Gear Guide and Checklist for Obstacle Course Races

Be ready for your next race full of mud, sweat and tears with our gear guide.

Obstacle course races are unlike any other competition. During an event, you try to complete the course by climbing, crawling, swinging, running and maneuvering your way to the finish line. These races are very demanding of your physical abilities, and even more demanding of your gear. Being improperly equipped for an obstacle course race can affect your time and ability to complete tasks. Get prepared for your next race by following these tips and suggestions.

If there is one thing to know before participating in an obstacle course race, it’s this: You will get dirty. Many tasks call for you to trudge through mud and water to reach the end, and combining these elements with your already-sweaty self can result in some dense apparel. Because of that, look for clothing that offers moisture-wicking capabilities to help keep yourself comfortable and competitive.

PRO TIP: Avoid cotton materials during these races. Cotton absorbs moisture and can become extremely heavy. Wearing cotton could also lead to the development of blisters, especially cotton socks.

Instead, look for compression tops that have moisture-wicking materials and pair these with some lightweight shorts. You can also opt for compression leggings.

Design and fit-wise, you want your clothing to be as close to your body as possible. Loose apparel can get caught on certain obstacles, especially those featuring barbed wire. Your shorts should not have pockets, because these can easily fill up with mud or dirt and could slow down your pace on the challenges.

Don’t forget your undergarments, either. Instead of cotton socks and underwear, choose a pair of compression shorts and look for knee-high moisture-wicking socks. Knee-high socks could add a slight protective layer to your calves and shins, which could be helpful during crawling events.

For footwear, look for shoes designed for trail running that are light, well-fitting and offer ample support. They should also have an aggressive tread that can hold its own through mud and loose terrain. A thin, slick upper that won’t retain moisture is also a good feature to look for. Remember, though, that these kicks will get completely covered in mud, so don’t tackle an obstacle course race in a pair of shoes you want to keep in pristine condition. That won’t be happening.

With your apparel ready to go, it’s now time to focus on accessories. Apply sport-performance sunscreen and bug/tick repellent prior to taking the field. To help add some protection for your joints, look for low-profile knee and elbow pads or neoprene sleeves. These could come in handy when climbing and crawling. Another accessory you may want to bring is a pair of good-gripping gloves for rope structures and other climbing obstacles as well as athletic tape.

You may also want to bring your own hydration belt or pack filled with water for quick access. Sunglasses can be worn, but may become a nuisance if they get caked with mud. Hats or headbands can also be useful in blocking out the glaring sun or keeping sweat out of your eyes. If you want to monitor your time, make sure to bring your mud-resistant watch and an action camera to document the experience.

Don’t think that your work is done when you complete the course. When you cross the finish line, you are tired, soaked and coated in dirt. Before getting in your car to head home, you may want to wash the grime off your course-conquering body. Your race might not always offer a shower area, so pack a gallon (or two) of water, soap and towels to clean yourself up a bit. You could also use cotton swabs to help get some mud cleared from smaller areas of your body. Bring a gym bag filled with a change of clean clothes and shoes, as well as some band aids and athletic wraps, in case you need them. A garbage bag is great to transport your race apparel, too.

While it might seem like a lot of equipment to bring to a race, these gear tips could help make a big difference in your overall obstacle course racing experience. Don’t let your gear choices hold you back from dominating the field.

*Click to enlarge and print

tough mudder checklist