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Round TWO of The ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear

Well, it’s that time of year again, boys and girls.  Time to dust off our aluminum poles, air our grievances, and perform feats of strength.  That’s right!  Festivus is right around the corner.  What’s that?  You don’t celebrate Festivus?  Well, that’s okay.  Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day, to name a few, are some holidays coming up quickly as well.

So I thought it was time to update our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Reviews and Recommendations.  We still use most, if not all, of the gear we recommended in last year’s ABC’s, but we thought it was time to update the list with some of the other AR gear, clothing, and accessories that we use and love.  So, here is part one of this year’s series.  And if you have anything you’d like to recommend, let us know in the comments!

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A is for Awesome Strap

Awesome Strap Race Gear Review

I was fortunate enough to win an Awesome Strap (made by Backcountry Research) at the 2011 Dirty Kanza 200, and I have to say that this little guy is aptly named… Awesome.  I still love and use my Simple Straps (which actually made our gear-of-the-year list in 2010), but I really like the awesome strap for carrying a tube, CO2 cartridge, and an inflator under my saddle.

The Race Strap seems to hold everything in one bunch a little better, whereas I needed two Simple Straps to hold everything I need before I got this guy.  I’ve never had anything come lose using the Race Strap, and it never makes a sound or jiggles around at all.  The Race Strap is durable, it’s affordable at only 10 bucks, and it comes in all kinds of colors and designs (mine has a cow pattern, but you can get camo, argyle, chili peppers, flames, tie dye, and many more).

They offer a beefier version called the Hitch, and for a limited time, they are offering the “Whammer Deal” where you can get any 3 straps for just $24.  That sounds like a perfect idea for stocking stuffers… Especially if you have 3 sons that love to bike (Mom and Dad, are you reading this?  Hint, hint…).

Trust me.  You’ll make any cyclist or mountain biker in your life very happy for just 10 bucks (or 8 bucks if you go with the Whammer Deal).  How can you beat that?  Pick up a strap or three by clicking here.

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B is for Battery Charger – Lacrosse Technology Alpha Power Charger

Wait… What?!?!  A battery charger as a recommendation for adventure racers?!?!

Absolutely.  This thing has saved me some serious cash over the last couple of years.  If you train and/or race at night like we do, then you know you go through batteries like crazy.  This thing is waaaaaay better than any other charger that usually comes as part of a bundle with a digital camera or other electronics.

It has 4 modes: charge, discharge, refresh, and test.  It will charge AA batteries as well as AAA batteries.  You can charge between one and four batteries at a time in any configuration of AA/AAA batteries (see my recommendation below for batteries) unlike a lot of other chargers that make you charge batteries as pairs.

It is a bit pricey, but over the long haul you’re going to save money.  It has kept me running, riding, and paddling in the dark for the last two years, and it’s still going strong.  Plus, if you have a Wii (which eats through batteries pretty quickly) or children with tons of battery-powered gadgets like I do, then this thing will more than pay for itself within the first year.  Grab one right here.

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C is for Compass – The Suunto Arrow 6 Thumb Compass

Okay, I’m a convert.  I used to rely solely on my clip-on wrist compass, but I have since changed my ways.  Yes, I still use the wrist compass for my “dirty navigation” when all I need is to double-check my rough direction of travel, and it’s a great deal for $5.  However, when I’m doing more serious navigation (like during an orienteering meet or a rogaine section of an adventure race), my new go-to compass is the A6 Thumb Compass from Suunto.

Bob is actually the one to bring me to my senses after he spent some time with Scott Fredrickson of Team Bushwhacker while volunteering at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals this year.  If it’s good enough for the navigator of an elite team like Bushwhacker, then I figured I’d better see what using a thumb compass was all about.  I used this compass at a Rogaine Race a couple of weeks ago, and I fell in love with it.  I’ll be using it again at an O-meet this weekend, and I can guarantee you’ll see it on my thumb at any adventure races I’ll be doing in the future.

