What Gear to Bring to a Race: How to Pack Your Race Bag


For runners, packing a race bag for a first race is somewhat akin to first time parents packing a diaper bag for a first outing with the new baby. Many first time participants feel the urge to pack everything but the kitchen sink. Many do pack everything but the kitchen sink. When you pack for a race, there are a few things to consider.

  1. What you take with you, you must carry, check in and bring home.
  2. You are running a race, not your entire training program.
  3. What you decide to carry during the race has extra weight.
  4. Do not pack everything but your kitchen sink.

So, what does one bring to a race? This article will provide you with a guide to packing the basics that you will need, and leaving behind what you don’t.

Bring your usual gear

Bring what you will need for your race, based on what you have taken on your training runs. If you use it during a training session, you will want it during your race. If you don’t use it during your training runs, you won’t miss it during the race. Your crucial gear is all you need to worry about. Fuel belt, filled belt bottles (if you use them), chews or gels, headphones and music device (if you use one), a cell phone, a Tylenol or 2, snacks you eat during your runs (I always pack a Cliff bar), shoes, a layer for cold weather (if you need it).

When choosing a layer sweatshirt or hoodie, or even running jacket, make sure your backpack contains one that you can either run with tied around your waist or grab one that you don’t mind tossing onto the road during the early miles. Many races have charity groups which come behind and collect the clothes ditched early in the race to donate to the homeless in the area. You might also want to pack an extra change of clothes for after the race to leave in your car, just in case you decide to go out after the run.

Leave the rest at home

I advise packing a couple of Tylenol for the race because there may be liability issues with getting some at a medic tent. Or, they may have a brand of pain killer that you aren’t used to using. Other than that, there will be supplies available at the medic tent along the course in case you need a Band-aid or other basic medical supply during your race.

There will also be plenty of water along the course, so unless you have trained with a specific blend of hydration fuel, you may want to consider leaving the water bottles behind. Do not pack expensive gear that you plan to check into the bag storage area during the race; there is always a chance that it can get lost or stolen. You don’t need high tech electronics that you don’t plan to wear (watch, phone, iPod, etc). Leave it at home. Do not bring more than one pair of running shoes. Chances are, they will get mixed up with another shoe keeper.

Packing for a race isn’t an exact science. Basically, bring what you normally use during training and leave behind what you don’t. There is nothing worse than running with an over packed belt or lugging a racing bag that you might as well be taking on a two week holiday. For more great advice on what to pack for a race, check out our other articles here at Runnersgoal.com.