"Have I packed everything?!")
Initially at least, this page
may seem a strange concept, particularly to those of you who've been to
Le Mans many times before, but if you haven't or if you're not used to
travelling to a race outside the UK, you might just find it handy.
This is drawn from the checklist that I've developed for myself over 32 years and which I religiously run through several
times before the bags go into the car for the
blush it may all sound a bit daft, paranoid even, but can there really be anything worse than
sitting on the ferry as it pulls out of Portsmouth (or wherever) and then
realising that you've left your race tickets, euros, essential medication etc.
Of course its up
to you to decide what you consider absolutely essential or merely desirable -
and these things vary enormously from person to person and group to group.
Some groups are happy to just fill the boot of the car with beer! What you take with you will also depend on several
factors, not the least of which is how
much space you've got, whether you're serious
about the photography side of things and how long the trip is going
to be. I've categorised my suggested list however, into:
This list is by no means
exhaustive. I'll be interested to hear from
seasoned Le Mans campaigners of the things I've
left out! (And I don't mean beer, beer
and more beer.........!).
- Obviously, you can take as many
changes of clothing (if any!) as you
think you'll need and you have room for. Even if you're
travelling really light, try and
allow for an extra change in case the
weather is really bad (like
2001, 2007 and quite a bit of 2016!). If you're planning to
be up and about for most of the time (like me - so not a lot of sleep) take some
extra changes of underwear, t-shirts
and in particular socks. Having walked around all afternoon
and all night as the race progresses, it's surprising how luxurious -
and revitalising it feels
just to change into a clean pair
about your shoes. If you plan to walk for miles and miles,
wear a comfortable (and preferably, waterproof) pair. Le Mans is definitely NOT
the place to break in a brand new pair of trainers
that are seeing the light out of
their box for the very first time! If you walk as much
as I do during the weekend, you will
get BLISTERS no matter how
comfortable those trainers felt when
you tried them on in the shop!
- A decent waterproof and ideally insulated coat
is a must, but if its not
bucketing down I tend to reserve
that for the night - remember - even if its blisteringly hot during the
day, by 4 or 5 am it usually gets pretty chilly. In recent years
(2011 and 2014 were the
coldest nights I've ever experienced at Le Mans after which I invested in
some thermal long-johns as although my upper body was warm, my legs were
freezing. I also bought myself a very warm insulated coat. You may
want to invest in a
"Jack-in-a-Pack" (from branches of Millets) or a similar lightweight waterproof jacket
that folds up very small so you can stuff it in a pocket or
attach it to your camera bag. (They do matching trousers as well,
if the weather turns really bad). Have a pair of really thick socks in
your bag to put on at night. There's nothing like having warm feet
to make the rest of you feel like toast.
absolute essential is a hat - preferably a floppy sun hat rather
than a cap. Laugh at your peril...... If it doesn't rain,
the sun will get very hot (I've never felt heat like it in the pits grandstand before
the race in 2005), and if you're planning on standing on the
tribunes opposite the pits for 3 or 4 hours watching
the pre-race festivities and then the
start of the race, the sun will beat
down on your head turning the back of
your neck to something resembling part-cooked bacon - I can guarantee you
wish you had worn a hat! I'm no
slave to fashion, so for years I wore an old floppy white sunhat that I
only ever wore at Le Mans! It not only protects
my balding head but my neck as well. (I now have a new one.....).
- Sounds rather serious, doesn't it?! In 31 years, I've had
relatively few problems, but after severe food-poisoning in 1987 and very
bad blisters in
1996, I've learned enough to appreciate that
its definitely a case of "better
safe than sorry"! We all
tend to over-indulge, whether on food
or booze, and this, coupled with
miles of walking, lots of blazing
sunshine (hopefully!) and not a lot
of sleep can leave you feeling very much the
worse for wear at various times
during the week-end (or the week, if
you're lucky enough to be there for the whole shooting-match).
Obviously, if you have to take medication
on a regular basis anyway, make sure you take enough supplies with you
to keep you going through the trip, just as you would for any holiday.
usually does the trick for you.
Diocalm or something similar for when
things get really bad stomach-wise
and bisodol or
Rennies etc. if things
haven't quite deteriorated to that
protection - I've
mentioned the sun already - take some
and make sure you put some on the back of your
neck. If like me, you're going a bit thin on top, don't forget
that too. Noses are always a prime candidate as well for sunburn. If it's really hot and
you're one of the macho shorts and no
shirt brigade, put some cream on or
run the risk of looking really pink and stupid by 4 pm on Sunday!
It's a fact that we can always
spot the Brits by their red faces, necks and backs on Sunday at Le Mans......
throat - Personally, I've
always been prone to sore
so if you're the same, some
might be an idea, plus a bottle of Difflam antiseptic mouthwash - the
best thing I've ever discovered for sore throats!
my "new trainers" ordeal of a few years ago, I always carry not only
quite medical, but don't forget to
pack useful things like wet-wipes
(it gets very dusty if its dry at Le Mans and with sun cream, beer,
frites, merguez and goodness knows what else passing through your hands,
you can get really grubby - especially if you're camping),
plus a towel, tissues and, most important of all, a toilet-roll - just
in case - although the public loos in the revised atmosphere-less
F1-style Village at Le Mans made a huge difference, some of the
others around the circuit are best avoided.....
