Marathon Des Sables 2016 Kit list breakdown

The MDS often gets swept away in obsessing over kit choices/weight and in my opinion it is more important to spend the time training as it’s your body that will get you through the race not having 150g less in your pack.

When I first got confirmation of my entry in March 2015 I set about getting the main items of kit bought so I could test them in the summer and enter the winter knowing all the big choices were made and I was happy with them.  These were the Rucksack, clothing I would race in, sleeping system, footwear/socks and food I could eat.  Sounds simple but in my head this made sense as after that it was all bits and pieces of which I had a fare bit already.

This can become an expensive shopping experience and one of my sponsors RJS Plumbing stepped in and wrote me a cheque which allowed a big shopping spree getting the majority of these big items.  I was never going to be a front runner and buying a £450 sleeping bag was in my head pointless, I opted for the less expensive items but got items with good reviews, as light as possible in that price bracket and kit I knew I could re-use again.

I entered the summer with a lot of stress removed and set about planning my training schedule that would allow me to have a life and get the necessary training in that was needed.

Advice I would offer is this.

1.  Plan your training and make it visual, I put up a wall chart in the spare room with every session on it.  I then crossed out every day as I completed it.

2.  Plan to have a social life and work the training around it.

3.  Keep a kit list with weights beside it, update it as you buy stuff.

4.  Do not listen too much to the Facebook groups.   Too many people with opinions.

5.  Do not overtrain and get injured.

6.  Train progressively and peak for the race in April.

7.  Practice eating the food when out training.

8.  Obsess about your body not your kit, prepare your feet and they will do the job.

9.  Keep your body weight where you are happy with, I went 10 stone 4lb which is normal for me and I had body weight I knew I could loose without causing problems.  I came home about 6/7lb lighter.  This I expected.

10.  Focus on the end result – crossing the finish line.

Food for the race

My training I planned myself.  I seeked out advice, took it and stuck to it meticulously missing only a few sessions.  My actual MDS training didn’t start until December, I had a hard summer in the mountains and had 3 long races in the Autumn.  The advice I received was exactly this, start too soon and face burnout.

My training was Four blocks of three weeks on one week recovery.  I added weight from mid January adding 1kg or so every block and I started off with 3kg.  This allowed for my body to adapt and I only ran with weight on my long runs.  My Interval and tempo sessions were all without weight.  I had a three week taper before I left and I had 3/4 sessions a week.  I am happy with how this all went and would not change this.  I individualised it to me as I work crazy hours I knew I had to not over do it.

Here is my kit list with weights.  I didn’t become completely obsessed with it instead throwing my energy to preparing my body.  I went as basic as I could with only my 24hr cream as a luxury.

Food was important and I went with what I knew I liked.  Porridge/nut breakfast, nuts/sweets/jellys for snacking when running, recovery powder, expedition dinner with a pot noodle as spare.

The kit.


  • Rucksack – UD Fastpack – 496g
  • 2x raid light water bottles – 180g
  • Compass  – 61g
  • Head torch – 80g
  • Spare Batteries – 33g
  • 10 safety pins –
  • Lighter – 15g
  • Whistle – 10g
  • spork – 10g
  • Hand sanitizer – 30g
  • P20 (factor 50)- 1/2 pack – 90g
  • 200 euro and passport
  • Waist belt – eBay cheap one 10g
  • Cooker Tiny esbit one -17g
  • Charger – Power monkey 124g
  • Sunglasses 30g
  • Pillow 50g
  • Hygiene pack 83g
  • First aid bits and pieces 150g
  • Foil blanket 34g
  • Cooking cup 123g
  • Mirror and knife 93g
  • 1X gurney goo 76g
  • Tablets – 22g
  • Painkillers – paracetomol 25g
  • Dyorolite x7
  • Venom extractor 28g
  • Sleeping bag OOM 1.6 – 460g
  • Silk liner – 140g
  • Thermarest mat cut to size – 150g
  • Leggings – Nike 3/4 ones
  • Long sleeved top – ronhill one I have
  • Buff 40g
  • Rab Jacket 478g
  • Cable for Watch and phone
  • I Phone (camera) – 114g
  • loo roll – 1 roll
  • 24hr cream – 15g
  • Ear plugs
  • Cap with neck nape
  • T shirt – rab lightweight
  • Sports bra – Under armour my lucky one
    Decathlon sports pants
  • Shorts – X Bionic marathon
  • Socks liner and over – Ininji liner socks and merino smart socks over
  • Compression socks- 2XU
  • Trainers – Inov8 race ultra – 290g
  • Gaiters – My race kit 41g
  • Suunto watch – 81g
  • Lucky charms – 10g
  • Race tracker
  • Cooking tabs
  • Roadbook
  • Day 1 –  2770 cals
  • Day 2 – 2930 cals
  • Day 3 – 2850 cals
  • Day 4 (long day) – 4130 cals
  • Day 5 (rest day) – 2120 cals
  • Day 6 – 3050 cals
  • Day 7 – 2000 cals
  • Total once packed is 7.9kgs
  • Add water 2kg and salt tabs/gps tracker/roadbook was 10kg on the start line (8kg dry weight)
Things I would change
Food would be the main change, I would bring more liquid calories and less food as I wasn’t able to eat much due to the nausea and sickness.  I was able to swap some of my exped meals for more liquid food as some guys couldn’t stomach these.  I was eating about 1300cals a day and this was at a push and force feed.
The kit choices were all great, I was happy with everything I took and was warm at night and comfortable.  I found that I had everything I needed and the only thing I threw out was my pillow that burst after the 2nd night in the desert but I used my pack.
I noticed a lot of competitors had loads of kit that was pointless and really too much of a luxury, once I came in from the days race I stripped off, gave myself a bit of a ‘squaddie’ shower, changed into my night wear, gave my kit a bit of a quick wash, left it to dry and set about trying to rehydrate, eat, sort my kit and feet out before getting to bed about 8pm.
Less was in my case more as if you bring it you have to carry it.  Some guys had 13kg in their packs on day one, thats a lot of weight to carry up and down sand dunes.
We started with 7 and finished with 5.  A super bunch of peeps.
I hope this helps anyone planning the MDS or similar race.  If you have any questions please ask, I wouldn’t say I am an expert but I did complete it, didn’t have to get a drip, came back undamaged with only a few blisters to show for it.  Look after your body, prepare it for what lies ahead then smash it.
Thanks for reading.