Road to Adventure: Race Day Essentials


Adventure racing is a multidisciplinary sport where racers navigate through backcountry terrain – often without the benefit of trails – using map and compass, and all manner of transport from stand up paddle boards to mountain bikes. In September Austin Parker is tackling the Adventure Xstream Series adventure race in Glenwood Springs, CO to get a taste of this grueling sport. As part of his training, we are documenting the best gear for paddling, running, biking, and recovery, as well as keeping track of all the (mis)adventure along the way.

The hours and hours of training rides, early morning runs, and cold water paddling are over. You’ve agonized over the little details of your training program, but race day gear can be just as important as your fitness. The right pair of shoes will keep your legs happy, and your bike can pay dividends on long rides into the wilderness. Likewise, your nutrition will definitely make or break your adventure race. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a short list of all the race day essentials: little tweaks we made from our usual mountain biking and trail running gear to keep us moving fast on race day.

Related: RtA: Best Adventure Races | RtA: Mountain Biking Gear

Osprey Manta 28

As all day hiking packs go, this is our favorite. Twenty-eight liters is the Goldilocks of pack sizing for a long adventure race. This pack has gotten us through all day training sessions as well as multiple long distance races. We’ve carried full trail running, rappeling, and mountain biking gear loads comfortably in all conditions. The harness has a raised “trampoline” back panel that allows for extra venting. Extra organization keeps every bit of gear in its place so if disaster strikes you’re not rooting around for our first aid kit or spare bike tubes. Did we mention it’s comfortable?

Smith Optics Forefront

The Forefront uses Smith’s Aerocore material rather than the typical foam lining of cycling helmets. What does that mean for you? First, it’s much lighter and more ventilated – the entire body is basically one big vent. Second, it absorbs impacts better than other helmets, so if you do crash out, you’re in better hands. For race day we needed a helmet to haul biking, rappelling, and kayaking, so this lightweight wonder will be pulling triple duty.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

The Challenger ATR is a stand out in Hoka’s already stellar line up. Building on their award winning Clifton, the Challenger features a more aggressive outsole as well as early stage rocker. This makes it perfect for navigating steep, technical terrain and off trail wilds. If you value versatility to charge pavement or trails, this is the shoe for you.

La Sportiva Kido

This loose fitting climbing short is our go to piece for any day on the trail. The four-way stretch and rear venting serves to keep you comfortable and dry no matter your sport. Ours goes on over cycling shorts for long days cruising single track, and doubles on our SUP and kayak. For hot weather multisport performance, you won’t find anything better.

Fezzari Nebo Peak

We could talk all day about the trail ready features of Fezzari’s Nebo Peak. What you need to do is get out on one and bomb some single track. The X1 drive train keeps it simple with a solid eleven speed gearing system. Top of the line Fox and Rock Shox suspension ensure a plush ride from start to finish, and Maxxis Ardent tires stick to deep mud and slick rock. Don’t be surprised when your friends show up with matching bikes after a few rides this fall.

SOL Scout

We always carry a small first aid kit on the trail. Our packing list for the AXS Seriesw also calls for an emergency blanket and survival gear just in case you spend a cold night on the trail. The SOL Scout kit fits all we need without being overbuilt. There are just enough tools and essentials in this kit to keep you alive if you get lost in the wilderness, without hauling unnecessary gear. It’s probably good idea to keep one of these in every pack you own.

CEP Calf Sleeves

You probably remember our CEP recovery tights we’ve been using after every workout in training. These calf sleeves work along the same lines, but perform during your trail run or race rather than after. The graduated compression keeps muscles firing and blood flowing long after fatigue starts to set in. We are prone to shin splints, and these are the first product really prevent them on long mileage weeks. We’ve even taken to wearing them to the office before and after work outs to keep reaping the benefits of compression while we’re on the road.

Honey Stinger Grapefruit

Your nutrition on the trail is as important as that protein shake you have every morning. Keeping your blood sugar up is more complicated than just pounding a few snickers though. Honey Stinger’s Organic Chews are easy on your digestion when you’re being hard on your muscles. Sweetened with honey and tapioca syrup, these little chews pack enough energy to keep you running for hours. We recommend the new grapefruit flavor.