Gear Review & Packing List for Ragnar Trail New England

My patriotic folding chair (and table) for our American Gladiators-themed team!

The chair and table (and sit-pad, tarp, & decorative flags), that served us well at the Ragnar Trail New England.

The last weekend in June I ran my first Ragnar Trail in Massachusetts (“Ragnar Trail New England”) – you can find my expectations and initial packing list here and my race recap/review here.  This post will focus on the gear.

 

Overall, my team pretty much packed the right stuff.  With a little tweaking I think we would have been totally set.  For an updated packing list in PDF form, click here.  For details and thoughts on the items from the original list, see below.

 

Original Packing List for Ragnar Trail New England:  New Comments in Italics

Clothing – Put each running leg outfit in separate labeled Ziploc bag – You do this so (a) in case it starts floating around camp, everyone knows whose stuff it is, (b) you know which bag to grab for which loop, and (c) you can stuff your gross, sweaty gear back into the bag and seal it up until you get home to deal with that mess.

  • Running shirts & bottoms – 3 each – Yep, not much to note on this.  I guess you could re-wear items but that could be kinda gross/uncomfortable especially if you sweat a lot.
  • Running shoes – 1 or 2 pair – If they’ll have a Salomon demo tent (and they probably will), one pair is fine, because you can always check out a demo pair in case yours get too wet or muddy to use.
  • Running socks – 3 to 4 pairs – Definitely bring extra socks especially if you ever end up wearing your socks with sandals in the wet grass…
  • Sports Bra/Undies – at least 3 pairs each – Yes.
  • Hat/visor – 1 or 2 hats – One hat was fine for me but if it had been really cold I might have used a beanie at night.
  • One comfy non-running shirt (for in-between runs) – One shirt was fine, plus you’ll get the race t-shirt when you check in.
  • One pair non-running bottoms (for in-between runs) – e.g. sweats or yoga pants – I wore both my silly American flag leggings and some thin, long jogger pants at night and was still a bit chilly, so if you tend to get cold make sure to bring some cozy sweatpants or long underwear or something for night.  If you run both hot and cold, toss in a pair of shorts for daytime, too.
  • One pair non-running (shower) shoes – Didn’t need shower shoes for New England because there were no showers, but was definitely nice to have a pair of slides to wear between runs.  I like these from Crocs – comfy and lightweight for packing.
  • Warm jacket and/or sweatshirt – A definite must for the chilly night.  I wore both my thin sweatshirt and a lined windbreaker at night.
  • Rain jacket/windbreaker – I wore a thin rain jacket in the rain while we set up camp.  Glad I had it and even more glad I didn’t need it much over the weekend.
  • Costume items & team shirts! – I LOVED our matching team shirts.  Our Runner #6 made an awesome logo out of the American Gladiators logo and our shirts were bright and cheery and looked great together in a group.  Just like for the road Ragnar, I think team shirts are totally worth it, even if they are kinda spendy for a small custom order (I paid $30 for my cotton shirt, I think the tech shirts were a similar price).  We used logosoftwear.com to make our shirts this time.

Running Gear (required)

  • 70+ lumen headlamp (one with a red filter saves your nightvision) – 1 (or more) w/ fresh batteries – I’d say go 120-150 lumen, with 100% fresh batteries (yes, take out whatever batteries you have in there, even if you think they’re good, and swap them out with new ones, and check that sh*t), and carry fresh spare batteries that you have also tested to make sure they work.  Then also carry a backup headlamp that you have also tested with fresh batteries.  And then maybe carry one additional backup for fun.  I used this Princeton Tec 70 Lumen Byte headlamp that I got for only $15 from Amazon which was ok when it had good batteries (it features a red mode, regular mode, and bright mode and takes 2 AAA batteries – it would make a good backup if not your main lamp).  My teammate tried both the Black Diamond Spot 130 lumen headlamp (currently $32 at Amazon) and the Fenix HL23 150 lumen headlamp (currently $35 at Amazon), and he preferred the latter (as it was simpler to use, takes only one AA battery, and “seemed more reliable,” although it doesn’t seem to have a red mode).
  • Cup/bottle for hot & cold beverages (Ragnar Trail is cupless) – 2 – I only really used the one large water bottle I brought and didn’t use my insulated bottle for hot beverages.  I’m not a coffee drinker but I also heard they actually did have cups for the coffee anyway.  Next time I’d just pack one bottle but bring additional beverages like water, Gatorade or Zero Vitamin Water, and some beer and/or whiskey.  They gave out free Nuun water in the village but they used the Ragnar hose water to make it, so it still tasted bad.

