Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Our Gear List

We are somewhat evangelical about “going light”. If you’ve got questions about the benefits of “going light” or the details of the list of stuff below, please post a comment and I’ll try to respond – I’m eager to help other people enjoy their trip as much as we enjoyed ours, and we believe that lightening the load makes a big difference.

We are primarily backpackers, not cyclists. Our “base pack weight” for backpacking (everything except food, water, and the base layer of clothing we wear while hiking) is 10-12 pounds each, depending on the season and location. While this is significantly lighter than the average backpacker, it is twice the base weight of the ultralight hikers (or GDR racers) who are now carrying base pack weights of 5-7 pounds. I mention this because we have been able to achieve our base weight without sacrificing anything we want or need to have along. For us, dropping down to 5-7 pounds would require giving up something that we like either for comfort or convenience.

Much of the gear for a bike trip overlaps with backpacking gear. The major differences are the tool kit and the means for carrying the load. If you are interested in trying to reduce your load, you should take a look at BackpackingLight.com, a terrific source of information and product reviews.

The list of gear below included everything we needed or wanted. There was no point on the trip where we wished we’d had something we didn’t have. In contrast, every day we were thankful that we didn’t have heavier loads.

Note that the factors we use to choose gear is different than the factors we used when we chose our bike components. For the bikes, durability was our first priority, and we used relatively heavy options – for example the Rohloff drive train and the Marathon XR tires. But for our camping gear and clothing, we have no worries about gear failure that could interrupt the trip, so we optimized for light weight.

Our grand total weight, for everything except the food and water we carried, was 60-61 pounds per person. Per person, that’s roughly 33 pounds of bike, 5 pounds of clothing/shoes/helmet worn while riding, 7 pounds of racks and sacks, and 15 pounds of gear.

I’ve covered the bikes and racks and panniers in a different post, so I’ll just summarize those here:

81 pounds: two bikes with all the attached stuff and all the racks and sacks used to carry the gear (2 bikes, 2 odometers, 2 bells, 1 small handlebar mounted compass, 12 spare spokes in the seat tube, 1 handlebar mounted altimeter, 2 pairs of Cue Clips, 1 bottle cage, 2 Tubus racks, straps and basket net to carry stuff on top of racks, 1 handlebar bag, 1 frame bag, 2 rear mud guards, 2 pairs rear panniers, 2 day packs, 2 6-liter DromLite bags with hoses, 6 silnylon stuff sacks (2 for clothing, 2 for food, 2 for ditties). [We did not use one day pack and one DromLite bag, and next time we’ll leave those behind and save 19 oz]

We did not carry map cases. Instead, we used the simpler and very effective Cue Clips available from Adventure Cycling store.

Here’s the list of stuff we carried, with some comments.

Sleeping – 155.2 oz total (9.7 pounds):

83.5 oz North Face RoadRunner Tent. This is a fairly heavy tent at just over five pounds. It is free-standing and huge and has two doors and two big vestibules and there’s certainly no reason to carry anything heavier for two people. We carry a somewhat lighter tent while backpacking which has less interior room and much smaller vestibules. We decided to carry the larger tent since we were going to spend so many nights in it and wanted to have good shelter for our gear and provisions. The RoadRunner proved a good choice: it performed well on several stormy nights, was easy and fast to erect and tear down and we never felt cramped. We were even able to get Rickson in with us during dinner one night when the weather forced us to eat indoors.

26.8 oz Two ¾ length Thermarest ProLite3 pads. We’ve tried using just foam and didn’t sleep well enough. These are the lightest of the Thermarest series, and work plenty well. This is another example of why our base weight is twice the ultralight backpackers. [updated May09: the new Thermarest NeoAir pad is only 9 oz and far more comfortable than the ProLite pads.]

4.4 oz Two 1/8” thick closed cell foam pads (from GossamerGear.com). We carry these primarily for use while eating meals – they are very thin, but they are a LOT more comfortable than sitting directly on gravel. Also used under our feet while sleeping. Also used as an emergency backup pad in case a Thermarest leaks.

3.9 oz 54” x 84” Spinnsheet ground cloth (from GossamerGear.com or BackpackingLight.com). Primarily used as a ground cloth for meals – just makes it more comfortable to spread out our sitting pads and our food and our gear to be on a cloth instead of directly in the dirt. We also used it as a ground cloth under the tent to reduce wear and tear on the tent's floor.

0.3 oz Thermarest Coupler. To hold the two pads together and to stabilize the sleeping bag.

