Gear Reviews - Sleeping System

When people who only car camp hear that I'm riding my bike out to the woods to sleep outside for one night there is typically one reaction - "Girl, you're nuts. That's way too much work just to sleep outside for one night."

And, I think in their minds, they envision that I'm hauling as much stuff as they would typically take car camping: a cooler, camp chairs, a large tent, shelter, and all sorts of gear. I can't even tell you how many times this contraption has been posted on my Facebook wall:

Nope, sorry mom, not taking this bike camping.

Nope, sorry mom, not taking this bike camping.


When I show them pictures of my fully loaded bicycle, then the questions really start to flow. 

And y'all- this was a crappy packing job. I brought a 2 person tent, 2 sleeping pads, a stove, didn't compress my sleeping bag, and brought way too much food. Also, note where my front sleeping pad is- I don't recommend this. But, it worked. So, onto my actual gear reviews and camping hacks.

This post is going to cover my sleeping system. I've gone through a few iterations, and below is what I've found to be the most comfortable by far. Also, when I'm riding or hiking, I like to sleep and wake up well rested. Tossing, turning, and shivering all night do no good for getting in the miles the next day.

This system works in both my 1 person and 2 person tent. When I take my hammock, I ditch the z-pad and just do the inflatable pad as a level of insulation.

My Favorite Sleep System

I'm a cold sleeper. Even in July when it's 60 degrees at night, I'm shivering. I've finally landed on the perfect system that keeps me snug as a bug, even down to 30 degrees (the coldest I've tested it), but I'm guessing it would work even colder, since it's all rated for lower temps.

Bottom level: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad

This pad is the old staple of hikers and bikers. Super light weight, works as a seat rest for sitting on the ground too. This goes on the bottom of my setup and helps insulate the whole package. In the height of summer, I'll sometimes leave this behind (but not usually, as it's so light and perfect for sitting on the ground.) It can be strapped on top of the outside of your bike basically wherever.

Next level: Big Agnes Q Core Insulated SLX Pad

Inflate this bad boy about 90% of the way up and it's the best sleeping pad I've ever used. I'm a side sleeper and it provides awesome support for my hips. Love it. And it's rated down to 15 degrees.

Sleeping bag: REI Joule Women's Sleeping Bag

This is a women's specific down bag with a synthetic outer liner that is water-resistant. Helpful incase your bag gets wet (but I still always pack it in a dry bag just in case, as wet down is useless.) This bag is great as it's shorter so my feet stay warm, and the mummy hood is lovely for cold nights. This bag also accommodates my wide hips pretty well, as it is built for women! Nice job REI!

I also use a simple synthetic pillow, but sometimes depending on space, will just stuff some clothes up into the head space of my bag.

A Note on R-Values and Temperature Ratings

As you search for camping gear, you'll notice that sleeping pads have an R-Value and sleeping bags have a temperature rating on the spec page.

The R-Value will range from 0-10, and the temperature range will be indicated. This is a basically an indication of how warm it will keep you, with a base layer on. Scientifically, it's the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. 

You should pick one that meets your needs - consider weight, if you're willing to spend the time blowing up the pad, deflating, etc. And how much it weighs.  For me, I like being warm and toasty, and don't mind blowing up the pad to do so!

Next up: Cooking systems and coffee brewing while camping! 


Upcoming Posts! Hong Kong, Setting your own Pace, Gear Reviews and Camping Hacks

I have a goal to be more regular with posting - it turns out people enjoy reading this little blog I've put together. In that spirit, I'm going to attempt to be public about some upcoming posts I've got planned. 

While I'd like to tell you what order they're going to appear in, let's be honest, I'm probably the most disorganized person you'll ever meet and I'm going to write in whatever order I damn well feel like.

So here are a few things that have been percolating in my brain as of late:

  • Hong Kong! I went on a fabulous just-for-funsies trip to Hong Kong in February and I'm dying to show and tell stories and photos from this trip!
  • Setting your own Pace/Riding Your Own Ride.  There's a thing in the thru-hiking community called "Hike Your Own Hike", which basically boils down to do your own thing to ensure self-satisfaction and well-being. Over the past few years, many of my bike camping trips have been solo or with a smaller group, so when I do go on a bigger ride, it's a hard line for me to find between sticking with the group for the shenanigans and riding my own ride. (More on this in the post.)
  • Gear Reviews & Camping Hacks  - How do I eat real food when camping? What heavenly sleep system have I fallen in love with this season? (Seriously, it's dreamy and I absolutely love crawling into at the end of a long day.) Just some tips, tricks, and little things I've picked up along the way of a few seasons of doing this thing.

Ruby Beach, on the Washington Coast where I camped a few weeks ago in the pouring rain, but stayed nice and cozy.

Let's Talk About that Science March

I really hope that everyone at the Science March today used a carbon neutral form of transportation to get there, used recycled material to make their signs, recycles their signs after the march, and actually does something meaningful with the energy from today.

