Packing for a vacation, be it a cruise, beach vacation, or a trip abroad is something many of us are probably used to doing. But packing for a Ragnar Relay is something completely different. Share a van with six other people for two days and make sure you bring everything you need, not just for changing your clothes, brushing your teeth, but also for sleeping.
While the Ragnar Bible may have the basics of what to bring, you’ll hear your teammates as well as others, including those online, suggest additional equipment. According to the race rules stipulated by Ragnar Relay, you can’t race without a headlamp, reflective vest, and a tail or butt light. The entire van must have a certain amount that can be shared, but our team was set for each individual.
Here’s a rundown of what I might bring with me on my next Ragnar Relay:
- Cash, credit card, and a form of identification. Be sure to also write your name and an emergency contact on the back of your race number and appoint someone in the van to be your emergency contact. No sense in having someone back at home as your emergency contact, right?
- Gallon size Ziploc bags for clothing
- Three running outfits consisting of 3 sports bras, underwear, socks plus whatever it is you intend to wear. All clothing for each leg were placed inside gallon size Ziploc bags and labeled with each leg. After running, the clothes I wore went inside an empty bag to keep the sweaty smell inside the van down. Also an extra pair (or two) of sneakers in case of bad weather and sneakers get wet or destroyed.
- Ponytail holders, headband
- Compression socks or sleeves that are available at SockWell USA or other online ecommerce stores.
- GPS watch: Nike+, Garmin, etc.
- iPhone or iPod plus multiple headphones in case first pair doesn’t work
- Handheld water bottles for longer runs or runs without van support
- Chargers for your electronics, including ones that work off the van’s power
- Jacket or sweatshirt — styles for running in if it’s cool as well as when you’re standing around or sitting in the van.
- Gloves and/or hat or visor – same as above
- Clothing to wear in between your runs. Some people like flip flops to help air out their feet and maybe even an extra pair of shoes.
- Blanket or sleeping bag, pillow, anything else to help you catch a little sleep. If you bring a sleeping bag, skip the pillow and blanket. Some people even had Aero beds — now that’s the life!
- Sleeping bag pad or yoga mat: If you decide against a sleeping bag due to space limitations, consider a pad instead with a blanket. If you haven’t slept on a hard floor in a while, well, it’s hard.
- Eye mask and/or ear plugs: Some people (like me) can sleep anywhere with little issue while others need it to be dark and quiet. If that’s you, plan ahead to make the hour or two of sleep you get a comfortable one.
- KT Tape: This definitely came in handy and I’m so glad we brought it. Take the time to view the KT Tape videos on YouTube, like this one on full knee taping, on how to apply the tape correctly, too.
- Bathroom run bag: Quart size Ziploc bag that I put my toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, makeup wipes, face lotion, lip balm, and extra toilet paper in case the port-a-potty or school restrooms were short. Having everything all in one bag made it easy to grab and run without having to search everywhere for what I needed.
- Snacks that the team may not supply: I packed a few special high protein vegan protein bars for the road. Try to avoid eating or drinking anything you’re unfamiliar with during the race. You definitely don’t need to have an uncomfortable stomach during Ragnar.
- Special snacks to surprise your teammates: I made two kinds of trail mix and white chocolate raspberry muffins (with vanilla protein powder snuck in!) for my teammates.
- Towels to dry off with and to change under while in the van.
- Huggies baby wipes which acted as an instant shower in our van and helped cut the smell way down. I now completely understand why babies smell so good!
I definitely overpacked so here are some items I probably could have done without:
- Foam roller and the Stick: While I like working out my legs with a foam roller, there was no time to do it and it simply took up space.
- Blankets and pillows and sleeping bags and Snuggies and… – Pack lightly. You’ll only use these for maybe 2 or 3 hours and yet, they may take up a significant amount of room in an otherwise overly jam packed van.
- My iPad: Seriously — you won’t have time to look at anything so don’t bother.
- Work: You may think you’ll have the time to bring work with you during the down times. I’m telling you right now it’s never going to happen so leave it at home.
- Multiple sweatshirts, jackets, headbands, etc. Narrow it down and bring one of those extra items, not multiples.
- My own water bottle: As much as I use one at home, it only took up space as I drank from the water bottles that were provided.
- Loads of extra snacks — just not needed. It’s a two day, not a 20-day race.
Our van was stocked with food as our team captain went out and purchased food and other items for the two vans. We definitely had far too much food. Items in red were the items most used from my observation during the race.
Peanut butter/almond butter/JellyBread
Hard boiled eggs
M & M ‘s
Fruit – bananas, watermelon, apples, pineapple
Energy Gels (Gu, Clif Shots, etc.)
Beverages: water, tart cherry juice, coconut/almond milk, Nuun
First aid kit for each van
Advil, Sudafed, Benadryl
Wisps (throw away toothbrush)
For the van:
Trash bags (shopping bags work best — smaller and can tie to the door of the van)
Sandwich bags for ice packs
Noise makers to root on team mates
Magnets for tagging vans
Fix a flat
Race bible binder
GPS – 1 for each van
We picked up a case of water at Exchange 6 so that helped out, but we definitely needed more or even Gatorade although I just learned that another case of water was later found in back. Since we stopped for dinner, we were snacking more than eating in the van, but having the food accessible was good, but having the water right out was definitely a bigger priority and should be for next time.
Here are a few items we discussed might be great to bring along next time:
- 3m Command Strips for the windows: We had things we wanted or needed to hang up to air dry like headbands, Fuel Belts, ear buds, etc. If we could stick these to the inside of the window, we’d have easy access to them later.
- Dryer sheets to stick in your used clothes bags so they wouldn’t smell so bad
- I’m definitely buying “knuckle lights” as they were invaluable during my night run.
- Storage for on top of the van: If we were able to put our bags that we wouldn’t need until we got to the hotel on Saturday, we would have had so much more room!
- Ready to drink protein shakes. They were handing out Muscle Monster Energy protein shakes and I wished I had stocked up on these to help me out. Although they were high protein, low carbs, low calorie — they had milk in them. Lesson learned.
- Gatorade or Powerade and lots of it. I know we would have all liked something cold after a long run.
- Water jug with a spigot? Maybe adding this to the mix and having it handy at the back of the van after a leg would be an extra source of water.
- Sidewalk chalk: Totally didn’t think of this at all. But some teams like to decorate the road or street to encourage their teammates along the way. Be creative and have fun with this one.
- Something to distinguish your team at night in addition to or part of your team’s costume. Believe me when I say everyone looks the same at night. We were struggling to see our team and totally got why costumes with LED lights were so ingenious.
- Well in advance of the race: Plan out our costumes and van decorations as well as team t-shirts.
- Lots of things to cheer your team along. My number one item on this list? A megaphone. Granted my voice can carry (ask my teammates), but when you’re tired, nothing beats hearing the supportive cheers of your friends.
For any future Ragnar Relays I will definitely be more proactive about taking pictures for social media. Can you believe that I said that? The person who is always on social media was basically off the grid the entire weekend. I wish I had taken more pictures of everything going on, but part of me was paralyzed with fear about the race and the rest of the time I was just too tired to think.
My biggest advice is to pack lightly, bring clothing and food that you have planned out for two days and not one thing more, make sure to decorate your van and wear a costume, and have fun. There’s nothing quite like a Ragnar Relay and you’ll be so glad you did it. The only downside to a Ragnar Relay is that it has to come to an end. When you return home, no one will be on the side of the road cheering you on and if you tag a van, you could get in trouble with the police. That is, until you’re next Ragnar Relay!