When one’s entire belongings are reduced to a small pack for a week in the desert, the choice of what to bring takes on a colossal importance. As competitors relaxed at the camps in the evenings throughout the Sahara Race, we asked them to name their favorite equipment items.
For Simon Donato, second place overall finisher, and Kristinet Van der Westhuizen, second place female, it was all about the poles. “Poles!” cried Simon when we asked him for his choice. “Other than that, gaiters. But the poles, they saved my legs, saved my knee, especially on the harder surfaces.”
South Africa’s Kristinet agreed on the poles. When asked why, she said, “It’s very much a mental thing. There’s no answer to that one. It just feels right.”
For Australia’s Peter Roberts, it was, “hot water and my blister kit.” He adds that he also brought a solar charger, but it wasn’t working and a disappointment during the race. We ask him whether he found himself looking around at other people’s equipment. “You do observe and probably you do [observe] more at camp; mattresses and food definitely,” he says. “Nuts and sweets are things I would bring more of next time. Also, a solar charger that works!”
“You’re wasting a great opportunity if you’re not paying attention to what’s around you,” pointed out Simon when we asked him the same question. “I might reconsider a double-sided pack in the future (one with water and storage capacity in the front).”
For Kristinet, there was one item she missed throughout the race: “A bowl or a cup!” she said. “Every morning I would have to make my own cup.” She holds up a plastic water bottle that has been cut in half, demonstrating her skills at manufacturing a cup from discarded bottles. “Every morning my tent mate would ask me, ‘Have you made your cup yet?’ Next time, I will definitely bring one.”
For Canadian Sebastien Sasseville, “I don’t have a favorite piece of equipment, it's more about things I didn’t bring. Like, I regret not having brought sleeping pad. I was obsessed about weight; all I have is mandatory equipment and the food. I brought too much gels and fluids. They are weighing too much, I won’t do that again.”
From what we've heard, we leave with the conclusion that packing the perfect bag is a work in progress, and only experience—and good luck—will get us there.
By Clare Morin