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Packing List :: Adventure Bikepacking

by , October 6, 2016

Daniel Wakefield Pasley gives us an incomplete and totally biased list of the gear you'll need in order to excel at the art of Bikepacking.

Two years ago Yonder Journal - a quasi non-fictional study of contemporary recreation, 1000% of the time - was commissioned to study and document the art of bikepacking in the form of a project called Dead Reckoning. In the pursuit of our study we’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world; pedaling and pushing through the high Andes of Bolivia, the storm-wracked mountains of New Zealand, the dry desolation of the Eastern High Sierra, the bear-flushed alpine meadows of British Columbia, the long hot expanses of Australia, et cetera, et cetera.

And while it has mostly been a series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it’s also been a brutal-at-times learning curve in regards to the art of packing. Loading and unloading a bike every day for days and days and days, in challenging environments and ever-shifting weather is, you know, a thing. You can do it right. You can do it wrong. It’s never perfect. And for some it’s a form of entertainment and sport in and of itself. Whatever it is or isn’t, we’ve tried a lot and learned a lot and for better or worse we have what passes for a system.

That’s what this is, really, the anatomy of our system. However, before we get started please know this: this list is biased, incomplete, fluid and skewed towards Adventure in the pursuit of WCJ (World Class Journalism).

Bikepacking kit

Leica M Typ 262 with a Mettle Speed Strap

I’ve been shooting bike rides (commercially, as in professionally) for over ten years. First there was the Rapha Continental; support vehicle(s), back door open, on the roof, side door open, sitting through the passenger side window shooting around the antenna. Most of that was shot on a pair of Hasselblads. I also carried a Nikon 35Ti and a Leica M6. And sometimes a Canon 1D MKI with various L series lenses. Next, I shot a project called Brovet for Yonder Journal. No support vehicle so I had to carry all my cameras and film. I used a pair of Mamiya 7IIs for this job. I broke A LOT of those cameras. Also film is heavy as shit. And bulky. Also, the lack of autofocus was starting to get to me. Also, seriously, I ruined so many of those POS cameras. Then, as in now, as in the last two years, I’ve been shooting Dead Reckoning. Until recently I relied almost exclusively on a 5D MKIII with a 24-70 zoom lens. It’s a great camera and you can do basically everything with it. But it’s also heavy as shit. And bulky. I’ve spent at least 200 hours and thousands of dollars trying to figure out the right rack and bag system for that camera. I finally found it, it’s a stock Pelican case mounted to the front of the bike over the front tire on a super expensive and seriously custom rack made by this dude. It’s great. Easy(ish) access, totally weatherproof, durable, it’s mind-blowing how perfect a solution it is. In fact the only thing more mind-blowing is a Leica M Typ 262 with a 50mm lens. Okay yes, I don't have autofocus but maybe who cares. What I do have is half the weight and bulk of a DSLR, and all the super valuable packing space under my handle bars back. Also, it’s not perfect but the Mettle Speed Strap is pretty close. Zoom lenses are cool but not necessary. Rangefinding is rad.

"Loading and unloading a bike every day for days and days and days, in challenging environments and ever-shifting weather is, you know, a thing. You can do it right. You can do it wrong. It’s never perfect."

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack

There is SO MUCH packing in bikepacking. Also, bikepacking locations are, generally speaking, remote and inclement. With that in mind, a super tiny, amazing lightweight stuff sack that doubles as a daypack-purse-laundrybag-tote-ziploc-haversack is invaluable. Use it as a waterproof stuff sack inside one of your many not-so-waterproof bike-mounted bags, or as a daypack on a hike to a volcanic glacier, or as a hat. Look, just get one. You deserve it.

"...a super tiny, amazing lightweight stuff sack that doubles as a daypack-purse-laundrybag-tote-ziploc-haversack is invaluable."

Bikepacking Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Mission Workshop Hauser

I hate riding with backpacks. HATE. IT. If I can avoid it. Which is about 50% of the time, which means the other 50% of the time I need to ride with a backpack and really there is only one backpack to choose from and that’s the Hauser. Trust me, I’ve been wearing CamelBaks since like, 1991. I’ve used thousands of versions and types of hydration backpacks and the Hauser is the best. Especially if you care about comfort, support, simplicity, performance, aesthetics and quality. Also, you can put a full bladder in an already maxed Hauser without any problems. Every time.  No struggle. It just goes right in. Also, cool colors. Also also, seriously it’s the best.

"I’ve used thousands of versions and types of hydration backpacks and the Hauser is the best. Especially if you care about comfort, support, simplicity, performance, aesthetics and quality."

Bikepacking Mission Workshop Hauser

MSR Whisperlite International

Not much to say, it’s like an MSR Whisperlite that burns every form of liquid fuel known (and unknown) to man. Sewage, sweat, liquified footwear, diesel, vodka, etc., it burns all of that. If you’re headed to South America or Georgia (the Republic of) or anywhere else in the world that’s not Western AF, then you need this.

