Adventure racing gear

Expert advice for entry level adventure racers

Adventure racing is a sport involving many different disciplines but when you are starting out you don’t need to go crazy and buy lots of gear! Entry-level adventure racing events usually involve swimming (or kayaking or rafting), mountain-biking and running. Event organisers will always supply any specialist adventure racing equipment you might need such as buoyancy aids, climbing harnesses etc.

If you will be using equipment supplied by an event organiser, such as a climbing harness, always ensure you take some time to practice putting the equipment on, taking it off and using it before the race starts. This will save invaluable time that could be lost during a race if you arrive at a checkpoint and have to use unfamiliar equipment.

Below is a general list of equipment you will need for entry level racing but what you buy will ultimately be determined by your personal budget.

Mandatory adventure race gear (this will vary from event to event):

  • Compass (usually one for every two competitors) — a wrist-mounted orienteering compass is ideal for adventure racing as it can be worn whilst cycling and running but leaves your hands free for other tasks.
  • Whistle (for attracting attention in an emergency).
  • Notebook and pen or pencil.
  • Fleece-type top.
  • Weatherproof outer layer (Goretex Paclite garments are perfectly suited to adventure racing, being extremely lightweight and highly breathable to remove the sweat created during intense physical activity). 
  • Running shoes are of course essential for negotiating the different types of terrain during an adventure racing event. For starting out, any normal pair of running trainers will do but you may find a better shoe, such as the Salomon XA Pro II, to be more lightweight, comfortable yet incredibly tough!
  • Day-pack (usually 15 to 20 liters for entry-level events) — there are many shapes and sizes of day-sack on the market but weight is critical. Go for a pack that accommodates a hydration bladder and that offers hip pockets so you can get to your chewy bars on the move!
  • Bike tool kit and spare inner-tube.
  • Head torch and spare batteries.
  • Water bottle (2 liters or 67.6oz) — invest in a Camelbak or Platypus type hydration system as these allow you to keep constantly hydrated whilst on the move without having to stop to drink.
  • Emergency food.
  • First aid kit.

Swimming kit for adventure racing

  • Goggles — essential for the swim portion of the event.
  • Hat — a swimming hat can help conserve precious body heat and energy which is quickly sapped during cold water swims.
  • Wetsuit — if you don’t own a wetsuit already many event organisers rent wetsuits at very reasonable rates, meaning you can decide if adventure racing really is for you before you go and splash out your own racing wetsuit! Surfing or windsurfing wetsuits are not really suited to adventure racing as racing wetsuits have specially designed ‘stretch’ panels under the arms allowing you to swim easily in the suit. There are many suits available but one of the most popular by far is the Predator 2 by Orca.

If you enter an event with a kayaking or rafting stage you won’t need to run out and buy lots of kit — event organisers will provide all the necessary safety equipment such as buoyancy aids, helmets and wetsuits.

Bike kit for adventure racing

  • Mountain bike — a good bike will be required even for entry-level events. You don’t need to go crazy with your wallet but do select a bike that at least has front suspension forks. You can always upgrade your bike later on if you decide to pursue adventure racing further. A decent budget entry level bike would be a Specialized Rock Hopper.
  • Helmet — a helmet is compulsory in any adventure racing event. Invest in a model which offers plenty of vents as you will generate a lot of heat during a race. We all want to save money but something worth spending a little extra on is a decent helmet … after all it could save your life!
  • Clip pedals and shoes — adding clip pedals to your bike will improve the efficiency with which you pedal and help save energy in long distance races. Many cycling shoe manufacturers, such as Shimano, now make shoes specifically designed to run in as well as cycle, making them ideal for multi-discipline events.
  • Eyewear — protecting your eyes is a good idea in any adventure race, not only on the bike but when running through wooded areas too. Invest in a clear-lensed pair of cycling glasses to protect your eyes from mud or stones that may be thrown up by your wheels as well as insects, branches and thorns!
  • Spares — extra equipment such as inner tubes, tire levers and a pump are mandatory items in most events. Practice replacing inner tubes at home until you can do it extremely quickly as this could save you valuable time in a race if you get a puncture … another top tip is to invest in a compressed CO2 pump. CO2 pumps are cheap but lightweight and compact, allowing you to inflate a tire in seconds and get back in the saddle!
  • Multi-tool — a bike multi-tool is a great piece of kit to carry out any essential repairs during the race. Multi-tools are not heavy or expensive but could mean the difference between finishing and not finishing an adventure race!
  • Gloves — gloves are not an essential item but in the summer a decent pair of cycling gloves soak up the sweat from your hands allowing you to grip the handlebars and in the autumn and winter months give you some much needed warmth!

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