2022 Bikepacking Gear of the Year
Kicking off our 2022 Bikepacking Awards series, we recognize the products that have most impressed us throughout the past year. Dig into the Bikepacking Gear of the Year with 49 awards in 11 categories, including our Top Six Bikes, Best New Components, Best Tools & Gadgets, and more. Plus, find a list of bikes that are already on our radar for 2023…
In the first installment of our 2022 Bikepacking Awards, we recognize the products that have wowed us the most over the past 12 months. Dig into our top picks in 10 categories, including our Top Six Bikes, the Best New Components, Best Camping Gear, and more. Plus, find a list of bikes that are already on our radar for 2023.
Although it’s now letting up in a big way, 2022 was still mostly in the grips of an inflated bicycle and outdoor industry, with a shortage of parts and many companies flailing to keep up with demand and competition. Still, we managed to review more than 20 new bikes and a lot of new bags and gear from big brands and small makers alike. To kick off our 8th annual Bikepacking Awards, the 2022 Gear of the Year roundup brings together a diverse collection of proven products broken into 10 categories. Scroll down to find out what we consider to be the best products relevant to backcountry cycling, camping, and bikepacking, from tools and apparel to the bikes that have most impressed us this year.
Note that a few of these products have yet to earn an in-depth review on the site, but it’s all equipment we’ve had first-hand experience using and feel confident about recommending. And, although the emphasis is on 2022 products, these awards draw from all the gear we’ve tried and tested this year, regardless of when items were released. After all, the latest and greatest isn’t always the best, despite what marketing hype may tell us. It’s all about balance, and bikepacking is as much about gear that stands the test of time as it is about new technology. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Bikepacking Gear of The Year
The Bikepacking Gear of The Year award is dedicated to bags and packs that are made specifically for dirt-road touring and bikepacking. And, the winner is…
Ortlieb Seat-Pack QR
Just when you thought that all possible innovations for the lengthwise-oriented seat pack had already been done, Ortlieb tossed another hat into the ring. The Seat-Pack QR uses Ortlieb’s proven welded waterproof seat bag design and integrates it with a new quick-release mechanism that easily hooks onto the saddle rails, providing a fast and easy attachment system that also works with a dropper post. They nailed the design and feature set, and it’s as stable as any other seat pack on the market. It quickly became a favorite of a couple of us on the team and has proven itself durable and reliable so far. Find the review here.
Other Top Picks
Tailfin Mini Panniers (10L)
The 10L Tailfin Mini Panniers were released in 2021 but became favorites of a couple of our team members this year. They’re not only the perfect size, but they might also be the most well-engineered panniers we’ve used. They feature a really nice cam closure that Tailfin clearly put a lot of time and thought into. It’s both intricate and extremely solid, making them quick to remove and install and completely stable and rattle-free. Find Logan’s thoughts here and Cass’ full review here.
$105 at Tailfin
Old Man Mountain Elkhorn
Released back in the spring, the Old Man Mountain Elkhorn is a cleverly designed and highly versatile rack that can be mounted to the front or rear of nearly any bike using the axle mount kit or rack mounts. Its unique engineering makes the Elkhorn one of the most universal racks available, and it’s a great option as a bag support or a standalone rack for a minimal packing style. The three-pack mounts on each leg are icing on the cake. Find our review here.
Frances Cycles Farfarer Trailer
Trailers magically turn regular bikes into load-hauling machines, helping turn our most imaginative human-powered adventures into reality. Light on the scales and easy on the eyes, the Frances Cycles Farfarer feels almost perfect for its intended uses and resonates especially well with the inherent simplicity of bicycles themselves. There’s little to fail, and handling is as good as it gets for a trailer hauling cargo. Find Cass’ full review here.
$600+ at Frances Cycles
Top Six Bikepacking Bikes
We tested a fair number of bikes in 2022. We reviewed 20 and have a few more still in the works. Here are our top six Bikepacking Bikes for 2022.
The Cotic SolarisMax blew us away in 2022. Who woulda thunk that a relatively long and progressive hardtail could be as versatile as this one? It ticks a lot of boxes and is equally at home tackling long, multi-day exploits as it is carving up rugged singletrack trails. It also has loads of mounting points, and that sweet Hubble Purple sparking paint job is the icing on the cake. Find the review here.
The Surly Grappler—formerly the Ghost Grappler—was a sleeper this year, but we all agreed that it deserved a spot in our 2022 Gear of the Year. The Grappler is a unique take on a drop-bar off-road bike, one that combines long-ride-friendly comfort with an unexpected playful side, not to mention loads of utility. The Grappler’s also equally at home as a flat-bar bike and comes equipped with a drivetrain that makes that transition easy. Find our reviews here, and have a look at the flat-bar conversion here.
