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Stage Race Packing: Essentials, Extras and Extraneous

by | Jun 8, 2023 | Gear, Lifestyle

With Quebec Singletrack Experience coming up for us in just a short month, I’m revisiting this older post we did back in 2014 when packing for the Trans-Sylvania Epic race. We were in a similar situation: Peter was racing, I was training and working. Now, of course, we have DW the Dachshund along for the ride, but otherwise, the situation is similar. If you’re heading to any kind of stage race/camping trip, check out my list of what I realized—as a racer/participant/spectator—I really needed to make it through the week happily.

Note: this is by NO means a comprehensive packing list, it’s more the “hmm” items that you might not think of. You can get a race day packing list from us right here!

The situation at Trans-Sylvania Epic, about 30 minutes from State College, Pennsylvania, was a bit unique: The race is centered around a Boy Scout camp, and we had a “rural cabin” setup. What we ended up doing was leaving our stuff in the cabin to keep it dry/secure and take advantage of the table so we could sit to work and charge phones, but we slept out in a tent. Breakfast and dinner were served in a mess hall, but no lunch. There were communal showers, and rural outhouses scattered around the campground, but real flush toilets in the mess hall and shower area.

At Quebec Singletrack, the setup is fairly similar: There’s a dining hall, a large area outside for tents/vans/RVs (we’ll be in our van) and there are washrooms and showers on site.

Essentials:

  1. Snacks: Even if meals are provided at stage races, there’s no limit to how hungry you may get. Basically assume that you’ll need at least one extra meal and snack per day in addition to your on-bike food. We always have plenty of easy-to-eat stuff, then our cooking setup that lets us make basic dishes.
  2. Flipflops and drainable shower container: You’re walking where a bunch of other sweaty athletes, some with athlete’s foot, others with other gross “stuff” are walking. You want flip flops when you shower. Trust me. And a drainable shower container for your shampoo, loofah, whatever, is a good way to keep bacteria at bay—stuff gets soggy in a shower bag, so you want somewhere it can dry out every day.
  3. Latex gloves. We don’t use these when we’re home and a sink is easy to access, but for post race bike cleaning and repairs when you don’t have easy water access, having gloves that prevent your hands from getting cakes in grease is a huge help.
  4. Pre-wet Wipes: for your bike and your body! I love degreasing wipes for getting grease off my bike, but I also make sure I have some baby wipes for quick post-stage cleanups when I can’t get to the shower right away. (Note: I don’t use these unless we’re living out of the van, since I prefer skipping the harsh chemicals/single use stuff when there’s a simple alternative.)
  5. Sunscreen: Obvious, but don’t forget it, especially if you’re in a fairly remote location. At TSEpic, we’re out in the woods and it would be a bit of a drive to get anywhere, so we tried to not leave camp unless necessary.
  6. Surge protector: Between a thunderstorm that knocked out power and sparked outlets to just having one outlet for 10 people, it was awesome having a surge protector so we could power everything at once. If you’re really roughing it, stay tuned, since I’m also looking into some of those portable solar generators for more rustic trips.
  7. Books/ereader! Stage races can mean a lot of free time, and if you’re used to surfing the web or watching TV, you may find yourself at a disadvantage at night. I love having my iPad since it lit up so as it got dark I could still read, and I use my public library’s digital lending obsessively. I also will pre-download a few movies from Netflix or Apple TV (it’s how we got hooked on Ted Lasso recently!) because sometimes, you just need to veg in a tent and watch a show. Definitely ask your local library about digital lending if you’re like me and travel a ton! It makes packing light easier, and saves a lot of money on overdue charges…
  8. Sheet: even if it’s cold enough to be in your sleeping bag, having a sheet in there will make it feel a lot more like home. And if it’s ultra-hot, it’s nice to have something, even if you’re just sticking it on top of your nylon sleeping bag to avoid sticking to it. (This one actually goes into a sleeping bag!)
  9. Comfy clothing for warm / cool conditions. Having truly comfortable clothing for cold or warm conditions makes a big difference. And it sounds weird, but expect to end up feeling puffy by the end of these races, since your body is getting more inflamed by the day. Opt for those larger size sweats! This also includes some kind of slipper situation, like my favorite North Face Booties or Glerup clogs. So nice to get out of tight shoes after a day on the bike!
  10. Toilet paper: Do I really need to say more?

Extras:

  1. Turkish towel: I love having one of these for chilly nights, but also to double as a skirt or wraparound top if I really need it. It’s cozier than a sweatshirt but doesn’t add a ton of bulk to your race bag. And you have a spare towel!
  2. Rain boots: Even if there’s no rain in the forecast, it might happen. Regardless though, if you’re in a grassy area, it’s usually pretty dew-y out in the morning, and if you don’t have rain boots, your sandals/feet/sneakers/riding shoes are going to be soaked before you even make it to breakfast.
  3. Detergent: Even if you don’t think you’ll be doing your own laundry, you never know what may happen, and being able to wash your clothes on the fly is always a good thing. Even getting a couple of travel-size packs before you leave and stashing them in your first aid or shower kit is a good move, if you’re trying to keep gear light.
  4. Rice cooker/electric kettle/camp stove: Just something to warm up food/water. On chilly nights, it’s pretty awesome to settle into the tent with a cup of tea. Don’t forget the mug/bowl though! Again, while most stage races have a food setup, the more solo you can be, the better. Still eat the race food, but it’s nice to not be pacing angrily waiting for dinner or coffee in the morning!
  5. Snacks (other than ride food): There are only so many bars you can eat. A break from them post-race is sort of amazing, and I was so happy to tortilla chips and avocados before dinner some days. Real food makes a big difference in how your stomach feels.
  6. Can opener and eating utensils: Sure, there’s food there. But you never know when you’ll need that bonus can of beans that you brought with you, or need a midnight snack. Having your own eating utensils is a huge advantage when you’re starving post-stage and just want to eat that damn can of soup.
  7. Fold-out chair/hammock: You race hard, you have a whole afternoon ahead of you before the dinner bell. Odds are you want to relax, and it’s a lot easier to do in a camp chair or portable hammock. I recommend the hammock for three reasons. A) It’s awesome. Obviously. B) Nylon hammocks are pretty inexpensive. C) In a pinch, it can double as an emergency blanket. I kept mine in my truck (you know, for hammock emergencies), and last year while truck camping for the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup, temperatures dropped like crazy overnight and I’m fairly certain I would have been hypothermic by morning if I hadn’t been wrapped up in that.
  8. While it’s awesome to pack light, I also realized that it’s never a bad idea to have extra: gloves, socks, helmet, tires, glasses, toothbrush (you can be someone’s hero, or it’s there if you lose yours!), underwear, cycling shorts/jerseys… Basically, if you know you’re using it every day, don’t skimp on how much you bring.

 

Don’t bring:

  1. That book you’ve been meaning to read for the past 5 years: You’re going to be exhausted. If you haven’t been psyched enough to read it yet, this will not be the week.
  2. That new recovery drink formula you haven’t tried yet. You don’t want to be running for the outhouse at 2 a.m.
  3. Any clothing that you think you might one day wear. This is probably not that day. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

 

 

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