A marathon swim checklist

In my experience, the day before a marathon swim is almost invariably a hassle. Just when you most need to be resting, you find yourself running around an unfamiliar town in search of various items you forgot to pack. From Tampa in April, to Manhattan in June, to Catalina last month, I’ve gradually streamlined the process – but there always seem to be last-minute tasks. And even the most experienced marathon swimmers will tell you it’s almost impossible to pull it all together without the help of a friend or significant other.

Most people resort to writing a checklist at some point. The list will vary slightly between swims – and swimmers – but there are common themes. My list reflects hard-earned experience over three 20+ mile swims in a single season. For those tackling their first marathon swim, this might speed the learning curve a bit.

[Bracketed] items are products that I personally use.



  • high-calorie liquid feed [Perpetuem]

  • feed bottles

    • characteristics of good feed bottles: built-in loop (for securing to kayak), medium-sized spout (not too small, not too large), easy-flip top
    • [e.g., Thermos Intak]
  • thermos of hot water for warm feeds (unless boat has microwave)

  • bottled water

  • funnel (for pouring drink powder)

  • measuring cup (for mixing feeds)

  • solid food / snacks (very personal, but might include bananas, gel packs, watery oatmeal, Chicken McNuggets, etc.)

Discomfort Maintenance

  • lube [channel grease = 50% vaseline, 50% lanolin]
  • latex gloves (to apply lube)
  • mouthwash (for saltwater swims)
  • sunscreen [preferably long-duration waterproof, such as SolRX]
  • anti-inflammatories (e.g., ibuprofen)
  • anti-motion sickness (e.g., ginger products)
    • Scopolamine is a powerfully effective anti-emetic but I do not recommend it if you are swimming. The opposite of a PED!
  • warm clothes (e.g., parka, wool socks, sleeping bag)
  • earplugs

Misc. Gear

  • rope & carabiners (for securing feed bottles)
  • zip ties
  • glow sticks (if swimming at night)
  • safety pins (for attaching glow sticks)
  • stopwatch
  • log sheets
  • dry-erase board + markers

Media & Communication

  • GPS tracker + batteries
  • mobile phone + charger (preferably smart phone w/ Twitter & Facebook apps installed)
  • camera and/or video-camera
  • walkie-talkie + extra batteries (for communication between boat & kayak)


  • CASH
    • tip for captain
    • tip for paddler(s)
    • (if it makes sense) expense reimbursements for personal crew members