Jones LWB Spaceframe Titanium
The latest iteration of the Jones Spaceframe – the Plus LWB – is the bike that represents the culmination of Jeff Jones’ vision for the “ultimate” mountain bike thanks to its considered interplay between frame geometry and design, fork offset, rim width, and tire size. It got high marks in Cass’ review, and we expect it will be a timeless investment for those who appreciate the Jones geometry and are willing to buck all the mainstream mountain bike trends. Read the review here.
Back in 2016, the Pipedream A.L.I.C.E. was one of the first drop-bar mountain bikes in what’s now a well-saturated market. We finally got around to testing the latest iteration this year, and we’re glad we did. Not only is this bike a good value, it climbs very well, and it’s stable and grounded, which translates to it being a great descender. It’s clear that Pipedream had a vision with this bike, and with its ability to handle the chunky stuff like mountain bike and still maintain a quick and snappy feel and an all-day comfortable ride, they nailed it. Find the review here.
The Chumba Yaupon stood out this year amid the growing variety of omniterrain bikes. The Yaupon managed to keep things interesting with its US-made steel frame, clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tires, dropper post routing, sliding dropouts, and slightly more versatile trail-ready geometry relative to many other drop-bar bikes on the market. Find our review here.
Bike Friday All-Packa
Small-wheel folding bikes are great for taking advantage of multimodal transportation options and for storing in cramped spaces. They don’t usually come to mind, though, as bikepacking platforms. Enter Bike Friday’s All-Packa as a decisive rejection of that conventional wisdom. The All-Packa can pack in minutes into a suitcase, but when unfolded, it is undaunted by loose gravel, rugged doubletrack, or even less-than-chunky singletrack. For imaginative adventure possibilities, it’s a game changer. Find an interview with the All-Packa’s designer here and keep an eye out for our comprehensive review.
Again this year, we asked our Bikepacking Collective members what they thought about the 20+ bikes we reviewed in 2022. We sent our members a list of all of them, asked them each to select two, and then tallied the results. Here are the three that came out on top based on the Collective’s votes.
While the Cotic beat the Grappler in our internal voting panel of seven individuals by a very narrow margin (one vote!), it handily took the top spot in our Collective Awards vote, taking nearly 32% of the total ballots!
Tumbleweed Stargazer Ti
The newly reviewed Tumbleweed Stargazer Ti came in at a close second with over 26% of the vote. Note that it didn’t appear in our top list of bikes as the very similar steel Stargazer won overall last year, and we opted to give it top marks in the “Best Upgrades” category below. Read the full review here.
Moots Routt ESC
With a matching Ti fork, loads of mounts, and clearance for 29 x 2.4” tires, the MOOTS Routt ESC is a sight to behold. Our members thought so too, giving it 13% of the vote putting it in the third spot for our Collective Choice. Find the review here.
Best New Component
We normally have a single winner for this award, but it was a little too close to call this time, so we have a tie for the top spot for Best New Component…
Ritchey Beacon XL
The Ritchey Beacon XL came specced on the Chumba Yaupon we tested and quickly became a standout component on the build. We found its generous 520mm width, shallow 80mm drop, and 36° flare to be perfect for off-road riding while offering a comfortable, slightly more upright position for big rides. The base double-butted 6061 alloy version starts at just $60, which is a steal. Find our review here.
$58 at AMZN
Stooge Moto Bars
The Stooge Moto bar isn’t new, but we just got a hold of one this year and rode it on technical singletrack, bikepacking trips, and everything in between. Its moderate 17° backsweep and 38mm rise keep the bike fit in check while offering a nice comfortable hand position. It offers an excellent blend of control and comfort. Plus, the wide clamp area is perfect for bag straps and accessories.
£72 at Stooge Cycles
Other Top Picks
Wolf Tooth Waveform Pedals
There are a number of solid flat pedal options out there, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. However, Minnesota-based Wolf Tooth Components seems to have nailed it with their in-house machined Waveform pedals. They’re well-built, offer a narrower Q-factor than many other comparable options, and offer best-in-class grip with a unique dual-concave design.
Logos Eudae Wheels
A sub-1600 gram carbon mountain bike wheelset for under $1,250? The new Logos Eudae ticks that box, and being built around the proven and now open standard dual-sprung floating Star Ratchet system, are compatible with internals from the venerated original (non-EXP) DT240/350. We’ve been testing a pair for a few months and have nothing but good things to say. Stay tuned for the full review.
