After attempting a couple obstacle races, you may find yourself looking to go the distance— maybe an extreme endurance event like the Spartan Ultra Beast, World’s Toughest Mudder, or even an ultra marathon (any distance greater than a marathon). One of the things you will soon learn about is the drop bag. To put it simply, a drop bag is a small bag you put items you will need during the race. Often races have a drop bag area or multiple drop bag areas where you can access this stuff along the course.
Here are a few tips for putting together your first drop bag:
1. Reusable shopping bags make great drop bags. Most races require you to write your name, bib number and sometimes your phone number on them. Bring a sharpie with you when you drop your drop bag. Note some races allow bins instead of bags— read race notes.
2. Extra socks. Whether you need them or not, an extra pair of socks are an essential addition to your drop bag. Trust me, you will want them!
3. Small first aid kit. Twisted ankles, blisters, cuts and scrapes happen when racing in the woods, especially the more self-supported races. You should always have a few essentials with you at all times (band-aids, alcohol swabs, safety pin and toilet paper) but your drop bag should include some tape and resupply of these items.
4. Aches & pains. During long races, several things can happen. A well-timed antacid or ibuprofen can go a long way in making a race more enjoyable when the stomach starts to churn or an ache develops. Drop a few pills of each in your drop bag.
5. Extra shoes. For a race that is a point-to-point or say the Ultra Beast in Vermont, a change of shoes in your drop bag might be a good idea. When I raced Vermont 50 in 2011, many people changed shoes during the overly muddy course when a nice dry pair was in their drop bag.
6. Nutrition. On average, you want to consume 100 to 200 calories per hour in an endurance event. It’s not always feasible to carry all your calories at once. So a drop bag can supply you with a refuel without making you feel like a pack mule. Remember to pack about 25 percent more than you think you need in your drop bag. Depending on the day, you may need more calories than you think!
I personally like to drink water and a mixed drink to get calories. Instead of toting around a canister of my favorite mix, instead I like to pre-measure my mix into small snack bags, and carry a handheld as well as a hydration vest.
7. Layers. Whether you carry it with you or pack it in your drop bag, a layer to put on or take off depending on the weather is never a bad idea for a drop bag. Often a light windbreaker can add a significant layer of warmth even when you are soaking wet from a long swim.
8. Comfort food. Comfort food can change depending on the person. It’s a good idea to have something in your drop bag that you would want to eat no matter what condition you’re in. Personally, I have seen everything from a Coke to hamburger to pita, to hard-boiled eggs. If there is something your body craves that can turn a down moment around, consider adding it to your bag. Who cares what people think; if you are happy and consuming the calories, YOU WIN!
9. NOTHING NEW. Finally the most important thing on race day is nothing new! Don’t put a bunch of stuff you are unfamiliar with in your drop bag. All your equipment you should be comfortable with and happy with.
10. Others… Depending on the race there maybe some other things you want/need in a drop bag: headlamp, batteries, glow stick, electrolytes, foot powder, body glide, water filter system, etc… it’s important to read race guides before putting your drop bag together.
Finally, it’s important to read race notes and rules before putting together your drop bag. Pack your stuff according to those rules and you will be a happy person. Get comfortable with your pack and get ready for an adventure. That’s the dirt for this week.
What do you like in your pack with you race? What did we miss?