you more power. Don't run too far in these shoes however, you will stuff your feet.
cable ties - these are great and very handy. You can use them to attach an old tube to minimise scratches from chain suck, a makeshift gear cable housing, (frame stabiliser), light tie, etc. etc.
gloves - helps prevent chafing, keeps you connected to the bike and pretected from flora, fauna and the elements.
tire levers - yep
CO2 bottles - if you are a real racing pro they will save you time. Remember to wear your gloves when they go psssst!
pump - combo CO2 and hand pump are good. I have presta valves, and an adapter to Schraeder (car type) valves in case I go past a petrol station.
lube and toothbrush - for chain and washing out gear cables, toe clips etc.
multitool - knife, pliers and screwdrivers. good for tightening things up in lieu of a spanner, or cable tightening
pedal / crank spanner - the flat stamped steel ones are light and will slip into a backpack.
gaffer tape / duct tape - 1001 uses!
anticlot bandage - for when (not if) you have a stack
spare tube - for when (not if) you get a flat
tire patches - flea pactches self adhesive ones are great and pack down lightly. Modern ones don't need to be heated they are like a sticker.
chain links - you can repair a broken chain with a multitool, chain cracker, and
bike tool (19 piece) - allen keys, chain cracker, screwdrivers, spanners, all in one handy tool
gear/brake lever - spare wire for a gear cable break
backpack - for carrying all the stuff in
goggles - these will get covered in mud! also good for preventing sticks poking your eye out
bike light - for travelling at night. You will need >1000 lumens eg a car headlight
If I only could take four things on the bike leg (apart from the bike) then I would take:
- bike tool
- pump (and patches ;) )
Step 3: The Paddle and Swim
This is the one that most people don't like for some reason. With practice, it can be really enjoyable.
kayak / surfski - Race in the vessel you have trained in if possible. You are better off with a more stable, slower boat which you don't fall out of rather than a fast tippy boat where you lose lots of energy getting back in. You can surf and gain distance downwind with a surfski (or possibly a sea kayak).
swim goggles - the large TV ones look dorky but will protect you from a foot or hand in the face during the swim start.
swim cap - If you don't get one specially for the race, then an orange one will help people and other boats see you.
wetsuit / swim suit / speedos - if these are allowed in the race rules. They will keep you warm and buoyant.
earplugs - to prevent ear infection
paddle leash - you don't want to lose your paddle!
dry bag - can double as a paddle float and will keep all your stuff dry
kayak skirt - if you have a kayak, these will prevent your kayak from being swamped with a big wave.
leg rope / leg leash - if you are travelling off shore, these are essential. I have found myself having to swim back to shore once when I didn't take my leg rope, and if it were after a few adventure legs I could have been in some trouble.
flare(s) / dye in plastic bag - if you have to use these, keep them dry, don't panic and wait until you can hear / see the rescue craft if possible. The more you have the more likely you will be to be seen. There are different ones for different conditions (eg night)
bailer / sponge / bailer pump - for when (not if) your boat gets swamped. More important for a kayak
PFD - a must have. Get the best class ones you can with arm and shoulder room. Do it up snugly, people have fallen out of loose ones before I've heard.
whistle - for attention, especially warning other boats where you are before they run you down.
duct tape - according to mythbusters, duct tape doesn't work to patch holes in a boat. I beg to differ.
signal mirror - it is hard to see someone from a helicopter on the sea I have been told. A CD does the trick and you can use the hole to point. Remember CDs?
space blanket - will keep you warm, can use it to signal and catch rain or fresh water as well as a makeshift anchor or drogue
paracord/shock cord - you can lash this to the 'ski to save weight. For towing, lashing, drogue anchor, makeshift sail or
paddle - yep, you will be up the creek without a paddle! Flat ones are for kayaks and longer journeys. THe carbon ones have a wing to provide extra 'lift' in the water and the angle of the blades are offset to provide wrist strain relief or if it is windy.
spare paddle - the Aleut paddle is a good compromise between saving extra weight and a backup paddle that can be easily stowed or lashed.
If I could only take four things on the paddle and swim leg:
Step 4: Before and After the Race
Phew! the race is over (or not started). What else should you bring?
race rules - each race seems to differ. It is handy to avoid disqualification if you check the dos and don'ts of the course
windup torch - for the trips to the bathroom
track pump - much easier to 'top up' the bike tires
grease and cleaning gear - if you choose to wash down the bikes after the race, or tune them up before
bike lock - to prevent someone pinching your bike
bike tool kit - to 'tweak' the bike before the race
towel and toiletries - you will feel like a wash after the race! Or your friends will drop the hint!
cooking gear - or enjoy the catering
water - in Australia several of the races don't supply large amounts of water. A 10L drum is handy
sprain repair tapes - to help with the post race aches and pains
If I could only take four things pre/post the race:
Happy racing! Hope you enjoyed this attempt at what to take on an adventure race.