Gearing up for an adventure race

Racing in the toughest places on Earth requires the right tools just to survive – let alone win.
The gear adventure racers need. © Patagonian Expedition Race/Ulrik Hasemann
By Will Gray

The last few weeks have seen a slew of epic adventure races around the world, from the Suisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge and Red Bull Amazonia Kirimbawa to the recent Adventure Racing World Championships in Costa Rica.

Competitors usually have to be self sufficient — which means carrying everything you'll need. In this year’s Patagonian Expedition Race, competitors faced more than 500km of kayaking, biking and trekking on everything from glaciers and exposed mountain passes to neck-high peat bogs and rolling waves. Conditions varied from bright, clear sunshine to persistent rain and ice cold winds.

To survive, you need gear for every eventuality. But to be fast, you need to carry as little as possible. This photo shows Thomas Schmitt, part of Team Berghaus. While most elite adventure racers would try and carry a lot less it's a good guide. In his own words, Schmitt talks us through his gear:

A high-end head torch that turns the night into day can really help you to keep moving fast. The problem is power, so I always also carry one or two lightweight headtorches.

One for my head and one for my neck. If it gets too hot on the head I simply pull it down to the neck.

Necessary for kayaking and climbing but sometimes you wear it anyway when you’re trekking because it will help to keep your head warm.

You need a tent, good sleeping bag and some clothes. One ultralight single layer tent is fine for four. With thick forest and deep swamps you need clothes that work well in wet conditions. For the night, a Primaloft sleeping bag works great even if wet.

Drinking Bottle
Hydration is more important than eating and I use a mix of minerals and carbs. Bottles are easy and fast to refill.

The gear adventure racers need. © Patagonian Expedition Race/Ulrik Hasemann

In many adventure races, the maps are very rough and so you also have to keep looking out at what’s around you. It’s vital to keep the maps dry, so we use A4 size zipper bags.

You have to eat on the go — 5,000 calories per day. Eating is a necessary chore during a race, because you have to carry it and normally you burn more than you can eat. A mix of natural and energy food fits best.

You need lightweight shoes that give good moving space as feet can swell. I prefer cross running shoes with a more rugged sole. You have to look after your feet. To avoid problems I used to go barefoot as often as possible at home to toughen them up. I had no problems in Patagonia.

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