Monday, March 12, 2012

ITI Gear List: Imagine Dragging All This Stuff 350 Miles!

First I want to mention that my full race report has been published over on iRunFar. It's long, so make sure you have 15 or 20 minutes before you try to tackle it. You can find it here.

Also, as mentioned in my previous post, I put some videos from the race over on YouTube. Find those here. 

Lastly, I've had a lot of people inquire about what exactly one takes with them to make it through the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Here's my complete list of gear with some notes about the handful of things that I would leave home next time, and the things which I found most necessary/effective. This was all carried on a "sled" which consisted of a Mountain Hardwear 60 liter (prototype) pack that was strapped to a pair of youth cross country skis with a light wooden frame on top of them to give the pack about 5" of clearance over the ground. The "sled" was pulled with a set of aluminum ski poles, attached to the pack on one end, and to a standard backpack harness on the other.

I started the race with about 10,000 calories of food and had 2 drop bags along the way in which I would       replenish this supply. You can also get meals along the way at most of the checkpoints. I estimate that I consumed about 7,000 calories per day during the race, consisting of the checkpoint meals and the following:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • cashews
  • bacon
  • salami
  • Ultragen drink mix - recover on the go.
  • Clif shot gels - mostly with caffeine, could have used more of these.
  • Clif shot bloks
  • Reese's peanut butter sticks - awesome trail junk food. don't change consistency at all in the cold.
  • Clif kid zfruit
  • Clif Crunch Granola bars
  • Fritos
  • Clif shot roks
  • Freeze Dried backpacker meals that I would "cook" at checkpoints and carry in a thermos. Also cooked one out on the trail. These were a bit of a luxury, but very nice to have. 

Head clothing/gear:
  • Mountain Hardwear Heavyweight Power Stretch Gloves. these little gloves are amazing. sometimes these are all I would wear, even in temps as low as 10 or 20 below!
  • Gordini Lavawool insulated gloves. Loose enough to fit over power stretch gloves.
  • Mountain Hardwear Nilas Down Mitts.  Large enough to fit over both above gloves. Only needed to put these on once, but they were awesome. With all three of these things on my hands at once I don't think my hands could ever get cold. 
  • Montrail Mountain Masochist Outdry shoes, size 11.5. One full size large to accommodate thick socks and foot swelling. 
  • RBH designs vapor barrier socks. Didn't use them at all. Probably wouldn't take them next time. Although it was nice having them in my kit as a safety net for my feet.
  • The North Face NSE Tent Bootie. Used these to keep feet warm while sleeping. They were awesome to have, but are quite bulky and I would likely leave them at home next time.
  • 4 pair of DryMax socks: 1 thin pair to wear under vapor barrier socks and 3 heavy pair. This was way too many socks. I only ended up using 2 of the 4 pair, and would probably only bring 2 with me in the future. These socks are amazing though. Wore one single pair for the last 5 days, without taking them off my feet and I didn't have a single blister!
  • Yaktrak XTR spikes. Great for traction on hard packed or icy trail. I probably used these for almost 100 of the 350 miles.
  • Atlas Race Snowshoes. I was a bit nervous whether these would be durable enough if I actually had to wear them a lot. Turns out I wore them for over 200 miles and they were awesome. no durability issues.
  • Mountain Hardwear NutShell High Gaiters. Wore these every step of the way. You could go with a shorter/lighter gaiter, but really liked the full coverage that these provided. Will probably use the same ones next time around.  
Upper Body Clothing:
Lower Body Clothing:
  • Mountain Hardwear Super Power Tights.  Awesome baselayer. Wore for about 275 miles.
  • Mountain Hardwear Tanglewood pants. Wore every single step of race. awesome pants.
  • Mountain Hardwear Epic pants. Never wore them. Probably wouldn't bring them next time. Same as Tunnabora jacket above.
  • Mountain Hardwear Compressor pant. These pants are awesome, but I did only wear them twice while I was stopped to sleep. To actually put them on while on the go it would likely have to drop to 60 below or colder. For comfortable sleep though they are worth every ounce. I would guess they add at least 15 or 20 degrees to my sleeping comfort level (in conjunction with the Nilas jacket). I would consider leaving them at home, but most likely would bring them next time. 
  • 2 pair Patagonia briefs. Would probably only bring one next time. Although I did somehow leave a pair at one of the checkpoints so I guess it was good that I brought 2. 
Snow Melting Gear:
  • Esbit pocket "stove". Worked perfect for the 2 or 3 times that I needed to melt some snow for water.
  • Aluminum windscreen for stove.
  • 12 Esbit fuel cubes. Had access to more in drop bags if needed. Also great for starting fires if needed.
  • waterproof/windproof matches
  • mini butane lighter. stored next to body to keep warm enough to actually work
  • 3 ounce bottle of HEET to help ignite esbit cubes in extreme cold or as emergency fire starter.
  • lexan spoon
  • GSI Outdoors 1 liter kettle
  • Mountain Hardwear Fluid 6 backpack worn under all insulation layers.  
  • Camelbak Stowaway 70 ounce insulated bladder, used inside Fluid 6 pack. This worked great, but next time I would probably bring the 100 ounce version as I did run out of water 3 or 4 times.
  • Outdoor Research insulated bottle holder with 20 ounce bottle. Probably would leave the insulated holder at home next time, as I found just sticking the bottle inside my jacket kept it thawed much longer. 
  • Thermos brand soup thermos. This was entirely a luxury item to be able to have hot soup, coffee, tea along the trail. This was awesome to have and although not necessary I would have a hard time not bringing this with me again. 
  • ultralight pack cover to put over entire pack/sled system in case of rain/wet snow. Never used it. Probably wouldn't bring it next time, unless forecast was for very warm weather.
  • Small bottle of liquid ski wax for skis on sled. Not sure if this was helping much at all, but it certainly didn't hurt.
  • several small spare parts and repair kit for sled, harness, pack, etc. Included duct tape, screws, needle and thread, caribeener, and some other small items.
  • basic first aid including moleskin, arnica gel, neosporin, ankle brace, tape, ace bandage, gauze, band-aids, and a few other very small items
  • various pills including ibuprofen, tums, multivitamins, Scaps, and melotonin. 
  • small leatherman multi-tool
  • earplugs
  • small tube of body glide
  • sunbloc
  • chapstick
  • toothpaste/brush
  • toilet paper
  • 2 Petzl Tikka XP headlamps with lithium batteries
  • 1 petzl E Lite.
  • Small mp3 player that runs on AAA lithium battery.
  • 6 extra lithium batteries for lights, and access to more at drop bags.
  • Camera
  • Cash, Credit Card, and Driver's License, needed to purchase food along trail and for flight back to Anchorage at finish. 
  • trail notes, directions, and maps. 
  • Chemical hand, toe, body, and foot warmers. I started the race with about 2 of each and had access to more at my 2 drop bags. I only used 2 pair of foot warmers (and none of the others) the entire race. Would probably carry several fewer of these next time. 
  • keychain compass/thermometer. Next time I might try to find one that goes lower than 35 below as mine was bottomed out most of the last 12 hours that I was on the trail. 
  • reflective stickers plastered all over my sled and harness. 
  • 2 heavy duty trash compactor bags to use in case of open water or overflow. Luckily I never had to use these, but I would probably bring them again unless I opted for some other system of being waterproof up to at least my knees. 


