The Small Gear That Makes a Big Difference on Adventures + Long Races

by | Jul 7, 2022 | Gear

Between flying to Western States 100 to pace a friend and then heading to Quebec on a five-day camping trip in our new van that included my own 80 kilometer race, we realized a few things were definitely missing from our packing lists. In hindsight, they’re each a bit obvious, but when you’re packing for a flight or banking on a lot of easy, convenient stops, sometimes you just don’t fully think things through.

Blanket or big towel

When you’re crewing a race (more on that right here), you have a weird amount of hurry up and wait time. That means a lot of hustle just to sit around on the ground for a while. Camp chairs are great, but even better is having a big blanket or towel whether you’re crewing, racing or camping, for a few major reasons:

  1. Easier to carry if the aid station is further from the car
  2. Can be used to spread out athlete’s stuff as they come through
  3. Make for comfier snoozing—at WS100, we had time in the evening to sleep for a couple hours at one station, but we had chairs instead of a blanket. The ground was far too dusty to comfortably lay out on without getting sand EVERYWHERE, so we ended up not getting any sleep. Not ideal.
  4. Added cover if the temps drop at night while camping
  5. Keeps your actual bedding covered and protected during the day (key if you have a dog or use the bed area in your tent/van to lay out bags)
  6. Easy to use as a changing towel if you need to do a public costume change
  7. Picnic blanket potential

I’ve ordered this cheap one for our van, since protecting our bed with some heavy fabric + adding a picnic blanket was on my list:

Reusable grocery bags/satchels

I’ve realized that always having a reusable tote/satchel with you on trips—one that has NOTHING in it and it just ready to be used—is so freaking helpful. It’s super frustrating to have to continually empty out bags and repack just so you can quickly pop into the grocery store and get a few things, or, in my case, head to a media thing or packet pickup and just carry a phone/camera/recorder. So, I’ve made it a priority to stuff a couple empty bags in our van and in my duffel bag. I won’t link to any you should buy, because you definitely have these lying around the house already, whether they’re extras you bought that time you forgot to bring your regular bags to the grocery store or little satchels you got at a race. Just use what you have, this shouldn’t be fancy!

Massive water jug

We ran out of water and had to bug aid stations at WS100 to fill our small Nalgenes, and that should have been enough of a reminder to me that long trips require A LOT of water, and you should never assume it will be easy to access. Lesson NOT learned, apparently. As we headed to our AirBNB for the QMT race last Thursday, we hit a snag: The lockbox code I was given didn’t work. The AirBNB owner wasn’t answering his phone, it was getting late, we were hungry, thirsty and exhausted. We had a van with a decent sized bed, but there was one problem: We had zero water left, after driving all day and going through our water bottles. I started to get a bit panicky here. LUCKILY, we found a parquette close by with a water fountain, portapotties and (miraculously) free camping. But if we hadn’t, we would have had to drive 45 minutes to the nearest actual town in order to get water, just to sleep in our van.

I already knew we were going to kit out our van with some kind of big water dispenser, but it’s become a top priority after this weekend. I’m eyeing up this 6-gallon one that’s on super sale, but might go with something more squared off depending on how we decide to start our build out—we’re still in the planning phase!


Notebook, pen and marker

First, because you may want to take notes about something. But primarily, this is important for if you’re traveling with someone and are leaving the van/tent and want to leave a note, or if you’re leaving your van somewhere and want to ensure that it doesn’t get towed/let someone know where you are. We had this happen in February when my friend and I were running a park loop. It was a 20 miler, so we’d be gone a long time, and with the recent dump of snow, we had to park on the side of a service road since the van wouldn’t make it down the hill into the icy driveway. I left a note with where we were going, our ETA back, and the request to not tow the car. (There were no no parking signs, but it felt sketchy.) We figured this way, people would know where we were last seen in case of emergency if our cells weren’t working, and would likely keep the van in place. However–we didn’t actually have a notebook, I had to use a chunk of the folder that held my insurance/registration info! So, now we always have a notebook stashed in the glovebox for easy access.


Before you go, check out our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete, right here:


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