Wanna Flag? Part 3 - What to Bring
OK, so you’ve got your whites and perhaps even sewn on an NER or SCCA patch or two. You’ve got your sturdy boots and gloves. What about the other stuff? To be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw at you, you will need a fair amount of equipment. Remember, except for the lunch break, you are out there all day. The temperature and the weather can change dramatically. You need an efficient way to carry all your gear.
Just like for camping, a backpack fits the bill. They are lightweight, have lots of compartments for small stuff, come in different sizes and are easy to carry on your back leaving your hands free for a cooler or folding chair. In some regions, flaggers use large, plastic joint compound buckets to hold their gear. They have the advantage of being completely waterproof and can double as a seat. The “Bucket Boss” company has all kinds of accessories for a pail including a comfy seat cover. You can also decorate your bucket with race stickers and decals. The idea is to have something that can carry all your gear so you don’t have to think about what to pack each time you go out on station.
So, what are the essentials for a well packed track bag? The first item is your rain gear. Never leave home without it! Other essential items include sunblock, insect repellent, chapstick, a small notepad and pen, whistle, bandana and ear protection. For early Spring or late Fall flagging consider extra layers. The day can start out cool, heat up at midday and be chilly again by late afternoon. I pack an extra pair of gloves, neck warmer, watch cap, wind shirt, fleece jacket or vest and “Hot Hands” hand warmers. There have been times (the night shift at Daytona in a cold rain) when I have worn every piece of clothing in my bag under my rainsuit to stay warm. I also set my bag up with a compartment for two water bottles and a few granola bars.
Another item that is not essential, but very helpful, is a scanner. Since we use radios, and not landlines, at LRP and NHIS you can listen in on the flag net to control and the other stations when you are not “on phones”. It also allows you to anticipate black flags, full course yellows and white flag conditions before they actually happen. A tool belt is also useful on which to hang the radio or scanner. A Leatherman tool or heavy scissors and/or knife can be used to release a stuck safety harness or window net. I also carry a small binocular to check the track for debris or the condition of a driver if he has gone off at a distance from my station.
I also like to keep my credentials and worker log book in my track bag so that there is no way I can forget and leave them at home. As you begin to flag and gain experience, there will be items that are essential to you to keep in your bag. If you are allergic to bee sting, for instance, you may carry an EpiPen®. It becomes a very personal thing, so when you pick up that bag to go you know that you have covered all the bases for what you will need that day. In the next article we will discuss what to do with all that equipment when you get on station.