Packing List For An Ultramarathon
To start off, it would help you a lot and make sure you have no night-before wake-ups to wonder if you remembered to pack this or that... Create a detailed list of all that you intend to bring with TWO separate spaces for ticking off each item. The reason? The first one is for when you run around gathering all the stuff and putting it on your bed or on the floor, and the second for when you actually put it into the bag.. Also, for all your non-waterproof items like food, clothing and electronics - put it into a waterproof, polybag container (or similar) to keep dry, but also be able to see what is inside without opening the bag. If you put that into your waterproof backpack or drop bag you should be pretty safe.
So, on to the list proper:
Your personal items
Something you just HAVE to bring? Lucky underwear, shorts, bandana, teddy bear? Be sure to not leave it at home. Medications, specific nutrition you won´t get at the aid stations? Get it on your list.
Depending on how you plan to travel/accomodate this will for sure influence your list. Many ultrarunners prefer to camp out at the start/finish to really immerse themselves in the experience, and to make new friends. But, the lure of a soft bed and a warm bath after crossing the finish line may be too much for many.. If you plan on camping, make sure to add a tent, sleeping bag, additional casual clothing, a camping stove and a headlight for moving about after dark. You should also add a air mattress or similar if you have one. If you are an experienced camper, you might have firewood/gas, freeze dried foodsupplies, additional lighting, a cooler and folding camping chairs/table. All good if you intend to make your stay as comfy as possible
You would probably know very well what works for you when it comes to running gear, but be sure not to miss any of the essentials (shoes, socks, backpack/belt, flasks, hydration bladder, vaseline etc.). You should also make arrangements to prepare for worse conditions than you normally cater for. Many ultras take place in inhospitable areas that are prone to changes in conditions - fast. Pack a disposable plastic poncho for autumn races for rain, snow or wind. You should also add an emergency blanket, like the one included with the Wunjo X5 Ultra, and add backups for your base running layer and your shoes. If you need to switch shoes during your race, make sure these shoes have a backup too. A clean hydration pack or bottles and potentially a backup bladder or bottle in case of damage are also recommended. For the latter, the soft flasks are ideal. They don not weigh much and take up almost no room in your pack or drop bag. Examples are the Wunjo 500 Soft or the 250 Soft for an even smaller size.
For head and face, you should pack a combination of a hat/cap, buff/bandana and sunglasses. If your hair is above average length, pack replacement bands for keeping it off your face. For races that take part during the dark hours, or have a remote chance of doing so, make sure to have reflective clothing and a fully charged head lamp, with replacement. Add some plastic bags to your stash as well just in case. They can be used for lots and can be a godsent in a pinch..
Nutrition during the race
Have a look at what will be offered at the aid stations and make sure to test beforehand what works for you of those choices. No use testing new food when you are in the middle of an ultra... Make sure to bring food that you are comfortable with and DO NOT start testing gels for the first time when doing your first ultra...
As an alternative to the gels I prefer a mix between nuts (different kinds) and pure chocolate. This mix might be too harsh for some, but it works for me. Gel is not my thing, and will probably never be, unfortunately.. The important thing is pack what works for you - nothing more.
While most races provide hydration these days, you should always carry a backpack, vest or belt. If tablets are your thing, make sure you have the tablets in your drop kit and some on you as well for aid stations. Same with powder—put some in your drop bag and some for when you arrive at the aid station. A tip if you use powder is to pre-pack bags for your size of flask to make the mixing quick and secure.
Post-Race Clothes & Gear
You should always pack a long sleeved-shirt and pants on the off-chance that you get cold after the race. Decide what makes you comfortable—loose clothes, compression gear or a mix—then pack a few options. A warm shower after crossing the finish line will feel amazing in any case, but even better if you are prepared. Pack shoes, towel and the bath products that make you feel great. If you are not one of those that enjoy a shower before you get home, pack some wipes that can help you get off the worst and save the shower for later.
If you are prone to soreness, remember to pack your own favorite instrument of self-torture and/or relief.
Post-Race Nutrition and Hydration
What is the one thing you fantasize about when you do your races? What do you crave most when out there? Whatever it is, make sure to bring it! If it is something that you can share with other fellow runners, be sure to bring plenty - wether beverage or food. Did you have a crew in the race? Buy some food and/or beverages and invite to celebrate.
Make sure you have all of the charging options you might need, from cords to external power sources. Also, bring extension cords; you never know when you might need them!
First Aid & preventive remedies
This kit can become quite extensive and you have to put your preferred one together yourself depending on your needs, but some ideas what to include can be:
Vaseline-based lotion & aloe vera
Band aids in all shapes and sizes
Tissues, tweezers, alcohol wipes
Toilet paper /wipes
NSAIDs & painkillers
Nail clippers & folding knife
Tiger balm or other heating cream
Sunscreen & Insect spray
Tampons, pads or other hygenics
Make sure to check the race specific guidelines in relation to wildlife and add the neccessary equipment to your bag. These may include a snakebite kit, pepper spray or any additional gear that might come in handy.
We hope that this list come in handy when you are preparing for your great ultra adventure, and to be sure you do not miss anything critical at mile marker 73.. :-) Is there anything we missed? Anything you absolutely have to pack? Share it!
Suggested Ultramarathon Reading
Moehl, Krissy. "Running Your First Ultra", 2015
Powell, Bryon. "Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons", 2011