Please note – This post is merely what’s working for me. Not a prescription for others.
March 2023. With the really cold weather camping season coming to a close here in the Rockies I’ll try and document gear and usages for mostly solo overnighters in temperatures to -35 Celsius. As part of my leave-no-trace approach, these trips seldom include wood fires. I require gear that will keep me dry and warm with minimal use of external heat sources. While winter camping during the 2021/22 season I noticed that some of my gear was not performing as well as previous seasons. With numerous pieces being up to a decade old, it was time to update a few items. This post reflects those updates after about five months of regular use. Both Cascade Designs (MSR & Therma Rest) and Rab feature prominently in my selections. All items were purchased at retail prices and have been chosen based solely on my experiences and perceptions regarding performance, utility, and value. Many of the items were purchased at off-season discounts of 50-65%.
Challenge Sailcloth’s 100% recycled ECOPAK EPX200 has been getting the call for some custom bags. Fun stuff to create new luggage with!
Back of bike – The primary reason for these larger compression panniers is to be able to get bulky items off the handlebar, and create a lower centre of gravity. (~20 litres, <375 grams each including all attachments) The visible right pannier contains outerwear, spare clothing, bear-hang (empty food bag), DIY tent footprint, and ExoSpikes in the compression lid. The ExoSpikes weigh about 220 grams and are vastly superior to studded boots. The left pannier contains a 2022 Therma Rest Polar Ranger -30C sleeping bag, and a 2020 MSR Hubba NX tent without the poles. The weight of panniers and contents is 5.0 kg, ~11 pounds. The 2020 DIY composite rear rack with integrated fender weighs <900 grams. This rack angle permits the full usage of the dropper post. Total weight behind the seat tube is less than 6 kg.
Front of bike – Strapped directly to the Jones H Loop bar is a top-loading custom Bikepackers Foundry FireballBag; ~400 grams empty. Inside are the tent poles (bottom of bag and close to the head tube), 10+2 sections of 2015 Therma Rest Z-Lite Sol closed cell foam mattress, and a 2022 Therma Rest Neo Air X Therm Regular Wide with inflation bag. The weight of the FireballBag and contents is 1.3 kg, 2.9 pounds. A 2022 Lynx OGT Aurora maximum 1,500 lumen light is direct-mounted to the handlebar with OneWrap, weighs 106 grams. (Lynx OGT is a Nelson BC company producing world-class lighting systems.) Total weight on the handlebars < 1.5 kg, 3.3 pounds.
Centre of bike – As I almost always ride without a backpack or hip belt everything else needs to be carried around the centre triangle.
The 2020 custom frame bag contains canister stove & pot kit + emergency titanium wood stove, 2 litre water bladder (insulated in Outdoor Research hard shell and rain pants), 500 ml thermos of hot water covered with a pair of XL Rab Xenon mitts, emergency/first aid kit, spare Carbon Drive belt, spare Revoloop 27.5″ fatbike tube, zip ties, small shovel, and spare bike parts.
The 2020 custom top tube bag is divided in about the middle, with the back section holding a 0.5 litre drink-through-the-lid Thermos flask of warm water (this flask position the lowers centre of gravity of the bike) cushioned by a pair of Large Rab Xenon mitts & spare buff (back);, with the front section holding two 10,000mAh PD cache battery/warmers, two USB C to C cables and two USB A to micro USB cables and two female micro USB to male USB C adaptors (gotta have spares), Zoleo satellite communicator, keys and wallet, Swift RL headlamp, two spare 18650 batteries for the Aurora handlebar light, and two Petzl Bindi headlamps. Separate detailed post on 2023 lighting, heating, and power for bikepacking coming soon. Side note: at least one spare headlamp and the Zoleo are in my pockets while night riding. Bear spray carry location varies by my perception of risk levels. Belt carry is the preferred option.
Please leave a comment if there are other details that might be helpful to you.