My Grand to Grand Ultra Gear and Food List

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. 

Drymax Maximum Protection trail socks

North Face Flight Series shorts with pockets

Sports bra

North Face short-sleeve shirt

Original Buff-brand UV-protecting bufffor neck

Outdoor Research Sun Runner CapUV-protection hat with removable sunflap to protect neck

Sunglasses

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

Gloves

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

* compass

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?

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6 Responses to My Grand to Grand Ultra Gear and Food List

  1. Meghan September 17, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    I found all the details of your pack! It looks great. You’re running 168 miles? I’m glad you upped your calorie count to 17,000. Can your extra food double as something you can eat while you’re out running, in case you eat all your day’s racing food and are feeling bonky?

    Do you have a recovery drink? I would definitely recommend getting a carb/protein drink mix in at the finish each day (and to switch into those compression socks within 30 minutes) to help you recover.

    If the camp is providing you with hot water, another very light way to get in some extra calories is those dehydrated soup mixes (Nile brand or the like at the grocery, pour the mix into a little baggie.) and/or hot chocolate mixes.

    One treat I brought myself last MdS was a couple sugary, flavored drink mixes, Hi-C, I think? I drank these at camp after my recovery drink as a treat and a little sugar influx.

    And my last piece of advice, at camp between each stage, keep moving. Sure, lay around with your feet elevated and stretch a bunch, but every hour or so, get up and walk for 10 minutes to help the recovery process.

    I’m green with envy, Sarah, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!
    Meghan recently posted..Backpacking Montana’s Glacier National ParkMy Profile

    • Sarah September 17, 2012 at 6:24 am #

      Excellent advice Meghan, thank you!
      To anyone who’s reading this and wants more seasoned advice from Meghan, check out her posts about racing the Marathon des Sables and fast-packing at meghanmhicks.com and irunfar.com

  2. Doug September 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    I just got back from a 3-day backpacking trip in New York’s Adirondacks a few days ago. My pack weighed approximately 45-46 lbs, including water. A bit more than what you’re carrying :).

    So, from this experience, here are my comments:

    I’m not familiar with the composition of most of the food you’re bringing, but have you considered your vitamin/mineral needs during this trek? It might make sense to back it up with a daily multivitamin (whatever you currently take, if anything).

    At the end of each day of backpacking/hiking, we found that an extra cup of caffeine before dinner helped with recovery. Hot cocoa may or may not be enough based on your needs.

    I’ve never had luck with waterproof matches when it counts; firesteel + a knife always works for me. A small cigarette lighter works even better while it has fuel.

    You’re probably already doing this, but, as far as the batteries go, if you can use lithium non-rechargeable or NiMH rechargeable batteries with that headlamp, do it; it’ll cut down on weight.

    Alternating socks is definitely a good idea.

    Depending on your needs and the weather, it might also make sense to wear one of your buffs as a hat at night.

    If at all possible, hang up your wet gear to dry, and shake/scrape out the sand/dirt/mud in the morning. Do you need a small run of paracord (or some other hi-tech material) for a clothesline?

    I agree with Meghan; keep moving after you get to camp. We went for walks after setting up and eating dinner to avoid cramping.

    Have fun! Your blog and your adventures have been very inspiring to me.

    – Doug
    Doug recently posted..Ten Feet SquareMy Profile

    • Sarah September 18, 2012 at 5:20 am #

      Doug, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I appreciate your advice. Good idea with the multivitamin. I’m on the verge of catching my son’s full-blown head cold (ugh), so I may take Airborne multivitamin effervescent tabs with me, which I’m currently taking now. I really don’t think I’l need to worry about starting fire, since the race has checkpoints along the way and a well-marked course (let’s hope!).
      I’m bringing extra safety pins rather than a clothesline to hang my damp clothes up on the side of my pack or somewhere else such as the edge of the tent.

  3. Say August 6, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    Many thanks Sarah ! I’ll go to G2G in 2014 but it will help. It’s amazing how many things to bring for multistage race. It will be my first one as I’ve only did non stop.

  4. c caroebter August 6, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    Thank you so much for this. I’m doing the race this year and this was sooo helpful. Truly appreciate your sharing your knowledge and updating after the race as well.

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