It’s the time of year when a number of publications publish their ‘Best of’ series and I thought I’d do the same. After a decade of bikepacking I’ve had more failures than successes, so this will save readers from the hassles and costs that I’ve incurred!
My clothing can be grouped into my ‘core’ riding gear; rain gear; and after riding gear. For size when packing, I’ve used a 750 mL water bottle as the ‘standard’ metric.
Core Riding Gear
PACTIMO Summit stratos 12 bib shorts
Shorts are a totally personal thing and I’ve tried many. But after doing the 7,400 km North Cape-Tarifa race in 2018 with no issues, these 183 gram shorts are definitely my go to ones for bikepacking. I’ll let the Pactimo web site tell you why: “Designed for and proven at ultra-endurance events like the Dirty Kanza and Transcontinental Race, the Summit Stratos is the ideal choice for those who want guaranteed comfort over extreme distances and demanding terrains. The extremely durable Cerami–K fabric, noted by its unique dotted pattern, provides uninhibited movement, long distance comfort and heat dissipation during maximum exertion. Breathable, laser-cut MAB X Power straps are mated to an extremely lightweight mesh across the back making for an accommodating fit for a variety of torso lengths. Single layer, hexagonal mesh knit leg bands guarantee a slip-free fit while also allowing for moisture movement away from the skin. The Elastic Interface® Endurance Anatomic Super Air chamois was uniquely designed to Pactimo’s strict comfort specifications for a long distance pad”.
Gore Wear C5 Trail Light Shorts
These are great to cover the Pactimo riding shorts when riding on technical trails, or for after the ride (their light weight and ventilation is brilliant—doesn’t feel like you are wearing shorts!) Can also substitute for a swim suit. 139 grams and half a water bottle.
Montbell Cross Runner Pants
These are my favourite pants. Not just for riding on cool days (they are not much larger than rolled up leggings and more versatile!, but for wearing around the house and general leisure. That is one of the additional nice aspects to them: they don’t look like exercise gear so you can wear them informally. They even have pockets. They have a very unique design with the front providing wind protection—and some water repellence—and the rear a light weight flexible material which lets the heat out. And they are just so comfortable to wear! The only downside is that they do not have zippers on the ankles. 200 grams and 3/4+ of a water bottle.
ATTAQUER RACE JACKET
For when it is cooler, this is a great jacket. It is also waterproof and breathable, but not as much as the Gore jacket above. It’s 337 grams and rolls up to the size of a water bottle. I use this on cool days, and for light ran. It’s a really nice jacket, just wish they didn’t have such a large logo on the arm or it could be used in more formal settings.
CASTELLI VELO Vest
I like vests because they are not only good for when it is cool, but this is bright orange which improves my visibility. Super light and very packable. My new favourite.
De Soto Arm Coolers / UV Protection
I’ve taken to wearing a short sleeve cycling jersey again and so have been using these to provide extra protection against UV for my arms. An added bonus on hot days is that they have a great cooling effect. I tried a few others but found that they didn’t feel as comfortable—one set even gave me ‘tennis elbow’ because they were too tight.
CASTELLI BASE LAYER CORE MESH SLEEVELESS UNDERSHIRT
I was very sceptical about this bit of kit, but I’m absolutely sold on it for two reasons. Firstly, it does keep you cooler on hot days by keeping your shirt off your body. Secondly, it eliminates ‘nipple rash’ which I found would happen when the wet shirt would rub. At only 37 grams it weighs nothing and you don’t notice it. Try it. You will also probably become a believer.
I use two different types of socks, because they are both great and I can’t choose between them! The Defeet AirEator is a super light (39g) summer sock. The slightly heavier (42g) Swiftwick Aspire Four have some compression. I tend to leave the latter in my sleeping kit and wear them after riding. See under the ‘Rain Gear’ for my breathable waterproof socks.
Specialized body geometry dual gel gloves
I’ve started using long fingered gloves to reduce the sun exposure to my hands. I like these ones because the hands don’t get too hot, and on cool days they also help. Lots of padding to take the edge off the road … 50 grams.
Ground effect Jolly Roger head protector
This keeps the sun off my brow and the sweat out of my eyes. 18 grams.
Buff Face Protector
After my 2018 crash which split my face open, the scarring on my lips where they sewed me back together is really sensitive. I use a buff to relieve the lower face from sun and wind. 40 grams.