33.0 oz One down double “top” sleeping bag/quilt. This is essentially a down blanket with a nylon pocket sewn under the legs, and Velcro attachment points to the pad coupler – the pocket under the legs and the Velcro keep the bag properly positioned on top. This is a HUGE weight savings over carrying two bags, it is more spacious and comfortable than two mummy bags zipped together, and it’s very warm. We were easily comfortable down to our lowest temperatures of 24 degrees. The bag is made by NunatakUSA.com. Ours is a custom BackCountry Blanket – but they sell an off-the-shelf two person solution, the Dual Arc Alpinist. We’ve slept in our bag for perhaps 250 nights, and the loft is undiminished. In addition to saving two pounds over carrying two sleeping bags, you reduce the volume of pannier space significantly. If you’re traveling solo and need to buy a sleeping bag, then look at the Nunatak Arc series single bags. Can’t say enough good things about Nunatak bags.

3.0 oz Two inflato-pillows (FlexAir Dual Compartment Pillow from backpackinglight.com) Aaaah, so comfortable to have a good pillow! A real luxury.

Paperwork – 30.2 oz total (1.9 pounds):

8.1 oz Bird book – stripped down Sibley guide. We removed the pages we didn’t need.

10.0 oz seven ACA route maps (mailed each one home when we finished it)

0.5 oz pencil and pen

2.3 oz passports

0.9 oz Two one gallon ziplock bags

8.4 oz Misc paperwork, including a bunch of different things:

1. Spreadsheet with details about route and availability of services, gleaned from the maps;

2. Blown up queue sheet info (which was critical for Amy who can’t read the queue sheet info on the map without reading glasses, which is not viable while riding a bike – therefore I did the time consuming task of photocopying all the queue sheet info from the seven ACA maps blown up to a size I could read, then did a big cut and paste job to reorganize them into usable pages. I can share these - if you need something similar post a comment and I’ll do my best to share.)

3. Photocopies of pertinent info from the guidebook.

4. ACA map correction addendum

5. phone numbers, contact info, etc.

6. Maps to ride from Antelope Wells to Tucson

7. Elevation profiles (copied from somebody’s web site)

8. Amy’s journal

9. Bird checklist (we kept daily record of species seen)

10. Cateye computer instructions

Bike Tool Kit and Spares – 35.5 oz total (2.2 pounds):

10.2 oz two spare tubes [never used]

5.5 oz Pump (Master Blaster with gauge)

1.2 oz Tire patch kit

0.4 oz Park tire boots

1.4 oz Park tire removal levers (3)

0.2 oz ziplock bag

2.4 oz Chain tool [never used]

1.0 oz Chain links [never used]

2.2 oz Chain lube [refilled at bike shops along the way]

1.7 oz two brake cables (same cables used for Rohloff shifting) [never used]

2.4 oz Duct and electrical tape [used to patch dog-bitten Ortlieb bag]

0.6 oz Tie wraps [never used]

0.4 oz Spokey spoke wrench

1.9 oz Hex wrench set

2.2 oz two sets of spare brake pads [never used]

0.6 oz lock-tite purple thread locker [never used]

1.0 oz superglue [used to patch a Thermarest leak]

(spare spokes were packed in the bike seat tube and are covered in the “bike” section above)

(pliers & screwdrivers were on the Leatherman listed in the Ditties section, although we never used them)

Prior to the trip, Jim replaced the Paragon sliders external hex head bolts and some Torx socket head screws on the Rohloffs with standard hex socket head bolts so that everything was standardized to five hex wrenches.

Note that we didn’t take everything that might possibly be needed to deal with every possible kind of mechanical problem. The route is not that remote; at least during hunting season there were vehicles at least a few times per day that could have provided a ride to a nearby town, where we could have stuff sent to us if we really got into a jam.

