My Bike Camping Essentials

I just got back from my 4th weekend camping in a row and while I was out this weekend I was thinking about my essential gear. Every trip I play with the gear I take, dialing in the system a little bit more each time.  Every time, however, there are those few pieces of gear that are absolutely essential.  So here are mine:

Etekcity Ultralight Backpacking Stove- I bought this for $10 last year and it's the best $10 I've every spent. lt has a built in ignition, packs up smaller than my cell phone, and has been super reliable. (I have it packed up next to a 2oz bottle of Dr. Bronner's for comparison.)

Revelate Mountain Feed Bag-  This is my all time favorite accessory on my bicycle. I use it ALL the time to store all sorts of things- keys, cell phone, camera, trash, beer, food, chapstick. It's so stinking handy. Mesh pockets for little things that you need to access right away, and a drawstring main compartment for keeping stuff in tight. For my longer trips I'll actually put snacks in here to grab while riding and my phone to pull out for photos on the go. When I'm riding around the neighborhood, this is where I keep my keys and cell phone. Love this bag.

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Black Diamond Head Lamp- Nothing fancy about it, but I regretted the first time I left home without it. Absolutely essential for camping.

REI Ditty Sacks- Such a simple concept but I hadn't ever practiced it before: keep yourself organized when you're camping and life is way easier! I use this little ditty sacks and it totally works. The tiny one is for my tools and gadgets (matches, stove, electronics), clothes go in the medium one, and food stuff goes in the big one.  All of those then get packed into my bike bags.  You look like an REI ad when it's all laid out, but, whatever. 

Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad- This is 3rd sleeping pad I've tried and I love it! Extremely small (while packed it's smaller than a nalgene bottle), quiet when sleeping, and pretty comfortable. It also blows up quickly- about 10 breaths and deflates quickly. My only complaint is that it's kind of slippery, but I think I can remedy that with a bit of silicone- just need a weekend off of camping to make that adjustment. At $54 (I got mine cheaper on ebay) it's also not very expensive, although with an R-value of 1.3, it's also not super insulated. Seems to be a pretty good summer sleeping pad so far. I also really appreciate that the stuff sack has a patch kit sewn into it for on-the-go repairs.

 

Paradox Merino Wool Base Layers - I bought two pairs of these a few years ago at Costco for $8 each and have never regretted it. Light, warm, breathable, and perfect for camping in every season. In the summer, I wear them with nothing else, in the winter, I throw on a few more layers and I stay toasty warm. They're absolutely essential. Plus, you can wear them as base layers when riding and they don't smell! Wool is the best!

In compiling all of this, I realized that technically, there's nothing "bike" about any of this gear, except for the Revelate Feedbag. The rest is just camping gear that's easily packable. Really hits home the point that anybody can bike camp- you just need a bike!

Basket Life- Help me find a bag!

Edit: I found a bag! I'm in love with my Swift Industries Sugarloaf. Full details of why I went with this bag and why I love it are in this post.

I’m approaching year my one-year anniversary of buying my Surly Straggler and if you’ve ever looked at my Instagram, it’s no secret that I love that bicycle. She fits me like no other bike ever has and we go on some outstanding adventures together. Over mountains, under bridges, finding new friends, and down highways. That glitter dream machine is truly a dream bicycle for me.

Because of the Shimano 105 components, I’m limited in my front carry capacity options. The cables are routed such a way that it limits the installation of a porteur or handlebar bag, and unless I switch my entire setup (or go with v-noodles to get the cables out of the way), I’m pretty much stuck with it. Thankfully, I’ve got some awesome local bike shop knowledge who was able to hook me up with a great front rack and basket, so I can still live that low-trail lifestyle and #basketlife.

I started out riding with the Soma Lucas Mini Front Rack and the Wald 137 basket. I was warned that the carrying capacity for this rack was 10lbs, and I regularly pushed that over its limit. This setup lasted quite a while, throughout my first camping season and into winter. It also survived two crashes, bearing the brunt of most of my falls and holding up pretty well. This rack was great overall, with an eyelet for a dynamo light and super lightweight.

The Soma Lucas Mini Front Rack

 

Eventually however, I stressed this rack out beyond its capacity. Finally admitting that I like to carry lots of things, I settled on the Surly 8 Pack Rack, a much heavier duty chromoly steel rack with a 30lb carrying capacity. This rack seems much better suited to my bike set up, fitting way closer to the fork, improving handling, and overall feel.  This rack also has eyelets for my dynamo light, so making the switch was pretty easy.

Surly 8 Pack Rack

 

Now that I’ve got the hardware dialed in, my biggest challenge is how to carry the soft goods. Searching the market of bike bags, there seems to be an infinite supply of backpacks, panniers, frame bags, porteur, and handlebar bags. But there are very limited options for bags specifically designed for baskets!

Most of the time if you see me rolling around town, my basket looks crazy. I’ll have groceries, shoes, maybe a change of clothes, food, and perhaps a pool noodle strapped to it. For camping trips I’ve been known to throw my tent poles in there along with a 6 pack and a speaker. I’ve searched REI high and low for a bag that will fit nice and neat to help me stay organizedand come up empty handed every time. My best option so far has been a reusable bag from Trader Joes.

Check out the photos below- thank God for a cargo net or my stuff would be flying all over the roads! I seriously need a better solution ASAP! 

 

I know of 2 companies making purposefully built basket bags- Sackville and Porcelain Rocket. Both seem to be pretty great- hooks/buttons on the bottom for extra security, zippered tops, organizational pockets, everything that you’d want in a bag. But they’re kind of boring, especially the Sackville one that I could actually afford. The Porcelain Rocket comes in lots of fun colors, but for $175, I could probably learn how to sew.

So, friends and creative types, anybody want to make me a basket bag? I’ll pay you! We can prototype on my bike and then get rich! It’s what all the cool kids are doing now days. We’ll even have an Instagram or something for your product line.