10 Things That Should Be On Stage Race Equipment Lists (But Aren’t)

The race organiser’s equipment list is often treated as a shopping list when you’re preparing for a distance running event.  Whistle?  Check.  Headlamp?  Check.  Spare socks?  But what about things that aren’t on the provided equipment list?

The Mandatory Equipment List consists of items that are required to finish the race, or required for emergency purposes – so things like sleeping bags, food, toiletries.  But there are a few items that can help make your week so much more comfortable and successful that aren’t on these lists.

Here, we’re going to give you the 10 things that aren’t usually considered mandatory, but have such an impact on your race performance and overall experience, that we never start a stage race without them.  In other words, a list of ‘things you should seriously consider taking with you’.  Without further ado…

 1. Sleeping pad 

Unless you’re used to sleeping on rough surfaces with zero cushioning, you’re going to want a sleeping pad – else the chances of you getting proper rest after your day of running are reduced significantly.

Foam Sleeping Pad
A foam sleeping pad, trimmed down to save weight. Folded (L) and unfolded (R)

Some of the elites may forego a sleeping pad in self-supported races in order to save weight, but at only 350g for a Therm-A-Rest NeoLite, what’s your excuse?

Inflatable Sleeping Pad
The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir in it’s pack (L), and inflated (R)

2. Zip Locks

These super-light, waterproof pockets let you segregate and manage every piece of your equipment.  You can sort your food into daily parcels, keep your essential toiletries together, make bags of snacks for the day.  They can keep your electronics dry and sealed.  There’s no reason for not having practically every piece of gear you are taking inside a Zip Lock – you’ll thank us in the mornings when you’re rushing to throw your pack together and get to the start line!

3. Painkillers

These do appear on some race equipment lists, but it doesn’t usually specify how much to take.   It’s down to personal preference, but taking provision for two painkillers (i.e. paracetomol) per day is not a bad minimum amount.  It’s not advertised often, but many ultra-runners will pop a painkiller pre- or mid-race – it can help stave off aches and pains, especially those coming from the feet.  They can be useful post-race in order to help you nod off to sleep, especially after a long and gruelling day on the trails.

You should opt for the weaker paracetamols as opposed to ibuprofens – especially during long, hot stage races when dehydration is a risk.

4. Earplugs

Wild animals, noisy tent-mates, hungry runners, snoring friends – managing to fall asleep in a tent in the middle of nowhere after a day’s running can be hard enough before you take the background noise into account.   Do yourself a huge favour and keep some of those cheap throwaway earplugs at the bottom of your pack – the kind you get on aeroplanes are perfect.


5. Recovery Protein

Protein is the building material that helps put our damaged muscles back together after working them out – so getting your helping of protein after a day’s running is essential, especially during a stage race when you have to get up and perform again the following day.  Getting sufficient protein from your evening meal may prove hard.  Many brands these days sell Whey Protein in single-serving sachets – we recommend bringing along one of these for every day of running.  When you cross the finish line for the day, mix it with a bottle of water, and sit and slurp on it with your feet up as you watch the runners coming in.

Protein Sachet
Protein – MaxiProtein is an example brand, theres plenty out there.

6. Kinseo Tape

This multi-coloured, multi-patterned sticky elasticated tape has started to pop up on athlete’s bodies everywhere, for all kinds of injuries and ailments.  For runners, the tape can be particularly effective at suspending pain for knee complaints and injuries – during a stage race, many runner’s will have old injuries flare up, or develop ITB issues over the week.  A couple of well placed strips of Kinseo Tape can alleviate the discomfort, help all the ligaments and muscles of the knee track correctly and allow the runner to continue without making the injury worse.

Kinseo tape
RockTape, a popular and recommended brand of Kinseo tape

7. Imodium

Foreign travel, lack of proper washing facilities, fatigued immune system – given the conditions, it’s inevitable that a few runners will suffer some form of stomach complaint over the course of a stage race.  Imodiums are designed to arrest unwanted bowel movements, to put it politely, so keeping a couple of tablets at the bottom of your pack is never a bad idea incase you contract that local strain of Delhi Belly.

8. Tablet Towels

Everybody knows about wet wipes and their god-like ability to be able to clean and sanitise anything, in any situation.  Just as handy during stage races are Tablet Towels – tiny, squished up single-use towels that weigh almost nothing – then expand when hydrated.  They are so lightweight and useful it never hurts to throw a bunch in with your other personal care items that ‘wash room’ zip lock.

Tablet towel
Tablet towel, pre-hydration (L) and post-hydration (R)

9. Tea bags / coffee

Taking any kind of luxury on a Stage Race, especially a self-supported one, is always a trade off between weight v.s necessity.  However tea bags and instant coffee sachets are so super-light that there’s no excuse to leave them at home.  It can be extremely comforting to get a hot drink in the mornings, or at the campsite after a day on the trails.  And if one of your tent mates has had a tough day, handing them a cup of tea unannounced will make them your friend for life.

Tea Coffee

10. Lubricant

Bodyglide or a similar product should be on every Mandatory equipment list.   Apply anywhere that rubbing can occur, every morning, and don’t forget the feet – lubricant can dispel water and prevent chafing that leads to blisters.  Vaseline does work, but is a bit gloopy and if used on the feet can attract grit and sand.

bodyglide lubricant
Bodyglide, a popular and recommended brand for runners

What have we missed?  What ‘non-essential’ pieces of equipment do you never leave home without?  Let us know!

Photo of author
Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

5 thoughts on “10 Things That Should Be On Stage Race Equipment Lists (But Aren’t)”

  1. Teabags are definitely a must, I’d leave the coffee at home unless you feel the need for the caffeine performance boost…and take a few sugar sachets instead can make a nice change to have sweet or savoury tea.


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