Please see related post on “Final Prep for the Grand to Grand” for context and photos.
Note: I updated this list the week following the Grand to Grand; see below my notes in bold post-race on what worked and what didn’t.
The Grand to Grand Ultra has a mandatory gear list, and the items on my list that meet these requirements are marked with an asterisk below. The event also requires competitors to start the first stage with a minimum of 14,000 calories for the seven days. I believe I would feel excessively hungry and weak with just 2000 calories per day, given that I eat more than that even on days when I don’t exercise, so I packed more. I also packed non-essential items that don’t add significant weight but will help me get through the week (I hope). [Post race note: I did the right thing packing enough calories! My weight remained stable and I never felt too weak.]
My pack, when filled with all this food and gear, weighs right around 19 pounds, and this includes the water in the 17 oz. soft bottle that I carry in the pack’s outside mesh pocket. [Note: I didn’t need the extra soft water bottle after all; there was adequate water on the course to refill my two handhelds.] Plus, I carry two hand-held water bottles with pockets that contain Gus and other stuff, and these bottles, when full of water and the small items, weigh about 3 lbs. total. That means on Day One, fully loaded, I’ll head out with about 22 lbs. to carry. (The load will lighten through the week as I eat my way through the food.) This is heavier than what serious competitors carry—some can get their kits of food and gear down to around 15 lbs.—but I feel the extra weight is worth the comfort it will provide, since I care more about having a satisfying and safe experience than about the competition.
During this training cycle, I discovered several items that I like and recommend, which I’ve linked below to retailers. (Disclaimer: the Amazon links provide me a small click-through commission. When not available through Amazon, I linked to two independent retailers I admire, Sage to Summit and Zombie Runner. I only link to products I genuinely recommend. If you’re looking for multi-day stage-racing gear, I also recommend Racing the Planet’s online store.)
Clothing & Gear I’ll wear/carry
* Inov-8 Race Elite 25L backpackmodified with one Inov 8 add-on shoulder strap pocket and one Amphipod belt pocket – The pack worked great!
Timex Ironman simple stopwatch (not using my regular GPS watch since its battery lasts only 8 hours and I can’t recharge it)
* 2 Nathan Quick Draw Plus22oz. hand-held bottles (I like how this new model of the Nathan bottle has an extra-big pocket to accommodate a smart phone); plus, back-up water supply carried in the outside mesh pocket of pack in 1 17-oz. Platypus Soft Bottle. Note: as mentioned above, I didn’t need the soft bottle as an extra reserve of water. I gulped water at the checkpoints and found the two 22-oz hand-held bottles to be enough. But, on Stage 2, I fell into a tree with a thorn that punctured my water bottle. Thankfully I had duct tape to repair it.
Asics GT-2170 trail shoes modified with PowerStep inserts and Velcro around edges for gaiters – these shoes worked great for me
Pair of Rough Country full-cover gaiters Note: I was skeptical about whether I’d need these. I was so glad I brought them; the event has a great deal of sand running, and these really kept the sand out. I’m glad I also brought regular, smaller gaiters for the days when sand running was minimal.
North Face Flight Series shorts with pockets
North Face short-sleeve shirt
Outdoor Research Sun Runner CapUV-protection hat with removable sunflap to protect neck
Strips of Kinesio Tex tape to wear at base of my neck where shoulder straps hit, to prevent chafing – note: the Kinesio tape is great to prevent chaffing, but for my blistered feet, I needed a brand of tape called Leukotape, which I got from the med tent. It’s the only thing that stuck to my toes well and provided enough protection.
Clothing in outside pockets for easy access
Moben sleeves for warmth or UV protection
* Ultralight Montbell wind/rain shell – I ended up not taking this; I figured the sleeves would be enough for warmth, and I didn’t need both a wind/rain shell and a down jacket. On the one day it was rainy, I carried a Hefty garbage bag with a hole cut out for my head to wear in case it rained. I’m glad I left this wind/rain shell behind.
Sunflap that attaches to my hat – I didn’t wear this much at all; it bothered me to have it around my cheeks. A regular cap is fine if you use a lot of sunscreen.
Clothing packed deeper for camp
Sierra Designs Women’s Gnar Lite Jacketwith DriDown (I really debated whether this is worth the space it takes up; after seeing the nighttime temps, I decided to bring it) This was a life saver! It was very cold at night, and my down jacket provided the warmth I needed.
1 pair underwear (to wear at camp when my running shorts are off)
1 pair Icebreaker long underwear to wear around camp and sleep in
1 Icebreaker ultralite long-sleeve wool shirt
1 pair Zensah Compression Socksto wear at camp and alternate with my trail running socks
1 extra buff that could double as a towel
1 pair of Running Funky gaiters (regular trail running gaiters in case the full-cover ones bug me or malfunction)
One item I didn’t take and wish I had: flip-flops. Most participants carry thin, lightweight flip-flop sandals or slippers to wear around camp. These are essential for airing out feet after the run, and are more convenient for walking around after you exit your tent (since shoes are left outside the tent).
