We asked our editors to share what keeps their wheels rollin’ on the open road. Here are some of their favorites.
Hammock and tarp setup
One of the things I like most about bikepacking is the ability to travel extremely light and feel at one with my surroundings. I’m not against loading down a bike and carrying as many creature comforts as you possibly can, it’s just not how I approach it. After a long day of pedaling I like to be as comfortable as possible while I sleep and recuperate for the next leg of my journey. My solution has always been to carry a simple hammock and tarp. It’s something I learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail as a kid. Back then it was a stupid small nylon net hammock and a somewhat heavy rain tarp. Nowadays I have two systems I chose based on the weather and space/weight constraints:
My lightweight option is an $85 ENO hammock and their SlapStrap suspension system for easy, and tree friendly, hammock hanging. The whole package comes in under two pounds and packs into an incredibly small corner of my gear.
Of course if it rains you’ll want to take along a tarp to keep warm and dry. My choice is the $115 MacCat Standard from Outdoor Equipment Supplier. Over the last eight years it has protected me from some serious storms and shows little signs of wear. It’s just the right size and weighs less than 13 ounces.
Now if I have a little extra space and am expecting more inclement weather or bugs I’ll pack my $330 Clark Jungle Hammock. I have their three-season Tropical Ultra hammock that features a rain tarp, internal and external storage pockets, rope and that all-important mosquito netting. It’s truly a beautifully designed all-in-one camping solution weighing in at 2 pounds 9 ounces. —Jon Pratt
Puffy vest or coat
Not a bike-specific item, but incredibly useful nonetheless, the North Face Nuptse Vest packs fat, 700-fill goose down into an item that I never head into the backcountry without, even in the summer. It stuffs down to the size of a grapefruit in its own pouch for easy storage, and can be an actual lifesaver if you get caught out overnight. Even if you had planned on spending the evening outdoors, it’s a perfect layer for bundling up around the campfire and doubles as an extremely comfortable pillow in your sleeping bag.
In the colder months I’ll pack this $279 Sierra Designs Super Stratus jacket, made with DriDown, which is as warm as regular down but much more resistant to moisture. You’ll find the usual pockets: two handwarmer pockets, an interior chest pocket, and two interior dump pockets—useful for stashing your gloves when you go inside. There are thumb holes at the elastic sleeve cuffs too, to seal off any pesky drafts. Inside the hood is a separate collar, so you can zip it up snug without adjusting the hood. Even the hem has an adjustable draw cord. The main zipper seems to have traded robustness for light weight, so I frequently have a hard time getting it to engage. It can be pretty frustrating with frosty fingers.
It’s a wonderful piece to have ready when you get to camp and you’re ready for a nice goose hug. It can be a (literal/figurative) lifesaver in an emergency as well. For touring and bikepacking, it offers a lot of piece of mind and warmth security in a small, packable package. —Adam Newman
Alcohol Camping Stove
The $130 Trail Designs Fissure Ti-Tri a cooking system that allows me to burn alcohol, solid fuel cubes or wood. It’s constructed from titanium so it’s lightweight and can withstand the heat of a wood fire. The Fissure also completely collapses so that it can be stored inside a small cooking pot and easily brought along on my excursions. The entire system (without pot or fuel) weighs around 4.5 ounces. Check with Trail Designs to see if it will work with your existing pot, or you can choose to purchase an all-inclusive package, which includes several pot choices. —JP
Salsa Anything Cage HD
Salsa pioneered the use of the now ubiquitous three-bolt cargo cage for carrying, well, anything. The latest “heavy duty” version of the $35 Salsa Anything Cage has been completely re-imagined, having eschewed the tubular metal construction in favor of a more durable injection-molded nylon. Weighing just 149 grams, it can carry more than six pounds of whatever you can think to attached to it with the two included straps. The best part is that at $35 it’s only $5 more than the standard version. —AN
With bikepacking you need to haul things on your bike, and the $130 Viscacha from Revelate Designs is a great solution. The Viscacha attaches to your seat and seatpost, provides up to 14 liters of internal storage, and keeps the trail grime from mudding up your back. It is constructed from the same material they make high-performance sail cloths with, so you know it can take a beating.
In addition to the internal and external compression straps there are four eyelets that can be used to secure more gear on the outside of the bag. There’s a flexible plastic piece along the underside that provides some support along the bags length and provides some additional protection from dirt and water coming off your back tire. It’s not completely waterproof, but I’ve used in some horrible conditions and my gear has stayed dry. I don’t go on any bike trip without it. —JP
Even if you head out into nature to escape the world of technology, there’s a good chance you’ll be bringing a few battery-powered items with you: Lights. Camera. GPS. Even a phone in case of an emergency. Keeping that stuff powered can be a problem. The $70 Enerplex Kickr II is a 15×8-inch solar panel that can attach to the outside of a backpack, across the top of a bike rack, or simply propped up in camp. It has an output of .6 amp, so about half of what you’d get from a wall outlet, and not enough to charge an iPhone 6 directly, but that’s where the $50 Outdoor Tech Kodiak Power Bank comes in. It packs 6,000 mAh of battery life—that’s about three full charges on an iPhone 6. Plus it’s encased in a rubbery protective shell drops and scratches and Outdoor Tech says it can be immersed in up to one meter of water. —AN
Editor’s note: These reviews originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.