Atacama Crossing – What’s in the bag?

Greetings from San Pedro in Chile.

Only three days to go before the start of the 2015 Atacama Crossing.

Competitors in multi-day, self-sufficient, footraces face many challenges. These include the weather, sand, injuries, blisters, tiredness, thirst, lack of comfort and privacy, etc.

But there is one challenge which ultimately could make or break your race – the weight of your backpack. As runners need to carry in their backpacks everything they need for the duration of the race, finding the right balance between the overall weight of your bag, and the food and equipment required to get you through the race, could have a major impact on your ability to finish or not. Ultimately, what every runner packs will be determined by personal preferences and daily nutritional requirements. Runners are only provided with water during the race – 1.5l at every checkpoint, 10-15km apart, and 4.5l at the overnight camps – everything else required needs to be in your bag when the race starts on 4 October 2015.

According to the rules of the race, there is a standard list of compulsory equipment which every runner has to carry from start to finish (e.g. head lamps, sleeping bag, blister kit, etc.). In addition, every runner has to start the race with at least 14 000 calories of food and nutritional supplements in their backpacks. Anything else in your bag is a personal choice of what will make the experience as comfortable as possible for you over seven days in the desert.

The preferred weight of a backpack is between 8 and 10kg for most runners, with some starting with less and others with slightly more weight. My aim is to start the race with my backpack weighing less than 8kg.


At the moment, I have the following items in my backpack:

6 x dinner packs – biltong and smash or freeze dried beef and rice

6 x sachets of Future Life breakfast cereal mixed with protein

Variety of snacks – sweats, salty biscuits, nuts, etc.

5 x Rehidrat Sport sachets

5 x PeptoPro Sport sachets

30 x 32Gi hydration tablets

10 x units of 32Gi sports drink

5 x packets of salt and vinegar chips

5 x packets of biltong

2 x water bottles

1 x knife

1 x camera

1 x iPod

1 x sunscreen

1 x blister kit

2 x head lamps

1 x sleeping bag

1 x inflatable mattress

1 x emergency / space blanket

1 x head scarf / buff

1 x running cap

1 x unit of Vaseline

1 x hand hygiene gel

1 x sewing kit

1 x spoon/fork

1 x toothbrush and toothpaste

Medication – Voltaren / Ponado / Immodium

In addition, I will be using the following gear:

1 x Innov 32l backpack

1 x pair of Innov trail running shoes

7 x pairs of Innov socks

1 x rain jacket

2 x running shorts

2 x running shirts

1 x compression pants

2 x gaiters

1 x Garmin Forerunner 310XT watch

Based on my experience from previous desert and multi-stage races, most competitors start these races with more food items (and therefore weight) than required. After every stage they re-assess their requirements for the remaining days and reduce their weight (and especially food) accordingly. This usually results in a mini feast amongst those sharing a tent!

Ultimately, a multi-stage desert race such as the 250km Atacama Crossing is all about survival and as we say in Afrikaans – vasbyt!

But then again, there is nothing to gain without a little pain! I am dedicating my participation in the Atacama Crossing to the work of The Sunflower Fund in South Africa. The Fund’s vision is to give all South Africans diagnosed with leukaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders the chance of life, irrespective of their race and financial circumstances.

The Sunflower Fund’s slogan is “Share a Little, Save a Life”, and we can all make a contribution by either registering as a potential bone marrow stem cell donor or making a donation in support of its work.

Supporting the work of The Sunflower Fund provides me with all the necessary motivation to complete the fourth and final leg of the 4Desert series.

The countdown to the Atacama Crossing continues…


I’m excited about supporting The Sunflower Fund over the next few weeks, and invite you to join me on this journey.

Follow updates on my blog, Facebook and Twitter, and via The Sunflower Fund’s various online platforms.

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