CalARA gear

Introduction to Adventure Racing Gear

There is no denying that adventure racers tend to love gear! But that doesn’t mean you need to drop a mint to get started in the sport.  Sprint-length adventure races require little more than a mountain bike and a good pair of running shoes.

The following links provide typical gear lists for various length races, along with some gear recommendations.

  • 24 HOUR GEAR

You should mark all of your gear with your name (and once you have an established team, the team’s name); gear often gets mixed together and being able to sort it out quickly after the race is key. A metallic pen and a Sharpie will mark pretty much anything you’ll be using in adventure racing. (But you should use climbing-specific marking tabs to mark any load bearing climbing gear because ink can weaken fabric climbing gear).

Signal Lights and Flares

Most adventure races include some sort of paddling discipline, and other water events such as tubing, river boarding and even swimming have been included in recent high-profile races.


While you should be prepared to flatwater kayak or canoe in most races, the course designer will likely inform you in advance what the paddling discipline will be. Virtually all course designers will notify you if whitewater travel will be involved, as special skill are required to safely compete in these events.


Paddling can quickly become an expensive undertaking and there are few areas in adventure racing where a little training will go further. The links to the left provide basic resources to develop your paddling skills and give a few adventure racing specific tips as well.


Real Headlights

If you need a real headlight for a 24 hour or longer race, you’ll want to do some shopping to find the best light for your specific race. There are many good lightweight options out there. Often a combination light that has a Xenon and LED combination is the best choice. The Xenon can be used when bright light is needed, and LED’s will give enough light for many parts of a race, and result in almost no battery drain. Full headlight reviews can be found here.

Flashlights and Headlamps for Adventure Racing

Some shorter races include a headlight/flashlight requirement. If you don’t think you will be actually using the light, go for small and light.

Option 1: Micro flashlight. This might be a bit cute, but if a race director only specifies a flashlight, this should satisfy the requirement.

Option 2: A real (small) headlight like the Black Diamond Ion. At 1.1 ounces, including its battery, you can get around 90 minutes of decent light.

Ultra-bright Lighting for Adventure Racers

Ultra-bright lights feature a separate bulb and a fairly large battery.

Bulb. High-end bulbs are typically HID (high intensity discharge). Halogen lights are used for mid-range ultrabrights. HID’s are more efficient so they produce more light with a given amount of power than a Halogen can produce. Some lights also include LEDs to provide low level light with extended burn times.


Lithium-ion batteries are the gold standard. NiMH are often often used. Older lighting systems used NiCad batteries, which needed to be fully discharged before being recharged to avoid battery “memory”.


Expedition Gear Recommendations

Bellow you’ll find an example of the gear list recommended for the Primal Quest 2006 – a 7 day expedition race. This list is typical to any expedition race.


Mandatory Full Time Team Gear (to be carried by the team)


1 Compass per team

1 Back Up Team Headlamp

2 distress flares and 2 smoke bombs

1 Trowel

5 yd (4.5 m) duct tape


Mandatory full time first aid kit

No detailed here… usually includes antiseptic solution, medical tape, gauze pads, tweezers, medical scissor, self  etc…


Mandatory Personal Full Time Team Gear (per person):

1 space blanket or space bag

1 whistle

1 strobe light – White (1” X 4” real strobe no bike lights)


Ropes / Climbing Equipment

1 modern day (commercially made) climbing harness (no swami or sling harnesses; UIAA approved)

1 climbing/mountaineering helmet (no cycle helmets; UIAA approved)

4 auto-locking Carabiners (UIAA approved) – 2 of the 4 must be “HMS” style

1 rappelling device

2 – 6 or 7 mm Prusik loop(s) tied with Double Overhand Bend

2 lanyards 24-48” {60-120 cm} tip-to-tip laid flat in length (factory sewn daisy chain or factory sewn runners)

2 lanyards 24-36” {60-90 cm} Tip-to-tip laid flat in length (Factory sewn daisy chain or factory sewn runners)

2 mechanical handled ascenders (No Tiblocs, Wild Country Ropeman, or Petzl Croll); a Petzl Croll will be allowed in your ascending system so long as you have the minimum required 2 mechanical handled ascenders in addition to the Croll (or Croll-style) device

2 etrier(s) or foot stirrups to be attached to your ascenders


Part Time Team Equipment Mountaineering

1 50 metre (165 ft) 8.5-11 mm rope per team

1 pair of crampons and appropriate footwear

1 Alpine ice axe

1 shell gear clothing {wind/water resistant} for upper and lower body

1 lightweight sleeping bag per team


Any Water Section


Per Person during this section:

1 Paddle Float

1 PFD with Reflective Tape on shoulders- Type III 15½ lb (7 kg). Buoyancy Minimum.

1 Paddle

1 Dry Suit, Full Wetsuit (3 mm min) or combination

1 river knife with scabbard shield- minimum 2½ in (60 mm) blade

1 Whistle- Must work when wet

1 7 mm Prussic Loop 18” Tied tip to tip

2 Locking carabineers

1 Waterproof Strobe with minimum 2-mile visibility. Must be USCG approved


Per Boat:

6 Chemical Lights with means of attachment

1 Air Horn minimum 1.4 oz

1 Bilge Pump (must be actual pump, no sponges or bail cups)


Per Team:

2 Dry bags

2 65’ Throw bag per watercraft floating line,

1 Waterproof Chart Case


Mountain Biking


Per Person:

1 Bike Helmet

1 White Bike light Front Facing, Helmet or bike mounted

1 Mountain Bike

1 Rear Flashing Red light while biking


24+ Hour Gear Recommendations

Adventure races lasting 24 hours+ typically require significant gear and often support crews. Lighting for night travel and food beyond basic gels and bars are required. Below is a typical gear list.


