How To Choose Your Gear For Adventure Racing

Race gear is very specific to each individual, however there are some hard and fast rules you should use to guide your decisions when purchasing gear for racing.

Always get the best quality gear you can afford. This will pay off in the long run as it lasts longer and it will also generally be lighter so will keep the total weight you have to carry throughout the race down.

Research what other top adventure racers are using and what it is they like and dislike about that particular piece of gear or equipment. There are so many options out there and so much gear needed that it will take you forever if you were to scour the market for each individual piece. Talk to other people about what has worked best for them or not so. A great place to do this is on the Spirited Women Regional Facebook Groups or somewhere like the Women’s Adventure Racing group.

Look at the race website to determine what gear you do and don’t need. There is a lot of gear involved in adventure racing so get the basics first and build up from there.

It’s worth spending a bit more time and money on the following items…

Backpack- needs to be comfortable when loaded up on both the foot and bike stages. Check it doesn’t dig into you anywhere (very different in the shop compared to when loaded with gear). Make sure it is big enough to fit all the gear you need, plus water and food, however you don’t want it loose and sloppy. 

Trail running shoes- need to have great grip, be lightweight but sturdy, no rubbing and easy to get in and out of quickly (elastic laces help with this). Need to handle mud, steep terrain, rocks and rivers (drain easily).

Mountain bike- ensure it is appropriate for riding hills and farmland in particular. Many teams have found their race much harder than it needed to be due to the heavy bikes they were riding/pushing! A x-country style bike is best rather than a heavy downhill or enduro bike. You do not need dual suspension or a carbon frame, but the lightest bike you can get your hands on will make your race a lot easier. 

Two of the most important factors when it comes to your bike is that it is in good condition (tyres, derailleur, brake pads, chain etc) and that you can ride it confidently!

Waterproof jacket- this one is worth doing your research on. You don’t have to spend $400+ to get a great seam-sealed, lightweight, breathable, jacket with stretch (which by the way is what you want). There are some great brands available in the $100-$200 range. Again ask other adventure racers about their jackets as well as the AR Facebook community.

Headtorch- the brighter the better. This can make all the difference for spotting features, riding confidently in the dark or bushbashing. You may or may not be racing in the dark but if you are, a good head torch will mean you can move a lot faster and more confidently.

Another important factor to think of when purchasing new gear for your race is to look at those companies/brands that are sponsoring the race. These businesses are helping make the race happen and are usually chosen because they are a good fit, so it is great if we as an adventure racing community can in turn support them and their products. This is often a good place to start, if you go to the sponsors page of your upcoming race and see if they have any of the gear you need.

Happy adventuring!

Kym is a mum of 3 energetic boys, trains and races in multisport and adventure racing (currently as part of Tiger Adventure NZ). She is the co-creator and retreat leader at NZ Adventure Retreats and is part of the team that has won the Spirited Women Adventure Race long course for the past 4 years.

Kym along with Rach Smith (NZ elite orienteer) from Navigation North and Nic Leary (NZ elite mountain biker and physio) will be running a specific Women’s Adventure Race Skills weekend in Kapiti November 28th/29th and Auckland Feb 12th/13th to help with up-skilling in different aspects of the race and helping you become a more confident and competent adventure racer.

Contact: kym@nzadventureretreats.com or 0272500435 for more information.