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Barkley Marathons – Gear List

The Barkley Marathons are a race designed to leave every participant disappointed. In 2021, 36 of us showed up and every single racer planned to be out there for five loops. But by the time 27 hours came around, there were were only two runners left. It was a year that the course won, and won quickly. The entire event was over in less than 40 hours, leaving all of us participants wondering what had happened and reworking our travel plans. Simply showing up this year proved to be an endeavor. For the months leading up to the Barkley Marathons, there was a lot of discussion on if the even could safely take place and what the right precautions were.

In the end, it was determined that every crew member and participant moved in from the “Weight List” must have a Covid Passport (vaccine or proof of antibodies). Then, at the race, every person in the campground was given either a red or green badge that coincided with their risk. Social distancing and mask usage were observed and as compared to most other events during this global pandemic, the Barkley Marathons felt almost normal. Little rules surrounded most aspects of the race, but overall, the character of the challenge was preserved.

For two days before the race the weather was perfect. But the the night before the start the rain showered down. The trails became streams and unmarked drainages and creeks littered the course. Slipping, sliding, and falling were unavoidable and exhausting. But, overall it was an incredible experience and so much fun to run through the mountains on a scavenger hunt looking for books with other elite runners. I hope to someday have another shot at the race now that I have the navigation better figured out.

Here is a breakdown of the gear I wore and had in my pack at the Barkley Marathons. More detailed trip and race reports will follow:

I have used the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 5.0 on a number of FKTs and mountain runs which is why it is the vest I chose for the Barkley Marathons. I wish there were two identical Water Bottle pockets on the front as opposed to one “Burrito Pocket.” But overall the number of accessible pocks and ease in carrying made this a good pack for the Barkley.

Headlamp: Petzl Nao+

The Petzl Nao+ worked great with the Barkley Marathons course and conditions. I kept it in Reactive mode which changes the brightness based on the terrain and conditions. This mode seemed to conserve the battery well and aided in nighttime navigation. I will be using this headlamp on future FKTs and runs!

Compass: Suunto M-3

The Suunto M-3 worked great as a compass both in preparing for the race and during the race. It has all the features necessary for a Barkley-style event (declination adjustment, scale, and luminescent marking). This is simply a great compass.

In 2020 I ran more on roads than ever before and found Hoka shoes felt the best on the hard surfaces. As I transitioned back to the trails I stuck with Hokas and now run almost exclusively in the Speedgoats or the Mafate.

Socks: Swiftwick

For the past few years, I have been wearing Swiftwick socks, and they seem to work well for my feet. The socks inevitably got wet in the inches of rain that fell the week of Barkley, but I did not end up having any foot issues. I had planned to change socks on each loop of the Barkley, but I didn’t make it that far.

Over the last 6 months, the App Gear Co hoodie has joined me on a number of thru-hikes, FKTs, and adventures. It worked well in these conditions at the Barkley Marathons because of how quickly it dried out and the insulating properties it maintains when wet. It did receive multiple snags and holes from the briars.

Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket Review for the Barkley Marathons

I have used the Visp for runs and anything where inclement Montana weather could suddenly appear. It is an extremely packable jacket and the pit zips really make it functional for running.

For ten years I have used Dirty Girl Gaiters and they were the natural choice for the Barkley Marathons to keep all the debris out of my shoes throughout all the bushwhacking and cross-country travel.

Trekking Poles: Gossamer Gear LT5

Gossamer Gear LT5 review for the Barkley Marathons

I have now used the Gossamer Gear LT5 poles. for three years and I believe they are the lightest thing out there. Despite my initial apprehension about the twisting mechanism locking up, I have never had an issue. These are the perfect trekking pole for ultras because of how lightweight they are.

At the last minute, I decided to add a fanny pack into my Barkley Marathons gear list. With the instructions and the map being so important to find the books along the route, I decided to stow these materials in a fanny pack for easy access. The system worked perfectly for me.

Oiselle running tights for running the Barkley Marthons and use for men

Oiselle simply makes the most comfortable tights. I wish I had more pairs. They are designed for women but also seem to work great for me!


Nutrition was a mixture of standard exercise-style foods, real foods, and items somewhere in the middle. I had plenty of goldfish crashers, peanut butter-filled pretzels, hard-boiled eggs, and even a sandwich, but here are three of the main nutrition items.

Caffeine – CS Instant Coffee

With the floating twelve-hour window that the Barkley Marathons could start in, I was unsure what I wanted to do before the race. But, when the conch blew at 2 am I knew I wanted a soothing cup of hot coffee. I like CS Coffee because it is much less acidic than brands like Starbucks Via.

Clif Bloks – Energy Chews

There is simply something nice about having a gummy snack with some built-in electrolytes

The Honey Stinger Waffles are simply easy to eat and work well with my stomach. They have become a part of my all-day adventures.

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