Ditty bag for access during the day –33.8 oz total (2.1 pounds):

4.1 oz iPod charger (charge two iPods at once model)

0.4 oz a few aspirin/advil

3.9 oz toilet paper, lighter, alcohol gel, in quart ziplock

1.3 oz Aqua Mira water treatment, already partially used (we used this instead of a pump – see extensive info on backpackinglight.com)

0.7 oz MSR ultralight pack towel

5.5 oz liquid soap/shampoo (a two oz bottle instead of a four oz bottle would have sufficed. Refilled wherever there was a source of liquid soap)

2.2 oz Aquaphor (alternative to butt-butter bicycle specific products. Worked well, and we were able to get replacement tubes at the big supermarkets instead of requiring a bike store)

5.4 oz Leatherman Juice CS4

1.0 oz two spoons and one fork

3.3 oz sunscreen

5.6 oz lock/cable

0.4 oz chapstick

Ditty bag for access in the evenings –26.8 oz total (1.7 pounds):

0.4 oz gallon size ziplock bag

0.6 oz paste deodorant in small pill bottle

0.2 oz four pairs earplugs

3.2 oz two headlamps (Petzle zipka and Petzle e-lite) [used them only late in the trip when the sun was setting early. For a June/July trip I would just take a couple microlights.]

8.1 oz two more sets of Aqua Mira & povodine iodine [we only needed part of one more set of Aqua Mira]

1.6 oz more toilet paper

1.4 oz toothbrush and toothpaste

0.0 oz Dr Kens Floss & Go dental floss

4.1 oz Baby wet wipes in Aloksak plastic ziplock (from backpackinglight.com)

0.2 oz Comb

0.7 oz Clothesline (from spectra cord from backpackinglight.com; also served as spare cord for our tool kit)

0.8 oz more Aspirin/Advil

4.2 oz bear bag hanging cable (multi-strand stainless steel from marine supply store. Next time we’ll probably use spectra cord from backpackinglight.com)

First Aid Kit –10.1 oz total (0.63 pounds):

Nothing special in our first aid kit, and we aren’t sure it’s a great selection, so I won’t list the details – other people or your physician will be a better source of info for this.

Personal stuff –63.3 oz total (4.0 pounds):

5.0 oz two pairs sunglasses, two pairs reading glasses

1.8 oz two wallets with content (light weight wallets on backpackinglight.com, or make your own)

39.8 oz two pairs binoculars

1.7 oz one water bottle (the brand of bottled water called SmartWater is light weight and fits the standard cage. And it’s available from most Safeway stores on the route so we could toss and replace it to prevent stuff from growing in the bottle.)

13.1 oz two iPods with headphones/earbuds and cases and belt-clips. Jim listened to music, Amy listened to audio-books. Ah, it’s really great to have a good book when you’re climbing a long hill – takes your mind off the climb.

1.5 oz four spare small Aloksak plastic bags.

0.4 oz two whistles

Amy’s clothes –137.8 oz total (8.6 pounds):

26.8 oz. shoes, Timberland Delerion wmn10 with Superfeet Insoles

7.3 oz. 3 pairs wool socks (one light, one medium and one thick)

0.6 oz. two plastic bags to keep feet dry

12.7 oz. 3 pairs bike shorts (Ibex Roaster Boxer)

4.7 oz. Wooly Warm leg warmers (from RivBike.com)

6.3 oz. rainpants (GoLite Reed)

4.3 oz. wool light-weight long johns (for evenings)

3.0 oz. GoLite Whim wind pants (for evenings)

4.4 oz. baggy shorts (for evenings)

1.2 oz. underpants (for evenings)

5.6 oz. Patagonia Island Hopper short sleeve shirt (warm weather riding)

8.2 oz. Patagonia long sleeve zip-T wool3 (cool weather riding)

3.7 oz. Wind jacket (Descente Velom)

2.9 oz. Wind vest (Descente Velom)

7.7 oz. Raincoat (Marmot Essence)

5.4 oz. ibex light-weight wool zip-T (for evenings)

1.7 oz. camisol (for evenings)

8.4 oz. Warm coat (for evenings, Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon Pullover)

1.5 oz. cycling gloves

2.0 oz. Two pairs liner gloves (ArcTeryx wool & Patagonia Capeline)

2.6 oz. rubber kitchen gloves (big enough to fit over 2 layers of liners)

12 oz. helmet

0.5 oz. cotton/lycra headband

1.8 oz. Ibex wool light-weight balaclava

1.7 oz. visor

0.8 oz. saddle bonnet w/ plastic bag

Jim’s clothes –148.1 oz total (similar to Amy’s pile of clothes so I won’t list it in detail)


Alex Field said...

A MSR dromedary with any amount of liquid (half is best) works great as a pillow.

Matthew Stewart said...

I had a few questions concerning a BOB vs. panniers. I am planning to the GDR this summer and will probably have ~20 lb base weight with bike tools. I have also been trying to decide between full suspension and hardtail. If you could shoot me an email, I would love to talk with you sometime. My email is mstew1@gmail.com.