Well, we’re back with our newest installment in our series of adventure racing gear reviews and recommendations. If you need to get caught up, you can go to Part 1 and Part 2. Now, without further ado, here is part 3…
Stop packing regular old Athletic Tape in your first aid kit. Kinesio Tex Tape is FAR superior. According to John Vonhof in his excellent and highly recommended book, Fixing Your Feet, “Athletic white tape is not well suited for taping feet because of its lack of quality adhesive.” And if you’ve ever tried to use athletic tape on a sweaty foot during an adventure race, then you know it’s a lost cause. Well, that’s not true with Kinesio Tape, which was actually designed for muscle taping. A lot of physical therapists and athletic trainers use it.
This tape has a paper backing, so it can be measured and pre-cut before applying to the skin. The paper backing also prevents the tape from sticking to itself or other items in your pack in hot weather. It comes in 2″, 3″, and 4″ widths (although I use the 2″ variety), it stretches, it’s porous and breathable, it’s really smooth, and it sticks to your skin better than anything I’ve used. The adhesive is heat-activated, so you should briskly rub the tape to generate some heat once it’s been applied. This will ensure that the tape stays in place much, much longer.
Vonhoff, an accomplished ultra-runner himself who has been a medical volunteer at races such as Primal Quest, Raid the North Extreme AR, and the Western States 100, has this to say about Kinesio Tex Tape (also from his book Fixing Your Feet):
“Kinesio Tex tape is my tape of choice for 90% of my taping jobs… Kinesio Tex is thin, easily applied, and sticks exceptionally well.”
If it’s the go-to tape for a guy that has kept feet healthy at some of world’s toughest races, then why in the world would you take some crappy, worthless athletic tape on your next race? Seriously, get some Kenesio Tex Tape, and you won’t be sorry.
For any outdoor pursuit, you’re better off carrying LAYERS instead of carrying one heavy jacket. That way you can add a layer when you’re too cold or shed a layer when you’re too warm, easily adjusting to the changing weather or your changing activity level. During an adventure race, though, you want to carry as little as possible while being prepared for anything and everything. That’s where the Patagonia Regulator (R) Series works better than anything I’ve tried before.
The R-1 is comparable to a 100-weight fleece, but it’s much lighter and much more compressible. It has a “waffle-like” texture on the inside of the fabric that increases the insulation factor while minimizing bulk and weight. It’s breathable, stretchy, and it wicks moisture like a champ. It’s also durable. I’ve had my R-1 for over 11 years. I got it before my NOLS course back in 2000, and I literally wore it every single day while backpacking through the Rockies for 28 days straight. It’s been with me ever since, and it’s still going strong. It just might be my favorite piece of apparel for adventure racing.
The R-2 is comparable to a 200-weight fleece, but it is also much lighter and more compressible. Instead of the “waffle” design, the R-2 is sort of furry. This “fur” is called “variegated-fiber” fabric. All I know is that it is wicked warm for it’s weight. It’s REALLY breathable, so if it’s windy, a light wind-shell would be a good idea, but for adventure racing, the breathability is a good thing. Plus, the R-2 just looks cool. I’ve had many people come up to me to ask what kind of jacket it was, and a few of the braver ones have actually rubbed my sleeve to feel the “fur” (there are so many jokes there, but I’ll let you come up with your own).
Now, here comes the best part. While the R-1 and the R-2 are amazing pieces on their own, which is how I often use them, the real magic happens when you wear them together. The warmth-to-weight ratio of these two together just can’t be beat. If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll notice my blue R-1 under my green R-2. It’s a great combination. You’ll also notice that I’m really happy since I’m about to stuff my face, but that’s beside the point.
Patagonia offers an R-3 and even an R-4, but I haven’t tried those out. Honestly, I don’t think you’d ever need anything more than an R-1 and an R-2 for 90% or more of adventure races.
