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Round TWO of the ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear – Part 3

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…

K is for Kinesio Tex Tape

Kinesio Tape for Blisters while Adventure Racing

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.

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L is for Layers – Patagonia Regulator Layers

Layering Patagonia R1 and R2 for Adventure Racing

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.

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M is for Map Case

Best Map Case for Adventure Racing

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.

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N is for New Insoles – Sole Softec Insoles

Sole Softec Insoles for Adveture Racing

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.

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O is for Orienteering Gadget – the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger

i-gotU GPS for Adventure RacingGPS 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.

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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!

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

I thought I’d share  some of the gear we use during adventure races and other outdoor pursuits.  With Christmas only a few weeks away, these would make great Christmas gifts for the adventure racer in your family.  So we’ll start at the beginning of the alphabet, and over a series of posts we’ll show you some great adventure racing gear, equipment, and clothing.

A is for ALOKSAK  Bags

ALOKSAK Dry Bags are great for adventure racing

These bags are kind of like ziplock bags on steroids.  They are nearly indestructible, and they won’t leak.  I use these bags to keep a dry pair of socks in the bottom of my pack, to keep my camera dry on paddling sections, to hold my first aid kit, and to keep my cell phone dry during races where we are required to carry a phone. I’ve even used these bags as map cases before. Aloksak bags are far superior to freezer ziplock bags, and you can reuse them time after time. They have never failed me. Find them here.

B is for Buff Headwear

Buff Headwear is one of the most versatile garments for adventure racing

After using a Buff on the Castlewood 8 Hour Adventure Race this past weekend, I realized that I should have purchased one years ago.  I absolutely LOVE it!  It is unbelievably versatile – I wore it as a face mask, a head band, a balaclava, and a beanie during the race.  It can also be worn as a do-rag, wrist band, neck gaiter, blindfold, and (although I shave my head so would never use it this way) a scrunchie pony-tail holder.  It comes in a variety of colors and patterns (I prefer plain old black), and at only 20 bucks it is a helluva deal.  Trust me… You’ll love it. Pick one up and you won’t be sorry.

C is for Compass – Suunto Micro Clipper

Suunto Micro Clipper Compass is great for Adventure Racing

This is another great little item that every adventure racer should have.  Unlike most other mini-compasses, this one has a liquid filled capsule, jewel bearing, and a rotating bezel which makes it a must-have item.  It can serve as a back up in case your primary compass is lost, or it can be used for quick and dirty navigation on the fly.  All but the gnarliest of the navigation during adventure races can be done with this little guy, and I actually use this little guy the majority of the time during adventure races.  It comes with a band or it can fit on your watch band, and it even has a glow in the dark bezel which is a nice feature.  Go on and get one right here.

D is for Dry Bags – Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack

Keep your adventure racing gear dry with Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sacks

These dry bags will keep your clothes and gear dry while saving space and weight.  Simply put your clothes in the dry bag, roll the top and buckle it closed, expel the air out of the bottom of the bag (here is where the waterproof / breathable eVent fabric is), and you’ve got a dry bag and compression sack rolled into one.  The bag is oval shaped so that it won’t roll away when placed on the ground.  Check ‘em out.

E is for e+Lite Headlamp by Petzl

e+lite headlmap by petzle - perfect for 6 - 12 hour races

Every adventure race requires you to carry a whistle and a headlamp (even if you should be done before dark – you know… Just in case).  So, how can you meet these two gear list requirements  in one piece of equipment that weighs just under 1 ounce?  With Petzl’s e+Lite headlamp with the integrated emergency whistle, that’s how.  It weighs a scant 28 grams, has two white light outputs, a red light for night vision, and a white flashing and red flashing mode for signaling. It lasts for 40+ hours, and it’s even waterproof down to 1 meter.  It can be worn around your head or clipped to the bill of a cap or to your pack.  Even if you need more light for technical night nav or mt. biking, at less than an ounce you can carry this baby as a backup.  Pick yours up right here.

That’s it for now.  We’ll be back sometime soon with more gear recommendations. Check out Part II of this series.

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