Open Adventure have been organising five hour races for the last five years. The format of having five hours to get as many checkpoints as possible - some on bike and some on foot - definitely works. I have been hooked since the first one I did back in 1995 and have gone on to compete in 12 and 24 hour races that have more disciplines and correspondingly more kit required. The event organisation is always excellent and a lot of other events could take a few lessons from the Open Adventure formula. The award ceremonies are always a tense experience that most stay for, with spot prizes available.
I've learnt a lot along the way and when it comes to kit, have tried a lot of different products, some successful and many not. Kit can make or break your day both in terms of comfort and performance. The following is intended as a rough guide to what you need for different disciplines in the forthcoming Open Adventure Endurance Series sponsored by planetFear.
Open 5 kit list
Mandatory - All sections
- Whistle (one per person) - Lifesystems Mountain Whistle £2.99 - Pros - keyring to clip to pack, inexpensive and reliable.Lifesystems Survival Whistle £ 4.99 - Pros - very powerfull, plastic body is strong and light. Cons - reletivley expensive.
- First Aid Kit - (Minimum of crepe bandage, triangular bandage, wound dressing, 2 safety pins and 6 adhesive dressings)Lifesystems Pocket First Aid £9.99 - Pros - basic kit that you can add or take from as required. Cons - doesn't contain all required items, lighter options available. Adventure Medical Ultralight and Watertight 3 £ 9.99 - Pros - Lightweight and waterproof packaging, good selection of bandages, dressings and blister kit. Cons - nothing. Adventure Medical Ultralight and Watertight 5 £19.99 - Pros - waterproof and lightweight packaging. Cons - expensive and probably a little overkill. Perhaps the best option is to make your own kit containing the exact items you wish to carry. Stick them all in a ziplock bag and you have a light, cheap and customizable option.
- Mobile Phone - No heavy old school bricks!
- Money for Phone
- Foil Blanket - Lifesystems thermal blanket £3.99 - Pros - very lightweight and small packsize, cheap. Cons - Not as much protection as a bag. Lifesystems Thermal Bag £9.99 - Pros - great protection offered. Cons - heavier, more expensive than a blanket.
Mandatory - Mountain Bike
- Cycle Helmet - planetFear stock a wide range of helmets for biking. Obviously fit is important so its best to try a selection on before purcashing. Some recomendations - MET Kaos £74.99 - Pros - very popular due to good fit, ventilation and very low weight. Cons - Reletively expensive. Giro Hex £59.99 - Pros - excellent coverage and protection. Cons - A little heavier than some at 310g. Giro Indicator £29.99 - Pros - Brilliant price for the fit and performance and under 300g Cons - At this price, nothing.
Recommended - All Sections
- Watch - Suunto Core £229.99 Black/Yellow, Light Black, All Black- Pros - very popular due to lots of features and a slimmer low profile shape compared to older models. Cons - expensive, some features are not needed for races.
- Compass - All from Silva - Ranger 3 £17.99 - Pros - small, light clear and inexpensive. Cons - not as big a baseplate as some. Expedition 4 £24.99 - Pros - Larger baseplate than Ranger 6. Cons - nothing. Field 7 £12.99 - Pros - very small and lightweight. Cons - baseplate possibly too small for some. NOR spectra compass- left - Pros - thumb compass thats fast to use with a bit of practice, small, light. Cons - In some cases a baseplate compass will be more accurate.
- Food and Liquid - see discussion below.
Recommended - Mountain Bike
The above is obviously the bare minimum and on bad weather days a waterproof jacket is added to the mandatory list. The mandatory list is there for your safety and should be carried at all times. If you don't you are cheating as you are giving yourself a weight advantage over other teams. I would also take all recommended kit as well.
Handlebar mapboards are essential for carrying a map on your bike. Rambler's map cases carried around the neck do not work. Mapboards are often homemade out of thin plywood or similar (Corrugated plastic from a sale-sign board is ideal), but don't make them too heavy or big. Holes are drilled in them and they can be zip-tied to your handlebars and stem. Attach the map using a combination of elastic and bulldog clips. A Google search of ‘mapboard' will reveal all sorts of homemade ideas. For the serious there are Miry mapboards that rotate and also Silva ones.
Think about carrying more than one spare tube. I always remove the dust caps and the threaded metal ring that holds the tube in place on the rim. They do not seem to affect performance and significantly increase tube change time.
Clothing needs to be lightweight and keep you warm and dry, or keep you warm when wet. How much clothing you need will depend on the weather. It's important to note that some of the places you will end up will be a lot colder and windier than the start area. As the race goes on you will get tired and possibly move more slowly, your body will be less able to heat itself and you could get colder particularly when wet.
Clothing should be made of a synthetic wicking material. Natural fibres such as cotton should be avoided as they are slow to dry and are heavy when wet. While style is important to some, many racers seem to have a style all of their own. Lurid spandex tights are still to be seen at some races alongside the latest compression underwear from the likes of Skins and Adidas.
Whatever you wear make sure that you have tested it before you commit to race in it and that doesn't mean trying it on in front of the shop mirror. What works for one person may not work for another.
