Hollow-fill. Not the lightest or most compact material in the world, but you
can almost completely soak it, and it will still be warm inside. I used a
zero degree (Fahrenheit) mummy bag, and there were a few nights were my feet
still got cold. 32 degree bags are ok for summer weather, but if there is
even a chance of it getting below 50(F), you will appreciate the warmth that
a zero degree (or better) mummy bag provides. Down bags are great if you can
afford them, but they also carry that nagging problem that when wet they are
heavy and almost completely useless.
Stuff/Compression Sack $20
Technology strikes again! The problem with the cheaper sleeping bags is that
they just don’t pack down small enough. With a nice “cinch-bag” you can take
that hollow-fill down to a nice size little ball. Never store your sleeping
bag in this. In fact. never store a sleeping bag in a bag at all. Mine gets
draped over a suit hanger in my closet with the sack dangling off the neck
of the hanger like a tie.
One Man Tent $80
I am using a “slumberjack” one man tent. It just
barely covers me in my sleeping bag, and breaks down into a small package.
It is olive drab. If I have to camp near an urban area, I am somewhat
camouflaged and it is quick to set up and equally fast to break down. The
disadvantage is that it requires two stakes. It would be nice if it was self
supporting, but most of those models are too large for one person and they
require a bigger footprint. You may not have the luxury of space when you
are looking for a nice hiding place to camp on the trail. If you are going
it alone; get a one man tent. If you’re a couple or group that
is a different story, you can share the “sherpa” responsibilities.
Sleeping Mattress $100
If you think you can make it sleeping on the cold hard ground, be my guest.
Most people will opt, when possible, for a mattress. I am using a Therma-rest
performance series mattress. I think all the Therma-rest products claim to
be self inflating. This means you open the valve and the foam inside the
mattress forces air into it. It works to some degree, but at some point you
are going to have to put your mouth to the valve to top it off. The more
money you spend, the smaller it will pack down. Mine converts to a small
roll of about 5 inches in diameter by about 10 inches across. Packing down
small is key when you only have a wee space in your little bike bags.
Opening is simple enough. Throw it in your tent and have dinner, just
before you are ready to sleep, top off the inflation with three or four good
puffs. Rolling the mattress into its tight stuff sack the next day will
probably be the most strenuous of your morning activities, but you’ll
appreciate the sleep.
Pot, Pan and Spoon $20
Pan for the oatmeal in the morning, Pot to heat water for your drinks. MRE’s come with
plastic spoons but it is a good idea to have a
metal spoon with you. A plastic spoon
with just sit there and laugh at you when you try to scrape burnt oatmeal
out of your pan. Hey, it could happen.
Stove MSR Whisperlite $80
This a key part of your kit. It is lightweight, will get water boiling fast, and folds down to nothing. It’s easy to use and in a pinch you
can even burn regular unleaded gasoline, but I wouldn’t recommend it. (It
has too many additives that make the stove get “sooty” and black.) It is a
little bit of overkill but I carry a 15 oz and a 32 oz bottle of fuel for
the trip. A 32 oz might do ten days by itself but having a little extra is
better in this case. I would rather have fuel
with me, than have to seek it out somewhere on the trail. You pressurize the
gas with a pump when you use the stove, and you can depressurize it as well.
Why carry around an aerosol can
that can literally blow up in your bags? Those aerosol cans can get
weighty and take up a lot of space too! The whisperelite priming
technique takes a little practice, but after you have done it once or twice,
it's easy. The flame is adjustable so you can simmer your food if
MSR Dromedary Bag $50
This is the only thing I carry on my back during the ride. It is a five
liter wide mouth water bag made by MSR (The same people who make the
stove) It is easy to fill and it holds enough water for an
entire day. I like to fill up in the late morning or early afternoon. This
way I know I will be good for both cooking times when I need water to heat
my food and make hot drinks. I have a small backpack that used to be a
part of a hydration system. I have found these hydration systems to be a
little over the top. The idea of a pipe coming out of the bladder is just
one more thing to go wrong and start leaking. Another great feature of this bag is that when you wrap it in a fleece jacket,
it makes a great pillow. Keeping yourself hydrated and making yourself
comfortable when you sleep are two of the most important things you can do on
any outdoor trip, so this expensive little piece of technology is well worth
Polypropylene Underwear $80
Most people don’t realize that the majority of hypothermia deaths can be
attributed not to cold, but mild weather. It is the moderate low 60’s and
fifties weather where the victim is improperly dressed for the occasion.
Heat loss is highly attributable to wet cotton. In the mountains, cotton
underwear is better known as death cloth. Once it gets wet, without some
shelter and energy to dry it, you’re a “gone-er.” Polypropylene underwear
takes care of this problem. It’s another one of those miracles of
technology. Lightweight and thin, it does not lose its thermal properties
when wet and will keep you toasty warm when you would otherwise be freezing.