Not sure what to do next? Well, here are some ideas, just for starters:

  • -Bring your own coffee cup to the coffee shop every damn time. Over 4.12 billion gallons of water are used to make paper coffee cups annually.
  • Stop using plastic straws. If you really like straws (I do), get some metal ones, and use those.
  • Read the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports of the companies you shop from, and if they're not doing what you want, demand more, or buy from brands who are doing it. Ask what the carbon footprint is, where they're getting electricity from, how much renewable energy they buy, and how much water they use. Nearly every company publishes this. Read it and spend your $$ where it matters. WalMart, Starbucks, L'Oreal, REI, Patagonia, IKEA, Dell - they're all very public about this. Read it, ask questions.
  • Sort your damn trash. Stop sending food waste to the landfill where it isn't breaking down into productive stuff, and is instead making methane. If your work, doesn't have compost and recycling yet, make it happen. There's no reason in 2017 for every work place to have responsible waste streams.

Creating Intentional Space for Women on Bikes

I'm currently in the middle of planning 2 women-specific bike related events, a race that  is super-duper organized with sponsors/social media/the whole 9 yards, and a women-only ride and campout of The Dalles, Oregon.

Honestly, I've been feeling a little bit ugh about biking in general over the winter, after way too many rainy days and close encounters with cars, but these two events have rejuvenated my drive and desire for event planning and organizing.

First up, over my 31st birthday weekend is what I have deemed "Ladies Shred Dalles Mountain." It's basically an open-ish invite to any WTF identified rider around Seattle/Portland to join us the weekend of May 19-21st in the Dalles for a women's only ride of the Dalles, with a bonus camping night on Saturday. 

Maryhill Loops on the Dalles Ride in 2016

Maryhill Loops on the Dalles Ride in 2016


I had the pleasure of riding this route last spring and fell in love. From the epic gravel climbs to Mary Hill Loops, it's truly a classic route that I can't wait to share. I'm super excited to extend it into two days this year, exploring the Deschutes River Recreation Area at the end of day 1, and then continuing the end of our ride.

Most of the women who are going have been bike camping before, but many haven't ridden gravel before, so I'm excited to introduce this new element of riding to them. Riding rural farm roads, gravel roads, and back roads is my favorite part of biking and I know that a ton of women shy away from biking because of cars. I hope that by exploring a rural area together we can open up so many new opportunities to previously hesitant riders.

I'm smiling, but I hate this climb...Old Moody Road

I'm smiling, but I hate this climb...Old Moody Road

The second thing I'm helping to organize is Girls of Summer, the 7th Annual All Womens Alley Cat race put on by Menstrual Monday. This is my favorite race of the summer, and no-joke, a shit ton of work. We work hard to make sure every single rider gets a prize, which is hard fucking work. It means contacting sponsors, getting volunteers, making a route, spoke cards, props, and promoting the race. 

I love this race- I don't know any other race where 100+ women from all stripes come together in a day of fun and silliness, but also strength. These women race their hearts out across Seattle for some rad prizes. Last year we gave away a bike, 4 sets of wheels, and thousands of dollars in other prizes from sponsors. 

Begging for sponsors for our race

Begging for sponsors for our race


Putting on this race is a huge honor to the women in our community, so I'm honored and happy to put it on.

Creating this space for women cyclists feels so fucking tired in 2016. I remember in 1ST GRADE writing about being the first woman president. 20 years ago. And we're still.not.there. UGH. We still have to fight for our right to ride bikes in public spaces without being catcalled, harassed, and questioned.

Honestly, I love being with all other women- we lift each other up, we're encouraging, we push each other beyond our boundaries. But when will it stop being a necessity?


An Update

I went to Portland last week for a work trip and extended my stay over the weekend, to ride my bike around the city, explore, and just hang out. Every other time I've gone to the River City, my time has been fully booked, so I was looking forward to this opportunity to have a free weekend with no obligations.

I booked a cute AirBNB in SE near Hawthorne (seriously, so cute, if you're looking for a getaway, I highly recommend this one) and was off for a weekend of solo time. The guest book at the trailer had a quote on the cover that struck me and is the theme for this post:

"Funny thing about joy is that you only really find it when you are too busy having fun to go looking for it."

It's crazy how true that is, and I think a really good reason why I haven't updated this page in so long. After my cancer scare late last year, I've been busy living life. That's not to say I haven't reflected on it, or been joyful for it, or planned to write about my adventures, it's just been pushed to the backburner while I've been out living it.

So a quick update on what's been going on:

-Cancer is gone. They did a quick in-office procedure on February 4th to cut out part of my cervix. Thankfully the affected cells hadn't spread beyond where they treated, so now I'll just need to go get a pap smear every 4-6 months for the foreseeable future.

-I traveled to Hong Kong. I hope to eventually write a longer post with photos about the trip.

-Camping season 2017 has started. We had 2 sunny-ish days in a row a few weeks ago so I took advantage of it and went for a quick S24O to Bainbridge Island. Cold but fun. Can't wait to do more of it.

-I'm going to Stockholm in June for a work conference. Hopefully going to extend my stay to get to Helsinki and Tallin, Estonia. I'm really loving my job and the opportunities it's providing.

-My dad is in a really bad place health-wise. I'm realizing how precious this one life is and trying to navigate what it means to be an adult child.