Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

May 24, 2012

Adventure Racing Gear - My Top Picks

Adventure Racers tend to accumulate loads of gear.  It can be fun, but it's also hard on the pocketbook.  I keep telling my husband that NOW I've got everything I need and I won't have any more surprise purchases...but.  There's always a new race requirement, or that piece of kit which will make me race faster, lighter, safer, happier, etc, etc.  

Here's a few pieces of that gear that I wouldn't want to live without:

1. Arm Warmers:  
I love arm warmers in the summer, I can still wear a short-sleeved shirt and then push up/pull down the arms as needed.  I especially love the Btwin Arm Warmers, they are a little bit thicker (for cold British summers) and seem to wick water away from the fleecy-feeling inside.   So rain or sweat is no obstacle and my arms always feel warm and dry.

2. Backpack

Inov-8 Race Pro 22
 You can't have just one, and I use the smallest pack I think I can get away with, even if it means dangling something temporarily on the outside for a few miles.  For shorter races, I love the Nathan Intensity Vest, which is so balanced and light I forget I'm wearing a pack.  Until I want something to eat, and then it's waiting for me in the handy front pouches!

For anything up to multiday races, my go-to pack is the Inov-8 Race Pro 22   It's stood up to years of abuse and everything still works great.  I've attached a couple of extra Inov8 front pockets to the shoulder straps, which give me 4 front zippers to store food, compass, etc.  On the back I tied on a few strands of elastic shoelace to give me a secure place to put a multisport helmet if I'm not wearing it.  For multiday races, I've just upgraded to the Race Pac 25, which feels quite a bit bigger than the Race Pro.  It should easily fit a sleeping bag and 24 hours of food, gear, etc during the 4 day Adidas TERREX expedition race this summer in Scotland.
3. Hydration:
 I hate bladders.  They are a pain to fill, refill, empty, clean, etc.  I love to put electrolytes (see #7 below) in my liquid, which makes them doubly hard to clean out afterward.  So now I use Blue Desert drinking tubes.  The tubes come with several attachments to fit on most water bottles, bike bottles, etc, so you can use whatever fits your style, even the really cool Platypus collapsible bottles.

4. Lights
Any old cheap headlight will seem great while running, until it comes time to submerge it or ask to see a boulder in a distant valley.  Then it's time to bring out the tough stuff.  I like the Princeton Tec Apex Pro , it's waterproof and throws a strong beam for biking as well.  I've got the model with CR123 batteries, as they are much cheaper than buying AAA Lithiums.  Bummer is the light on high only runs an hour (substantially longer for the medium setting), and it's tough to change batteries in the rain.   Ok, it's tough to do anything at night in the cold rain anyway. 

For my MTB, I'm too cheap to throw out hundreds of dollars on a really good bike light.  So I've picked up a couple of these on Ebay: Bike Light   The great thing is that I now have a spare battery and a spare light, so if I break a light, it won't cost a month salary to replace it.   Do watch out with all really high-powered lights (expensive ones, too) not to run them on high beam while stationary, as they will produce too much heat and might (literally) blow a gasket. 

5. Socks: 
I don't tend to get blisters but I don't want to, either.  In racing conditions where I find it amusing to count the miles before my feet get soaked for the rest of the race (I usually don't make it to double digits), socks are key.   My favorite is now Drymax, as I can feel how quickly they absorb water and get it away from my skin.   I love Injinji toe socks but after one episode of my teammates waiting not so patiently for me to put my socks on, I don't wear them in adventure races anymore.   I also love SealSkinz waterproof socks, but I can't afford to keep myself in them as they aren't as durable as I'd like.  I tend to save them for biking portions as they keep my feet warmer as well as dryer.   For more blister prevention, I use SportSlick or Hydropel lubrication.  

6. Trekking Poles:
A friend showed up to a Bob Graham recce one day wearing trekking poles.  I mean they literally attached to his palms, but could be easily detatched to have his hands free for eating, digging in pack, etc.  I decided that they were for me, as I've always hated the straps of regular poles.  So now I use nordic walking poles, specifically Leki Traveller (Carbon). I prefer to use them in the latter stages of a long race, rather than the beginning, when I am tired and need a little extra power. 

7. Liquid Calories: 
Don't get me wrong, I love to eat.  But in a race I might not have time to think about doing it often enough.  From my background in triathlon, I learned to combine Nuun tablets and Carbo-pro powder into a dense liquid that would get me through an Ironman with no stomach issues.  But then I rarely have stomach issues anyway.   Hmmm.  I've recently discovered Perpetuem, which is has a little fat and protein mixed in with the carbs.  I've heard stories of people living off Perpentuem in multi-day adventure races.  I haven't tried it yet, as I use AR as an excuse to eat jelly beans, potato chips, and other normally terrible foods...but I love the taste so much I think I could use it exclusively.  If I run out of jelly beans, that is. 

8. Waterproofs:  Aside from my cheap everyday waterproof, which I think works just as well as the heavy Gore-Tex breathable ones, for really tough conditions I turn to my Paramo Smock. This seems to be the only fabric that actually breathes while being waterproof.  Sure, it's a bit heavy, as it sort of combines a fleece and a waterproof together.  Trust me, you don't need anything more than a baselayer if you've got this on, unless it's well below freezing.   Also always in my race bag are my OMM Kamleika Race Pants.  It surprising how little I've needed to wear them, but these rain pants almost make me wish for rain because they are so comfortable.

9. Sleeping pad: 
On the Rab Mountain Marathon last year, I discovered the Inertia X Frame, which is an airy pad that rolls up to the size of a soda can.  Plus it's so tough that you can jump up and down on it and it won't rip.  Sleeping in adventure racing just got comfier, as before this invention I probably wouldn't have brought a sleeping mat at all and taken my chances with cold hard ground.   Now if I could just find a sleeping bag that is as small and light (and cheap, too!). 

10.  Climbing Harness:
I remember on Open 24 race last summer, my normal climbing harness took up most of the space in my pack.  Not this year, as I've switched to the Camp Alp 95.  Another "soda can size" object to forget it's even in my pack until it's needed. 

In my mountain of gear, I'm sure I could keep adding things to this list until it overloaded my whole blog, but these are some of my big purchases in the last year.  I hope they will help keep me warm, dry, fed, rested, and light on my feet!


  1. I think I'd have to draw the line at arm warmers!

    1. Don't knock 'em 'til you've tried them! My favorite piece of gear, there's a reason it's first on the list....!

  2. I have to agree with 4 Winds on the arm warmers, even as a girl I doubt i could pull them off (even in pink) Noticing your kit list, I have the waterproofs completely the other way round to you. I have the OMM Kamleika Race Smock - http://www.aboveandbeyond.co.uk/.omm-kamleika-race-smock-black-various-sizes-_5060103820955.htm, and a pair of Paramo Race Pants. So Generally you have good style ;) Alice!

    1. Well, fashion goes out the window in the backcountry...if you're worried how you look you might want to stay in town! But you can't go wrong with OMM and Paramo, they have great products!