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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


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Equip Camp

Sleeping Bag $80

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 necessary.

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 it.

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.

T-shirt $10

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: http://www.brassmonkeybivouac.com

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.




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