Adventure racing combines multiple endurance activities such as paddling, biking, climbing, hiking, and rope-work. Distances range from a 6-hour sprint to a multi-day expedition challenge, bound only by mandatory checkpoints and transition areas.

Competitors face multiple hurdles as they trek through unfamiliar terrain. The appeal for most adventure racers is the excitement of the unknown. Will your body hold up? Will you get lost? Will you run out of supplies? Did you bring the right gear? These questions are all unanswered until you embark on the race.

An ideal adventure race for those looking to get their feet wet is the 12-hour dusk ’til dawn adventure race in Central California. The 2012 race was long and challenging but Santa Margarita Lake and San Luis Obispo provided the perfect playing field for all levels of racers. The race consisted of kayaking, trekking through the hillsides, running through vineyards, swimming over obstacles, mountain biking uphill and a finish-line party in downtown.

Although this was my first adventure race, along the way I learned valuable lessons mostly through rookie mistakes. To help other first-timers, I developed a list of 7 overlooked necessities that you’ll need complete any adventure race.

Hone Your Navigational Skills- It’s highly recommended that you take a navigation class beforehand. Learning how to plot coordinates on a map is essential for getting through unfamiliar territory. So make sure your navigational skills are on point before embarking.
Critical Item-Adventure Racing Compass: It’s virtually impossible to plot your path without this helpful tool.

Waterproof Map Case: This easily overlooked item will save you time and hassle, not to mention keep your most important item safe. Quick access to your map at all times is critical when working your way through the race. More often than not you’ll need to double-check your location, so with your map around your neck, you’ll save valuable time.
photo, samantha brandtCritical Item-Seal Line Waterproof Map Case: D-rings for easy attachment to kayak, canoe, handlebars or backpack

Proper Apparel and Footwear- One of the most difficult challenges you’ll face is going from wet to dry. It’s a difficult one to handle, so making sure your clothing is lightweight and waterproof. Don’t spare any expenses with your shoes. You’ll need something waterproof with traction and comfort.
Critical Item-Asics Gel FujiRacer: A lightweight, breathable cushioning and water drainage system.
(photo-Samantha Brandt)

Hydro Pack-
12 consecutive hours of exercise require a lot of water and unlike a triathlon or marathon you’ll need to carry it with you. Staying hydrated in the hot Central California weather is an enormous challenge you’ll need to conquer. Don’t waste your time with water belts or fanny-packs.
Critical Item- High Sierra Quick Shot 70: This 2-liter bladder provides enough water while still remaining light enough to run with.

Portable First Aid Kit- Not only is it a mandatory item, it’s a useful one– especially with the combination of difficult terrain. Beat blisters that commonly occur when you’re running with damp socks from the lake. This is an item your feet will thank you for later.
Critical Item- New-Skin Liquid Bandage-1 fl oz: For fast and easy application.

Gaiters- Provides ultimate protection from the natural terrain you’re trekking through, such as high grass, gnarly oat heads, bar- wire fences, cow-dung, and poison oak.
Critical Item- Mountain Hardwear Nut Shell High Gaiters for Men: These easily attach to the top of your shoes, so you can swap them on and off when you need them.

MTB Gear Tool Kit- Don’t end your race because of mechanical issues with your bike, especially on difficult sections of terrain. Many racers are often forced to retire early due to broken spokes and flat tires. Get a gear bag complete with a 7-function folding tool, dual spoke wrench, universal chain tool, two tire levers, and a patch kit.
Item-Compact Seat Saddle Bag: Attaches to the seat of your bike for easy transport.

Next week, check out part 2 on adventure racing, which lists the top 10 events worldwide.

Photos courtesy of Kaori Funahashi. (