After finishing my first Ragnar Relay (Ragnar Adirondacks, September 27-28, 2013 – find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, and recaps of Leg 1, Leg 2, and Leg 3), I emerged with some strong opinions on my original Ragnar packing list. My number one thought was that it was way too much stuff. We barely touched any of the stuff in the “essential” van kits, and a couple items I didn’t emphasize turned out to be pretty important. If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.
There were some good tips in the original post. Definitely pack your running outfits in separate gallon zip-lock baggies and write LEG 1, 2, & 3 and your name with a sharpie on each bag. Definitely put your sweaty clothes back in the bag (baking soda optional – Van 1 used a lot of baking soda but Van 2 didn’t touch the stuff) and then you can zip it up and toss it in the back – since it’s labeled you’ll be able to easily claim it later.
I want to emphasize that Van 1 used different items than Van 2, and even within the same van we used/needed/liked different items, which brings me to my number 2 lesson – you don’t become a different person during Ragnar. If you like or don’t like a certain food or article of clothing, that’s not going to change just because you’re doing an overnight relay. If you never spray your shoes with sneaker spray, you probably don’t need to start now (despite the cramped van, it didn’t really get that smelly). If you think moleskin is too thick and you never use it, you won’t suddenly use it this weekend. All of these packing items are suggestions only, and the list is more inclusive than exclusive so it gives you ideas of what you might want, but ultimately all you need are running shoes and clothes – the rest is gravy.
Now here’s my updated annotated packing list for Ragnar Relay! Clean PDF version is here. [Comments added post-race are in brackets in bold italics.]
- Running shirts – 3 at most and remember, you will be getting a tech (short sleeve) Ragnar shirt at the starting line, so you could count it as one shirt that you don’t have to pack [In general your clothing should be as bright and reflective as possible – it’s not only safer to wear bright clothing on open roads, but it’s also easier for your teammates to spot you.]
- Running bottoms – 3
- Running shoes – 1 or 2 pair [I packed only 1 pair because I knew it wouldn’t rain, and I’m glad I only had 1 pair to deal with, but if there might be rain, pack 2.]
- Running socks – 3 pair [I’d say bring one additional pair to wear between legs, too – especially if it will be cold at night.]
- Sports Bra/Undies – at least 3 pairs each [I went through more clean underwear this weekend than I thought I would, so definitely pack enough. Also, I kept my clean underwear in my “between legs” bag instead of my “running legs” bags – it was easier organizationally this way since then I didn’t have to dip into both “between” and “running” bags to get fresh clothing post run(s).]
- Hat/visor for rain or sun (the bill of the hat/visor also helps keep the headlamp from falling down) – 1 or 2 hats, depending on how much you sweat [2 hats worked well for me, one bright one for day and reflective one for night.]
- Non-running shirt to wear in-between runs in the van – 1 or 2 comfy shirts (can always wear the next running shirt, too) [1 shirt for between legs was fine – I’d put on the same shirt after each leg and it didn’t get wet or gross by the end.]
- Non-running bottoms to wear in-between runs in the van – something comfy like sweats or yoga pants [I wore the same pair of capri pants between each leg, which was fine.]
- Non-running shoes – something to air out your feet and that you can be comfortable in and shower in [I wore slip-on crocs, not flip flops so I didn’t have anything between my toes, which allowed me to go barefoot or wear socks when it was cold – they worked perfectly.]
- Warm jacket or sweatshirt – it will be cool at night [DEFINITELY bring something warm for cool-weather Ragnars – I wore both my sweatshirt and quilted jacket for almost every minute I wasn’t running, and I wished I had an additional jacket or a warmer one, but I’m also a person who hates to be cold.]
- Rain jacket/windbreaker [I didn’t bring a rain jacket because I knew it wouldn’t rain and I knew I wouldn’t wear it.]
- Costume items – anything fun you want to run in or cheer in! [Even though it was a little bulky to pack, I’m glad I had my costume, and many other runners ran the entire race in tutus and such, which was cute.]
Safety Gear (required) – check that all work and batteries are good [and take all gear for a test run – even if you look foolish testing it in the daytime, you’ll want it to be comfy during Ragnar]
- Headlamp – strongly recommended to have your own, sharing headlamps is gross (they get sweaty) – you can get a small, lightweight one for $6 with shipping, or a more substantial one for $19, or the first one I linked which has a red filter for night-vision, at $29 [A good strong headlamp was helpful – I’d say don’t cheap out on this item. They also seemed to sell them at the start, so if you do forget yours they might be available on-course, but don’t count on it.]
- Tail light/blinking lights, if you have them – I found the best little light called the Vizlet LED by Amphipod – they’re only 10 bucks each on Amazon, very lightweight, and can clip-on anywhere [The Vizlets were fantastic, very visible and very lightweight – worth getting several of them.]