The only drawback to these layers is the price. They aren’t cheap, but I truly believe they are worth every penny. Check out the Patagonia R1 Jackets and the Patagonia R2 Jackets. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
I don’t think I’ve ever done an adventure race where a map case was NOT on the mandatory gear list. I’ve used the Large SealLine Map Case for years, and it’s never let me down. It has kept my maps dry and visible in some nasty weather. I’ll even throw my camera in there when the rain comes down unexpectedly.
The Large Map Case is big enough for most maps if you fold them appropriately, but it’s small enough that it doesn’t become cumbersome. I just throw a couple of small carabiners on the D-rings and tie some reflective cord (which makes it MUCH easier to find at a TA in the dark) to them, and then I throw the map case around my neck.
There really isn’t anything else I can say. For 20 bucks, this map case is fantastic. In fact, for longer races with lots of maps, it’s nice to have two map cases (like in the photo above). So protect your maps (and camera!) at your next adventure race by picking up a map case right here.
If you don’t take care of your feet, your race is NOT going to go well. Most shoes (yes, even expensive trail shoes) have pretty crappy insoles in them. They break down quickly, they offer very little support, and they take forever to dry out. But who really wants to shell out tons of cash for custom-made orthotics? Not me.
Sole Softec Ultra Insoles are the in-between that you’ve been looking for. You pop these guys in the oven for a little while, and then you stand on them to mold them to your feet. It’s super-easy, and it’s effective. For about 40 bucks or less, you can have “custom” insoles.
I’ve had mine for almost 2 years now, and they’re still in great shape. In fact, I’ve trashed two pairs of trail shoes since I’ve had these, but I just keep moving these over to my next pair of shoes. At first, I thought they were not soft enough, but after using them, I love them. They provide the perfect amount of support, comfort, and cushion for long days on the trail.
If you have foot problems (I’m looking at you Bob Jenkins!), then you should try these out. Do your feet a favor and pick up a new pair of insoles.
GPS devices are not allowed during an adventure race for obvious reasons… IF they have the ability to show you where to go or where you’ve been. Basically, if your GPS device has a screen then it probably isn’t allowed. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see exactly where you traveled during your race? Maybe you had trouble finding a certain CP. Or maybe you made a wrong turn on the bike leg of your last adventure race. Or maybe you gambled and decided to bushwhack when others took the trail. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to upload all of that onto your computer?
Well, it’s possible with the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger. Just strap this little gadget to your shoulder strap, turn it on, and you’re good to go. You can even drop a waypoint by pressing the button. This is a nice feature for marking the CP’s on the course or for marking the location of a cool photo that you may have taken.
Scott, from Team Bushwhacker, is the one that actually turned us on to the i-gotU GPS device. Big thanks to him.
We’ve only scratched the surface of what we’ll be able to do with this thing. We’re planning some navigation practice sessions using this to see how well we did. And we’ll use it to see how closely we followed our planned route at any future adventure races. In short, this thing is going to make us better racers. And it will be a lot of fun as well.
Pick up this handy orienteering GPS tracker to see where you traveled the next time you race.
We’ve come to the end of Part 3 of our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Reviews ad Recommendations. Be sure to check back in with us for Parts 4 and 5 in the near future. And be sure to let us know what you think about all of this in the comments below. Until next time, Peace OUT!
Well, we’re back with the final installment in our series of adventure racing gear reviews. If you missed the other parts, here they are: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. Now, on with the show…
This could be the most essential piece of clothing that you’ll ever buy. I mean, let’s face it. You want to take good care of this area, right? I thought so. These boxer briefs are great. They fit perfectly, there are no seams to chafe you, they wick moisture better than anything else I’ve tried, and they dry uber-quickly. I wear these on all of my long training rides or runs and on all of my races.