Personal Running Accessories

  • Hydration backpack/handheld bottle/water belt/SPI belt – I wore my hydration backpack on every loop (my favorite Nathan Zeal 2-liter – highly adjustable, almost no bounce, and nice big pockets on the front to stash your phone and gels and whatever else you want to tuck away during your run), but most people didn’t carry any water even on the longest 6.5 mile loop.  I’d say do whatever you’re used to and you probably know yourself and whether you’d feel more comfortable carrying water or not.  I needed it because I’m a thirsty person and I’m slow, so even on the shortest loop I was out there for 45 minutes (and almost 2 hours on the longest loop, and one water stop over 2 hours wasn’t going to cut it for me).
  • Watch or GPS – Some of my teammates didn’t have a watch, but since the miles weren’t marked on the trails it was reallyreally great to know how far you had gone out there, especially since .2 miles felt like 2 miles sometimes.  The only downside was looking at your watch every 5 minutes and realizing you’ve gone like .1 miles.  I’m still using and enjoying my Garmin 620, although I almost never wear the heart rate monitor anymore.  
  • Sunglasses – More crucial for walking around camp and the village than for running the shaded trails, actually!
  • Buff or headband for ears – Never needed it but glad I brought it, but they also had two different vendors handing out free buffs in the Village, so you might be able to snag a free one (or two).
  • Gaiters – Surprisingly did not need these!  I didn’t get any rocks in my shoes at all – actually got more rocks in my shoes during the Deadwood Mickelson “Trail” Marathon.  If you don’t already own gaiters, don’t buy them for just this race.
  • Tall compression socks/calf sleeves (for brush) – Did not need these, either!  They would be fine for recovery but you don’t need them to protect your legs on the trail.  Again, don’t buy them just for this race if you don’t want to.
  • Hair ties/hairbands – Yep.
  • Gloves – Didn’t need these but glad I had them just in case. 
  • Road ID – in case of emergency – Wore mine on my shoe but forgot to swap them to my demo shoes.  Luckily our Captain entered any critical allergy info for the team so if one of us had gone down someone probably would have gotten that info.  Nevertheless, try to have ID on you especially if you do have allergies or a medical condition.
  • Additional handheld lights/headlamps – YES.  See above comments on my newfound headlamp obsession.
  • iPod & headphones (discouraged on trail) – Never used except when sleeping in camp (my trick is to sleep with in-ear headphones plugged into my phone to dampen the noise around me and so my alarm will wake me but not my teammates.  One teammate who runs with headphones ended up taking his off shortly into his run, preferring to concentrate on the trail instead.
  • Cell Phone – pre-programmed with teammates numbers & photos of course maps – I carried my phone on all three loops, mostly to take pictures.  Never needed it for an emergency and there were always plenty of other runners around so if someone did need help it would have been easy to get.  There’s decent service around on the trails and at the Village, so definitely bring your phone in general to camp.

Personal Miscellaneous

  • Toiletries – toothbrush & paste, hairbrush, etc. – Yep.
  • Sunblock & Chapstick with SPF – Yep.
  • Body Glide/anti-chafe – Although not strictly necessary for short runs like this, I almost always wear anti-chafe on my toes and I like to have it in case some weird thing starts bugging me.  I now use three different anti-chafe products depending on the area of body and my mood (anti-chafe being like a runner’s makeup…) – Ruby’s Lube (mild ingredients that smell herby), Sportslick (smells a little like coconut oil although there’s no coconut in it), and the unfortunately branded Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder Gel (smells like nothing to me and disappears on skin but still does a good job of protecting sensitive spots).  
  • Towel or Chawel – I ended up not using my Chawel this time, changing inside the tent instead.  I guess I’m glad I had the “most massively useful thing” in the universe, but for Ragnar New England, it wasn’t strictly necessary.
  • Ear Plugs & Sleeping Mask – I didn’t use mine but teammates used theirs.  Good to have and small to pack.
  • Headphones – Again, only used while sleeping, but was very helpful for that.
  • Any medicine you need – Yep.
  • Prescription Glasses/Contacts – Yep.
  • Food & Drinks – special stuff for you (e.g. Gels, electrolytes, chocolate, etc.) – Yep.
  • Cash – small bills – Yep.  I bought one Boloco bowl and a Ragnar merch hat, using cash for former and credit for latter.  