$1,248 at LogosComponents.com
Garbaruk 12-speed Cassette
There are two camps when it comes to 12-speed drivetrains. One good thing about the SRAM Eagle side are the lightweight one-piece cassettes, something that Shimano doesn’t have. Garbaruk has been in the game for a while and released a one-piece Microspline 12-speed cassette to work with the Shimano 12-speed drivetrain. Better yet, it weighs 25 grams less than the X01 option and is $100+ lighter on the wallet. And it shifts beautifully too.
$286 at Garbaruk
Top Five Upgrades of 2022
Certainly not conceived to promote overspending or general excess, the Top Five Upgrades highlights higher-dollar gear that’s well-designed and could be a worthwhile investment if you have the extra dough.
Tumbleweed Stargazer Ti
The steel Stargazer took the best bike slot last year, and while it’s nearly perfect, Tumbleweed decided to up the ante this year and try and make a great bike better. If you read our review, you know that they succeeded, and the limited edition Tumbleweed Stargazer Ti is something special. Find the full review here.
Another good thing got even better this year… or at least bigger. The Zpacks Free Duo took home a Gear of the Year award last year, and this year, Zpacks decided to make a three-person version of this shelter.While it’s not easy on the wallet, the FreeTrio is extremely roomy and well made and comes in a 990-gram package. Stay tuned for a full review.
The introduction of Buttercups in the new RockShox Pike Ultimate left a lot of us scratching our heads this past summer. But as gimmicky as it sounds, this little elastomer-based anti-vibration system is 100% noticeable and makes for a pretty impressive benefit. Stay tuned for a review.
$900 at REI Backcountry
Cane Creek eeSilk Stem
Speaking of elastomers, Cane Creek seems to have figured out a pretty neat engineering recipe for their take on a suspension stem. In our experience, many of the other options are a little too flexy. The eeSilk allows you to dial it in between soft and firm settings, which is a nice touch. We’ll publish a review down the road, but so far we’re impressed.
Specialized Power with Mirror Saddle
A $300+ 3D-prinded saddle… WTF!? That’s pretty much what we thought. However, we knew that Specialized had something special on their hands with the Mimic saddles, and this lighter-weight 195-gram saddle seemed interesting. In the end, it’s extremely comfortable, and it’s held up incredibly well. Watch for a long-term review in 2023.
$325 at Backcountry
Best Tools & Gadgets
For the Best Tools & Gadgets, there are always a lot of great options. This year’s winner is…
RideWithGPS Personal Map View & Heatmaps
RideWithGPS is our favorite route planning software, and it just keeps getting better. The company unveiled heat maps earlier this year, and then quietly rolled out Personal Map View and Personal Heat Maps later. All of these features are amazing, but the Personal Map View is especially cool, allowing you to view all your routes and rides on the map. If you haven’t tried it, make sure to give it a look.
Other Top Picks
Garmin inReach Messenger
The new Garmin inReach Messenger provides satellite communication as a standalone device or paired with your smartphone and has a few other neat features that are great for anyone riding away from cellular coverage. We’ve been testing one for several months and should have a review soon.
$300 at REI Backcountry
Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt V2
After long-term testing, the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt has proven to be a reliable and perfectly simple GPS companion for a couple of us on the team. It’s small, intuitive, and still has a clear enough screen that’s visible in all lighting situations. It also has a great battery life, and the ELEMNT companion app is relatively user-friendly for loading routes and syncing rides. Check out the review here.
$300 at REI Backcountry
Accessory of the Year
This award is specific to accessories and extras that don’t quite fit into the bikepacking gear or components category. Voting was a little too close to call this time, so we have a tie for the top spot in this category as well. And they both happen to be lights…
The Fenix BC26R is a lightweight bike light that features an included rechargeable 5000mAh li-ion battery and runs up to 1600 lumens. It has a great design with an excellent mount and a long battery life on low-medium settings. Stay tuned for the review.
Sinewave Beacon 2
The venerable Sinewave Beacon was recently updated, and we’ve been testing one. One big improvement is the elimination of any flicker at low speed. It also now has ability to turn off the stand light (which is nice when camping) and has a mode that is only for charging without light. There’s also blinking mode when using external battery power and some additional taillight functionality that we haven’t tried. It’s a great upgrade to an already nice product.
$350 at Sinewave
Other Top Picks
Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder
Apidura’s Frame Pack Hydration Bladder is the first frame bag-specific bladder on the market. It features a roll-top closure to allow refilling the bladder without removing it from the frame pack and has proven itself quite durable. Find the review here.
