Unlike many sports, obstacle course racing is 95% your body. You obviously don’t need shoulder pads, a Louisville slugger, golf balls, a bicycle or a paddle of some sorts.
That other missing 5%, is a damn good trail running shoe, compression/anything BUT cotton clothing and possibly gloves. Depending on the condition of my hands at the time of a race, is how I judge if I need my gloves or not. I currently use WarriorPak (for cold and/or wetter conditions) or the UA F5 Receiver Gloves, super sticky, but not when wet! I also recommend NOT using the receiver gloves on rope climbs. It is safer to be bare handed with those heights and the rope fibers somehow take away the “stickiness”.
I have tried other gloves, like the ones Spartan sells, FitFour. No matter what, they were so slippery. So, I only use them now, in training if I have a ripped grip for protection only. I refuse to get behind anyone on the rigs who wear them, as they retain water like a sponge and wet down bars, rings, grips, TERRIBLY.
I began my racing in Salomon X-Mission Trail Running shoes. While they had great grip on rough terrain, rigid soles for rope climbing, they did not drain water quickly. After a lot of research and review readings, I found Merrell All Out Crush Light Trail Running shoes. They were affordable, and when I tried them on, it was like they were already broke in. Let’s face it, I did not want to break in a pair at a race, nor did I want to pay over $100 for shoes to get muddy & torn up. Plus, they can be thrown in the washing machine and come out looking brand new, every time! The downside of these shoes…the super light design means minimalist. The soles, while they offer just the right amount of traction, are super bendy and not as tough-in turn, I can feel sharp stumps, roots and rocks. I now keep these for shorter distances and certain less technical terrain. I have found with the longer races, tougher terrain, Salomon Speedcross 4‘s and, believe it or not, Nike Air Zoom WildHorse 4 give me the sole protection some terrain requires, while staying light enough, draining quickly enough and gripping just enough. Warning on those Speedcross’s though, they are not meant for walking on pavement, concrete, etc…if those rugged grips catch, it can be a good face plant. Ha!
Living in Florida, working outside in Florida, I learned quickly, cotton feels like fleece in the summer humidity, and you need moisture wicking clothing to stay half way comfortable. Same goes for racing. You get sweaty, wet, and then dry out and the cycle happens again. I have at least 2 articles of clothing from every big name to no name brand out there, and guess what, they all work. I wear the compression or fitted versions of it all. It helps protect me, lessens my recovery time and doesn’t weigh me down or get snagged on anything because its secure against me. In the cooler temps (like below 70s, haha) I wear long sleeves, and shorts. In the warmest temps, sports bra and shorts-BUT, be careful, I am NOT allergic to poison ivy, oak or anything for that matter, so if you are allergic to anything that might be out there in the jungles & forests, cover up! Too many horror stories of poison out there.
Socks. I am a climber, and it only took about one time descending from a rope with ankle socks, for me to get a traumatizing rope burn on my ankle. From then on, I wear tight, over the calf socks. Sometimes, MudGear compression socks, sometimes Stance socks,
because I love their style. Either way, if you plan on running through any jungles in shorts, you need to protect your legs from briers, poison, sticks, etc…and of course, avoid those tender calf muscles the day after!
As for hydration packs, I have been very fortunate to have attended races that always had water check points strategically placed throughout the course. However, with the longer length races, I found that I needed a place to keep my Clif Bloks, maybe a mustard packet or two, and gloves.
I researched like crazy. First of all, I did not want any that were so bulky and heavy, and not placed well on the back. I needed something tight, that would keep from bouncing (have you seen the rub marks a shoulder strap of any kind can do after 13 miles of bouncing?!). I also wanted something HIGH on my back. I located my dream hydration pack from Orange Mud.
Sunglasses. The obvious: Don’t wear your Oakley, Costa, Ray-Bans. I purchase cheap knock offs at the local flea market, polarized lenses, but cheapos. So when they are lost, broken or packed with mud, no harm no foul.