Making sure that you have the right personal equipment and compulsory is absolutely essential. Working from your toes to your head, if you’re kitted out correctly, you’ll definitely be better prepared. It does take a bit of trial and error – and money – to test fabrics and brands work best for you. Always remember that it is better to spend an extra R50 on something of better quality and a little more expensive that is more comfortable. You’ll end up having to buy another in a few months when you decide that the item you have is unsuitable.
In summer you can get away with having less stuff, obviously needing warmer gear for winter. The following list is a basic equipment guide.
Absolute Essentials – Clothing
- Trail Shoes – Expect to pay R700 – R1200 for a good pair of shoes. Don’t go just on word of mouth. Try out different brands and styles selecting the one that feels the most comfortable.
- Socks – You can never have enough. I’m probably one of the few who is blissfully happy to get socks for xmas. The key features to look for are: seamless toes, moisture wicking and labeled left and right socks.
- Shorts – Lycra or a quick drying, non-chaffe fabric.
- Cycle Shorts – You’ll be spending many hours in the saddle, so get a pair of padded cycling shorts.
- Long leggings – Lycra works well. No chaffing and comfortable. Suitable when the temperature drops.
- Tops – Go for light, moisture-wicking quick-drying fabrics.
- Long Sleeve Thermal top – Not only used in winter, a long sleeve thermal top will keep you warm even when you’re wet. Look for thermal, insulating and moisture wicking. Get 2 so you can wear one and keep the other in a ziploc bag in your pack at all times.
- Outer Shell – An outer shell should be very light-weight, waterproof/resistant, breathable and very importantly, wind-proof.
- Head Wear – Caps are very important. If you’ve got sensitive skin, remember to get a cap with neck protection.
- Shades – They protect your eyes from the sun’s glare off water, sand etc. and from flying insects and dirt.
Absolute Essentials – Personal Gear
- Back pack – You’ll need a total volume of 20l – 30l. Great features to look out for are: Chest straps, waist straps, bungi cord straps on the front, mesh side pockets, a separate compartment for your hydration bladder, a pouch or two on the front for putting in things you may need to access regularly, padded shoulder straps, tags on the zips (easy to open your pack with frozen fingers) and a waterproof cover.
- Hydration System – You need at least a 2l bladder. Also carry one or two 750ml water bottles.
- Headlamp – Try them on in the shop, bounce around and make sure that it is comfortable. LED headlamps are brilliant. They’re light in weight and on batteries. Try to co-ordinate with your team-mates so that you all use the same kind of batteries. If you go for halogen bulb, you get good light but much less battery life. It’s a trade-off.
- Mountain Bike – Seek good counsel from more than one bicycle store before spending your pennies.
- Cycle Helmet – Must be ANSI approved. No helmet, no ride.
- Cycle Gloves – Also useful for abseiling.
- Bicycle lamp – Shop around. There are quite a few good brands and models on the market. You may also need to buy a blinking red backlight.
Absolute Essentials – Compulsory Personal Gear
- Whistle – Very important! Always keep your whistle on you – and not in your pack. It’s not much help if you fall down a hill, your pack gets ripped off your back and you haven’t got it with you.
- Safety Blanket – In an emergency this little blanket will keep you warm.
- Knife – You never know when a knife will come in handy. Don’t go for one too small. You may need to get a good grip on the knife with frozen fingers.
Absolute Essentials – Team
- Bivvy Bag/Sleeping bag – Bivvy bags are great for keeping you dry, but are not much help to keep you warm. They’re not always necessary if you have a sleeping bag. In SA the max rated sleeping bag you’ll need will be -10C rated. On the down vs. synthetic side… It’s up to you. I believe it takes alot of wetting to get feathery clumps these days. Race directors will issue their requirements in the race information. You usually need 2 sleeping bags per team in summer.
- Cycle Spares – You each need to carry at least one spare tube. Between the team you’ll need: lube, pump, puncture repair kit, chain breaker, allen key set, valve spanner and a spoke spanner.
- First-aid – You are required to have a team first aid kit.
- Certification – In longer events first aid and ropes certification may be required. Ensure you’re in-date.
- Lumo-stick or Glo-Toob for marking your position at night should you need to make yourself visible to rescue personnel.
- Long warm leggings – Look for leggings with a lycra-like outside and warm, insulating stuff on the inside. Lycra on the outside prevents icy wind sneaking through and blackjacks from attaching.
- Warm Top – When it’s really cold you’ll benefit from a P100 sweater. Polartec 100 is light, breathable and will keep you very warm, especially under an outershell.
- Head Gear – You lose most of your body heat from your head so insulate your pip with a beanie.
- Gloves – Will keep your hands warm when hiking and on the bike.
- Gaitors – Available in 1/2 leg or anklet lengths, keep sand, grass seeds and other trash out of your socks and shoes and protect your shins from the itchy-scratchy plants when you’re bundu-bashing.
- Disposable camera – Though we always forget to take photos, it is great to have to record some great places and memories.
May be Required
- Boats – These are often supplied but if they arn’t then the type of craft may be specified. Always remember not to go for a boat beyond your level of competence.
- PFD/Life Jacket – These are provided in most cases.
- Paddle – These are also provided in most cases. You may prefer to bring along your wing paddles. In some events you may be restricted from using them
Author: Lisa de Speville