- If you're either a serious
photographer or an enthusiastic
amateur like me, you probably won't
need advice about what to
pack. Nevertheless, its a good
idea to make a list of what you want
to take and to make sure you have all
the batteries, memory cards and so on that
you'll need - because they are very
expensive to buy at the
circuit! If you're going to be
carrying your camera everywhere you
go (like me) don't include anything
you know you won't need.
The camera-bag will feel fine slung
over your shoulder at the beginning
of the trip, but by the end it'll
feel as though you filled it with the lead off the local church
roof..... In fact, invest in a good rucksack-style camera bag.
I bought a Lowepro bag for 2011 (and I'm still using it 6 years later) and I've never regretted it - plus it
has space for so much more in it.
One other word of warning
- make sure you test your gear thoroughly before you leave home.
In 2008, my camera died two days before leaving. I'd already
packed it ready for the trip but needed to take a quick shot of
something. If I hadn't done that, I'd never have known it had
packed up until I was in France.....
Pretty obvious, I guess! I'd love to have more but I only
use 3 lenses, all zooms, long and short. I'd love to have better
lenses, but the budget doesn't stretch to some of the fancy gear I see
enthusiasts using from the public areas these days.
- of limited use to the
"ordinary" spectator, as
the debris fencing completely ruins flash shots
at night. But there are one or
two places where you can avoid
it (e.g. the banking inside Tertre Rouge).
- Make sure your camera battery is in
good nick (or you have a
spare). Charge up any rechargeables and don't forget to pack the
charger! Don't forget batteries
for the flashgun or any remote
controls, and that your batteries are also charged up for your video camera, if
you're taking it.
- I went digital in 2004. You'll
need to work out how many shots you'll be likely to take (and at what
resolution) and take along as many cards as will be needed. Of
course, digital users have the advantage of being able to dump those
reject shots straight away. In 2008, I took one 4gig card, one 2
gig, one 1 gig and several 512 meg cards. These days, although I
take several cards of 8Gb or greater, one of which will probably hold all
of the week's shots. Of course, if you have a laptop to tuck away
somewhere safe, you can download back at the hotel as and when you
- I only ever use my tripod at night or in the early morning.
Essential for those wonderful light-trail shots (that so many like me
try to achieve and fail miserably every year!), if you can find
somewhere without fencing in the way. Only carry it around if you
have to - otherwise leave it tucked away (safely locked up) in the car
if you can - like the camera bag, they get very heavy when you've been
carrying them for a few hours! In 2008 I finally gave up on taking
my tripod - I was making so little use of it and it was such a pain to
lug around during the night.....
- I don't much care for the things myself (although I have one), but
they're much easier to lug around than a tripod and can come in handy
for that extra little bit of steadiness, particularly if your camera is
sporting a long zoom or early in the morning as the sun comes up when
there's not so much light around. I take one now (since 2016) just
for my big Sigma zoom.
- What? I hear you say? Yes, pretty essential,
small Maglite is extremely useful for
reading the display on your camera in
the middle of the night (without using up your battery on the
backlight). And for finding your way in the dark to and from
the car park at Mulsanne!
- Before I set out on the trip I
always give camera and lenses a good
clean. Whatever the weather at
Le Mans, everything will suffer,
whether from water if it rains or
from the dust if its dry. If
its hot you'll end up transferring
sweat to the camera and need to watch
out that your fingers (and the
remnants of that last merguez!) don't
find their way onto your best
lens! A blower
and/or some lens
may come in handy.
- OK, to finish off then we have the silly little bits and
pieces that are so easy to ignore or
forget which you only realise you need when you're at the circuit and
can't get them! Either that or they're the absolute
essentials, without which you're
- After a couple of nights on an
endless diet of burgers, merguez,
frites, beer, wine and Gitanes, believe me, you'll be desperate to brush your
- likewise, if you get the chance to
have a shower, whether somewhere at
the circuit or at your hotel, it's
amazing how revitalising it can
be! When choosing your shower
gel, the most important thing is not the smell! Make sure it has a very
securely-fitting cap, or like me in
1995, you'll end up with a bag full of
the stuff and richly perfumed and very sticky clothes!
- Useful to carry cash and all sorts of bits and pieces.
- if you're like me and can't see
your nose in front of your face
without your specs, make sure you
take a spare pair - along with your sunglasses
- well, we need to be optimistic,
- another essential item, for
listening to my mate Paul Truswell on Radio
In 2011 I invested in some Elvex Quietunes headphones with built in
radio. Absolutely fantastic and still going strong in 2017. But a small radio with
earphones will do. If you forget, you can buy one from the RLM
radio sellers at the circuit.
what else? Well, you had better
not forget these:-
- well, I think its always best to state the
- if you've bought them in advance.
- if you're a member.
- one of those cheap and cheerful plastic holders which dangle on string
around your neck is invaluable - keep all your
tickets in there and you can even
perch a small radio in it as
well! You can buy the holders
at the circuit for next to nothing or
if you're on an organised tour,
you'll probably be given them as freebies anyway!
- don't forget to pack the Euros you
bought in advance.
- always handy.
Phone charger - don't forget it!
Battery pack - these days there are
some really good external battery packs/chargers that will charge
anything that plugs into a USB socket - really useful if you're planning
to 'do' the whole race. I use a powerful Ravpower one.
So there you
have it - Ayse's own personal guide to what to pack for Le Mans.
is....... I'm sure I've forgotten something........ ;-)