2019 has seen us ride (and push, and hike) a fair few kilometers – whether guiding our trips in the UK, recce-ing new trips in Slovenia, or finishing the Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan. So, we’ve started an annual list of our favourite, most-trusted items of kit and gear from the year gone by – things that we’ve used, tested, loved, wouldn’t head out without, and are more than happy to recommend.
Yes, some of the kit has been gifted to us; some of the products we sell. But, they wouldn’t have made this list unless they cut the custard. We want to be using and sharing the best out there.
Edition I, here goes, in no particular order…
“Support anything™ Fix anything™ Dangle anything™. OK, I’ve made those up but it sums up a Voile strap, in a bb shell. I always have a couple, at least, amongst my bikepacking bike setup whether strapping dry bags to fork bags, extras to frames, or kettles and Tunnocks to seat packs. And, if there’s one lesson from the road. Always carry a spare strap, kids…” Stef
“Since getting the Elwha pack a couple of years ago we’ve been literally joined at the hip. This versatile, rugged bag has enough space for all my grab-ables, plus a load of external mounting options to strap waterproof jackets and guide walkie-talkie, and dangle a mug, all within easy reach. If hip packs aren’t your thing you can use the handy loop attachments to mount the Elwha to your handlebars or the tool roll mounts on a Brooks saddle – win win…” Dave
“Admittedly this year’s drab olive, our unofficial official pannier.cc colour, may have been what first caught my eye but the POC Octal has more than earned its place as my go-to helmet. Lightweight, super comfortable, the somewhat-casual look, and resistant to the rough life of a bikepacking guide means the Octal spends equal time on my head as it does strapped to a luggage bag, or rattling in the back of van. And, the helmet is still going strong. For me, the POC is a no-brainer” Dave
“100% Waterproof is an essential, more than a nice-to-have guarantee on any cycling trip, especially a remote multi-day bikepacking tour; especially in the UK. This combination of Accessory and Seat Pack has proved invaluable for us over the last year – firstly they are our standard hire bike / bikepacking bag setup for our tours as they hold the required kit for a tourer (clothing, spares, food and snacks and sometimes basic camp sleep kit), and we have used these ourselves on pretty much every trip, in addition to a frame bag and handlebar roll. At 3.5L, the Accessory Pack can hold loads of smaller items and snacks, or bulkier items like a camera … and the super practical 16.5L Seatpack holds tons too, made even better with the compression valve. On the Silk Road Mountain Race, for example, I had my first aid kit, washbag and all my off-the-bike and riding clothes inside the bag, plus a load of food supplies strapped to the top using the ace bungee straps. The reflective detailing and light loops are an added bonus, too…” Stef
See our “The Ortlieb Story” Journal, for more on their history, heritage … and Hartmut.
“I’ve taken this tool everywhere, from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to the Scottish Highlands and it’s saved me countless times. There are definitely more all-singing all-dancing multi-tools out there, but the F15 is lightweight, compact, has just what I need and nothing I don’t. Plus, it all fits into a nice alloy case which doubles up as a lever arm, chain tool and, importantly, a bottle opener for those end of ride Route Beers…” Dave
“Once you Bedrock bikepack, it’s hard to go back. As they say. Ride in them on hot sunny days, or strap the lightweight sandals to your bike and have them for all those good times off-the bike – hike-biking rocky mountain tracks, fording streams, wild swimming in rivers, cooking round the fire, or kotching in a bothy or mountain hut. Losing my left Bedrock on day two of the Silk Road Mountain Race was the worst day ever; they’ve seen a lot and been with me on every trip since first getting them from the founders at Bedrock Sandals HQ. They are lightweight, packable, durable, comfy, practical and a breath of fresh air … for your tootsies.” Stef
“The Rough Stuff Fellowship’s infamous ‘I never go for a walk without my bike’ saying has effectively been our motto this year, too. These shoes have been fantastic, comfy companions for all our trips the last six months and it’s testament that I’m still wearing them today after a right ol’ battering. As comfy riding, as they are hanging around off-the-bike, as they are in cold and warm weather, as they are crossing chunky Kyrgyz landslides at 4000m+. Note. the velcro strap is totally pointless, but they look good, eh?!” Stef
“Got a front-hub dynamo? If not, why not?! If so, great: kLite’s Bikepacker Ultra dynamo-powered front light and rear Qube flashers are ace – so so bright, so so reliable – and with a bit of mounting / cable routing are effectively plug-and-play. We were just in time to see the launch of their 3D-printed dual USB box too, which offers two charging points (one if you need to use the rear blinkers). As with all dynamo lights, off-road riding has its limits in terms of generating enough power for the necessary light, but I found anything above 8/10KPH tended to be cool. Road riding is pretty much fine for light most of the time. And, to be honest, any time I haven’t been riding fast enough, we were likely hiking / pushing the bikes anyway so just using headtorches. The Bikepacker Ultra light does also have a handy Standlite, for up to 30 mins after you stop riding – sapping the last of the the power from the dynamo – which is just about enough to help set up camp, or cook some food…
For more technical information, speak to Kerry at kLite – he’s super helpful, knowledgable and is more than happy to speak to you about mounting lights, bikepacking, lumens and electronics. Ideally all at the same time…” Stef
“I know what you’re thinking – a pillow, wtf? But, this Exped Inflatable Pillow has ensured a good night’s sleep in the bivvy bag, bothy, or tent for me these last few months. It packs down to the size of 2 chocolate bars, and inflates in 2 breaths; sod sleeping on a pile of wet cycling kit, an inflated dry bag, or peaty seatpack. Snoozing is too important…” Stef
“The comfiest and best-looking bikepacking seat going – our go to seat on our personal guiding bikes, and all our hire gravel bikes. I opt for the C17 width (there is also a C15), and have been loving the comfort of the carved (cut-out) Cambium All-Weather this year. The latest generation of Brooks Cambium All-Weather sees a durable, coated top and lighterweight composite frame/rails, the evolution of comfort and style, from their famous leather saddles, to meet today’s modern gravel/adventure bikes and gravel riding…” Stef
>> Cambium Saddle [Brooks England] <<
Any questions? Anything you’d prefer to see? Maybe clothing next year? Please do comment below, or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org