Every racer of the Ultra Sport, no matter the mode of transportation, is carrying some sort of “kit”. The “kit” is the equipment, gear, and clothing that one will carry throughout the event, from start to finish. This can vary greatly depending on an individuals comforts, goals and strategies. There is no mandatory list of equipment for the Ultra Sport, although some things are very obvious and all will be carrying but others not so. What works for you may not work for me. Another big concern when building your kit is weight, so managing a balance to figure out what you need vs. what you think you need will have an impact on your efficiency when on the trail.
Emergency moment – after waking moving down trail and freezing cold we needed to stop for hot liquids and food…
What are your comforts? I know personally I do not carry a stove to McGrath, along with a lot of others. A stove can be a main source of getting water if you decide to carry one. As “racers” we gamble on leaving it behind and rely on carrying enough water and getting places fast enough to refill at the checkpoints. And we don’t care about hot food on the trail. Yes, we have all at one time been out of water for longer then we wanted cause the trail was bad and the usual half day took 2, like the first section this year. I will say I still don’t carry a stove but I have increased my comfort level by carrying a thermos. This allows for a quick hot coffee, coco, oatmeal, or instant potato mid-way through checkpoints. What a treat when you been in 20 below all day. I also carry a 200oz hydration bladder. For me, I can go a solid 24 hours doing hard work and stay fully hydrated so I can milk this out for 36 before I start to become dehydrated. Don’t forget there is overflow, lakes, and rivers you might come across so in addition to the thermos I carry a Montbell Titanium mug to scoop and drink water with.
We stopped carrying mattresses last year…a bit bulky
Sleeping systems is another thing one might gamble on, I don’t suggest it but people do.. You can save some wieght as well as bulk by moving to a 3 season rated bag vs. a winter bag and even ditch all the weight by not carrying one. I will not criticize someone for doing this cause I know you can have a clothing system, carry an emergency bivy, and build a fire to get a few hours of sleep if necessary. I personally carry a Montbell -20 degree bag, a Montbell Gore Tex bivy, and hot water heater reflective bubble insulation cut appropriately as my sleeping pad.
Clothing is another big area where people will over carry as well as another area to save on bulk and weight. This can become a big discussion in itself but here a few things to think about. Carrying an extra sock system for when you get trench foot or step in overflow. I have in the past but no longer carry an extra base layer. Something that might help with your decisions is asking the question are you going to do whatever it takes to get from shelter to shelter without stopping to dry out or do you plan on bivying in the bush? Sometimes you don’t have the choice, but are you willing and do you have the know how to survive a couple of nights without the extra layers. Let’s get back to clothing in another post.
Are you wearing/carrying anything to get you through ankle deep overflow, how about knee deep, and then waist deep? Maybe waiters, plastic bags, rain pants, gaiters, waterproof shoes, something homemade, I’ll let you figure it out. Overflow comes in all shapes and depths, sometimes it will surprise you under snow and ice.
Overflow comes in all shapes and depths, sometimes it will surprise you under snow and ice.
You better have matches in your kit. I suggest you store them on your body and become a pro fire builder and don’t be afraid to do so. This is not just for emergency reasons, when you become comfortable and efficient with building fires you will make more and it becomes more of just another typical thing to do to dry out, get warm, and melt snow.
Where does all this kit go? Packing gear is another discipline to become efficient in. Being super organized and knowing where every little piece of gear is all the time will help tremendously. Try different things. Keep the frequent used things close by. Keep the things that should not freeze on your body. FYI – Chemical warmers work better and faster when they are not frozen. Drying out, repacking, reorganizing becomes a regular thing. A well thought out tested kit will make for a happy confident racer!
I am not giving a piece by piece spreadsheet document of what I use and carry, cause again, figure out what works for you! The best way to acquire your kit is by testing, fiddling, modifying, trying other things, thinking outside the box, packing, re-packing, going camping, learning from others and doing some more testing. This is a lot of fun and when you get your kit perfect you start to feel like nothing can get in your way and that much more comfortable on the trail.