What GEAR do you take for a multi-day stage race?
Packing for a stage race can be absolutely daunting! Whether it is your first time or not there are a lot of things to consider.
Stage-racing is typically self-supported or semi-supported, meaning you need to carry at the minimum your in-race nutrition, some gear and clothing based on expected weather.
As I am preparing to run the Grand to Grand Ultra, a 7-day (6 stages) Self-Supported Stage Race taking participants through a mix of hard packed sand, soft sand, sand dunes, forest trails, red rock climbs, rocky roads and slot canyons.
You want to select a bag that works best for YOU and this can be a challenge in itself! We cannot just go on the recommendation from a friend as we are all built so differently! What works for one person can be so very wrong for someone else. You may need to spend some time trying on different bags at a store or better yet reach out to friends and see if you can test different ones out on a run.
Some things to look for:
- Volume: (the more space you have the more you might be tempted to bring extra gear) a 3-day stage race you should be able to get away with a 12-15L bag, a 6-7 day stage race you might be looking at 20-30L.
- Hydration: can you use a bladder and/or front pockets to carry water (again this is a personal preference). I like both when training as it allows me to carry more water, meaning I need to figure out water stops less, however during the race itself I only use the front pockets. Using bottles instead of a bladder during a race also allows you to monitor your hydration intake.
- Easy access to in-race nutrition: This is super important! If you cannot reach it you will neglect your nutritional needs. I chose a bag that actually did not offer enough easily accessible space, BUT the bag had enough of the other things I was looking for. Adding a front pocket to my bag made the bag work for me.
- Weight: When you are carrying everything that you need during a race weight matters, including your bag weight. I removed the back panel from my bag as it is not necessary and caused friction in my lower back. Some people will cut off excess labels, straps, etc. not being used on a pack to save weight. I’ve done this with other bags.
- Comfort: FILL your bag with the approximate weight you think you will be carrying as it will fit different and feel different with a bag half the weight.
MY BAG for G2G: Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 25
There are lot of options here as well. In 2016 when I first needed Gaiters for a race I followed Ray Zahab’s suggestion and combined a small gaiter with a DIY method of covering my shoe. In my opinion, if it ain’t broke why fix it!
As I will be running in the desert keeping the sand out of my shoes is important!! I am using Inov-8 Gaiters (the ones I’m using are an older version) and covering the top of my shoe with Rip-Stock Fabric.
Other gaiter options that I have seen people wearing at stage races are (to name a few):
Three words here…WARM, LIGHT and PACKABLE. If it is a self-supported stage race you will be carrying these items with you throughout the day. You want weight to be minimal and of course it needs to fit in your bag with all your other gear/nutrition.
After being out on course all day, being warm at night is part of the recovery. Shivering all night is going to waste energy and keep you awake!
I do not usually use poles, however having them on a multi-day stage race can have it’s benefits. The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Z-Poles, 100 are extremely light and with the pack I”m bringing you barely even know you are carrying them. If you are deciding on poles, extremely light weight is important but durable!
Fairshare Mug II: Trust me, this item is worth the extra weight (and still only weights in at 6.8ounces!) In the morning I stuff my evening meal in it for when I get back to camp, it keeps me organized. I’ve seen other people struggle with ZipLoc Bags, burning their hands, small messy cups not quite big enough for their meal. This cup is easy to handle, has a lid to prevent spillage but also helps cook your food faster! No Brainer….get the cup!
Again, trust me, these are worth the little bit of extra weight for their comfort. In the desert there are cacti and other sharp rocks, etc. around camp. I’ve seen lots of things turn into a disaster at camp, all as a result of trying to save a tiny bit of weight. Light weight foam flip flops from the dollar store or Old Navy is well worth the $2 you might spend!
I will also be carrying the following items (click on item to see what brand I use)
- Canada Goose Jacket or Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoodie
- Wind and Water Resistant Jacket
- Knife with 3-5cm blade
- Signal mirror (20cm2)
- Whistle (mine came with a previous pack)
- Emergency Blanket
- Petzl Myo Headlamp and Black Diamond Spot Headlamp (with spare batteries -min. 200 lumens)
- Red flashing light
- Ability to carry 1.5 litres (2x 750ml bottles) Raidlight 750ml / might switch to HydraFlask 600ml – yes, I’m a week out from my race and still deciding 🙂
- Blister Kit – made my own includes alcohol wipes, hypodermic needle, rock tape/KT Tape, small scissors.
These are the items that have worked for me, but again, this is my own personal preference. There is a ton of amazing gear out there, I know that my gear list evolves as I gain more experience and as items become discontinued!
What are some items that you’ve used and would recommend?
Keep chasing dreams!