What the…??? These might be the weirdest looking “shoes” in the world, but they are great. First, I’d recommend reading Born to Run. This is an awesome read, and it will help explain why these shoes are so great for you biomechanically. I love to lift weights and do some metabolic conditioning in these shoes, and they are perfect for when I do some TRX suspension training. I also do some trail running in them. However, don’t buy a pair and immediately start doing all of your training in these. You’ll hurt yourself since you’ve been wearing heavily padded shoes your entire life. Slowly start working these into your training, and you can thank me later. On top of all of that, they are a great conversation starter. You’ll get stopped many times to explain what they are. Check ‘em out.
Ever had a water bottle leak all over your backpack? Yeah, me too. It’s not fun. Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore if you switch to these water bottles. They have a locking mechanism that guarantees no leaks. I usually carry two of these with some e-fuel mixed in them in my pack along with a hydration bladder full of plain old H2O. This combo has worked amazingly well for me to keep me hydrated and cramp-free. And I’ve never had a Podium bottle leak – EVER. They even make an insulated version for your cold-weather training and racing, or if you hate when your water gets too hot during the summer. So try out a bottle or two for mess-free hydration.
Your feet are your most valuable tool during an adventure race, so making the right shoe choice is crucial. Every foot is different so make sure you try on several different kinds of shoes. My favorite is a pair of Salomon XT Wings. They are light enough for racing yet beefy and sturdy enough for bigger guys and every day training. The traction is great, they breathe well, they’re durable, and they look great. I LOVE the lacing system. You don’t need to tie these shoes. You simply pull them tight and lock them in place. This is perfect for quick transitions between the biking and running legs. Try out a pair and see for yourself.
No matter what you drive, there is probably a Yakima rack that will work perfectly for you. I have the Yakima Double Down 2 Hitch Mounted Bike Rack, and I love it. It folds down easily, and it holds the bikes securely. When not hauling bikes, the top part of the rack folds down so it isn’t sticking out needlessly. No complaints at all with this rack.
Casey has the Yakima Swing Daddy Hitch Mounted Bike Rack that holds four bikes. As the name suggests, this rack swings completely out of the way so that you can access the back of your vehicle easily. It, too, allows you to fold the top part of the rack out of the way when not hauling bikes. It’s a great rack.
Zip ties, sometimes called cable ties, are essential for adventure racing. You don’t really know you need them, until you need them. Did that make sense? There are thousands of uses for zip ties. We helped a lady finish a mountain bike race by zip-tying her pedal back onto her crank. My brother recently broke the zip ties holding his bike cables to the top tube. I had a couple zip ties in my pack, and he was back in business in no time. If you break a buckle on your pack, zip ties can help you out. Seriously, why wouldn’t you carry some of these. They weigh practically nothing, and their uses are unlimited. Pack some zip ties on your next training session or race, and rest assured you’ll be prepared.
Well, that wraps up our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear and Equipment series. We hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Let us know if you have any recommendations for gear in the comments section. We’re always willing to try out something new.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some, although not all, races require you to carry a knife. You can get the smaller Classic knife for free when you order the Tinker by going here. While the Tinker is a great knife, I actually prefer the Classic. I keep it inside my first aid kit for all of my races. I like it better because it is smaller, but I also like the fact that it has scissors and the Tinker does not. The scissors are great for cutting moleskin or athletic tape. Both knifes also have tweezers which can come in handy for splinters.
I use the Princeton Tec Corona on my mt. bike when I race. For the size and price, it makes a great headlight with several output settings, including a flashing mode. Yes, you can get a brighter light that may be a little lighter, but you can’t get them at $48 like the Corona goes for. This thing is waterproof, too, and it comes with Princeton Tec’s life-time warranty. It’s a helluva deal. Get one right here.
The Princeton Tec RF6 is also a great, inexpensive tail light for your bike. Pretty much every adventure race has a bike tail light on the required gear list, and this little light will do the job perfectly. It’s plenty bright, it has several flashing modes that will make you visible to traffic, and it will even clip to your pack or waistband. And it’s only around $12.50 when you get it here.