$51-63 at Apidura
Ass Savers Win Wing
Made in Sweden from primarily recycled plastic, the 71-gram Ass Savers Win Wing is an ultralight clip-on mudguard that’s designed be used on any bike—with or without fender mounts—in the cold and wet conditions of fall and winter. The Win Wing is a new take on a fender that helps minimize the mud and muck on your backside, and we’ve been digging it this fall.
$25 at Bikepacking Store
Kokopelli Rogue R-Deck Packraft
Described as the “quiver killer” by Kokopelli, the Rogue R-Deck has a removable spraydeck that’s there when you want it and zips off when you don’t. It weighs just under 10 pounds, packs down to the size of a large paper towel roll, and the version we’ve been using for the last year has the optional TiZip zipper to store gear inside the packraft for multi-day trips.
$960 at Backcountry
Camping Gear of the Year
This award goes to camping gear that we’ve tested in 2022 that has proven to be reliable and outstanding in its class.
Katabatic Flex 22 Quilt
We’ve long been smitten with the quilts made by Katabatic. Logan’s seven-year-old Alsec is still in immaculate working order. This year, we tried the Flex 22, a great ultralight option for colder weather that’s versatile enough to use year round. It’s proved itself to live up to its temperature rating, and it’s very well made and fairly user-friendly. And the fact that it’s constructed from Bluesign approved fabrics and responsibly sourced down makes it all the better. For those looking to make an investment in a high-quality, durable, ultralight quilt, the Flex (or Alsec) are an excellent choice.
$280+ at Katabatic
Other Top Picks
Gossamer Gear The Two
We’ve been testing out the redesigned Gossamer Gear The Two for nearly a year now with great results. It packs down small, offers enough interior space for two friends, weighs around a pound and a half with everything you need, and is competitively priced at $375 (currently on sale for $300!). Gossamer offers an optional pole set for those without trekking poles, and there’s also The One for those traveling solo. Stay tuned for our full review.
$300 at GossamerGear
Decathlon Forclaz Trek 900 50°F Sleeping Bag
You usually need to pay a pretty penny to get a light and packable bag. But with Decathlon’s Forclaz Trek 900, you not only get both, but you also get a bag that’s proven to be durable at a very approachable price point. The Trek 900 is a 1.5-pound, 50°F summer sleeping bag that’s impressed us by providing the decent 2.5-3 season warmth and comfort on a variety of summer mountain trips.
$150 at Decathlon
Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL1 Tent
The Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL1 Tent is nothing groundbreaking in terms of structure and function. However, this 770-gram, ultralight, single-door, one-person shelter ticks all the boxes and is made without dyes, PU-coatings, or flame-retardant chemicals. It’s also very light, spacious, and available for a competitive price.
$300 at REI
Best in Bikepacking Kitchen
This award category is designated for packable food, recipes, or camp kitchen utensils that have impressed us in 2022.
Soto WindMaster Stove
While not the smallest or lightest canister stove on the market, the Soto WindMaster stands above the competition for quietness, pot support stability, and great simmer performance. “It’s difficult to find any real faults with the WindMaster. The minor size and weight penalties are more than justified by its impressive wind performance…” Find our review here.
$64.95 at REI
Other Top Picks
After trying an espresso from the Wacaco Picopresso deep in the Rocky Mountains, it was clear that this pint-sized espresso maker is in a class of its own and unrivaled in its weight-to-quality ratio. Albeit more of a glam-packing item, we definitely recommend giving it a shot if you place a high priority on making quality coffee outside. Find our review here.
Snowpeak Insulated Mug
Speaking of quality coffee, one thing that’s always been frustrating about ultralight titanium mugs is the fact that your coffee gets cold so quickly. The Snowpeak Insulated Titanium Mug isn’t new this year, but it’s been a go-to option for us. It seems to double the time coffee stays warm, and it doesn’t come with much of a weight penalty.
$40 at Snow Peak Backcountry
Grayl Ultrapress Ti
The new Grayl Ultrapress Ti features a unique titanium construction, fits in a bottle cage, and filters/stores water for when you’re on the move. We’ve found the push-to-filter design to be reliable and easy to use, and the ability to use it as an emergency pot for boiling water or preparing simple meals is a nice bonus. The standard plastic version costs just $90, which is another solid option.
$199 at Grayl.com
Outdoor Apparel of The Year
The Outdoor Apparel of The Year award is for clothing and outerwear we’ve tested in 2022 that’s exceptional and proven to be durable. We normally have a single winner here as well, but there are two winners in the top spot this year.