There is a downside to all this comfort but it doesn’t affect the wearer
directly. The synthetic allows moisture to dry quickly but it holds natural
body odor. I remember taking a plane off a glacier in New Zealand and the
pilot had to use Vicks below his nose to kill the stench of us “smellies.” I
didn’t need to use my thermals on the bicycle trip, but they were in the
pack taking up the space of a fist and weighing three or four ounces. If I
was going to have a shivering cold day, I was prepared.
Lightweight Pants $30
Get a pair of camo type pants with a lot of pockets. You will use the
pockets. I prefer the single color type for the Grand Illinois Trail.
Military issue is usually cotton. Try to find something synthetic that will
offer warmth and a fast dry when wet. Pray that it doesn’t rain, but be
prepared if it does. Crown Royal whiskey comes in a small purple velvet bag.
This bag is perfect for carrying your toothpaste, vitamins, toothbrush,
change purse, spoon, knife, etc. It will fit into one of those large pockets
along your thigh. You might use the other large pocket for maps.
It doesn’t hurt to wear cotton, just be aware it’s properties in wet
weather. I’ve made some GITride t-shirts you can buy. What more perfect way
to ride than with a t-shirt made designed from it? It's a little more than 10 bucks though, fault the printers and the economy
of a limited production run.
Teva Sandals $50
This is how I look at it. I’ve worn my Teva sandals in the Swiss Alps, on
mountain ranges in the US and New Zealand, on sandy beaches in Australia, and on the Grand
Illinois Trail ride. Even in slightly cold weather, your feet are constantly
in motion and really never get too cold. Sandals by their very nature are
lightweight, pack small, keep your feet well aired and avoid the pitfalls of
athletes foot. On my first trip around the GIT I rode entirely in Teva
sandals, but I carried a pair of Nikes in the bag. That was the last time I
will fill my pack with the other unnecessary footwear. If you get wet,
they’re going to dry quickly. This might be a controversial stand, but your
feet acclimate themselves to the weather, your whole body does for that
matter. The older Teva styles are the best because they are basically made
up of three straps that you Velcro to fit your feet; one around your ankle,
one around your toes, and a third connecting these two straps together.
Very simple and perfect comfort for a body on the move.
Zip turtle-neck fleece $30
An absolute necessity, I picked up one of these things before going on a
mountain climbing trip with Lydia Bradey (of Everest fame) it was
one of the best purchases I ever made. The zipper allows
varying stages of warm depending on how high your zip the collar. On those
cold mornings it is a nice piece of equipment to have, it packs down small
and will add comfort when it gets too cold.. If things get really
uncomfortable you can also put on your rain gear top. This layering would
probably keep you comfortable in true freezing temperatures. If you are so
“inclined,” heh, get on the side of a mountain with Lydia at:
Sleeping Socks $5
I always carry a couple of pairs of white ankle socks for sleeping. Two
reasons. You feet get awfully dirty when you are riding a bike in sandals
and when in your sleeping bag, the dirt gets taken up by the socks instead
of the bag. The second reason is they make your feet more comfortable while
sleeping. It is a good idea to douse these socks in foot powder to reduce
the effects or opportunity of developing athlete’s foot. Also, take some
plastic shopping bags with you. They don’t add any
weight and if you encounter really cold conditions, lightly rubber band
or tape these around your ankles. Your feet will stay toasty.
Baseball Hat $5
You need something to cover your head. I got mine in Wyoming after my Devils Tower
climb. It looks like something out of a French desert warfare movie. It can be scrunched up into
a little ball, has a bill to shade the sun, and side flaps will keep your
ears from sunburn and mosquitoes. When cold, it keeps you warm with the side flaps
protecting against wind.
Nightwatch Cap $5
Jack Nicholson wore one of these in “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest." They’re great for warmth. There are similar
designs that look the same but when unfolded reveal a ski mask. They are
usually made out of wool and will maintain warmth when wet. An alternative would be a
polypropylene mask. It packs
down smaller and is more expensive, but is not nearly as cool as something
Jack would wear.
Rain Gear: top $40
You may never use it, but it’s an absolute necessity. I purchased this
raingear for my European Motorcycle trip. In Ireland, I wore it almost every day.
That's the reason Ireland is so green. Motorcycle rain gear is made to lock out water from your torso at
high speeds. Because of this, it's also a good outer garment if it gets really
cold. Do not be tempted to opt for a cheap rain suit or poncho. You might
bring along a poncho to improvise a lean-to, but as a rain shield isn’t very
effective on a bicycle.
Rain Gear: bottom $40
The other nice thing about the motorcycle suits is that they ball up into their
own stuff sack. I kept mine inside the frame of the bike below the seat on
two micro bungee cords for fast/easy access. You can see it clearly in the
pictures on day one.