Pack Like A Pro: Overcoming Obstacles with Ryan Atkins

Pack Like A Pro: Overcoming Obstacles with Ryan Atkins

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Ryan Atkins is a 27 year old athlete from Ontario, Canada who is considered be amongst the most elite obstacle course racers in the world. He won World’s Toughest Mudder in 2013 and 2014, and was second at the Spartan World Championship and the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championship in 2014. Whenever possible, he prefers to stay out of the gym (or CrossFit box) and does most of his training by running, hiking, camping or mountain biking outside.

Recently, Gear Institute had a chance to ask Ryan about the gear that he relies on when training and racing, and what trends he is most excited about in the outdoor industry. 

Gear Institute: You’ve been one of the most successful OCR racers in the world over the past couple of years, and yet you continue train and race hard. What do you have planned for 2015?

Ryan Atkins: Right now I’m training heavily for OCR events and trying to improve my running mechanics and efficiency, with the big focus of doing well at this falls big races. (Worlds Toughest Mudder, Spartan Race WC, OCRWC and BattleFrog champs). I’m also doing a bunch of trail building and gearing up to do some massive runs this summer, with both the Nolan’s 14 and the Presidential Traverse on the agenda. 

GI: Whoa! That’s an intense schedule for sure. What gear do you always take with you when you hit the trail?

RA: I always run with Salomon Sense Ultra 3 hydration vest. It’s so light, and carries enough food and gear to really allow me to throw down for 3-6 hours straight.

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I also try to keep my feet as happy as possible, so I always run in Dissent compression socks. I’ve worn these socks in every race and competition for the last 2 years. They are simply the best in terms of avoiding blisters, and durability. Sealskinz neoprene socks are also great for when the weather turns cold and wet, but you still want to go fast and light. When combined with the Dissent socks, and some Body Glide, I can go for 24 hour without worrying about my feet.

After I’m done running I usually slip on a pair of Normatec recovery pants. They are like getting a really good massage for your legs whenever you want! They really help manage high training volume

I also really love Ruffwear doggie packs for my furry friend – Suunto the malamute. They’re perfect for when we are in the mountains together.

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GI: What tips do you have for other athletes who are packing for their own upcoming races?

RA: Here’s a good tip: always carry Seam Grip (glue) with you when travelling. You can use it to repair your shoes, glue down an insole that won’t stay put, or even fix a hole in your tent. It’s a very versatile piece of kit!

And on race day I always stick gels inside my pants in races. They stay put surprisingly well.


GI: What are some trends in gear that you are especially excited about or interested in right now?

RA: I’m pretty stoked that shoe companies are designing OCR specific shoes and gear. I think there is a unique demand from the sport that trail running shoes don’t quite fill. As far as trends, I’m stoked about moving fast and light in the mountains too. It’s so cool!

GI: Take a moment to give a shout out to your sponsors. What gear are you using that you really rely own?

RA: I absolutely love the Icebug Zeal RB9X shoes. They have a great rubber compound and are super light, quick and precise on a variety of terrains.

I’m also a convert to compression tights thanks to Athletics8. I didn’t wear tights for the longest time because they always slid down on me. But I completely changed my mind afer trying the A8 tights. I love racing in them now!


My Suunto Ambit GPS watch is a piece of essential gear too. I’ve worn this watch at every race for the last 2 years and it hasn’t missed a beat. It is very rugged, and a great training tool for those who spend lots of time outside. It has never left me down.

I also use BeetElite before every race or really hard training run. It’s a beet-based vasodilator that works great for high intensity efforts.

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GI: Awesome! Anything else you want to share with our readers?

RA: Don’t be afraid to try new gear, or even modify existing gear to meet your needs. A sewing machine can be quite handy.

Also, when hiking in gnarly terrain with your dog, make him a leash out of climbing webbing, and a small, full strength carabineer. I’ve had to repel my dog down gnarly terrain, and pull him up ice covered vertical rock. The webbing in his leash, along with a few extra meters can really come in handy!


Thanks Ryan! And good luck in your upcoming races!