Trail Racing Gear List

At a trail race, you get to lighten your load thanks to aid stations at regular intervals. You can shed a good number of pounds by carrying less water and emergency supplies. With ultramarathons, you can stash plenty of gear in your drop bag - making for lighter, easier miles while having access to gear at known intervals.

In My Trail Race Pack

I use a 12L Orange Mud Adventure Pack during trail races that carries everything I need to get through even the longest races. Here's the quick list of gear I carry on my person and in my pack on race day:

  • Road ID

  • Running hat or buff

  • Trekking poles

  • Water bottle(s)

  • Map(s)

  • Compass/whistle/thermometer

  • Phone

  • Waterproof phone case

  • Hand towel

  • First aid kit

  • Sports tape

  • Head lamp

  • Extra batteries

  • Windbreaker

  • Emergency rain poncho

  • Emergency blanket (small, remote races)

  • Life Straw (remote races)

  • Salt Stick tablets (electrolytes)

Drop Bags

Nearly all ultramarathons allow drop bags so you can freshen up during a race. For the most part, drop bags come in handy for additional hydration/food supplies, changes to clothing, and self-care. This is great for particularly long or difficult races because a brief respite with your drop bag can keep you going. Here's the list of common items in my drop bag:

  • Food

  • Socks

  • Shoes

  • Shirts

  • Rolling stick

  • Sports tape

Cold Weather Additions

When it's cold, you're going to wear and carry more gear. This may include:

  • Extra layers - top and bottom

  • Winter hat

  • Gloves

  • Facemask

Gear Choices and DNFs

If you’re running an ultramarathon, it goes without saying that you’re going to be out there a long time covering a lot of miles. You’ll get tired, lose your mind a little, and be fully exposed to what Mother Nature throws your way. Because of this, the gear choices you make can be the difference between a solid finish and a DNF. Here are some classic gear mistakes:

  • No map and compass. I always joke that, “It’s not a trail race until you fall and get lost.” I’ve made plenty of wrong turns, but have rarely gone more than a quarter-mile off the beaten path thanks to always carrying a map and compass. Perhaps the funniest one I’ve seen was on a documentary featuring Avery Collins (Cloudsplitter 100 record holder, among others) who went 2.5 miles off course at Ouray 100. He came back to win, but he wasn’t happy about the extra mileage.

  • Insufficient hydration. At Georgia Jewel a few years back, I saw plenty of runners carrying a single water bottle with temps in the 90s, and all the humidity you expect in the South. There were loads of DNFs and plenty more runners sitting at aid stations trying to re-hydrate after it was too late. Bring the extra water bottle - if you wind up not needing it, empty bottles won’t slow you down.

  • Insufficient electrolytes. I just started using Salt Stick tablets, and they’ve eliminated my long running nemesis - cramps. Water alone isn’t enough to keep you going in an ultramarathon - you need to get your electrolytes right or risk cramping or worse, hypernatremia (a scary episode of Boundless comes to mind).

  • Insufficient clothing. Mountain races, in particular, require changes in clothing while out on course. I always have a zip up windbreaker with me to add a layer for those cold, windy mountaintops. It’s also important to have that extra layer in case you become injured and have to walk/hike to the finish.