This little compass is suh-weet!  For me, the best part of the compass is how steady the needle is and how wickedly fast it settles when you’re moving.  This is crucial for navigating on the fly.  The A6 Compass stays attached to your thumb so you can always have it right where you need it while you’re holding the map.  The bezel even rotates to take a direct bearing if you really need to.  No, there are no numbers around the bezel, but I have never (literally – never) needed to know exactly how many degrees my bearing is while adventure racing.

It’s a little expensive compared to some other compasses, but you’ll be blown away by how quickly and steadily the needle finds north.  Once you try it, you’re going to love it.  I promise.  Go here to pick one up.

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D is for Duct Tape – Travel Rolls of Duct Tape

Duct Tape for Adventure Racing

Whether Duct Tape is on the mandatory gear list or not, you should always take some with you.  You don’t need to (or want to) take an entire roll of tape, though.  It’s too big, bulky, and heavy for adventure racing.  In the past, I used to make my own “race rolls” of duct tape by wrapping a few feet of the tape around a pencil and then breaking off the ends of the pencil.  You can also make a “flat race roll” by wrapping the tape around an old credit card or hotel key-card.

However, it’s a real pain in the butt to wrap your own rolls.  You have to be very careful to make sure no adhesive is exposed, and it’s really tedious.  Sure, you can save some money by rolling your own race rolls, but the convenience of these rolls more than makes up for the difference in price.  I think it’s definitely worth $6.50 for two 50″ rolls of duct tape.

We all know how useful Duct Tape is, so make sure you take some on your next race.  Throw a roll in your first aid kit, and keep the other roll in your gear box or foot-care kit.  You can thank me later.  Grab some race rolls of Duct Tape right here.

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E is for Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

Eneloop Batteries for Adventure Racing

If you burn through batteries like I do, then do yourself a favor and pick up some Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries to go with the Lacrosse battery charger (mentioned above).  These are by far the best rechargeable batteries I’ve found.

I’ve tried the Duracell and Energizer rechargeables, and they are… Meh… okay.  They just don’t have as much juice as Eneloops, they don’t hold a charge as long as Eneloops, and they wear out a lot faster then Eneloops (The Eneloops can be recharged up to 1500 times vs. just “hundreds” for Duracell and Energizer rechargeables).

Compared to regular batteries, the Eneloops may seem expensive, but in the long run these rechargeable batteries are waaaaaaaaay cheaper.  You can get an 8-pack of AA’s for less than $2.50 per battery, and you can get and 8-pack of AAA’s for less than $2.40 per battery.  You can also buy them in 4-packs or 16-packs. Seriously, go get some.

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Well, that does it for part 1 of this series.  Have you used any of the above items?  Do you have any other gear recommendations for adventure racing?  Let us know in the comments section, and be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of gear reviews (Part 2 can be found here).  You can follow our blog on the right side of this page.  Or you can follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to stay up to date with us.  Oh, and one more thing…

Have a happy, happy Festivus!

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The ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Part IV – Stuff We Use and Recommend

It’s been quite a while since our last installment, but here we go again with part IV of our series.  And if you want to check the other three parts out, here they are: Part I, Part II, and Part III.  Now, let’s continue…

P is for Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp

Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp for Adventure Racing

This is my favorite headlamp – hands down.  Yes, it is bigger than the Petzl e+Lite, but it is MUCH brighter.  I take the e+Lite when I’m over 90% sure I’m going to finish an adventure race before dark.  If it is a longer race, or if it’s a race where I know I’ll be in the dark (like a dusk to dawn race), then I always take the Apex.   The 3-watt super-bright LED is perfect for night navigation.  Whenever you get close to a checkpoint in the dark, you just turn on the spot light to the high setting, and start looking for the reflective tape on the marker.  When on high, the spotlight throws a beam of light farther than anything I’ve seen (especially in this price range).  I also use the Apex on my helmet for mountain biking at night in conjunction with the Princeton Tec Corona on the handlebars for a perfect bike-lighting system.  For other tasks that don’t require maximum lighting, the 4 ultra-bright LEDs are perfect.  The super-bright spotlight and the ultra-bright task light both have a high, low, and flash mode.  The Apex is waterproof, and of course it comes with Princeton Tec’s lifetime warranty.  At less than $60, this headlamp is one of my top choices.  Get yours right here.

