Ultra-Marathon Packing List That Isn’t SEO Spam
Every Ultramarathon packing list I found on Google was cluttered with cookie consent banners, email capture forms, ads, and marketing fluff. After running the Des Plaines River 50-Mile Ultra, I’ve decided to publish a cleaner version that genuinely informs you about what to pack instead of enticing you to click on various distractions.
This list is based on my own experience. I welcome your insights in the comments.
I assume you already know how to dress for an ultra if you’re running a 50-miler, but I’ll share some personal insights:
- Gloves: It rained during my race, causing me to lose control of my fingers in the windier sections. This made tasks like opening snacks and tying my shoes challenging. I regret not wearing gloves.
- New socks: I purchase a new pair of high-quality hiking socks (with heavy padding) before each race. Determine your sock preference well before the race day and invest in the best socks within your budget.
- Two identical pairs of shoes: One on your feet, another pair in your drop bag. Some might call it excessive to own two new pairs of the same shoe, but this was the single best decision I made during this race (details later).
- Sunscreen If it’s a summer race.
- Insect repellent If, like me, you are racing in an area where ticks are a problem.
- Watch charger: Essential if you use a watch. Don’t let your watch die on race day! My Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar started at 100% and ended at 33% on race day. You need a full charge.
- Course map: If the course remains unchanged from the previous year, search Strava for individuals who ran the course. Convert their Strava activity into a Garmin map to have it on your watch. Familiarize yourself with this feature before the race day.
- Nail clippers: Trimming your toenails beforehand can enhance comfort. It’s an easy-to-forget yet regrettable oversight.
Drop Bag Contents
- Change your socks: Dominic on Mastodon advised that it’s worth the time investment. This was the best advice I received. Changing into a fresh pair of socks and shoes invigorated me during a rainy race.
- Tiny folding chair: There are compact camping chairs suitable for small bags. If the race permits larger items in your drop bag, you’ll have something to sit on, avoiding the possibly muddy ground during shoe changes.
- Foldable mat: Useful for keeping your socks dry and off the ground during shoe and sock changes.
- Anti-chafe creams and vaseline: I used to overlook these as I seldom experienced chafing or minor blisters. However, after using “Body Glide Foot Glide” during this race, I finished 50 miles in the rain blister-free. I’ve never come out of an ultramarathon blister free until now. Consider reapplying midway if feasible.
- Water: I carried a 2-liter hydration bladder, which proved excessive given the weather and the number of aid stations. Understand your hydration needs based on weather conditions.
- Energy Gels: My strategy was one every 4 miles. It’s crucial to determine what’s effective for you.
- Salty snacks: I packed salty foods and made sure to pick up pickles and bacon at aid stations to maintain my sodium levels.
- Sweet snacks: Despite ample aid stations stocked with typical ultra-marathon food, having a personal favorite snack uplifted me during the race’s psychological low points.
- Blister treatment kit: My kit included a small pair of scissors and blister wrapping materials, which, fortunately, went unused. I’m seeking a more compact solution for future races. Please share your recommendations below.
- Pill case for antacid tablets or other medications: I packed antacid tablets to counteract any stomach issues during the race. Ensure your medications are stored in an easily accessible pill case that you can open with cold fingers, cushioned with cotton to prevent damage.
- Laminated aid station/info summary: Reflecting on the race, a laminated list of aid stations would’ve been nice, since the rain did not allow me carry a paper copy. Such a list could help manage pace and schedule breaks.
- Ziplock bags For trash and random stuff.