eric said...

was really hoping you'd post a gear list, thanks! what an incredible journey, Geoff. i still can't get my mind around what you accomplished on this wild ride. hard to imagine a "race" ever being as epic as this one, just for the sheer scale of the accomplishment... and what YOU'VE accomplished, making a life out of these epic journeys, it's enviable and completely incredibly amazing.

seriously mind blowing stuff Geoff. thanks for sharing the experience with all of us.

Sara Montgomery said...

That's a lot of stuff to drag 350 miles. Having your life depend on it is a pretty good reason to keep dragging it. :) Snow races appeal so much..... but ugh, the sled!

Curious, did you consider a Spot tracker? (It's nice for family at home, but only if it keeps working.)

Derrick said...

Thanks for sharing Geoff. Great list, and have enjoyed pouring over all the details.

Curious about the 5'' clearance on the pulk with the skis and if you felt that was a hinderance or help in the deep snow? Just wondering your thoughts if a traditional plastic sled would have helped in the deep snow?...especially when you said you had to carry it at one point.

Rich said...

Just read your race report. Have one question: Did you wax the bottom of you sled? I know you didn't have time for a full blown hot wax, but maybe some rub on wax for different temp ranges?

Geoff said...

the ITI doesn't allow SPOT trackers. long story as to why, but even if they allowed them i doubt i would have taken one.

in most years i think my "sled" system would have worked great, but in the deep snow it kind of sucked. any time it bottomed out (which it did a lot in the first 100 miles of the race) the drag was huge. in the future i think i would use a sled mounted on skis and then if it bottoms out it's dragging on the sled bottom rather than on the backpack.

rich, i did have a universal liquid was that i was putting on my skis once or twice a day. rub on waxes for different temps probably would have worked much better, but would have been quite a bit more stuff to carry along. might do this in the future though.

Derrick said...

Interesting about the system. Always enjoy tinkering with what's best. Too bad that you got some bad luck with those conditions for yours.

Strange about the Spot thing. YAU used it this year pretty successfully with only a few hiccups.

Kurt said...

Geoff, awesome adventure out there! I'm envious.