Individual Gear:

  • Headlamp (aka Headtorch)
  • Hydration System/water bottles (Minimum of 100 oz capacity)
  • Whistle
  • Survival mirror
  • Survival space blanket
  • Three Chem Lights (3 yellow, 12 hour variety, 6 inches or longer)
  • Protective eyewear


Team Gear:

  • Compass
  • Waterproof map carrying case
  • First Aid Kit


Mandatory Kayaking Gear:

  • Personnel Flotation Device. PFD’s must be Type III
  • Helmet with chin strap (Bike helmet is OK).
  • Throw bag (1 per team, minimum 50 feet of rope)
  • Paddle shoes
  • Dry bag
  • Bilge pump or bailer (1 per team)
  • Aerial Flare distress signal (three)
  • Emergency Strobe


Mandatory Mountain Biking Gear:

  • Two extra tubes or a minimum of two patches (appropriate size)
  • Pump- manual or CO2
  • Repair kit (multi tool with phillips and flat head screw drivers, allen wrench set, two tire levers, at a minimum).
  • Chain-break tool.
  • Bikes Gloves
  • Bike helmet with chin strap
  • Front bike light mounted on the front of the bicycle or on the helmet, and projecting a white light.
  • Rear bike light (red and flashing.)


Ropes Gear

On 24 hours races (or shorter events) the ropes are usually provided by the event organizer

  • Helmet (Bike Helmet OK)
  • Climbing Harness
  • Rappel device
  • Gloves (biking gloves ok)


General Gear – Recommended Gear


Depending on the race configuration you will sometimes come back several times to the start area and you will be able to change equipments and clothes, and fix what ever needs to be fixed (your bike mostly!).


AR Survival Kit

  • Tarp (useful to cover the gear you leave behind you at the start area)
  • Several changes of clothing; extra dry shoes and clothing (damp clothing and shoes increase the risks of painful chaffings)
  • Pre-loaded water bladders (you’ll gain from 3 to 5 minutes on your transition time)
  • Extra food, e-caps, etc. (
  • Suntan lotion; Lip Balm
  • Extra medical supplies
  • Glasses with interchangeable lenses (especially transparent or yellow for the night)
  • Extra pens and paper; highlighters (for orienteering sections)
  • Towels


Bike Gear

  • Floor pump (for the transition area – in case you need to quickly change a tube with a slow leak or change a tire)
  • Extra bike tubes (always have one spare with you)
  • Extra pre-loaded water bottles (loading a water bottle is 1 minute lost)



  • Float bag and pump
  • Kayak compass
  • Paddling specific hat
  • Pogies in cold weather



  • Map holder for your bike if you are the navigator
  • Altimeter (it can be your watch or your bike computer)
  • Map Case (waterproof)
  • UTM grid
  • Highlighters

6-24 hour Gear Recommendations


Adventure races lasting six to eighteen hours (“Endurance-Length”) include basic navigation and often require participants to supply their own paddling gear. A sample gear list is included below. Also included is gear we typically would also use in an endurance-length adventure race.




  • Backpack
  • Water
  • Knife, fixed or locking blade
  • Survival mirror
  • Whistle
  • Fleece light weight long sleeve top (note: try to confirm with race director if “fleece” means fleece, or will other synthetic fabrics pass the test. Fleece is great but bulky).
  • Waterproof top outer layer, jacket or shell
  • Hat, with visor
  • Protective eyewear
  • Flashlight/Headlamp




  • Mountain Bike
  • Helmet that meets the ANSI or Snell safety standards
  • Bikes gloves
  • Bike tools




  • F.D. US Coast Guard approved Life Jacket




  • Compass
  • Team First Aid Kit


Recommended Gear




  • AR Survival Kit
  • Tarp
  • Several changes of clothing; extra dry shoes and clothing
  • Pre-loaded water bladders
  • Extra food, e-caps, etc.
  • Suntan lotion
  • Extra medical supplies
  • Glasses with interchangeable lenses
  • Extra pens and paper
  • Towels


  • Floor pump
  • Extra bike tubes
  • Extra pre-loaded water bottles


  • Float bag and pump
  • Kayak compass
  • Paddling specific hat
  • Pogies in cold weather


  • Altimeter
  • Map Case (waterproof)
  • UTM grid
  • Highlighters

Sprint Race Gear Recommendations

Sprint Adventure Races are two to four hour events, featuring running, mountain biking and a paddling event.  Spint races typically only require basic gear for participation: a basic mountain bike, running shoes and a Camelback type backpack will get you to the finish line. (Paddle gear is often, but not always, provided by the race organizations)

Important – Each race organizer will post a “Mandatory Gear” list for their race.  In addition to our recommendations below, you must have all your mandatory gear.

    1.  Tarp to put all your stuff on
    2. Dry clothing/extra clothing (extra pairs of dry socks and shoes can be key)
    3. Bike floor pump
    4. Extra water bottles or water bladders, loaded up with your bev of choice
    5. Extra food
    6. AR survival kit (Coming Soon)