Expect the Unexpected! Image - Jake Morgan.
- Long Sleeve synthetic underwear is the way to go unless it's very warm when a short sleeve top may be ok for some competitors. There are a multitude to choose from out there, these are our favourites: Haglofs Intense Zip Top and Q (women's version)£49.99 - Pros - Long sleeved, lighweight high wicking fabric is very comfortable, good venting, sleeve pocket, looks amazing. Cons - price is fairly high but worth it. Haglofs Intense T and Q (women's version) £37.49 - Pros - same material as the Zip Top but in a simple short sleeve design. Cons - less versatile than a Zip Top. Accapi are new on the block with an innovative and potentially revolutionary take on technical baselayers, check out all their products here and some additional fabric information here. Products to look out for are the Accapi Pro Long Sleeve T Shirt £169.99 and Women's £159.99 - Pros - improved performance through increased circulation and muscle oxygenation, very well made with no seams to chaffe and very comfortable next to the skin. Cons - expensive. Accapi Long Sleeve T Shirt 1/2 Zip £169.99 - Pros - collar zip for improved venting. Cons - price. Adidas Supernova Longsleeve Tee £27.99 - Pros - good price, very fast drying fabric. Cons - nothing.
- A windroof gilet, pullover or jacket is very useful in almost all weathers. Again there are many out there to choose from. Thye Montane Featherlite Smock £29.99 is still very popular - Pros - simple, lightweight windproof protection, well priced. Cons - not as close fitting or technical as some. Montane Featherlite Marathon Jacket and Women's £29.99 - Pros - running specific version of the featherlite smock, full length zip, ventilation gills, reflective hits. Cons - nothing, a brilliant top for this price. Haglofs Shield Pullover £64.99 - Pros - chest pocket, stretch lightweight soft shell panels for a better fit, still light at 160g, looks fantastic. Cons - a little heavier (though better featured) than some. Ronhill Advance Windlite Gilet £29.99 - Pros - gilet style has good versatilty and freedom of movement. Cons - less protection than a smock or jacket.
- Lightweight waterproof jacket The OMM Kamleika Race Jacket £116.99 is a great option - Pros - soft stretchy yet still totally waterproof and breathable fabric is good for running and biking in, streamlined fit, minimal features, light. Cons - nothing. The OMM Kamleika Smock £98.99 is an even more hardcore version of the jacket - Pros - even lighter and more stripped down than the jacket. Cons - nothing. The Haglofs OZO and OZO Q £199.99 (women's version) is a real superlight option - Pros - very well made, great design, only 170g! Slightly tougher face fabric than the old Oz Pullover. Cons - reletively expensive. Marmot Nano Jacket £189.99 - Pros - good hood, nice fit and well made. Cons - Cost? Nothing. Marmot Crystalline Women's Jacket £99.99 - Pros - very lightweight only 170g. Cons - fabric less durable but at this weight what do you expect! The North Face Triumph Anorak £148.99 - Pros - takes lightweight to a whole new level. Cons - nothing. Montane Atomic DT Jacket and Women's £69.99 - Pros - great price for such high performance. Cons - nothing.
- Pearl Izumi tri-shorts that I can run in and bike in. These are lycra shorts with an unpadded seam free crotch the shape of a bike short chamois. Bike short chamois tend to chafe when running in them and it takes too long to change from one to the other (although many do). Transitions can be in very public areas. Whatever you do, DO NOT put your usual underwear on under cycling shorts. Commando is the way forward. A friend's wife had a very sore experience while wearing a lacy thong under bike shorts. Part way around the bike section she had to have said underwear removed with a swiss army knife.
- ¾ or full length running tights. Depending on the weather I might wear something as thick as power stretch. Accapi Pro 3/4 Length Trouser £119.99 - Pros - all the benefits of Nexus fabric on the legs. Cons - expensive. Accapi Pro Trouser £139.99 - Pros - full length tight version of the 3/4. Cons - expensive. Ronhill Advance Powerlite Tight £31.49 - Pros - simple effective tights, good price. Cons - nothing.
- I rarely carry waterproof leggings as I find them to hot to use. But on very cold days I carry Montane Featherlite Pants £35.99 for emergency as they are extremely lightweight.
- Buffs - they fit under bike helmets and are lightweight. One for the head and one for the neck on cold days. Get your planetFear Buff here £ 12.99
- Gloves - thin ones for the run are useful but make sure that you can still hold a laminated map and use a compass. Outdoor Designs Stretch On Glove £4.99 - Pros - great basic liner glove, inexpensive. Cons - nothing. Icebreaker liner glove £19.99 - Pros - Great fit and comfort. Cons - expensive. Black Diamond Midweight Glove £17.99 - Pros - brilliant powerstretch glove with a leather palm for better grip. Cons - nothing.
- SPD or similar clipless bike shoes. I feel that the extra pedalling efficiency outweighs the extra time needed to change them in transition. But don't try out SPD for the first time in a race. Again fit here is the key thing, try before you buy. The Shimano MT41 SPD Shoe £69.99 would be a good choice.
