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Marathon des Sables 2022- must have kit & equipment- Written by Lucy Giles

In 2021, Lucy Giles and team of endurance runners, headed out to take part in the Marathon des Sables. Now, with WWTW’s next team counting down the days until the 2022 event, Lucy shares her top tips on what kit to pack.

You will be given a kit list.  The simplest thing is to follow it! However, here are a few thoughts on what I took, how I packed it, and some observations. Note that I invested in the 2021 MdS-designed rucksack, having previously used the 2020, 25 Litre OMM rucksack (but the elastics wore thin and rubbed my shoulders). This was absolutely the best decision I made; it was fantastic and perfect for the race.

·       Sleeping System: I took a bespoke lightweight sleeping bag (small as I’m only 5’4”), ordered at the 2019 MdS Expo in London – this was a big spend, but worth it.  The rucksack had its own compartment and I had no problems. The non-inflatable, foldable sleeping mat was lightweight and I cut it down (gave the other section it to a friend). It went outside, at the bottom of the rucksack under the sleeping bag compartment – easy to get out if you needed a rest!

·       First Aid Kit: Some very basic plasters, dressing patches (melanin), some paracetamol (NOT IBUPROFEN), and Imodium (ESSENTIAL).  Plus some antiseptic wipes and a tube of antihistamine. I put it all in a plastic bag with the anti-venom pump in one of the inside zip pockets of the main rucksack.

·       Blister Kit: I had a small bottle of ‘tinc benz’ antiseptic (would be better to have a spray bottle), with some pre-cut adhesive tape (Hapla Band) for strapping feet/toes and a pre-threaded needle to pop blisters (note you should dip thread and needle in the antiseptic first). And a small penknife with scissors (ESSENTIAL). I had this stored in the outside top zip pocket and used it at most checkpoints.

·       Wash Kit: I took loads of dehydrated towelettes.  Planned for at least ten per day and used them for hygiene and cleaning. I found I used more than I expected to. They were hydrated using a water bottle cap full of water i.e., not a lot. I kept a couple down my sports bra for field emergencies! I put the towelettes, a small bottle of shower gel, a foldaway toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste.  Packed it at the bottom zipped compartment on the inside.

·       Clothing:

o   Racing Kit: U2X logo shorts, white long sleeve cotton top, U2X compression for the calf, Hokas (with gaiters sown on by Alex Shoe Repairs in Battersea), ankle socks, buff, hat with neck protection, sunglasses, poles.

o   Additional Kit: Colourful stretchy leggings, long sleeve top, T-shirt (so I could layer up with long sleeve if cold at night), gilet (also acted as a pillow). I took two spare socks and two spare pants; luxury items and definitely worth it. I packed the leggings and tops, socks and pants in the inside compartment nearest my back.  Had the gilet on top for the evening routine (see below). On reflection, I would put all the clothing in a plastic bag, as I found they could get damp when I was covering my head with water to cool down when I had the pack on.

·       Footwear: You need footwear around the camp.  Some used very lightweight sandals or flip flops and some used the kind of slippers you find in hotels. I opted to adapt my crocs! I removed the strap and cut out an area for my big toe. They were brilliant and I’d even go as far to say it is ‘ESSENTIAL’. Two main reasons; firstly, they protect your feet from thorns and the stony ground more robustly than other options and also it stops you from stepping into wet areas that you don’t want to step into at night!

·       Torch: You need a simple lightweight one; mine was a night orienteering model and was over-engineered for this task. It should also have a red filter so that you don’t dazzle people in the tent at night. I kept this at the top of the rucksack next to the blister kit as I knew that I would need it!  I got into the habit of moving the torch to my front pouch at the last Check Point (CP) before the end of each stage.

·       Cooker: Some people choose not to take a cooker and ate cold rations throughout. Not me! I had a very small stand to put a tin mug on and some foil to wrap around it.  A friend had a proper foil lightweight windshield which was excellent. Take a lighter that isn’t going to burn your hand! Fuel is picked up at the site. I packed this all in the tin mug and placed it at the bottom of my rucksack next to the food packs and a ‘spork’! My initial mug (a robust, black, military metal mug) was too cumbersome, so I borrowed a tent mates’ mug (lightweight titanium) when he had to retire; it was perfect.

·       Other Bits: Compass, whistle, signalling mirror, safety pins for your bib numbers, 3 x spare batteries for your headtorch and something to write with (I made a sort of diary each day on the roadbook).

Find out more about the Marathon des Sables.