- Reflective vest for night running – I got a cheap one and also this fancier one with a small single pocket in the front [The “fancy” one was a nightmare of choking and chafing, but I had leant my cheaper one to another runner, so I was stuck with my nightmare. Definitely test your gear!]
Running Accessories – Keep in one separate Ziploc bag with night safety gear for easy of finding in van before each run [Yes! Definitely keep all your accessories in one place – it was much easier for me to access those little items all in one spot and not spread out across my “leg” bags or general bag.]
- Handheld water bottle/water belt/Camelbak/SPI belt – whatever you normally use when running [It was essential for me to have my Camelbak on my longer legs.]
- Watch or GPS [My Garmin kept its charge for the whole race, but I’d sometimes forget to turn it on in time, so my distances and times were a little off.]
- Road ID – for your shoe, in case of emergency
- Hair ties/hairbands
- Ipod & headphones [I’d say only use these if you absolutely must. Only one runner in our van used headphones, and she only used them in one ear. The roads aren’t closed to traffic, and it’s helpful to be as alert and aware of your surroundings as possible. Also, relays like Hood to Coast prohibit them.]
- Phone numbers of all teammates & maps of your legs of the run – in a small ziplock bag, a “must carry” when running (other people sometimes remove course markings and runners get lost, so reviewing your segments and having little maps to carry with you are an excellent idea) [I carried this but luckily never had to use it, but another runner on my team did, so definitely better to carry this small item for peace of mind.]
- Cell Phone – see above – you should pre-program your teammates numbers into the phone, and you can photograph or screenshot the legs of your run – but hard copies are advised in case your phone dies [My phone almost never got service so I used it as a camera instead of a phone – it wouldn’t have helped me get rescued, but at least when they found my body they could have enjoyed some pictures of scenery.]
- Cash – small bills (in general people said to have a decent amount of cash in small bills for food and drinks and random stuff you’ll want to buy at kiosks and stuff along and at the end of the course) [The $3 I spent for bathrooms and sleeping was maybe the best $3 I’ve ever spent.]
- Cell phone – yeah, don’t forget this
- Cell phone car charger & cords [Our van oddly came with a USB port, so we actually didn’t use the chargers very much, but you still should have at least one dual charger available and don’t forget the charging cables.]
- Water bottle – something you can refill from the van’s large water supply (so you don’t have a million empty bottles floating around) – this is my favorite water bottle for refilling and tossing in my purse as the locking mechanism is very secure, but it also pops open easily and has an easy drinking spout (no wide mouth to splash you, no straw to get dirty). [Definitely used my bottle a lot, refilling it from the gallon jugs of water we bought at the grocery store.]
- Camera – can have one “team camera” [Should have used it more.]
- Body Glide/anti-chafe – I like Blue Steel Sports [Should have used it more. Ouch.]
- Toiletries – your standard travel toiletries, pared down to a minimum (toothbrush & paste, small soap & small shampoo, etc.) [I only used my toothbrush & paste, since I didn’t take a shower until the end.]
- Sunblock – see my post for more on sunblocks [I used a lot of sunblock.]
- Chapstick with SPF [Yes.]
- Deodorant [No. I only used it before and after my showers – didn’t need it within reach in the van.]
- Towel – for showering and also to sit on in van (so the seats aren’t gross) [CHAWEL! Skip the standard towel and bring a Chawel instead. This turned out to be an essential item for me, allowing me to change in the van between legs and get into clean, dry clothes quickly.]
- Ear plugs & Sleeping Mask – highly recommended if you want to get any sleep at all [Yes to mask but I used my marshmallow headphones as ear plugs instead, so I could set my phone alarm and wake up without waking everyone else.]
- Small pillow – inflatable camping pillow? [Inflatable worked well for me since I didn’t want a bulky pillow in the van, but you may or may not want a traditional pillow.]
- Small blanket or compressed sleeping bag [More important than I realized. My sleeping bag and AIR MATTRESS allowed me a couple good hours of sleep in the gym instead of struggling in the van. Even a warm blanket would have worked either in our out of the van. Give some thought to your sleeping items.]
- Any medicine you need
- Any prescription glasses/contacts you need
- Food & Drinks – specific stuff you’ll need, e.g. GUs/gels/sport chews, special snacks, special protein powders or electrolyte tabs, etc. and any special snacks you’ll want (e.g. for me it’s Pop Tarts & Bonk Breaker bars) [I didn’t eat as much of this as I thought I would, plus they give you some gel and chews at the start, and I forgot to eat my chews during my long leg, so I had to take most of it home again.]
