Here’s a quick illustrated tip, brought to you by a few unlucky Bitter Pill teams.
GMARA gets most of our race maps from MyTopo.
They’re printed on custom paper that’s fairly waterproof and tear-resistant – it’s pretty amazing stuff.
We encourage teams to keep the MyTopo maps in a specialized map bag because it’s still possible to destroy them, or more likely, to lose them in the woods.
For the most part they hold up well to adventure, including being folded repeatedly, spread out in the dirt, or left in the bottom of a boat.
In contrast, GMARA race instructions are usually laser-printed on normal 8.5×11 sheets of copy paper.
That paper isn’t waterproof.
Not even a little bit.
That wouldn’t be a problem if you never had to unseal your map bag, but in an adventure race, you sometimes need to make notes, draw on your map, or refold to see a new area.
All it takes is one drop of water to make some part of your instructions unreadable… or as seen here, completely destroyed – leaving you unsure where to go or what to do next.
That’s one reason we often see teams with more than one sealed bag – one racer has the instructions, one racer has the map.
Not only is it more likely to preserve the instructions, it’s also a good reminder to have more than one mind working on the navigation.
Lastly, if you put the map and instructions back-to-back in a single bag, you’re constantly flipping it over and trying to remember what you just read. Side by side is usually easier, especially as your brain gets tired.
Keep in mind, you don’t need to go out and buy high-end gear… a 1- or 2-gallon freezer bag will usually do the trick, although it won’t have easy attachment points for hanging around your neck.
One final tip: GMARA races based out of Vermont ski areas often make use of a resort trail map in addition to the topo map. For example, these from Bolton Valley. They’re usually printed on stronger stuff than our instructions, but they’re still not waterproof. Will you want a third dry bag, or is that overkill? How many freezer bags can one team manage before they feel like they’re actually racing through a kitchen? We’ll leave that debate to you.