Quick gear question...what little AAA MP3 player do you use? They're getting tougher and tougher to find. I'm still using one that's been on nearly every ultra I've done over the past four years, but it's life could end any day.

Geoff said...

kurt, i use the COBY model #MP315-4G. 4gb storage, runs for 15 hours on one AAA, and even has an FM radio... and you can get them online for less than $20.

Rich said...

Makes sense. How much of that stuff didn't you use? Seems like that tent was a little too much for what you needed. Not sure if you're familiar with Andrew Skurka. He did a 4700 mile trek through Alaska and the Yukon. His shelter for the whole time weighed 10 oz. An Mountain Laurel Designs SoloMid.

Michael Cipriano said...


What's the purpose of the meletonin if you don't mind me asking?


Ken Michal said...

Thanks for posting this, Geoff! It's cool to see what worked and what didn't!! I'm also curious about the melatonin. Did you need it? I can imagine that after the second day or so, sleep would come easy?

All Day!

Geoff said...

there was almost nothing that i didn't use. that said, there were a handful of things that i didn't need and wouldn't take next time, including the tent... but i knew ahead of time that i wasn't likely to think the tent was ever something i'd take again. but my approach this time was a lot more tour than race so the tent made a lot of sense. at any rate, i'm sure i could cut my gear down by at least 6 or 7 pounds next time around.

MikeC and ken,
i always have a really hard time sleeping when i'm active all day. even after several days when i'm totally exhausted i have a hard time sleeping. the melotonin helps, but even with it i had a hard time sleeping a few of the times i tried during this race.

Rich said...

That's an awesome way to go into something like this. Again congrats. Such an awesome accomplishment!

Matt said...

geoff, thanks for the gear info, that's a lot of high quality outdoor stuff there.
two questions, if you don't mind
1. how much did the 'sled' weigh in total?
2. you say 7k calories per day. Reading your report I assume you didn't take in that much while on the move and then pigged out at the checkpoints, right? What were those meals like, portion wise? :)


Geoff said...

my "sled" full of gear and food weighed just over 30 pounds... but this did not include the pole/harness or any of my water. when it was all said and done i was probably carrying around 40 pounds when full of food and water.

i was eating a ton while on the trail and then big meals at the checkpoints as well. by the end i was pretty much eating the entire time. checkpoint meals in the first half of the race are pretty nice - burgers, fries, etc. from Rainy Pass Lodge on though you are mostly just talking about a can or two of soup and nice plate of spaghetti in Nikolai. overall throughout the entire race i would say that at least 75 or 80% of my calories came in the form of "snacks" along the trail.

Matt said...

thanks for the prompt reply!
uff, 40 pounds is a LOT on it's own (I have done some alpine hiking with that weight on my back) but with the added drag in deep snow, I'd rather not try to think how frustrating that must have been.
I guess that's one big advantage of being in Alaska during winter, you can pretty much carry any food and it won't go bad or melt :) [sorry for banging on about this]
You mentioned that those Reese butter sticks were good as they didn't change consistency in the cold. Was there something that did, or what you would recommend not to bring as a snack for really cold conditions?
I am envious how much 'snacks' you can eat on the go, I always get fed up with almost anything after a while :)


Geoff said...

everything i listed for food worked really well in the cold. i've definitely tried some things in the past that didn't work so well, but everything i took this time worked really well.

Geoff said...


bears are in hibernation... never felt unsafe out there. the much more real threat is from moose, but i never saw a single moose the entire race.

and the big storm that hit right when our race started even kept the drunk snowmachiners that are sometimes out on the trails at bay. I think I only saw 5 or 6 snowmachines the entire race, and most of those were helping with the race. not that you were implying that i needed a shotgun for the people out on snowmachines, but in reality they are probably a bigger danger than any of the wildlife.

John said...

Thanks for the list. Nice to know what is required to take on this type of race. I had a question regarding footwear. Was your footwear choice similar to those of the other competitors in the foot division? (Trail runners over hiking boots or a beefier hiking oriented shoe) Also, did you stash other shoes in your drop bags? Thanks again and Congratulations on the finish. Looks like you are going to be at Chuckanut helping out. Look forward to seeing you there.

Geoff said...

I didn't pay that much attention to what shoes the others were wearing, but my guess is that it's probably about half and half in terms of those using running shoes vs. those using more of a hiking boot. nope, no shoes in drop bags. technically i don't even think this would be allowed as the drop bags are specifically for "expendables": food, batteries, stove fuel, etc.

Leslie said...

Good Grief!! I get it though. Winter Survival and all - I'd be carrying a shitload of gear as well. I'm heading for the PCT this summer and of course, it's the complete opposite: it's all about the ultra light weight stuff. Like you bikepacking gear. It's always fun to experiment with gear be it winter or summer. BTW - it's still full on winter in Banff. Snow, snow and more snow.