Montbell Down Pants
Montbell’s down pants offer a ton of extra warmth in an amazingly compact and lightweight sub-200-gram package. Diamond-shaped baffles keep the 800 fill power down in place, but other than that subtle aesthetic element, the pants are very minimalist in design, making them one of or favorite pieces this year. They’re also available in men’s and women’s cuts. If you’re looking to up your late fall and winter camping game, give them a look.
Five Ten Freerider Pro PrimeBlue
Like the regular Freerider Pro, the Freerider Pro PrimeBlue are superb in the grip department. However, the PrimeBlue model is constructed from 75% PrimeBlue yarn, an upcycled material that consists of plastic waste harvested from beaches and shorelines before it can pollute the ocean. The shoes contain no virgin polyester, which is pretty impressive. Equally as impressive is this shoe’s durability. This pair saw over 2,000 miles of Baja Divide, Oaxaca riding, and singletrack back home in Pisgah over the last year and is still in great working order (as shown in this photo). The PrimeBlue is now called Freerider Pro Canvas, for the record.
$90-100 at REI Backcountry
Other Top Picks
Gore Passion Shorts
The search of a good summer shorts led us to the Gore Passion Short this year. This relatively affordable garment has a double button closure, velcro waist-band, and relatively slim cut that’s a great fit for in-between waist sizes. It’s also super comfortable on the bike, not too heavy for warmer weather, and has a good set of minimal pockets.
Giro Tracker Shoes
The Giro Tracker is not just another flat-pedal mountain bike shoe. The Tracker was designed to be more minimal and lighter than others, with a highly breathable design for comfort on all-day rides. We’ve put about 1,200 miles on one and have been extremely impressed with its durability. And for fast-paced bikepacking, the BOA dial is an excellent touch for being able to stretch your feet and quickly put on or remove them. They’re pretty grippy, too, and make a great mixed-terrain adventure shoe. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review.
$130 at Jenson
7mesh Chilco Anorak
Part of their WTV (wind, thermal, ventilation) lineup released this year, the 7mesh Chilco Anorak provides the perfect blend of warmth and wind protection for cold mornings or mild winter days. Miles has been wearing his on nearly every ride this fall/winter, and has found it ideal for temps hovering around freezing.
Most Interesting Bikes for 2023
We announced nearly 100 new bikes in 2023, and while we can’t test them all, we try to get our hands on as many as reasonably possible for review. Of the many bikes that will be on the market in 2023, the five below have most piqued our interest. All feature something interesting, different, especially well thought through, or are just worthy of tossing a leg over!
Unveiled at Eurobike this year, the Pelago Thórsmörk is an adventure-ready rigid mountain bike that marks an unexpected step for the Helsinki, Finland-based brand. It’s designed around 29 x 2.6″ tires and with loads of mounting options, and it looks like an excellent option for a variety of bikepacking trips. Find the press release here.
Pipedream Sirius S6
Spoiler alert, we’re currently testing a Pipedream Sirius S5 and have a lot of good things to say about it. Stay tuned for the full review. Meanwhile, we heard that Pipedream is going to be releasing a titanium version, the S6, featuring a bunch more bikepacking-friendly mounts. Here’s a sneak peek, but note this isn’t the final production version. Stay tuned for details.
Released earlier this summer, the Allied BC40 is a made-in-USA carbon full-suspension cross-country bike designed for aggressive riding and and going fast. Its generously sized main triangle and 29 x 2.4″ tire clearance have us thinking it would make a solid platform for lightweight singletrack bikepacking trips and ultra-endurance races. Learn more here.
The new Cotic Cascade is a versatile drop-bar mountain bike built up around a chromoly steel frame, clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tires, and all the mounting points you could ever need. We’re actually testing this bike at the moment, so stay tuned for a full review in 2023. In the meantime, find the press release here.
Omnium Big Bad Jumbo
Omnium, best known for their line of utilitarian cargo bicycles, recently stepped into the world of mountain bikes. Omnium’s Founder, Jimmi “Jumbo” Bargisen concocted this long and relatively progressive hardtail that has some pretty nice lines, and a lot of mounts. We’re hoping to test one soon. Find the press release here.
Stay tuned for more from our 2022 Bikepacking Awards, including honors for the best Photography, Video, and Creative work, as well as the best routes and most influential individuals of the year…
If you’re interested in purchasing any of these products, please support your local bike shop and buy from them when possible. If you can’t, or they’re only obtainable online, we’ve provided links to manufacturers and stores where they are currently available; some of these retailers offer a meager referral fee, which helps support this platform. This has no bearing on the review or selection.
More Gear of the Year
Find more past Bikepacking Gear of the Year roundups here:
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