By Alex Provost
What is adventure racing? According to Wikipedia it is, “a combination of two or more endurance disciplines.”
While planning our gear for Untamed New England 2014, we came to realize that we would be short on space with our actual packs as we would have to carry our two Alpacka packrafts with our four piece Epic paddles and standard adventure race gear like food, clothes and first aid for most of the four days. Not only would we have to carry about 40lbs of gear each, we would have to do it in the notoriously thick bush in Northern Maine. To put the icing on the cake, we were told that the middle race bushwhack could take up to 48 hours. I needed a solution and fast. I did not wanted to hang our gear outside the packs and risk a hole in our boats, lose paddles and lose time by getting entangled in the bush. I immediately thought about those super slick white Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs that I had tried quickly at this same race two years ago. I remember they were ultralight but did not know how tough they really were. After some researching, I decided to reach out to Dan St. Pierre, co-owner. I was already very late and the only way to make this work would be for Hyperlite Mountain Gear to ship the packs directly to race HQ at Northern Outdoors.
Dan took some brand new packs and shipped them to us right on time. That’s what I called being “Adventure Commited”. I was delighted when our packs arrived. Not only was our packraft issue solved, but we had enough room to put everything in the bag’s main compartment, making us nimbler in the super thick bush. “WOW! that’s what I had in mind… now let’s see how this gets us through the bush” I remember thinking.
The real test
The race started with some fast foot sections and amazing paddling across Moosehead Lake. A great bike ride, then some packrafting eventually got us to the dreaded “Abenaki Lost World” bushwhack, announced as the crux of the race, where our pack choice would play its role. It did indeed.
Take a weekend and go to the Lily Bay Mountain area. I bet you will find some valuable gear still hanging from the trees up there. With so much gear to carry, many teams had no choice but to strap gear outside their packs. The trees are so tight up there they could not always fit between the trees, and many times had to turn back to pick a new route or take off their packs to fit in the 12” between space between the trees. That’s insanely time and energy consuming. Not to mention that people lost gear like helmets, dry bags and life jackets. A real war zone. Bar one navigation mistake, we were the fastest team in this crazy area. Of course we got stuck our fair amount of time, but with our 3400 Windrider tight on our backs we were able to make our way through without anything sticking out, with much less efforts to spend for the same distance. It felt like we had a secret weapon. We ended up 5th overall against a stacked world class field of teams. We were of course very happy with our result.
Know the terrain and choose the right gear
People kept asking about our packs after the race when everybody’s gear was lying outside to dry out. “Clever”, “Bomb proof”, “Amazing” and “Jealous” were the words I heard around. The packs not only delivered during the race, but they were in mint condition even after taking such a rough beating. Even the mesh pockets were without a dent.
Don’t let the terrain dictate the outcome of your journey. Backpacks must be like running shoes, one for every terrain, it must be why I have so many! Think of where you are going when choosing your gear, it will make your next adventure a successful one.
By Alex @Alexprovo. For a full race recap en français : http://advracers.blogspot.com/2014/07/edition-2014-du-seul-et-unique-untamed.html