Every adventure race has a list of mandatory gear, gear which must be carried at all times throughout the race.  At some point in the race, you are usually asked to show you have something from the mandatory gear list – first aid kit, rain jacket, emergency blanket, or whatever.  The items on the mandatory gear list are to ensure your safe during the race.  Well, I have what I call my Mandatory-Non-Mandatory Gear List, items that aren’t required which you might not even think about carrying but are definitely worth throwing in your pack.

Below is my list in no particular order:

aLOKSAK Bag or Other Small Dry Bag

An aLOKSAK bag is basically a super-duper, heavy-duty ziplock bag.  They are lightweight, waterproof, dustproof, and very durable.  They come in several sizes, and they’ve never let me down.  I use the smaller bags for my first aid kit (they are transparent so I can see what’s inside easily), and I use the large bags for bigger items.  I’ve even used a large bag as a map case before.  There are other drybags out there, but the aLOKSAK is my go-to choice.

aLOKSAK bags for adventure racing



Extra Socks

If your feet get trashed, your race will be miserable at best and ruined at worst.  When your feet get wet (a likely outcome in most adventure races), it’s great to have dry socks to slip into.  Even when your shoes are wet, having dry socks can be a lifesaver.  My favorite socks are Swiftwicks (look for a review later), and I always throw an extra pair or two in an aLOKSAK bag in the bottom of my pack.

Lip Balm

This one may sound weird, but I hate chapped lips.  And for whatever reason, I seem to always get chapped lips when I race.  Maybe it’s the wind, the sun, or perhaps I lick my lips when I’m concentrating on the map… Regardless, it’s nice to have some relief.  I’ve been teased about taking lip balm, but on more than one occasion the ones doing the teasing ended up asking to borrow some lip balm.  It’s also a good idea to get lip balm with sun screen built in.  Sun-burned lips are no fun.  Speaking of sunburn…


Sunburns hurt, plain and simple.  Not to mention the skin cancer risks.  Slap some sunscreen on before your race starts, and carry a small amount with you to reapply throughout the race.  At the very least, take some to leave in your gear tub at the Transition Area.

Check out KINeSYS sunscreen which is popular with triathletes.


The sun can also damage your eyes, and squinting all the time can lead to headaches.  Sunglasses are a must-have anytime, but especially for paddling legs and racing in the snow where you can suffer from snow blindness.

Sunglasses and a bloody ear

Sunglasses protect your eyes but not your ears as my friend, Chuck, found out.

Numa Optics offers some interesting designs that have an “Unbreakable Warranty.”  Under normal wear and tear, their glasses are under warranty if they break. I know what you’re thinking: Normal wear and tear doesn’t include adventure racing.  Well this is from their website: “Normal wear and tear” includes but is not limited to: scaling a cliff face, downhill mountain biking or skiing, parachuting, hiking rugged terrain, dropping your Numas on a hard surface, accidentally stepping or sitting on them, and even letting your toddler play with them.”  That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

Waterproof Watch

This sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  Well, I’ve forgotten a watch before.  Fortunately, at least one of my teammates has always had a watch to save me, but I would have been in trouble if they didn’t.  In a lot of adventure races, there are time cut-offs.  You may need to be to a certain checkpoint by a certain time to avoid getting disqualified or short-coursed.  And all races have a final cut-off time at the end of the race.  Without a watch, you’re just guessing.  And make sure it’s waterproof.  Chances are, it’s going to get wet at some point.  Throw a wrist compass on the band of the watch like I recommended here, and the watch serves more than one purpose.

Duct Tape and Zip Ties

These two items make up the bulk of my “repair kit.”  Duct tape can be used for hundreds of things.  Just to name a few: blister protection, emergency sunglasses, a tire boot, patching torn clothing or backpack, attaching things to your bike, etc.  Zip ties also come in handy for things like attaching or re-attaching a bike light to your bike or helmet, holding a spare tube in place, strapping things to your pack… We even helped a fellow racer attach a pedal to her bike with zip ties, making it at least rideable for the rest of the race.


I’m sure I’ve left several items out, but these are a few things I always take with me when adventure racing.  Don’t agree with any of these?  Or maybe you have some “must-have” non-mandatory items of your own.  Well, share them in the comments below!