- An off road shoe with a good sole unit. Some people wear pure fell shoes but you would have to be prepared to put up with less cushioning. Pure road shoes meanwhile dont provide enough grip. Something like the Inov-8 Terroc 330 £64.99 would be ideal. Pros - good grip, cushioning and fit, breathable. Cons - nothing really. Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra and Women's £89.99 - Pros - high comfort and cusioning levels. Cons - less grip than some. Inov-8 Mudclaw 270 £65.99 - Pros - very grippy sole, lightweight. Cons - less cushioning for harder surfaces.
- Running socks that have a good close fit. Plus a spair pair for transition. Inov-8 Mudsoc £7.99 - Pros - good fit and price. Cons - nothing. Inov-8 Debris Sock £11.99 - Pros - clever in built gaiter keeps out debris. Cons - some people will prefer the simplicity of a normal sock. Accapi Running Pro Short Sock £29.99 - Pros - very well made and fitting sock with Nexus fabric technology to improve blood circulation and improve thermoregulation. Cons - reletively expensive.
Other useful bits:
- Plastic ziplock sandwich bags are useful for keeping things like mobile phones and first aid kits dry.
- Exped dry bags to keep kit dry.
- Transition bag - there is no restriction on size in Open 5 events but bare in mind that some events require you to ride all of your kit for both disciplines to the start from registration so normally a large holdall with shoulder straps is ideal.
- Small pack with enough room for mandatory kit and spare clothing and food. Osprey Talon 11 £54.99 - Pros - great small pack, good features, weight and stability. Cons - nothing if it's the right size. Osprey Talon 5.5 £44.99 - Pros - stable, light, good fit. Cons - nothing. OMM Last Drop 10L £34.99 - Pros - good size, customizable features. Cons - nothing.
Food and drink:
I normally aim to eat an energy bar per hour during biking plus some gels, taking just gels on the run. Water is a tricky one, If you read the Camelback marketing you should drink up to a litre an hour. That's a lot of liquid, 1 litre of water weighs 1 kilogram. Take note of how much you drink in training, make sure you drink in transition and before starting. Bare in mind that you will probably end the race in calorie debt as you will be burning energy faster than you can consume it. Make sure that you replenish these lost calories with plenty of milkshakes and chocolate cake at the end of the race. (I'm not a qualified nutritionist)
Transition for some is a chance to have a sit down and a sandwich with some taking half an hour or more to change from run to bike/ bike to run. For others it is a time for a rapid re-supply of food and change of kit and off again in less than a minute. Whatever category you fall in to, make sure that you think about what you might need to access before the race starts. As much as possible, have kit laid out so that you know where things are. Make sure that you eat while changing shoes and clothing. Remember you will probably want more clothing on to bike rather than run. If you have two lots of the necessary kit then you can have a running bag or bumbag and a biking bag. If you don't then it's a good idea to attach bike tools, inner tubes and pumps to your bike so that you don't have to run with them.
Whizzing into transition on an Open 5. Image - Jake Morgan.
Open 12 and 24 extras
These longer races are obviously going to require more kit and you'll need to carry more food and have some extra spares. However the basics outlined above are still the basis of the kit. In my last 24 event, I raced in the same socks shorts and cycle top all of the way through. Extra layers were added and removed as needed.
Transition boxes are bigger for these races and you'll need to check event details for the exact size limit. Go as big as possible and make sure that you pack it well in advance to check it all fits. Proper meals can be left in lunchboxes to scoff while changing. Think pasta and tuna - anything savoury and nutritious to fill you up and provide an alternative to energy bars/gels.
Multisport helmets have been useful in previous years to avoid needing to carry a climbing helmet on a bike section. The Salewa Helium or Krypton and the Kong Scarab are the only ones that I know of that cover Bike/Climb/Paddle.
Kitted up for paddling around a lake in the dark Open24 2008. Image - Jake Morgan.
Paddling and Canyoning sections are done in warm tights and tops and in colder weather a thin fleece would be ideal. Waterproof top and bottoms are needed here. Dry clothes are ideal at the end of a wet section but exercise some judgement. If it is warm simply carry on running/biking wet (maybe with a windproof layer on) modern fabrics will dry out fast. Don't expect to be at ideal temperature 100% of the time.
Lighting for both running and biking are important. A good quality headtorch such as a Petzl Myo XP £64.99 or Petzl Tikka 2 XP £44.99 is ideal for running. For technical mountain biking in the dark specialist high powered lights like the Hope HID Vision £199.99 will make the experience safer.
If there are rope sections that require you to carry harness, carabiners and belay device make sure that you have the lightest possible. Also make sure that you are familiar with their use and that it fits over all clothing combinations.
If you are new to this and it all seems a bit daunting then get some practice in on the Open 5's, this will serve as a build up to the longer races. Get online and ask people what they do, or phone or email the staff at planetFear. planetFear will also be opening a shop in Keswick this summer.
Abseiling during the 2007 Open12 - Bike shoes and a harness - great kit combo. Image - Jake Morgan.
To learn more about the Open Adventure Series read the news feature on planetFear here>>>
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