Q is for Quarter Socks by Smartwool

Smartwool PhD Quarter Socks are the Perfect Choice for Adventure Racing

The Smartwool PhD Quarter Socks are our go-to socks for adventure racing.  They breathe well.  They wick moisture well.  They are warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.  They look good.  They feel good.  They don’t stink, even after a long day of racing.  I just love these socks.  In cold weather, I put a pair of these on over the Injinji Socks mentioned in Part II of this series.  This is a perfect combination.  Be sure to pick up a pair.

R is for the Rush Backpack by Golite

Golite Rush Backpack for Adventure Racing

This is my backpack of choice for almost anything I do outdoors.  It is just the perfect backpack for adventure racing, and I use it on day hikes, orienteering races, mountain bike rides and races, and even trips to the zoo with my kids.  I’ve used it for 12 hour adventure races in the summer as well as the winter.  If you find you need a little bit more room for longer races then you can always go with the Golite VO24 which is about 60% bigger than the Rush Backpack.  Both of these packs can cinch down tight when you don’t have them stuffed completely full.  They both also have hip pockets for food, compass, chap stick, etc.  And when you really need to carry some extra gear, both packs have a big stretchy pocket on the back with some elastic compression straps where you can secure anything from bike shoes to a helmet.  These packs are nearly indestructible, really lightweight, and super functional.  I could go on and on about these packs, but the bottom line is I always recommend them to friends who are just getting into adventure racing.  I can’t recommend them highly enough.

S is for Suunto M3 Compass

Suunto M3 Compass - Great Choice for Adventure Racing

There may be fancier compasses out there, but this is my compass of choice for adventure racing.  It has never let me down.  It’s simple design makes it easy to use.  You can easily adjust the declination, the bezel and needle glow in the dark, and there is a magnifying glass built-in to help see small features on the map.  The scale at the end of the compass corresponds to a 1:24000 map scale (one of the most commonly used scales in adventure racing).  This thing is indestructible.  The  lanyard is great for keeping the compass around your neck, which is where I wear mine.  When heading out to the great outdoors, I don’t leave home without this baby.  If you want an affordable, reliable, and durable compass that’s easy to use, then get one of these.

 

T is for the TRX Suspension Trainer

TRX Suspenstion Trainer - Perfect for Adventure Racers

One thing I’ve noticed is that many beginning adventure racers (and some experienced racers for that matter) lack upper body strength and endurance. Sure, they can run and ride all day long, but once they get to the fixed ropes or get in a canoe, they fall apart.  Well, the TRX can whip you into shape. If you are on the fence about adding some resistance training to your program for adventure racing, then you need to hop off of that fence and try the TRX.  You can get an amazing, total body training session with the TRX from the comfort of your own home.  It can also be taken outside and attached to a tree, a pole, or a secure railing. You wouldn’t believe how many different exercises you can do on this piece of equipment.  It is the perfect thing to start a home gym, because it is all you need to get started.  Later, you can always add dumbbells and some free weights.  If you already have a home gym, then this can add some much needed variety into your training.

Check out this video of me doing one round of a brutal workout on the TRX in my basement.  It might look easy, but if you watch it to the end, you’ll see that it nearly killed me – and I loved it!

The TRX also offers a door anchor to take with you wherever you go (no more “I can’t get a good workout in at the hotel” excuses), a ceiling/wall mount to install in your home, and now they even offer the Talon Trainer which focuses on finger, wrist, and grip strength (perfect for climbers).  This is truly a remarkable piece of equipment that anyone who is serious about their training should own.  Get your own TRX, and take your racing to the next level.  I simply love mine and use it at least twice a week.

So that’s it for today.  When you’re done reading this, be sure to check out the last piece in this series – Part V.

 

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