Camping Gear

  • Tent(s) – enough for team, 1 big or a couple smaller – It was really nice to have one big tent  you could stand up in (and where most of us slept at one point or another) and two smaller tents, especially dedicating one of the smaller tents for our gear and for changing (to isolate the funk to one tent).  We got our big tent (Coleman Montana 8) on an Amazon Deal of the Day, but I’d recommend it even at the higher price because of the awesome “screen door” style door that opened and shut without zipping (perfect for frequent, fast, noiseless entries and exits).
  • Tarp – for under tent or as a rug – We used about 3-4 tarps for our campsite – under each tent and for the front of the changing tent so you could walk around without your shoes.
  • Sun Shade (if available) or Umbrella – I read so many bad reviews online for various pop-up canopies I didn’t buy one, but luckily someone on our team was able to borrow one from a friend (so I’m not sure what brand it was) – but it worked great!  It was key for a sun-phobic like me to have a shady place to sit.  See if you can borrow one from someone you know and if not, I think it’s a worthwhile team expense (divided by 8 people it’ll probably only cost $10-15 per person).
  • Camp Chairs & Table – I read that having a chair was important for a Ragnar Trail event and I’d agree – our team brought 2-3 “high” or normal chairs and 2-3 “low” lightweight, portable camping chairs, and they were all almost constantly in use (the normal chairs were more favored).  I got this chair because of our USA theme and it was cheery and pretty comfy, plus it had two drink holder cups which was useful.  If I didn’t need or want a theme chair, and was willing to spend extra money, I might get a chair like this one or this one with a mesh bottom (because the rain and sweaty bottoms made the canvas chairs a little damp).  This $20 chair also has mesh but only in the back, not solving the damp bottom problem.  Having a table was also really nice, even the tiny camping table that I brought, although having a bigger table or a second table would have been nice, too.  
  • Sleeping Bag or Blanket & a Pad/air mattress – Definitely needed a sleeping bag or blanket at night (I used my old 15-degree down bag that seems to have lost its loft – any bag or blanket will do, though).  And it’s always nice to have a sleeping pad for comfort and warmth – I used a Therm-a-rest Z-Lite Sol because it’s pretty cheap ($25 for the small folding one, $20 for the regular size Ridgerest rolling one), doesn’t need inflating, and doesn’t make noise as you shift around (that an inflated mattress sometimes does).
  • Small pillow/inflatable camping pillow – I used my old Cocoon Air-Core pillow but I recommend spending a few extra bucks for the Sea to Summit Aeros ultralight pillow (also available at REI and EMS) as it’s so incredibly compact you can bring it on airplane flights for extra lumbar support or to use while traveling if the hotel pillows are terrible.  If you’ll never go camping again, just bring a small regular pillow from home or a pillowcase and stuff your clothes into a ball.
So tiny yet surprisingly comfortable!

So tiny yet surprisingly comfortable!