Items in small pockets for easy access
Gels/bars/drink mix for the day’s run (see separate food list below)
Nuun electrolyte drink tabs
Small baggie with Advil and Succeed salt pills (note: race provides electrolyte tabs, but I’m bringing my own in case their brand doesn’t agree with my stomach)
Blister kit in snack-size baggie containing BandAids, moleskin, Benzoin Tincture, safety pins, alcohol swab, mini scissors – ended up not needing the Benzoin Tincture or moleskin; BandAids and Leukotape were what I used most.
Panasonic Lumix TS20 Waterproof Digital Cameraand 1 spare battery
Sunscreen lotion and lip balm with SPF
SportSlick anti-chafing lube
* safety whistle
Kleenex pack (to use as TP)
Albuterol inhaler (which I might not need and don’t use regularly, but in the past, after high-altitude long runs, my lungs got wheezy and deep breathing triggered coughing, so my doctor recommended I take this)
Gear in main part of pack
* MontBell Super Spiral Hugger #3 U.L. sleeping bag – this sleeping bag worked great
Klymit Inertia X Frame inflatable sleeping padplus tiny repair kit if it pops – this also worked great
Waterproof compression sack and straps to carry sleeping bag and down jacket and attach to outside of pack during first couple of days, until I eat through food supply enough to fit them in my pack.
* Black Diamond Spot Headlampplus 3 extra AAA batteries
* Additional mandatory emergency gear: mylar emergency blanket, blinking red light to affix to back of pack during long stage nighttime running, knife, safety mirror for signaling
Non-mandatory emergency gear I’m bringing because I’m slightly paranoid about worst-case scenarios of getting lost or dehydrated: a few waterproof matches, water purification tablets, and an extra empty Platypus 17oz soft bottle; in case I discover I’m not getting enough water between water stops with the two hand-held bottles and other Platypus bottle, then I’ll use this additional one to fill at water stops. – Note: I threw this away after a couple of days. These emergency items really aren’t needed.
Mug and spork
Toiletries and medicines: Extra tube of sunscreen, extra tube of anti-chafing lube, hand sanitizer, very small container of lotion, Toob-brand compact toothbrush/toothpaste,Fresh Bath moist towelettes, extra strip of Kinesio Tex tape, nail clippers, eyedrops, earplugs, Imodium, extra Advil and Tylenol – did not need extra sunscreen because it’s provided at checkpoints.
Mini composition book and 2 pens for note taking
A few articles torn out of magazines for reading during downtime
Talisman: a small stone carved buffalo
Food (rationed for each stage, divided into Ziplocks)
7 Mountain House Pro-Pak freeze-dried meals (3 Chicken & Rice, 2 Chicken Teriyaki, 1 pasta primavera, 1 Mac & Cheese) = 3440
1 Mountain House freeze-dried Granola & Milk (a midweek breakfast treat during the long stage; takes up more space than Clif Bar or oatmeal, but I decided it’s a nice reward) = 520
7 Starbucks Via coffee packs + 7 packs of sugar = approx 100. – I also added hot chocolate packets to my food supply at the last minute. These were great for making mochas and providing more calories.
41 Gus (assorted flavors, mostly Rocktane formula but some regular) = 4100
7 GU Rocktane energy drink packs = 1680
7 Clif Bars @ approx 240 ea = 1680
4 packs of oatmeal (to alternate with Clif Bars as breakfast) = 600 – I wish I had oatmeal every day. Having a Clif Bar for breakfast is less appetizing.
12 Nut Butters (mix of Justin’s and Artisana brands—I LOVE these nut butters) approx 200 ea = 2400
4 Lara Bars approx 230 ea = 920
11 Honey Stinger waffles @ 160 ea = 1760
2 Bonk Breakers = 500
1 pack Jelly Belly Superfruit Mix jelly beans (another reward for making it through the longest stage) = 280
Total calories: 17,980 – After I made this list, I also added in dehydrated soup mixes—the Niles brand that comes in little cardboard cups—and I emptied the soup mix into small baggies. This was a great addition; I loved the salty soup after the run.
Postscript: After rationing the food, I thought further about what I might miss and need. I realized I could get hungry after dinner, and I don’t want to go to bed feeling hunger pangs that set me up for a calorie deficit the following day. Therefore I’m going to pack a few additional Lara bars (because I particularly like them and they pack well) as backups if those moments hit. Plus, I realized I’d like the comfort of a hot drink at night (thankfully, the race organizers provide hot water at the camps, so we don’t need to bring our own camp stoves). I plan to pack seven hot cocoa and/or chai latte single serving packets.
I ended up packing additional Lara Bars, dehydrated soup packets, and packets of chai latte and hot cocoa. I’m quite confident I have enough calories now since the total is over 19,000.
Call for comments: What would you add to or delete from this list?