7 tips to consider when packing for an Obstacle Race with only “carry-on” luggage

Having taken a number of European trips to participate in obstacle course races over the past couple of years. I’ve learned various things to ensure I manage to get everything in “carry-on” luggage. Most short-haul flights now tend to only have inclusive “carry-on” with checked-in luggage being an additional cost. But for a weekend away, you don’t want to be burdened with a lot of baggage!

Here are my 7 top tips to consider when packing for an obstacle race abroad with just “carry-on” luggage.

  1. Pick the right bag and knowing baggage limits
    All airlines have slightly different rules on their carry-on luggage in terms of weight and dimensions. I have opted for the Cabin Max Edinburgh which is a back pack that opens like a suit case, but does not have a hard shell (easier to manipulate) and various handles to carry as a bag or with shoulder straps to carry as a conventional back pack. Most low cost airlines visually inspect your bag, so as long as it’s not “too big” you uaully get away with something that may just be oversized. Be aware FlyBe have very strict rules and will test EVERY bag to ensure it fits within the specified dimensions
  2. Packing cubes
    These things are awesome! Helps you organise your clothes for better packing, whilst helping you pack more in less space.
  3. Toiletries
    There restrictions of liquids within your carry on luggage (with the added hassle of having to get them out at security) Liquids can be no more than 100ml per container and for some reason all your liquids must be in one smallish sandwich bag (not sure if this is just Manchester though). To help get around this, remember that most hotels (and airBnB) will have shower gels etc. Only take what you really think you need and cannot get at your destination (everywhere has supermarkets for toothpaste etc.)
  4. Dry Robe
    In the UK, the Dry Robe is a staple, but if you are travelling abroad, seriously consider if you really need it! It’s bulky! However, if you really need to take it (keep checking the weather report) I would suggest you wear it (as you will never be able to pack it) and it doubles as a blanket for the cold air conditioning on the plane. Of all the European trips I have taken, I have taken it twice and used it zero times
  5. Wet stuff and double race weekends
    This is where packing cubes (or carrier bags) come in useful. Not just for carrying back from the race, but if you need to separate the race kit in your suitcase. I only take one pair of trail shoes even if I have two races, there isn’t that much room in my suitcase, but as vests and shorts are generally lightweight, I will take two sets.
  6. Travel adapter
    Because you always need to be connected! I have this Travel Adapter which has 4 sets of fast charging USB ports as well as the usual UK adapter for anything else.
  7. Normal clothes
    Don’t forget that you’re not just there to race, if you’re in another country go and explore. For that, you will need more clothes and shoes! But again, try not over pack. An extra pair of jeans in your baggage along with a couple of t shirts or a light sweater should be enough for the whole weekend.

They’re my tips! Hope you find them useful and enjoy where ever you end up, whether its a Tough Mudder, Spartan but it’s also worth looking at European based Obstacle Races such as Tough Viking, Toughest or Strong Viking.

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Wil Chung