Drop Bags

Hi Boys and Girls,

drop bags 2We have been busy packing here at my house getting ready for our big move. My humans are gathering food, clothes, utensils, supplies for us furkids, and much more. They are moving us in an RV so there’s room for us, and everything we need for the trip. This is very similar to what the mushers are doing. They have a much longer trip to pack for and need enough supplies for themselves and their dogs. So how do they get ready and how do they carry everything they need in their sleds?

First, there are mandatory items that must be carried by the mushers at all times while on the trail. These items include proper cold weather sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, any promotional material provided by the ITC, eight booties for each dog, an operational cooker and cooking pot, and an adequate amount of fuel to bring three gallons of water to a boil, a Veterinarian notebook to be presented to the veterinarian at each checkpoint, a cable gang line or cable tie out capable of securing the dog team, a functional non-chafing harness for each dog in the team and a functional neckline and adequate emergency dog food. WOW, once that’s in the sled bag, they can’t be much room left for other things. The sled bag is just not that big.

The musher needs to consider other supplies. They need clothing, enough food for themselves and their dogs for 9-15 days, extra booties and dog coats, sled repair supplies, and usually an extra sled. An extra sled????? Where do they put an extra sled?

drop bags 1Every musher is given drop bags to store their extra supplies. Each bag already has the checkpoint name printed on it. A musher can send up to three bags to each checkpoint. Dog food, human food, clothes, boots etc. all go into these bags. Once the bags are ready, they are taken to the Airland Transport in Anchorage. The bags are weighed and cannot weigh more than 60 pounds each. The bags are then sorted by checkpoint. When all the bags are received and sorted, they are flown to the checkpoints by the volunteer Iditarod Airforce. Now what about big items like sleds? The musher designates what checkpoint this extra equipment is to go to and it is also flown out. Straw, which is used for the dog beds, is provided by the Iditarod Trail Committee and is also flown out to the checkpoints.

This must take a lot of planning. Mushers make a race plan on how they hope their race will go. They plan their run/race schedule and where to take their breaks. They will send more supplies to where they want to take their 24 hour mandatory break than to a checkpoint they plan to just pass through. Plans can change and the musher must remember where his supplies are and plan accordingly. During the race, extra supplies such as sleds, runners, etc. can be brought to the musher by the Iditarod Airforce.

drop bags 3Supplies are not always used. Extra dog food stays at the checkpoint and is used at the discretion of the officials. Supplies such at sleds, extra equipment, and clothing are sent back to ITC headquarters to be picked up by the mushers after the race.

A lot of work and planning goes into this. It takes months to get everything together and ready. I thought all the mushers had to do was train their dogs and show up to run the race. Boy was I wrong.

Well back to preparing for my trip. Hope school is going well for all of you and you’re studying hard.

See you on the trail,