Drop Bags – Part 2
My first encounter with a drop bag was in September 2011 during my first ultra marathon, the Vermont 50. I did some research online figured out what should go in a drop bag packed up nice little bags for each of the drop stations and thought I was all set and not looking like a complete newb. (You can read my whole drop bag article here) Well even with my best attempts my greenness was apparent. Note plastic baggies are not drop bags! Well fast forward to September 2013 about 40+ races later of all distances anything from less than a mile up to 24+ hours and a Death Race mixed in for fun.
I can saw, I still feel at times like a new racer compared to some friends who have hundreds of races under their belt, but definitely have a better idea of what it takes for me to get myself through long events. Below are a few tips I have picked up throughout the years of trial and error. Remember, everyone is different and what works for you might be completely different than me.
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.
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 time 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 next week a change of shoes in your drop bag might be a good idea. When I raced Vermont 50 in 2011 many changed shoes during the overly muddy course when a nice dry pair were in their drop bag.
6. Nutrition – On average in an endurance event you want to consume 100 – 200 calories per hour. 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% more than you think you need in your drop bag. Depending on the day you may need more calories than you think!
7. Nutrition Continued – 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.
8. 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.
9. Comfort Food – depending on who you are your comfort food might change. Having something in a drop bag that no matter the condition you are in you would want to eat is a good idea when a race is self supported. 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 you bag. Who cares what people think, if you are happy and consuming the calories YOU WIN!
10. 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.
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, for those taking on the Ultra Beast or the Hunter Gatherer Ultras this year, it’s important to note this race is basically self supported. When putting your stuff together, think of it as a long hike in the woods all day long. Pack your stuff according to those rules and you will be a happy person. Think what would I need if I solo hiked all day and an iodine pill or two are never a bad thing if you need to refill water from a stream. Get comfortable with your packs and get ready for an adventure.
What do you like in your pack with you race? What did we miss? Comment below with your additions or tricks you have picked up along the way.
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