An in depth look at the gear I choose to carry with me. I don’t think myself an expert on the issue, nor is this meant to be a definitive list. It’s merely what I have found to work for me through trial and error. Overpacking, under packing, asking lots of stupid questions and buying the wrong thing in ignorance only to shortly find out I wasted my money.
Going light weight with gear is almost always an expensive venture, but at the end of the day, the less weight you are carrying, the less you are wrestling your bike and the more you can just ride and enjoy yourself.
The cheapest way to save weight is simple: only take what you need. I must stress that is not to say don’t have absolutely everything you need to be prepared, but I have saved a lot of weight by leaving some of the creature comforts at home.
Below is the gear I carried with me on my 4.5 day traverse of the Hunt 1000 route through the Australian High Country from Canberra to Melbourne. I used everything I carried except my rain pants, we were fortunate with weather but its something I’d choose to carry every time up in the Alps when you never know what the weather is going to do.
In retrospect the only other thing I wish I’d taken was another pair of socks!
- Garmin Etrex 20
- Titantium spork
- Topeak high volume pump w/ electrical tape stored wrapped around it
- Titanium mug 600mL
- Chamois cream
- Micopur water purification tabs
- Gerber pocket knife
- Lezyne RAP20 multi tool
- Spare tube
- Optimus Crux stove and 100g gas canister (I don’t always carry this and the mug, but again, in the high country the weather can do anything and warm food can make all the difference if you’re cold and wet)
- 1L water bladder (stored empty and only used if I’m anticipating an extra long stretch without refill)
- Head torch (for camp)
- Exposure Axis helmet mounted light
- Wet Wipes aka shower in a bag
- Oakley Jawbreakers w/ both clear and tinted lenses
- Buff neck warmer
- Pedla gillet/vest (great for regulating body temp, this is usually worn)
- Thermal top
- Arm warmers
- Cycling cap
- Water proof socks
- Knee warmers
- Wind blocking gloves
- Thermarest Neo Air X-Lite short sleeping pad
- Borah Gear Snowyside Bivy (alternatively will use a Macpac Sololight tent)
- Puffer jacket
- Cumulus 3° sleeping bag
- Montane Featherlite rain pants (only water resistant)
- Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket
“All” this weighs in at 3.7kg, however for a short overnighter where I’m not going as remote and can expect warmer weather I can easily get the pack weight under 3kg which isn’t all that much extra weight to strap to a bike. I have invested a reasonable amount of money in gear though. To me its worth it because I use all the gear on a very regular basis. However, not everyone either can or wants to invest a lot in their gear.
Backpackers often talk about “The Big 3” in terms of gear: being sleeping bag, shelter and bag/pack. Most bikepackers choose not to carry a pack if at all possible, so we can disregard that, as the difference in weight of most bikepacking bags is negligible. The idea for the other two though, is that these items will be the heaviest things you’re carrying and hence, the easiest place to save weight by replacing them with lighter alternatives.
Another good place to save weight, but also space (which I think isn’t so much of an issue with backpacks, but is with bikepacking bags where space is limited and everything gets compressed down) is cooking gear. I once thought that the idea of not taking a stove was a bit too extreme, but after deciding I could forego my morning coffee and figuring out how to eat without cooking (i.e rehydrating with cold water), mine often gets left at home now for shorter trips.
When I do take it with me, I still keep it very simple. A small gas stove, a gas canister and a 600mL ti mug/pot. All I’m doing is boiling water to make oats, cous cous, noodles, instant soup, “dehy” meals, tea or coffee. The mug is used to both boil water in and eat/drink from. Bowls, plates and big pots are all heavy, but possibly worse; very awkward shapes to pack.