Badwater Ultramarathon: What to Bring

By Don Lundell and Gillian Robinson, Badwater finishers and ZombieRunner.com proprietors

Plans for the Badwater Ultramarathon typically include long lists of items for the runner. What people may overlook is that the crew needs to be outfitted, too. Everyone will be out there in the same heat, needing fuel, hydration, cooling and some rest. Planning your gear list makes all the difference to your race. Take time to think through scenarios and have backup items in case other items fail or things don’t go as expected.

PAPERWORK

  • Badwater Race Magazine. (Click here).
  • Waiver: Required for each runner and for each crew member (Pdf file).
  • Medical History Form: Required for each runner (MS Word doc).
  • Check-In Form: Required for each runner (Pdf file).

GEAR

  • Multiple coolers and large fluid containers. Dedicate one cooler to contain only ice and only touch that ice with a clean scoop - never your hands and never by scooping ice with a dirty water bottle. A cylindrical cooler filled with ice is great for refilling water bottles.
  • Jugs for mixing sports drink and refilling water bottles.
  • Folding chairs.
  • Cot, sleeping pad or air mattress.
  • Bucket or basin. You may want to soak your feet for cooling. One trick is to cool your shoes without having to take them off. Put plastic bags around the shoes and place them in ice and water in a basin. A cat litter box works well for this. Keep in mind that wet feet are prone to blistering.
  • Mechanical (non-electric) scale for weighing the runner during the race. This is to detect over- or under-hydration.
  • Thermometers for body and outside air temperatures.
  • Water sprayer.
  • Umbrella, tarp, and/or canopy to provide shade for the crew and for the runner when taking a break.
  • Handheld flashlights and headlamps for the runner and the pacers.
  • Tactical lighting for crew members, such a small headlamp to see for cooking, fixing runner feet and other tasks.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Garbage bags, plastic bags, baggies.
  • Utensils, plates, cups, etc. Can opener.
  • Clipboard, pens, pencils, notepaper. The crew should try to record runner activities, so there’s something to look at if the runner gets into trouble (how much fluids, food, electrolytes consumed; pace between time stations).
  • Race plan and crew schedule.
  • Duct tape, rope, cord, string.
  • Towels of various sizes.
  • Paper towels and toilet paper.
  • Camera.
  • Cellular phone (often won’t work).
  • Satellite phone (recommended).
  • Small stove for boiling water.

FOOD AND DRINKS

  • Water and ice (lots and lots).
  • For food, plan to have a variety available, because it’s difficult for a runner in extreme conditions to eat any one thing over a long period of time. Certain products that taste fine in cool conditions can become nauseating in the heat.
  • Electrolytes: It’s easier to monitor electrolyte intake when using an electrolyte capsule, such as Endurolytes by Hammer Nutrition. You also get sodium and other electrolytes from sports drinks, energy gels, salty snacks and regular food.
  • Fluids: carbohydrate/electrolyte drink such as HEED from Hammer.
  • Energy gel such as Hammer Gel which provided easy to digest calories.
  • Carbohydrate drink with added protein and supplements such as Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy and/or Perpetuem. This is another way to get balanced calories. Be sure to keep protein drinks on ice, as they can go bad after extended periods in the heat.
  • Salty snacks to help with electrolyte management such as pretzels, peanuts, corn-nuts, potato chips, salt
  • Sweet snacks for additional carbohydrate: fig newtons, pop tarts, fruit, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and oranges.
  • Caffeine: Soda, coffee, tea, cocoa, etc. Be aware of the pros and cons of caffeine. While it is great to help you stay alert through the night, it is also a diuretic.
  • Real food: Think of your favorite foods to eat that are easy to prepare and eat on the run. For example, peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad, ham and cheese sandwiches, oatmeal packets, and jerky. Take advantage of the restaurants at Stovepipe Wells, Panamint and Lone Pine.
  • Soups work well at night, such as chicken noodle soup, cream of potato soup, tomato soup, or any Cup-of-Soup. If you bring cans, remember the can opener!
  • Other liquids for protein: chocolate milk, nutrition drinks, soy milk.

MEDICINES

  • Protective products for your skin including sun screen, lip balm, and moisturizer.
  • First aid kit: medications for upset stomach, headache. If the runner is on any medication, be sure these are included.
  • Gauze, band-aids, anti-biotic ointment, alcohol wipes
  • Anti-chafing product such as Bodyglide, Sportslick, Sportshield.

FOOT CARE

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. People who never get blisters can end up with serious foot issues during Badwater. Keep foot care items in a cool place. If possible, dedicate a small cooler to these types of items. Tapes can melt and become useless quickly if they get too warm. Most items listed here are available from ZombieRunner.com.

  • Dressings such as Compeed, Elastogel, Duoderm, Engo Pads, Blist-O-Ban, 2nd Skin QuikStik, 2nd Skin Blister Pads for pressure areas and blisters. You should have small sized ones for toes and large ones for heels and the balls of the feet.
  • Swabs, needles, razor blades, tweezers, scissors, etc.
  • Heavy duty scissors for cutting shoes if necessary.
  • Specialty tapes for pre-taping and repairs during the race: Elastikon, Kinesio, Medipore, Micropore. Tape should be breathable and applied in single layers.
  • Foot Lubricant: Hydropel, Bodyglide, Sportslick.
  • Foot Powder: BlisterShield, Zeasorb, Gold Bond powder.
  • Cooling foot spray.
  • Blister patches.

RUNNING GEAR

  • Injinji Performance Toesocks ("Tsoks") work great for most Badwater runners. Bring several pairs of socks so you can change whenever you like. You might want socks a size bigger to go with your bigger sized shoes.
  • Full coverage solar-protective clothing (white or light from head to toe). Look for clothing with SPF or UPF in the fabric and vents for cooling. Legs can burn just from the heat rising from the road. Covering your skin with protective fabrics and using sun screen gives you the protection you need. Remember that the crew needs protective clothing also! An example is the clothing from Sun Precautions.
  • Shorts and singlet or short sleeved tops, to change into after the sun goes down. It’s still hot at night, and you may be cooler in fewer clothes.
  • Race number, worn unmodified and unfolded at all times (not on head).
  • Light-colored running shoes that you’ve tested over long distances on paved surfaces. Bring several pairs, including pairs one and two sizes larger. Remember to size up your socks, too, if you need to size up your shoes.
  • Footbeds, orthotics, arch supports or heel lifts, as necessary. These should all be tested before the race.
  • Hat with long-bill or wide brim plus shroud, such as those by Sun Precautions and Injinji.
  • Moeben Sleeves to protect your arms from the sun and to help stay cool.
  • Dark sunglasses. Polarized lenses are a good idea if you’re concerned about glare.
  • Summit goggles and or shields (for side-glare, but be aware of peripheral vision obstruction).
  • Cool Off Bandana or regular bandana to put ice on your neck and head. Have at least two for the runner and more for the crew also.
  • Wicking undergarments.
  • Reflective gear (mandatory, see the race rules), strobe light, flashers, etc., for dusk till dawn. We highly recommend the amazing little strobe lights from RoadID.com, as well as their reflective gear and personal identification products.

Finally, bring along any other items that might make your journey more comfortable and enjoyable! Just remember to stay within the rules and be considerate of other people who are out there.