Last year as I was preparing for Run for Water, I came up with a pretty extensive list of what to pack for your first ultra marathon. Going in, I had no idea what I’d need for a run that long so I spoke with lots of friends, seasoned ultra marathoners and otherwise, to help with my packing.

I showed up on race day with two very full bags of everything a runner like me could possibly need for a run that long. Some things were must-haves, some things were lifesavers and other things went totally unused.

Since then, I’ve been to the rodeo a few more times so I’m updating my list. You certainly don’t need all of this but hopefully if you’re reading this post you’ll maybe pick up a tip or two for your first ultra marathon or if you’ve run a few yourself leave me a suggestion or two!

Picking the right Bag

  • Make sure you know what type and size of gear bag you’re allowed to bring
  • Whatever the size, pick something that is easy to get into
  • Make sure your bag is clearly marked and easily identifiable as yours
  • At Run for Water we are lucky enough to have a support van so I have a small duffel bag for my clothing and gear and a separate insulated bag for my food and drinks.
A soft-sided insulated bag is prefect because it doesn’t take up much space!

A soft-sided insulated bag is prefect because it doesn’t take up much space!

Packing the Right Stuff


  • Spare pair(s) of shoes
  • Spare pair(s) of socks (Injinjis, double layers and wool)
  • An extra tank top and t-shirt
  • Spare capris or shorts (hey, you never know!)
  • A long sleeve shirt
  • Jacket/vest
  • Hat/visor
  • Gloves
  • Spare Buffs (I’ve used mine as a headand, ear warmer, nose-wiper, neck warmer, balaclava, bandage…)
  • A spare Handana (lots to wipe over the course of 52km!)
  • Sunglasses
  • Water belt & handheld (possibly my hydration vest, can’t decide. We have a support van so water will always be close by)
  • Spi-belt (for my phone if I’m not wearing a water belt etc.)
  • Garmin
  • iPod (just in case I need some extra pep in my step)
  • iPhone (gotta keep everyone updated and take photos!)
  • A small towel

Medical/First Aid:

  • Pain relief meds and cold meds
  • Lanacane anti-chafe (the best product out there, you should try it!)
  • Sunscreen
  • Chap stick
  • Baby wipes (as one runner put it “A clean ___ is a happy ___”)
  • Blister kit: needle, bandaids, mole skin
  • Nail clippers, nail file
  • Sports tape
  • Muscle relief gel
  • Kleenex
  • Massage tools (just in case!): travel stick, R8, lacrosse ball
  • Macgyver stuff: duct tape, scissors, safety pins (you never know what you might need!)
  • Electrolyte drink: I only use Skratch (pre-mixed at home plus extra powder)
  • Energy snacks: Probar Bolt and some sport beans, gels for backup
  • Salt pills
  • ‘Real’ food: boiled & salted mini potatoes, PB&J sandwiches, banana bread, bananas, apples, nuts, dried fruit
  • Snack food: chips, chocolate covered raisins, pretzels, granola bars, juice boxes, red liquorice, Oreos
  • Lots of water
  • Chocolate milk (is mid-race recovery a real thing?)
  • Root beer (think I’m going to try having some pop along this time, just in case)
  • Ice pack to keep everything cold

Lucky Charms:

  • Yup, doesn’t everyone need a little bit of extra luck?
  • I’ll have my lucky unicorn pin along with me again this year!

How to pack your gear…

  • Ziploc bags are your friend!
  • Group like things together in your Ziplocs:
    • Medical and first aid type stuff
    • Toiletry-type stuff
    • Small gear items (Handana, Buff, spare socks)
    • Macgyver stuff (safety pins, duct tape, scissors etc.)
    • Identification and money
  • Try to put stuff you’re most likely to need at the top of your bag so it’s easy to grab
  • Label everything!

How to pack your food and drinks…

  • Ziplocs are still your friends!
  • Use small snack bags to pre-portion snacks you can grab and take on the run, pack these all together in a bigger Ziploc
  • Pre-portion snacks you plan to eat on your breaks so you can easily pick something when you stop. Pack these all together in a bigger bag. Or consider making one bigger bag for each rest stop.
  • Make sure everything is clearly labeled!
    • So that people can easily grab stuff for you
    • In case someone else needs to borrow some of your stuff
  • Pre-mix your drinks if you can and bring extra mix just in case
  • Use an insulated bag and ice pack if you’re picky about having cold bevvies

The bottom line…

Every ultra marathon is different and depending on the circumstances, your gear needs and packing will totally vary. Make sure you know what the gear drop situation is so that you can pack accordingly. You by no means need everything I’ve listed here but be sure to think through your whole day from start to finish to anticipate what your needs might be.

Can you think of anything I’ve missed?

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  1. Lindsay    

    What a helpful post! I’m venturing into my first ultra in 11 days and this helps, however Calgary will be all pavement, medical tents, etc. so I might be able to pack a little lighter. I love all the photos of trails in your area, they encourage me to try some trail running :)

  2. Ange @ Cowgirl Runs    

    Soo……my plan of hydration vest and a buttload of gels might be a bit low? Haha.

    1. slowfastnik    

      It so depends on what the situation will be like and I would imagine for yours you’re going to need to bring everything along with you, right? No drop bags, no support van? A vest would be best bc there’s so much more room for extra stuff. You’ll be fine. :)

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