Additional Items – One “Kit” per Team

  • Baby wipes – at least 2 tubs, unscented – Definitely nice to have a bunch of baby wipes for “showering.”
  • Bug Spray – We brought, we used, but I didn’t see a lot of bugs – huzzah!
  • First Aid Kit (e.g. bandaids, antibacterial cream, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, Tums, Pepto, Imodium, allergy meds, tweezers, scissors, cough drops, moleskin, Vaseline, rubber gloves, tampons) – We brought and we used the scissors probably more than anything.
  • Hand sanitizer – 1 large pump bottle – I used this religiously after every gross porta-potty visit, so to me it’s a definite must.
  • Trash bags – a few – We used one bag before we did our check-in (when you get 2 trash bags – one for regular trash and one for recycling).
  • Extra Ziploc bags – I think someone needed one once.  
  • Snacks for the group – e.g. bananas, apples, nuts, jerky, cheese, chips, cookies, candy, pretzels, Twizzlers, granola bars, PB&J, bagels, etc. & gum – I was throughly impressed with the quantity and quality of snacks my team brought, especially considering we did NOT stop at a grocery store on the way!  We had macadamia nuts, chocolate covered mangos, beef jerky, wasabi peas, no-bake cookies, Pop Tarts (I didn’t even bring them!), Reeces Pieces, and other stuff I can’t even remember.  Definitely bring a bunch of fun snacks because half the time the snacking is the entertainment.
  • Drinks – Gatorade or electrolyte drink mix, several gallon jugs of water – We did not bring water and that’s the one big thing I wish we had brought.  The “potable” water provided by Ragnar tasted like water from a dirty inflatable pool and while nobody got sick from it, it was not conducive to wanting to hydrate.  We used some free bottled water from the Village until it ran out, then we just drank the gross water.
  • Portable external battery/solar charger for phones & charging cables – I used my external battery charger (Anker Astro, $18 at Amazon) (only had to use it once near the end) and it was great.  My teammate frequented the Goal Zero charging station in the Village multiple times to keep her phone above 80% just about the entire time.
  • Camera – One team member brought an SLR camera, which was nice.  The rest of us used our phones like millennials.  😉
  • Cards/Games – Another team member brought an awesome selection of games.  We played a couple games and I think it was worthwhile to bring, but next time I’d make more of an effort to play even more.
  • Bluetooth speaker/radio – We had two and we barely used them because Ragnar played music most of the day – I’m moving this to the “optional” section.
  • Decorations for campsite – We had some (paltry) decorations and while we weren’t the absolute least decorated campsite, we were in the bottom third I’d say – not for lack of effort on our part, but because other teams went over the top with some awesome decorations.  We were jealous.  Next time we will have more…
  • Village Schedule & Trail Maps – They post the Village schedule in the Village, and you can also pull it up on your phone, but it was nice to have it printed out.
  • Team pace sheet with ETAs – Definite must.  Definitely use this version and make an effort to try to accurately estimate your times so you’re not waiting around the village worrying that your runner is dead on the trail.  Overall we were slower than we expected because the trails were pretty tough.  Don’t forget a pen!

Optional – Can Skip if $ or Space is Tight

  • Yoga Mat – No one on our team did yoga that weekend.
  • Cooler with ice – Would be nice if filled with drinks.  Our small soft-sided cooler actually kept some ice frozen the entire weekend.  Get ice at the hotel if you don’t need a lot of it.
  • Paper Towels – 1 roll – We actually used our paper towels quite a bit – I’m moving this to the “bring” section.
  • Dry shampoo – One team member (a dude!) brought “Not Your Mother’s” Clean Freak Dry Shampoo, used it a lot, and swore by it.  One other teammate with long hair also used it and got complimented on her hair.  I didn’t try it but I’d give it a “thumbs up” from reputation.
  • Glow sticks – Meh.  I picked up several of these on the trail as trash the next morning, so I’m taking this off the list since they basically just turn into trail trash (and this is why we can’t have nice things).
  • Additional flashlight(s) or Lantern – One of my teammates brought a lantern and it was GREAT.  Really nice to have light at our campsite hang-out area.  I’m bumping this item up to the “bring” section.
  • Massage stick/Foam roller – Someone brought one and used it a bit, but I didn’t.  Optional.
  • Colgate Wisp one-time use toothbrushesI used mine and it was great, but can use regular toothbrush too, of course.
  • Toilet paper and/or Kleenex – We actually did need to use our roll of TP during the porta-potty-pocalypse, so I’d say this is a “bring.”
  • Duct and/or Scotch Tape – Didn’t bring, maybe kinda wanted tape at one point (to stick up our schedule and decorations) but we made do without.  Optional.
  • Shoe anti-odor and drying spray – Didn’t bring.
  • Camping stove (not allowed in many locations) – Didn’t bring although we saw a TON of grills (and smelled their burgers and stuff).  If you’re into this, I’d say bring, but I definitely would not have been willing to take on cooking and cleaning duties (and making sure food didn’t spoil, etc.).
  • Bike(s) – I saw one dude riding around on a bike, but for New England they’re not necessary because the campsite wasn’t all that big and the Village was up a hill you probably wouldn’t want to bike up anyway.

 

One random item not on the original list that I’m including as optional on the updated list – reflective markers or tent stake lights.  Our tent stakes/lines got kicked several times by people walking past our campsite during the night, disturbing several people (especially those sleeping near the tent walls), so it would have been good to have the lines marked with reflective cord or stickers or electric tea lights or something.

 

Again, my updated, unannotated, one-page packing list for Ragnar Trail in PDF format is here.  My packing list for Ragnar road races is here.  I hope to do Ragnar Cape Cod next year, so I expect to update my road packing list again after that.  I’m like Sisyphus with these packing lists and I can’t stop!

 

What do you consider essential gear for a relay race or a camping trip?  When’s your next Ragnar?  How do you feel about camping?  Share in the comments!

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