- Compression socks/calf sleeves/arm sleeves/tights for recovery [I got the Ragnar compression socks and they were great – some compression socks are too tight and uncomfortable for me, but Pro-Compression’s socks were comfy for many hours.]
- Buff or headband if your ears get cold/are sensitive [I wore my reflective buff around my neck for both night runs and my reflective headband around my ears for my night/morning run.]
- Running gloves – probably won’t be that cold, but if you get cold hands easily, toss ’em in there [I ended up wearing gloves between runs when I was cold.]
- Swim suit – not sure if there will be an opportunity, but if there is an ice bath or hot tub available, you’ll be glad you have it [I couldn’t have been paid enough to use the gross hotel pool. HOWEVER, for those very shy folks, someone mentioned that the shower situation at the schools was just a giant open room, and they would have felt more comfortable if they could shower in a swimsuit. So if you’re a nevernude, definitely toss in a pair of denim cutoffs.]
- Dry shampoo [Skip it. Didn’t touch the stuff.]
- Glow sticks/fun stuff [Surprisingly didn’t use the glow sticks because I had enough LED items – I did buy a last minute Halloween flashing pumpkin necklace that I enjoyed, plus some of those “finger lasers” that worked well as mini-flashlights in the back of the van – you can get 40 of them at Amazon for under 8 dollars.]
- Any additional reflectors or LED bracelets you might have – I got this LED slap bracelet which is quite bright (brighter than the Nite Ize slap bracelet) [This was great – wearing a colored light at night (that’s not red or white) can help your team spot you when every other runner looks the same.]
- Jumper cables [Did not bring and luckily did not need.]
- Car power converter [Did not end up using, but if you have a water boiler or Christmas lights or other things that need a traditional outlet, you’d need it.]
Kit for Van – One Kit per Van (so everyone doesn’t have to bring everything, also helps with organization – amounts below are per van)
- Race bible in binder – 1 per van required [Required and used a lot to navigate – we actually used the written directions more than the GPS.]
- GPS unit – another tip I heard was to pre-program all the exchange points into the GPS so you can just select them when it’s time to find your runner (could be very helpful when you’re tired at night) – the locations can be found at the Ragnar website under each leg [We never programmed in the exchange points, and actually used the GPS very little during the actual race, preferring instead to follow the Race Bible and roadsigns.]
- First Aid Kit for blisters, cuts, etc. (include Vaseline, instant ice packs, rubber gloves, bandaids and antibacterial cream/spray, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, tums, immodium, tweezers, scissors, day time cold medicine, cough drops, moleskin, tampons/pads) [We didn’t use a single item in the first aid kit besides one instant ice pack and the scissors to open a package of Chomps – but I guess I’m glad we had it.]
- Safety pins – several [Ragnar provided safety pins for the bibs at the start, so these weren’t needed.]
- Flashlight – 2 handheld [Didn’t use the flashlights – used the internal van lights and headlamps/finger lasers instead.]
- Colgate Whisp one-time use toothbrushes (no water required) [Used a couple of these but mostly just used the sinks with real toothbrushes at the major exchanges.]
- Hand sanitizer – 1 large pump bottle [Used this quite a bit.]
- Toilet paper – 1 roll [Neither van use this at all – all the porta potties were well-stocked.]
- Kleenex – 1 box (especially handy if it might be cold outside and warm inside, which always makes my nose runny) [Used a few tissues, but could have just used the baby wipes, so I’d skip both the TP and the Kleenex next time.]
- Trash bags – 1 box (for trash, ground cover, emergency poncho, etc.) [Used a few for the final clean up, but mostly used the same grocery bag as a small trash bag during the race.]
- Ziploc bags – 1 box quart & 1 box gallon [Used a few of these, but not that many.]
- Sharpie marker [Didn’t use – a pen would have been better, and luckily we had a few pens floating around.]
- Duct tape – 1 roll [Didn’t use, don’t bother bringing. A roll of scotch tape would have been nice to put up a couple decorations I had, but it wasn’t a big loss, either.]
- Shoe anti-odor and drying spray – 1 can (optional) [Didn’t use.]
- Baking soda – 1 box [Van 1 used but Van 2 did not. Personally, I’d bring again.]
- Baby wipes – at least 2 tubs per van, unscented – for on-the-go “showers” and general freshening up, cleaning hands, etc. [Definitely used these – almost finished two full containers. A must.]
- Bug spray – 1 bottle [There were tiny annoying bugs at some of the exchanges, but nothing that would have been deterred by spray – so we didn’t use.]
- Febreeze – 1 bottle (optional) [Didn’t use until the drive back – but even then it wasn’t really necessary – so I’d say skip it.]