Bikepacking MSR Whisperlite International

Mission Workshop Orion

Imagine an Arc'teryx jacket that fits and works even better than an Arc'teryx jacket, and doesn't have that stupid dinosaur logo on it. Voila, the Orion. Cool colors. Lightweight, and it’s super waterproof. Also it’s been tested in Bolivia at 17k feet in a tropical high speed snow storm.

Bikepacking Mission Workshop Orion

Specialized SWAT Bibs

As far as I can tell Specialized doesn't even like this product. In fact it’s almost as if they hide it from the world which is a shame because it’s a genuine bonafide game-changer. In a nutshell we’re talking about cargo (bib) shorts here. They’re comfortable enough. And they’re durable. And while Specialized maybe recommends they be used in conjunction with “modesty” overshorts, that’s totally unnecessary. Pockets on the side. Pockets in the back. It’s basically like adding a set of candy bar holsters to your get-up.

"Pockets on the side. Pockets in the back. It’s basically like adding a set of candy bar holsters to your get-up."

Bikepacking SWAT bib

Specialized Adventure Bike, Sequoia Edition

This is BIG, maybe too BIG, especially here and now. Maybe let’s just say this for now. You have basically two options when it comes to choosing a bikepacking bike format. Mountain Bike, or Road Bike. Which is to say, flat bar or drop bar. One is more rugged, the other is more efficient. Plenty of brands/companies make frames that can go both ways but eventually, no matter what you do, ultimately you have to choose between one of those two handlebar formats. Assuming you choose the drop bar format, the Specialized Sequoia is the single greatest bike in the universe. Essentially everything about it has been fully considered with regards to bikepacking. It’s the rootinest, tootinest, shrednest, packenest, single-track handlinest, load bearinest bike I’ve ever ridden. Also, it looks cool.

"Assuming you choose the drop bar format, the Specialized Sequoia is the single greatest bike in the universe. Essentially everything about it has been fully considered with regards to bikepacking."

Bikepacking Specialized Sequoia

Outlier Wool Program

Wool Socks, Merino V-neck: Merino wool socks and shirts are a requirement for traveling. If you don’t know that, shame on you, you should know this stuff. Seriously. STOP NOT using merino wool socks and shirts for travel. And if you know that then you know that, congrats. Outlier makes the best socks and shirts ever ever ever ever ever. I’m not a sheep so I can’t tell you why exactly, but I do have a body and my body tells me that every time I wear Outlier products I feel great. Also, quality, durability and aesthetics. Check. Check. Check.

"Merino wool socks and shirts are a requirement for traveling."

Bikepacking Outlier socks

Mission Workshop Traverse XC

I don’t like mountain bike clothing in general because it’s hideous and if it works better than regular clothes and/or road cycling clothes you could have fooled me. Seriously, mountain bike fashion is an embarrassment to the world. But, these Traverse shorts are the right fabric and the right length, and they have a pretty nice waistband program. Also, you can’t tell they’re made for cycling. I mean, maybe you can but I can’t. And they work good. Also, this kinda over short that doubles as a reg short, swimming short, pajama short, modesty short, party short, dinner short, summer short, short-short, etc., is pretty invaluable while bikepacking.

Bikepacking Mission Workshop Traverse XC

Porcelain Rocket Frame Bag and Seat Bag

All bikepacking bags require some kinda compromise when it comes to openings, attachment systems, weight, closure techniques, etc.  None of them are perfect because it’s scientifically impossible to make perfect bikepacking bags in 2016. That will change in the future but don't hold your breath. For now the reality is Velcro and zippers. But don’t fret, just go to Porcelain Rocket’s website and buy a FULL SUITE of bags as per your needs and bike type. Sure, look at Revelate and some of the other even-more-cottage brands if you need to satisfy your curiosity but then, like I said, Porcelain Rocket.

"All bikepacking bags require some kinda compromise when it comes to openings, attachment systems, weight, closure techniques, etc.  None of them are perfect because it’s scientifically impossible to make perfect bikepacking bags in 2016."

Bikepacking Porcelain Rocket

Yanco X Yonder Cuben Fiber Travel Collection

Cuben Fiber is lightweight, durable, virtually waterproof and technical AF. Plus it makes a cool noise when you touch it. Yanco is a Los Angeles-based cottage dude-brand with years of small bag making experience. Also Yanco the human is pretty cool. For example he runs ultra marathons, his daughter is adorable and he used to skateboard. We (Yonder) travel for work A LOT. If it’s one thing we understand it’s managing small stupid, expensive, important, necessary shit across a wide variety of environments like international airports, alpine tents, the stratosphere (Bolivia), Italian jails, Grizzly encounters, etc. That’s why we beta-made a small collection of the perfect travel bags - small pouch (iPhone), larger pouch (misc), a musette and finally a passport/tradeshow badge holder. From running a face-to-face hustle at Interbike to trying to keep your Canon 580EX (is a camera flash) dry on the back of a motorcycle in Northern Europe, this collection of bags has you covered.

"If it’s one thing we understand it’s managing small stupid, expensive, important, necessary shit across a wide variety of environments like international airports, alpine tents, the stratosphere (Bolivia), Italian jails, Grizzly encounters, etc. That’s why we beta-made a small collection of the perfect travel bags - small pouch (iPhone), larger pouch (misc), a musette and finally a passport/tradeshow badge holder."