Gorewear Shakedry Running Jacket
Why a running jacket? Because it has a hood! It also isn’t black. At 127 grams it is very light, packs very small (under half a waterbottle), and being Gore-tex, is breathable while water proof.
GORE C5 ACTIVE TRAIL PANTS
I used these to replace my Endura MT500 pants. They pack smaller and fit me better.
Extremeties TUFF Bags GTX
I don’t do well when I am wet and cold so I use these to keep my hands protected. They fit over any cycling gloves and when tucked into the sleeves of your rain jacket will keep your hands warm and dry. On cold days I use them over my Specialized gloves and the hands don’t suffer too much. 40 grams.
Dexshell Ultra Thin Socks
For me, nothing worse is than having cold, wet feet. So I use these 63 gram bamboo based breathable socks coupled with the Gore Wear Overshoes (below). The combination of the socks covered by the overshoes with the MT500 on the outside has kept my feet warm and dry in the greatest deluges.
Gore Bike Wear Road Overshoes
I’ve tried a number of different ones over the years but none have worked better with my Lake CX-331 cycling shoes than these. They aren’t like the super tight aero overshoes. Rear entry with velcro, easy to get on and off, they just work. Bottoms are bit worse for wear … 157 grams and 3/4 water bottle.
2XU Accelerate Compression Pants
I usually wear these for sleeping, chilling after a hard day’s riding, or stretching/ yoga. Not sure if it’s the placebo effect, but they seem to help. At only 149 grams and 3/4 of a water bottle, they are worth it
Under Armour Swift 1/4 Zip Jersey
This is my after riding shirt. Super comfortable, it has ventilation which makes it a nice mid-range shirt. 219 grams and half a bottle. My only complaint is that it shows wear very quickly!
Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket
For when things get cold this is an amazing jacket. I have it down for post-ride, but I also use it on very cold days riding. It packs down to half the size of a water bottle, weighs 134 grams, and keeps me warmer than jackets twice the size and weight due to the quality of the down. I got this jacket from Japan as they have hand pockets (the US version doesn’t). The only downside is that it is bit noisy with the material, and it is not very windproof (so need to use it with one of the above Gore or Attaquer jackets).
Kathmandu buzzGuard hat
A 58 gram baseball type hat, it folds in half at the brow which makes it easy to pack. It also has a ‘flap’ that connects at the rear to keep the sun off your neck. I wear it on very sunny days under my cycle helmet if I want to keep the sun off my face.
For my sleeping kit, I keep the sleeping mat and bag inside the bivy which I roll up. That way the sleeping bag is protected from the elements, and I can deploy things very quickly when stealth camping. All up with the strap it’s a 1300 gram package which fits easily into the Porcelain Rocket seat dry bag.
Montbell US Down Hugger 900 #5 Sleeping Bag
At 468 grams and about two water bottles in size, it is an amazing bit of engineering. It is claimed to be comfortable to about 5 degrees C, but can be colder if you have extra layers on. It has an unusual design which does make it more comfortable than regular bags: “We found that integrating a woven fabric “cut on the bias” and orienting the fabric’s warp and weft threads at 45 degrees to most major seam lines the sleeping bag becomes more fluid in nature. To create an even more comfortable system we utilize an elasticized thread in the stitch to create small “gathers” in the quilting. Through the combination of strategic seam orientation and the stretch provided by gathered quilting we offer unrivalled fit and comfort. These innovations allow the sleeping bag to move with you as you change positions throughout the night, drawing the premium 900 fill goose down closer to your body and eliminating drafty dead spaces.” There are videos showing it to be very waterproof with its DWR coating, but I’ve not confirmed that yet. Only complaint is that you can’t choose a left handed zipper so doesn’t match the zipper on my bivy.
Sea-to-summit Ultralight sleeping mat
At 400 grams, this is a super comfortable sleeping mat. It inflates easily and has this huge release valve which makes it easy to deflate and roll up. About 3/4 water bottle size.
Borah Gear eVent Snowyside Bivy bag
I’ve tried a few bivies over the year but I keep returning to this one. It’s about the size of a water bottle, weighs about 400 grams, and has netting which keeps the bugs off. Downsides? The silnylon floor is very slippery so I slide down the bivy. Below are a few photos of it in use stealth camping on North Cape-Tarifa in 2018.
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow
A pillow? Yes, I know, a bit of an indulgence. But at 60 grams why not? What’s nice is that the new sea to summit mats connect to the pillows so that it stays in place.