- Van window markers/decorations/sidewalk chalk [A definite yes on the Loew Cornell Simply Art window markers, and a pass on the Crayola kind because they’re not very good. We only had one pack of the Loew markers and we shared between vans, which was fine (the white and yellow colors showed up best on the tinted windows). We forgot to use the sidewalk chalk but next time I’d definitely use it.]
- The Stick (massage stick)/Foam roller [We used the Stick a bit but never the foam roller – there was never a time I wanted to set up on the ground and roll, although I did see some other teams doing it. If you know you’ll use it, then bring it, but I shouldn’t have because I’m not a foam rolling fanatic.]
- Snacks for the group – bananas, apples, nuts, pretzels, Twizzlers, granola bars, PB and J, etc. & gum [We ate a lot in the van, but not what we expected – we didn’t touch the PB&J and bread but Van 2 made several sandwiches. We guzzled down a lot of chips and chocolate and made a second stop to buy more of those things. I ate several apples, several granola bars, and one banana but no one else in my van did. We finished almost an entire loaf of cranberry walnut bread. The Nilla Wafers, Oreos, and peanut M&Ms and other chocolate candies were popular all around. Having gum was nice.]
- Drinks – powdered sports drink mix, water (purchase water on the road) [Van 1 bought 6 gallon jugs of water and used about 5 of them during the race – but that was with perfect cool weather, so if it was hot we definitely would have drank more (they did have water at the major exchanges, but it was easier to just refill in the van). We bought a few individual bottles of Gatorade and some people drank them but I stuck with water and Nuun, which I got at Exchange 6.]
- Soft-sided cooler – for semi-perishable foods (optional) [We had a couple mini soft coolers and didn’t use them at all. Skip.]
- Water cooler – very optional, if someone already has one you can fill with ice and water and use it to refill bottles (otherwise can just pour from gallon jugs) [We didn’t have coolers and just used jugs, which was totally fine. If you’re doing a “hot weather” Ragnar, ice would have been nice, but ours was so cold we didn’t miss it.]
- Cups & paper towels – 1 roll towels, a few cups [It was a good idea to have a roll of paper towels, especially for van clean-up. We only used a couple cups and could have done without if we didn’t have.]
Should Have Been on The List or I Things I Wish I Had
- Chawel. Yes, you could make one yourself by sewing together two thin towels, but let’s face it, you’re never going to get around to doing that, plus it’s bound to be bulkier than their “sport” version which also has a nifty little pocket and elastic strap. I swear I do not work for the Chawel company and am not getting compensated for what I say about them.
- Warmer jacket.
- Air mattress or foam pad for sleeping.
- Team Shirts – It was really nice to have team shirts at the end, and it’s a nice souvenir (the team voted on what kind of shirt to get, and we ended up with soft cotton shirts with a small team logo – very easy to wear again and very comfy). We used Custom Ink for printing and for about 13 shirts each shirt was about $14.
- Jambox bluetooth radio – I brought mine and we used it on the drive up and also to cheer our runner. It was a good thing, although obviously not essential.
- Walkie Talkies or a Phone that Worked – People tell me there’s no such thing as a walkie talkie that works over miles and mountains, so basically I want more cell phone towers to be built, because not having a working phone was an inconvenience to me but would have been a major problem if everyone in the van had Sprint as their service provider.
- Painter’s Tape for decorating the vans
- Personalized Magnets for tagging other vans
- A fun team name and theme – We had a great name/theme. Breaking Ragnar got photographed a lot, because Breaking Bad is a popular show and the finale was the same weekend as the race. Plus Runner 4 ran in his tighty whities and green button-down the entire race, while still managing to knock out 7:30 miles, and who doesn’t want to take a picture of that? I also had fun handing out little baggies of “blue meth” candy to other runners and volunteers, who always said a polite “thank you” even if they had no idea what I was giving them. We’re already joking about our team name and theme for our next relay race, so if you haven’t decided on a team name yet, I urge you to pick something with multiple “fun” possibilities.
- Crepe Paper (maybe…) – to make a fake “finishing tape” for everyone’s last legs.
- A special food and/or beverage for the finish line – We saw one team with multiple bottles of wine at the finish, and while I didn’t want wine after the relay, something special would have been nice to share with the whole team, like a cake or even sparkling juice. Others on my team wanted cocktails, though, so that’s always a thought, too. Yes, you have the pizza and beer, but they ran out of pizza so we had to wait, and the beer lines were endless.
Clean, unannotated, one-page version of the Ragnar Packing List in PDF is here.
And that’s all I’ll say on Ragnar ADK for a while, I promise! I can’t wait for my next relay race, but first I have a couple marathons scheduled (yikes).
Have you run Ragnar? What packing or other tips do you have? Share in the comments!