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Light, heat, & power for bikepacking

This blog post outlines an integrated approach to having reliable light, heat, and power when bikepacking. More efficient and higher quality LED light sources, larger battery capacities, and the quick charging capabilities of many newer devices have created options for lightweight and robust systems. After comparing the specifications of various different elements I settled on two headlamps from Lynx OGT in Nelson BC, some handwarmer/cache batteries from Ocoopa, and front and rear blinky lights from Leyzne. The Power Delivery cache batteries outlined in this blog post continue to perform well, and have not been replaced. All items have been purchased at retail prices and are mentioned solely on their merits.

Background: 2022 was a year where several key electrical items stopped working while I was bikepacking. The most irritating was a fairly new Fenix HM65R light that shut off while I was night riding in a heavy rain storm. I was able to reach my destination with a backup headlamp. One of the lens seals was leaking, damaging the electronics. Replacement Fenix proprietary 18650 batteries are more than 4 times the price of standard units… A couple of Eddie Bauer branded USB rechargeable hand warmers also faded away after years of use.

Night riding along a lake shore. Primary lighting is from an Aurora (medium setting ~800 lumens) on the handlebars, and the bright rectangle is a CatEye 2 on the helmet, at about 600 lumens. I can ride about 6 hours on these settings. Including mounts, this pair of lights weighs 200 grams. On the highest settings this pair of lights produces about 2,000 lumens, much more than I need under most conditions. Lynx OGT from Nelson BC is creating some world-class and cost effective lighting systems!

Lighting: The Lynx OGT headlamps have similar controls consisting of a single button that is easily operated with gloves, mitts, and cold digits. The first press turns the light on to the “remembered” setting, second press is full power, a double press switches the light to strobe mode. There is also a stepless dimmer that “remembers” the last setting. The strobe setting is excellent for daytime riding on busy roads. The push button is translucent and has segmented red and green LEDs that indicate discharge and charge status. Both lights use standard 18650 3,500 mAh batteries. The mounts for both lights can be easily adapted for direct mounting. Lynx OGT sells additional mounts at a very modest cost. The Cat Eye 2 (left image below) has an adjustable beam pattern that can project a smaller and evenly lit area. This pattern is my preference as a helmet light. Around camp I’ll use the widest setting on low (50 lumens). The handlebar mounted Aurora (centre and right images) has three white and two red LEDs that produce uniform and far reaching light patterns. I find the white High (1,200 lumens) setting to be too much for most backcountry riding. The red light is a gamechanger!!! I prefer to run it on red High (300 lumens). it is easy to see conditions ahead, while also being able to enjoy the surrounding naturally lit night views. See picture and comments below.

I was not able to capture an image of the cracks in the ice visible with red lighting. The crack immediately left of the front wheel and extending out onto the lake surface could be seen while night riding from about 10 metres away. Wider cracks can be seen from greater distances.

Light Mounts: Lynx OGT lights can be readily adapted for direct mounting to helmets and bikes.

Running lights: A pair of Lezyne Zecto Drive lights are an excellent compromise between weight and brightness. The day-flash settings are very visible, with reasonable run times. The lights recharge fairly quickly despite only having micro-USB charging ports. There are side-mounted LED’s that provide lateral visibility, and another set of indicators of battery levels. Build quality and design are very good.

Charging: There are many variables when recharging devices in the field. I prefer to recharge my phone and GPS head prior to going to bed. This typically takes less than 90 minutes charging both USB-C devices.

As previously mentioned there are many variables with bikepacking light, heat, and power. If you’re looking to create a mental-model of your power requirements, a USB tester can help reduce the time spent developing and validating a power management plan.

Embracing winter while night riding with 300 lumens of red lighting.

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