Bikepacking Yanco

That Petzl ZIPKA 

It’s the smallest, easiest, most reliable headlamp available. Also, ONE WORD: Retractable headband.

Bikepacking Petzl

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

This book is big and heavy and somewhat complicated to read because the story is told from the POV of like six different Jamaicans over the course of two decades. So clearly it’s the perfect reading material to bring on a lightweight death march. And in case you’re wondering, yes, reading is mandatory.

Bikepacking book

Mountain House Turkey Tetrazzini

Foraging and cooking is literally a waste of time. With little to no reward. Trust me. I’ve seen it go bad so many times. Also, you have to deal with shopping and portions and (in emerging nations) bucket protein. Do yourself a favor, bring delicious/pre-made/lightweight/dependable/packable food. And Mountain House Turkey Tetrazzini is the pinnacle of DPLDP food.

"Do yourself a favor, bring delicious/pre-made/lightweight/dependable/packable food."

Bikepacking Mountain House

Condiments for the Soul

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference. You can do anything and go anywhere confidently with these seven items in your “personal essentials” kit: Tabasco, Xanax, Pepto-Bismol, Toothpaste, Handi wipes, Snow Peak spork and Stumptown Coffee.

"It’s the little things that make the biggest difference."

Bikepacking condiments

Specialized Airnet

Helmets are stupid when you’re bikepacking but this is the least stupid helmet for bikepacking. I almost enjoy wearing it. Also it looks great, which because all helmets are legally required to work good, is all that really matters.

Bikepacking Specialized Airnet

Specialized Recon

Durable, sexy and sleek. The best adventure clipless shoes ever made. Maybe not as much “party” as Nike Pooh Bahs but whatever, solid black is a good look too. Just ask goth kids and New York City. Also these shoes last 47 times as long as Nike Pooh Bahs ever did. Also the 90’s are already played and these Recons are on some future shit. Seriously, I have it on good authority that when we send Navy Seals to Alpha Centauri to explore the planet by bike as part of the Corp of Discovery II, they will be outfitted in Recons.

"I have it on good authority that when we send Navy Seals to Alpha Centauri to explore the planet by bike as part of the Corp of Discovery II, they will be outfitted in Recons."

Bikepacking Specialized Recon

Down Kit

Like merino wool, down is a must when it comes to travel and high adventure. How much and which kinda down comes down to your specific seasonal and elevational needs. Here are my favorite by category: sleeping bag = Mountain Hardwear Phantom 28, booties = Western Mountaineering, jacket = Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, vest = Giro New Road, pants = Montbell Tec Down.

"Like merino wool, down is a must when it comes to travel and high adventure. How much and which kinda down comes down to your specific seasonal and elevational needs."

Bikepacking Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Crocs

Recreational non-performance footwear that performs is a must. These are cheap, light, flame retardant, comfortable, easy to put on and take off, sexy and they float. Also they’re so normcore AF they’re “cool” iffin that matters to you.

Bikepacking Crocs

Sea to Summit eVent Compression Sacks

We've tried them all (okay now that’s not true, but we’ve tried A LOT) and these are 10000% the best. They really are waterproof and they last a long time. Also when bikepacking, a small nearly magical waterproof purse for all the things that HAVE TO STAY DRY is invaluable.

"They really are waterproof and they last a long time. Also when bikepacking, a small nearly magical waterproof purse for all the things that HAVE TO STAY DRY is invaluable."

Bikepacking Sea to Summit

Snow Peak Fal 2

This tent is lightweight and simple but most importantly it can be built from the inside out. There may be better tents on the market, like empirically speaking, but I don’t care because one of these literally saved my life in a mid-summer arctic monsoon on the Huxley River in New Zealand.

"This tent is lightweight and simple but most importantly it can be built from the inside out."

Bikepacking Snow Peak Fal 2

Poler Coastal Floppy Arrowhead Hat

It’s a baseball hat made out of technical fabric that dries fast and doesn't get fucked up when you put it in a washing machine. What more do you want? What are you waiting for? Just get one.

Bikepacking Poler hat

Bandana

It's a respirator, it's a fashion accessory, it's a hat, it’s a bib, it's a towel and it’s a unit of cotton - which in the technical fabric dominated climate we currently live in, is like having a little piece of heaven on demand.

"It's a respirator, it's a fashion accessory, it's a hat, it’s a bib, it's a towel and it’s a unit of cotton..."

Bikepacking bandana

Kettle Chips

1) Buy your favorite flavor. 2) Put a small hole in the bag near the top to let the air out. 3) Smash the chips down (inside the bag). 4) Roll the chip bag up into as tight a roll as possible. 5) Put a rubber band around it. 6) Hide it from yourself in one of your Porcelain Rocket bags, or maybe in the bottom of your Hauser. 7) Break it out when you’re bonked-hungry AND kinda moody about missing your mom or your wife or your country or whatever.

Kettle chips

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