Yes, these gloves are not specifically designed for mt. biking, but they are far superior to any biking gloves I’ve ever tried. Some people like the original Mechanix Gloves, and they really do work great and are pretty damn cheap. I prefer the M-Pact Gloves because they have a little extra padding on the palm and some extra protection on the fingers and back of the hand. They come in a variety of colors, and they look pretty damn cool. They are way more durable than any other biking gloves, and they are pretty much the same price. Grab a pair, and you won’t be disappointed.
These are the best water bottles out there, hands down. No, they won’t fit in your bike bottle cage, but you can throw them in your pack. I normally don’t carry one with me during the race, but I always have one before and after the race. I also leave a couple at the transition area at races with my beverage of choice already mixed up in it. The wide mouth and 1 liter volume make preparing drink mixes a breeze (although if you use e-Fuel this is never a problem). I’ve NEVER had a bottle leak or crack. These bottles are indestructible. Pick one up right here. You can also get a sweet water bottle parka that fits over your Nalgene to keep your liquids cold or hot.
I love this hat. I don’t race without it. It’s perfect for running and paddling. It breathes well, keeps the sun out of your face, and it’s lightweight. It holds up to abuse – I just cram it in my pack when I don my biking helmet. When it gets dirty, I just throw it in the wash. You can get the hat in white, red, gray, orange, and khaki. Take a look at some of the pics from our race reports and you’ll see me wearing this hat. Get one of your own and you’ll be happy that you did.
That’s all for part III in our series. When you’re ready, be sure to check out part IV in our series of adventure racing gear reviews.
We recently shared our picks for AR gear starting with letters A through E. To check that out go here. Now, we’ll continue with our list of adventure racing gear that we use and love, starting with the letter F.
Crank Sports make some tasty gels that blow away the competition. Don’t believe me? Just compare it to your gel that you’re currently using and see for yourself. The e-Gels have plenty of carbs, amino acids, anitoxidants, and electrolytes to keep you hydrated and ready to go. They also have a product that is perfect for adventure racing – e-Fuel. It is basically a gel in concentrated liquid form in a handy little pouch (a lot like a gel pouch) that you can pour directly into a water bottle or your hydration bladder. There is no need for mixing any messy powders that leave clumps only to clog your bite valve, it mixes immediately, it provides tons of energy and electrolytes, and it is simply delicious. My favorite is the Citrus Slam. You can compare e-fuel to other sports drinks like Gatorade, Accelerade, and Cytomax by going here. Once you try e-Gel or e-Fuel, you won’t go back to anything else.
The OR Gripper Gloves are fantastic. They are not big and bulky, but they are warm and comfy while still breathing well. The Windstopper Fleece and grippy palms make these great on paddling and biking sections. Pair these up with liner gloves, and you’ll be all set for cold weather adventure races. They are also quite a bit cheaper than comparable North Face and Mountain Hardwear gloves. Check them out.
Do you always seem to get blisters and hotspots? Or do you chafe like an S.O.B.? Then pick some of this stuff up. I never race without first applying Hydropel to my feet liberally. I also apply it to certain delicate regions that are prone to chafing (that would be my crotch in case you were wondering). It works on the nips, too, if that is a problem area for you. I prefer Hydropel over BodyGlide or Sportslick, because it is a little thicker and seems to stay on throughout an entire race much better. Get some of your own right here.
Yes, these socks look weird. And the first time you put them on, they may feel a little weird. But after 2 minutes you’ll love ‘em. If you have blister problems, use Hydropel (listed above) with these socks and say buh-bye to blisters. In cold weather I use these Injinjis as a liner sock under a wool sock. They wick well, breathe well, and prevent friction between the toes. Get a pair and you won’t be sorry.
Jelly Belly Sport Beans are awesome. When you don’t feel like slamming down another gel, or when you just want something to chew, you should grab a pack of sport beans. They are loaded with energy and electrolytes, they taste great, and you can even get them with caffeine (an adventure racer’s best friend). You can get them in 4 packs or by the case right here.
So that’s it for this installment of our recommended adventure racing gear A to Z. Be sure to check out Part III in our series.