June 19, 2015

Make an Ultramarathon Aid Kit (Upcycling Nuun Tubes)

Ask a a dozen ultramarathoners what's in their emergency kit and you'll likely get a dozen different answers, kind of like asking about their preferred hydration strategy. I decided to combine my emergency essentials and my hydration choice in one project, using an upcycled Nuun tube to carry my aid kit for the North Face DC 50k.

Some runners carry nothing on race days with aid stations; others, like Hal Koerner and his 'manity' kit, carry dozens of essentials to get them between crew spots. For my first 50k distance and the 24-mile winter training sessions that preceded it, I decided there were 8 items I needed on hand if the worst case became reality:
  1. Duct tape:  repairs everything from shoes to hydration packs
  2. Leukotape P:  zinc oxide adhesive sports tape; blister and chafing care
  3. Band-Aids:  blister and chafing care
  4. Tums antacids:  prevents stomach issues from low-protein, high-sugar race fuels
  5. Safety pin:  shoe and pack repair, pops blisters
  6. Advil:  just in case, though I do not advise NSAIDs
  7. Petroleum jelly:  chafing prevention and care
  8. Buff:  bandana-like headware with endless options: sun and sweat protection, cooling as ice wrap, chafing prevention (stick in in waistband or under pack strap), even toilet paper (per internet rumors only), etc.
Other people may also add salt tabs, batteries (Garmin or headlamp), scissors or nail clippers, moleskin, alcohol swabs, and a bunch of other niceties, but for 50k and below, I think my kit covers it all. And as I mentioned, everything but the Buff fit nicely in a Nuun tube.

And have I needed it on race day? Absolutely. Noticed some rubbing at the top of my gaiters while warming up for the 50k and immediately applied Leukotape strips to those spots; the tape prevented future issues and held up through the mud. Have also needed the antacids, even taking them as a preventative measure.

Do It Yourself

Interested in upcycling some Nuun tubes? I've included the step-by-step instructions below, along with a tip on where to put the kit if you're an Orange Mud user:

Step 1

Wrap duct tape and Leukotape around the tube. For both types of tape, half their width to fit easier on the tube, around toes, etc. The duct tape length should be enough to wrap up a shoe a couple times in case of catastrophic lace failure. As Leukotape is hard to rip, apply to the tube in overlapping 1-2" strips. Easily and quickly peel off and apply as needed.
Step 2

To free space within the tube, cut off the plastic spiral spring and the cylinder beneath it. Be aware this cylinder contains crystals to keep moisture from impacting Nuun tabs, so cut it off over a trash can to avoid the mess. 
Step 3

Lay out everything you want to include. Use single-use packages when available. For chafing prevention, use a pill bag or similar small zipper bag and put in petroleum jelly, balm, etc.
Step 4

Roll Band-Aids, Advil, safety pin, and Tums into a tube. Slide to the bottom of the empty Nuun tube.
Step 5

Fold or cram the petroleum jelly bag into the space available at the top.
Step 6

And you're ready to cap it. Job well done!
Carrying on race day

The tube fits nicely into one shoulder pocket of the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 from Orange Mud, and the Buff is stuffed in the other shoulder pocket.