We heard a story the other day via social media about some fellow adventure racers that were out in the backcountry doing a training ride. One of the riders had a mechanical issue that resulted in an accident. Thankfully there were no broken bones but he was badly shaken up with mild injuries. What surprised us about this story was how unprepared they were for being adventure racers. To make a long story short the temps dropped, they were wet and cold and ended up needing assistance from local SAR (search and rescue). Don’t be too quick to judge though, because these are experienced athletes we’re talking about and this sort of thing can happen to anyone.
For those of you who don’t know, adventure racing is an “unsupported” orienteering event with many different disciplines like bike, trek, paddle, and climb. During a race there are often times where you’ll find yourself in the backcountry 50 miles from the closest transition area. That is exactly why race directors make mandatory gear lists and why it is so crucial to have these items on hand if things take a turn. After too many close calls of our own we’ve adopted our own mandatory gear that we never leave the trailhead without even if we’re just training 0r out for a day hike.
The kit that we’ve put together contains most of the mandatory gear you’ll find in races spanning 12 to 24 hours. Of course specifics are at the RD’s (race directors) discretion but this gives you a good idea on what to have on hand in case you are confronted with a situation in the backcountry or on your local trails.
IN THE KIT:
#1. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape – Repairs ripped jackets, sleeping pads, tents and shelters, etc.
#2. A bike chain master link – Since we transfer this kit from the trekking leg to the bike leg we keep a master link in this kit, double check to make sure your have your chains specific link.
#3. Type A Tear Aid patches – Similar to the Tenacious Tape but cut into small patches and great for fabric tears.
#4. 12 feet of 2″ Duct Tape – Dubbed Kentucky Chrome, this is one of the most versatile items in this kit. Perfect for bike repairs, patches, first aid, etc. There are literally a thousand uses for Duct Tape.
#5. Bic lighter – Fire is one of the most important survival tools and a must have at all races. I’ve used my bic to start a fire for someone who was suffering from hypothermia.
#6. SOL Tinder Quik– A waterproof and windproof fire starer that burns for up to 2 minutes.
#7. SOL Fire Lite – A one-hand operable sparker that produces a powerful shower of sparks. It provides over 5000 sparks and doesn’t run on fuel like the Bic. We use this as our back up fire starter.
#8. 3 spare batteries – Make sure you know before hand which headlamp you’ll be using and bring enough fresh batteries to power it, our Princeton Tech headlamp requires 3.
#9. Medical Tape – We recommend you bring a whole roll for splinting and other serious wound care, it’s very light and has many applications.
#10. Compressed towels – These compressed towels are very light weight and pack down to the size of a nickel but when you apply a drop of water they grow to small towel. Perfect for first-aid situations, emergency toilet paper, cleaning bike parts, etc. We love these!
#11. ChapStick – Make sure you find a chapstick that has an SPF rating and sunblock.
#12. Aquaphor – Eucerin’s Aquaphor is an ointment and another multi functional item we have to have in our kit. It can be used for lip treatment, foot repair, chafing, etc. This has saved us more than once and will save us again.
#13. ID – Always keep a photocopy of your drivers license on your for multiple reasons. Make sure you check your state laws because in some states, color copies are illegal.
#14. Bandaids – We always keep an assortment of different sizes and styles of bandaids in our kit along with a few mole skins for blister care. The fabric bandages with an antiseptic are the best in our opinion.
#15. Epipen – This is an essential for all allergy sufferers and a serious matter. Make sure your friends and/or teammates know how to use this and the measures that follow after its use.
#16. SOL Emergency Blanket – This is one of the most essential parts of this kit and one of the items that started this article. The cyclists that needed rescued could have prevented their situation by simply carrying a “space blanket”. This item is on every mandatory gear list at every race I’ve ever attended, and if it isn’t you should bring one anyways. It can be used as a life saving device, emergency shelter, sun cover, and many more.
#17. Portable Aqua Tabs – Most RD’s (race director) require each person solo or team to have the means to treat at least 1 liter of water. Each tablet treats 1 liter every 4 hours, so this is a true survival item. If you find yourself needing to treat higher quanities at a quicker rate you should consider a different method.
#18. Medicine – We bring at least 3 doses of an Antihistamine (Benadryl) and equal doses of an anti inflammatory/ pain reliever such as Ibuprofen in a waterproof bag. If you have specific medical needs it’s a great idea to keep a few extra here and a small instruction sheet for emergencies.
#19. Pocket Knife – A folding knife at least 2″ in length is always required at races but we like to keep an extra knife in our kit, a small swiss army style knife with scissors, blade, and file is always a helpful tool.
#20. Tweezers – Light weight and an essential part of a first aid kit.
#21. Safety pins – These are another essential part of our first aid kit, perfect for attaching items, repairing ripped clothing and gear, use for medical purposes, etc. There are literally thousands of uses for safety pins.
#22. Creams and ointments – Obviously this will vary due to personal preference and sport but here are some items we alway keep on hand; Antiseptic towelettes, triple antibiotic ointment, Tecnu First Aid Gel, Tecnu Extreme, and a few sting relief towelettes for summer adventures.
#23. Gauze Sponges – Gauze sponges are individually wrapped pieces of gauze that are required in most first aid kits. We prefer these because they pack down a lot smaller than a roll and don’t come unraveled and messy.
Make sure you keep all of your mandatory gear safe and dry, we prefer to use a LOKSAK waterproof bag. We’ve put it through some of the toughest conditions for 5 years and it’s still going strong. In addition we keep our first aid supplies in a separate bag to keep them organized and easy to access. The benefit of keeping all of your mandatory gear in one bag is that it makes it extremely easy to switch packs for different disciplines so you’re never caught in the backcountry without the essentials.
We hope this helps point you in the right direction and get something together for yourself. This kits has helped us during races, backpacking trips, singletrack sessions and everything in between. You won’t catch us without it, so if you see us on the trails stop us and we’ll submit to a gear check. Stay fast but more importantly, stay safe.
See you on the trails!