Jax Mariash is one of the most accomplished stage racers in the world. In 2017, she became the first woman to complete the 4 Deserts Race Series Grand Slam Plus – a series that consists of four 155-mile stage races in some of the most inhospitable climates imaginable: the Sahara Desert in Namibia, Gobi Desert in China, Atacama in Chile, and the “Last Desert” in Antarctica. The Grand Slam Plus adds a fifth roving race, which was in Sri Lanka the year Mariash completed the full series.
Stage races are challenging not only due to the terrain and climate, but also by external components imposed at each race. Namely, these races are almost entirely self-supported, with competitors responsible for carrying almost everything they will need over the course of a week. Typically the only necessities provided by the event are hot and cold water each morning and night, and a shelter to sleep in. Everything else, from clothes to food to safety and sleeping gear, is up to the runner.
This month Mariash – who often goes by the nickname Wonder Woman – is competing in the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G), a 170-mile race that starts at the rim of the Grand Canyon and finishes in the Grand Staircase – Escalante region. The G2G features six stages over seven days across Arizona and Utah, with a total ascent of more than 18,000’. Prior to this year’s race, we spoke with Mariash to learn what she’s carrying with her during G2G, and also to get an appreciation for how much strategy and attention to detail goes into her pre-race preparation. She opened up the entire contents of her pack to us, item by item.
In the interest of full disclosure, many of Jax’s products are from her sponsors: CamelBak, La Sportiva, Suunto, CEP, Zeal Optics, Jaybird Headphones, Expedition Foods, ProBar, SaltStick, Avalon7, DripDrop, and Combat Ready Tape. Additionally, she’s the owner of Stoked Coffee Company, so she’s always armed with good brew. With that said, here’s what she’ll be carrying across the desert this month.
The most important item is one Mariash helped design: a 25L prototype of CamelBak’s classic Octane pack. The pack has a 1.5L fluid capacity, carried in flasks on the front. The pack itself weighs about 0.5 kilos (1 lb, 3 oz), and when fully loaded, the entire contents will weigh between 6.5 – 7.5 kilos (14.3-16.5 lbs).
With the exception of socks, Mariash will wear the exact same outfit every single day of G2G. She uses La Sportiva’s Supernova shorts and Mutant sports bra, along with either the Summit shirt or Sprint tank. She carries three pairs of CEP Ultralight full-calf length compression socks, switching a fresh pair in every couple of days. The following additional clothing items are along for the ride, to be used as needed:
- La Sportiva Women’s Hail waterproof jacket
- La Sportiva Frontier down jacket
- CEP compression tights
- La Sportiva Trail gloves
- Zeal Optics Magnolia sunglasses
- Arm warmers
- Desert gaiters
- Avalon7 headband and mesh bandana
Food and Drinks (3.5kg)
The goal here is for maximum caloric density… and many of the items might surprise you. (You’ll note that Mariash has a taste for cheese.) She has every bite of food for every day accounted for, with the weight and number of calories for each. Most of this food is removed from its independent packaging, and combined into lighter and more space-efficient Ziploc bags.
- Day 1: ProBar peanut butter pack, ProBar Bolt chews, 3 Oreos, Expedition Foods Macaroni and Cheese, 28g macadamia nuts, 4 DripDrop powder sticks, one pack of Moon Cheese
- Day 2: Same as above, plus 1 pack coconut chips
- Day 3: Same as Day 1 with the exception of Expedition Foods Oatmeal instead of Mac and Cheese, and the addition of 30g almonds
- Day 4: Same as Day 1, substituting 28g peanuts for macadamia nuts
- Day 5: Same as Day 2
- Day 6: Same as Day 3, substituting Expedition Foods Granola instead of Oatmeal
- Day 7 (a short day): Expedition Foods Oatmeal, 2 DripDrop sticks, 28g peanuts, ProBar Bolt chews
In addition to the above items, Mariash carries a number of “craving” foods to consume when the spirit hits her:
- Lorna Doone cookies
- Nutella packs
- Swedish Fish
- Stoked Roasters instant coffee packs
- Voke caffeine tabs
- Salt Stick tabs
She also carries a titanium cup for her coffee, and a spork for anything she can’t eat with her fingers.
This is an area where some strategy comes into play. As a general rule, more substantial – and therefore heavier – sleeping gear can give you a better night’s sleep. Cutting ounces on pads or pillows can help you move more efficiently during the day, but if you’re chronically exhausted because you can’t rest well on it, the tradeoff is counterproductive. Mariash uses the following items to balance comfort and light transport:
- Mountain Hardware Phantom sleeping bag
- Thermarest Neo Air sleep pad (she prefers inflatable pads to foam ones)
- Sea to Summit travel pillow
Safety, Navigation, and Lighting (900g)
Some safety equipment is mandatory – with lists that vary slightly from race to race – while others are stowed in an abundance of caution. A few extra grams here could be worth their weight in gold if they can help minimize pain, stop bleeding, or in severe cases, save your life.
- Spot tracker (if required)
- Smart phone
- Petzl Reactik+ headlamp
- Petzl BINDI headlamp
- 3 spare AAA batteries
- Suunto 9 GPS watch
- Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch
- Pocket mirror
- Pocket knife
- Flexible cup
- Sunscreen and lipscreen
- Aspirin, Advil, and Immodium
- Emergency blanket
- Toilet paper
- Blister kit
- Combat tape
Extras and Luxury Items
Stage race packing isn’t 100% strategic – sometimes it’s nice to have a small comfort or piece of encouragement along the way. The following items aren’t necessities, but they can often lift Jax’s spirits when she needs it the most.
- 5 iPod shuffles (so they don’t have to be recharged)
- Jaybird wireless headphones
- Trigger point therapy ball
- Wet wipes
- Wonder Woman patch and Unicorn patch on her pack
There’s one final item we thought was sweet: Mariash solicits notes of encouragement from her family and friends in the weeks before a big event, and each day she designates a time to sit down and read a few. This helps her feel connected to those she loves most, and gives her strength to continue on towards her goal.
Now that you have the gear secrets revealed, all that’s left is for you to train like Wonder Woman, and you’ll be all set to tackle your first stage race. You can follow Jax’s progress online at www.g2gultra.com.