Grand to Grand Ultra – What’s in the bag?

Greetings from Kanab in the United States.

Only two days to go before the start of the 2016 Grand to Grand Ultra

Participants in multi-day, self-sufficient, desert races face many challenges. These include the weather, terrain, 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! Runners need to carry in their backpacks everything they need for the duration of the race. As a result, you need to find the right balance between the overall weight of your bag, and the food and equipment required to get you through the race. Ultimately, what every runner packs will be determined by personal preferences and daily nutritional requirements. Runners are only provided with water during the race – 1.5-2l at every checkpoint, 10-15km apart, and a few liters at the overnight camps.

According to the rules of the race, there is a standard list of compulsory equipment (e.g. head lamps, sleeping bag, blister kit, etc.), as well as at least 14 000 calories of food and nutritional supplements, which runners are required to have in their backpacks when the race starts on Sunday, 25 September 2016. Anything else is a personal choice of what will make the experience as comfortable as possible for the duration of the race.

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 approximately 8kg.

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

6 x dinner packs – tuna and smash or freeze dried beef and rice
7 x sachets of Future Life breakfast cereal mixed with protein
Variety of snacks – sweats, salty biscuits, nuts, etc.
6 x Rehidrat Sport sachets
6 x PeptoPro Sport sachets, mixed with glutamine
30 hydration / electrolyte sachets and tablets
8 x packets of salt and vinegar chips
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 emergency / space blanket
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

I will be using the following gear during the race:

1 x Innov 32l backpack
1 x pair Salomon trail running shoes
6 x pairs of socks
1 x down jacket
2 x running shorts
2 x running shirts
2 x gaiters
1 x Garmin Forerunner 310XT watch
1 x powerbank
1 x head scarf / buff
1 x running cap
1 x sleeping bag
1 x inflatable mattress

Based on my experience from previous desert and multi-stage races, many runners 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!

As the race is held in the US, a country with strict customs regulations, this will be my first desert race without my South African secret weapons – biltong and droewors!

Ultimately, a multi-stage desert race such as the 273km Grand to Grand Ultra is all about survival and as we say in Afrikaans – vasbyt!

The countdown to the Grand to Grand Ultra continues…


I’m using my participation in the Grand to Grand Ultra to raise public awareness about NTDs, highlight the work of the END Fund, and mobilise $10 000 in support of the END Fund’s work in Africa.

I invite you to support my fundraising campaign with a donation and encourage others to do the same.

Follow updates on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, fundraising page, and via the END Fund’s various online platforms.

Together, we can END NTDs!

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