|after this years Frozen Otter finish, |
carrying exactly what i started with
I've typically plan my gear strategy based on two rules - light is right and less is more. A trip or race is perfect if i really need every piece of non-required gear i choose to bring. As for the required stuff? Meet the bare minimum and make it as feather-weight as possible. I'll take enough to know that i'll be able to survive, just barely, but no more. When it comes to the Frozen Otter, I overdid it a bit (carried too much), but what is interesting is that the gear i used - that actually made it out of my pack - worked AMAZINGLY well. And since i fielded so many questions leading up to the race about what to wear/what to pack, i thought a rundown of my system and the philosophy behind it might be useful. One thing to note - on the race website it talked about it being an unsupported race. As it turns out, racers were to be allowed to return to their at the half way point and pick up anything they wanted (food, changes of clothes, shoes, trekking poles) or drop off anything that was no longer useful (a wet pair of socks, sweated through base-layer, etc). This was kind of a bummer for us so Grant and I decided to forgo the opportunity and plan as though the only support we'd have was water every 8 miles. We packed. We packed for - and ran - the race we thought we were signing up for, carrying or consuming everything we started with for 64 miles. The race day temp was a low of 9 and a high of about 20, with strongish 20-25 mph winds developing after about midnight.
So how did we do it? I'll start at the bottom.
TORSO: I started with a nike SS (short sleeve) compression base-layer and SwiftWick Olefin arm warmers. Over this i wore a nylon cycling wind vest with a fully vented back. And of course i wore a backpack (which you shouldn't neglect in terms of warmth - you put off alot of heat through your back the pack keeps it there.....). I was cold at the start (as planned) but perfect once we got moving. I never had to shed or add anything during daylight and was comfortable. After dark, around mile 28 or so, I threw on a lt. weight Icebreaker merino wool top over the baselayer/armwarmers and below the vest. Through the next 36 miles and 13 hours i never changed clothes again, but this is due in large part to the magic of what i wore on my head.
|ColdAvenger - like a jacket really warm jacket you wear on your face|
OTHER GEAR (and stuff we carried but didn't use):
- Headlamps - we both used Fenix HL 20 headlamps. these are pretty damn light and only require one AA battery. Grant brought alkaline batteries by mistake (lithium last way longer in the cold) and i was a bit worried - but both lights started and finished on a single battery (without any noticeable loss in brightness) despite over 12 hours of continuous use.
- Pack: Grant and I both used 18 liter inov-8 packs - super light with pockets on the hip belt for easy on-the-go access to food.
- Water Strategy: Grant and I both carried a total of about a liter of water in two bottles a piece. I had one attached to a shoulder strap for on-trail access. The other was an double walled stainless steel bottle (Hydroflask). Through the middle of the race we'd crush a packet of ramen, pour it into this bottle, and fill with hot water at the CPs. an hour later (or less) we'd have piping hot ramen soup to drink... so tasty compared to race food! We didn't want to mess with bladders/hoses and the possibility of freezing. we made sure to hydrate at each CP to ensure that our meager water would get us through but had no problem, always arriving at the next CP with at least some water left. The only thing that didn't work well was that both of Grant's bottles were in mesh pouches on the back of his pack so we had to virtually stop to get at them (yeah, only for a few seconds... but still).
- Food: We ate standard race food for the first 16 or so miles, then more and more regular food as we slowed down (and lost the appetite for GU's). The ramen trick came into play through the middle of the race. we also ate crushed chips (pringles), hard candy (cinnamon disks), and fought the sleepmonsters with Power to Go Energy mix - a favorite secret weapon of mine that is unfortunately rather hard to come by (unless you come do one of my ENDraces....).
- First Aid: a first aid kit was required but it didn't specify what needed to be included. Mine was comprised of duct-tape wound around a small pill bottle containing a dozen or so vitamin I (ibuprofen). Years of expeditions and a handful of long adventure races has taught me that this is what i use, so why take anything extra? We each ended up taking 3 vit. I's at about mile 40.
- Poles: I used poles from about mile 12. my poles of choice were the Black Diamond Z-poles - super light and up to task. Some people don't like poles but i love em - i can let my arms do some (even a small fraction) of the work, getting my whole body involved can help get warm if needed, and balance during that 'stumbly phase' late in the race (or in our case for the last 8 or so hours) is greatly improved.
- Shelter: this was required, otherwise we wouldn't have taken it. I borrowed a UL montbell bivvy sack, Grant borrowed my Thermo-lite 2.0 bivvy by Adventure Medical Kits - a 5 oz reusable space-blanket bivvy that is very functional and most importantly, super cheap. i highly recommend it.
- Extra stuff: The only things we carried (that weren't required gear) that we didn't use were Mont-bell Therma-Wrap jacket and pants. I refer to this as my super suit. It is ultralight (9 oz jacket, 7 pants), for a pound you've got synthetically insulated outer-layers that can, coupled with a ultralight bivvy, allow you to survive a night at below. And if you're able to keep moving - even at a pretty desperate crawl, i'd put the survival rating down significantly lower. Note - by survival i mean just that - don't expect to by a super suit and go sit outside at negative digit temps and be toasty warm...
Alright -thats it! This was a very exhaustive post but i wanted to be thorough - getting it right with gear takes years of trial and error, which i've had. i mostly hit it right this time so wanted to take the time to share! Keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you.... so make sure you test your systems prior to a big race or trip, particularly if its an important or risky one!
Cheers - Andy
Note - i decided not to include links directly to these items as i'm not trying to sell anything....but i've tried to include enough information so that its super easy to track down each of the pieces mentioned so that those who are interested in learning more can do so.