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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About Lukas Lamb

Husband to a wonderful wife, father to 4 incredible kids (3 daughters and 1 son), adventure racer, mountain biker, runner, lifter of weights, reader of books, and lover of life. He can be found on Google+

Posted on November 22, 2011, in Gear, Gear Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Good timing for a new post, I was having to resort to working at work. I can attest to the usefulness of the simple strap, and the Awesome strap looks good, especially if it is a bit longer. Lately I’ve been cramming my stuff into a modified water bottle which works well if you can spare one. I saw Bob’s suunto arrow the other night and that thing is indeed lightning fast. The needle was super stable which I’m sure is handy when you’re on the move. I’ll be sure to wear camouflage to the possum trot so you don’t feel like I’m following you…..

    • I’m glad we could help with your un-productivity at work, Jim. The water bottle idea is pretty clever. I’ve never even thought of that. And it sounds like you’re planning on doing the Possum Trot?

      • A friend and I will be doing the Short Possum. It will be our first event and we’re pretty excited. I can’t take full credit for the water bottle storage, as Tacx gave me the idea with thier “Tool Tube”. As a side note I just bought an Apex Pro headlamp baised on your comments here and I love it.

  2. We us that exact compass! Scott and Fredrik from Team Bushwhacker converted us to a thumb compass at the beginning of 2011 from a larger, so-called “adventure racing” compass. The Suunto Arrow 6 has never let us down and it’s the only style compass we use now.

    • I’m guessing you used the Brunton Compass that is billed as an “AR” compass, right? I’ve used it in the past, and I’m not a fan at all. I can’t wait to use the thumb compass again. I loved it!

  3. Excellent ideas! Thanks. The only item I have used is the thumb compass. I use it for orienteering, but prefer the base plate compass with a magnifier http://www.thecompassstore.com/51m3dl.html for adventure racing. I really like how the Suunto arrows settle and have never gotten a bubble in a Suunto.

    • I have that very same compass, and I love it. I think I’ll keep it in my pack, but I’ll use the thumb compass for most of my nav at adventure races. Is there any reason you prefer the base plate compass to the thumb compass for adventure races?

  4. I always like these posts. I went back to last year’s series several times in preparation for Berryman. I’ll have to actually pull my compass out and use it before figuring out if I need to upgrade or not, though. 🙂

  5. That thumb compass is an awesome tip. I ordered one today from your link, thanks.

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