The gear you need to complete a race like Seventy48--a 70-mile grind from Tacoma, Washington to Port Townsend across Puget Sound in less than 48 hours--is intense. With boat traffic, currents, night paddling and extreme energy expenditure, racers need to think about safety, comfort, nutrition and safety again. Here’s some of the gear we used to complete the race.
A headlamp is key for any outdoor activity. For Seventy48, we used the Storm from Black Diamond because it was waterproof, had multiple lighting options (flashing red, dimming) that allowed us to stay safe on the water and find gear in our drybag in the dark without losing our night vision.
Marine traffic on Puget Sound is the real deal. This tough floating VHF from Cobra had all the bells and whistles to keep us safe on the water and many more: not only did it have all the traditional features of a VHF but it also had a locator light for when it was dropped, bluetooth so you can use it for your phone and a GPS distress button that would inform the Coast Guard of exactly where you were if everything had gone wrong.
A visual distress signal was required by Seventy48 organizers. After some research, we found the Greatland Rescue Laser Light. Waterproof with long battery life and great visibility in both day and night, it’s only slightly bigger than a tube of lip balm. We never had to use it but its size and durability means it will be in our drybags for all missions in the future.
Weight is a major issue for a race like Seventy48 and we cut out all the superfluous gear before the race. But since the Puget Sound’s weather is fickle, even in June, we had to plan for the worst. OR’s Advanced Bivy is burly, waterproof and light and was just enough to keep us warm for an hour of sleep on the beach during the race.
Patagonia is always pushing the limits on how gear can be made. They say that the Micro Puff Jacket is the lightest synthetic-filled jacket on the market and we believe them. We got it for just that reason and also because it would keep us warm, even if it got wet. For its weight, it’s also incredibly warm. We wore this jacket and Patagonia’s Nano Puff Pants to sleep in and that combo was great for a quick nap.
We’ve used Hammer Nutrition products in the past and love the clean simplicity of them. During Seventy48, we used a combination of the Perpetuem Solids, Endurolytes and Gels to keep us fueled up and energized on the water. While eating anything for that long while exerting yourself gets a little tedious, this system prevented cramps, bonks and hunger to get us over the finish line.
The MSR Dromedary Bags are a self-support staple in the outdoor industry for good reason. They’re durable, packable and easy to use. We carried all of our water for the entire race on our board (10 liters in two different Droms) and they made it easy to refill our hydration pack and then store them away when they were empty. Irreplaceable.
The Sidekick Dry held a lot of important gear during the race: lights, batteries, money and our laser flare. Access to those items was critical and YETI’s waterproof, magnetic closure made it extremely easy to get in fast when we needed something. The Sidekick was in and out of the water the entire race and aside from the water the crept in from opening and closing the back, everything stayed dry and neat in there.
The Meridian Strobe was what kept us visible to other marine traffic during the night while racing. A tugboat saw us and flashed its light at us, other racers said they could see us blinking in the night and we felt confident that we could stay out of harm’s way with Meridian’s blinking light. It’s waterproof to 100 meters, has velcro to attach to anything (we had it on our hydration pack) and runs on AA batteries. A small price to pay for safety.
Hot food sounded really good at 1 am when I finally stopped paddling after 35 miles. But I was too tired to light up the Primus Lite+, despite my hunger. While we didn’t end up using it during the race, we did carry it the whole way (with gas) in its tiny, packable system. We’ve used it several other times and the electric starter fires up without fail, water boils quickly and it’s perfect for traveling light and fast.
The Fenix 5X is perhaps the most important training tool I had leading up to Seventy48. It tracked my heart rate, logged my interval workouts and kept my mile splits in the front of my mind. During the race, this waterproof, bombproof wrist computer let me know how fast I was covering miles against or with the current. With the heart rate monitor turned off and an hour-long charge in the middle, I was able to track every mile of the race and know where I was and when.
We’ve been using the Molokai pack for years now and it’s never let us down. The hydration pack is easy to clean and dry, the pack is minimal, with just enough room for bars and gels, but we really like how it rides high on our backs thanks to the four-way adjustment straps. I always wished it had a closed pocket on it, though, for items that you just can’t lose.