2023 Bikepacking Gear of the Year
In the first installment of our 2023 Bikepacking Awards, we recognize the products that have wowed us the most over the past year. Dig into our top picks with 50 awards in 11 categories, including our favorite bikes, components, camping gear, apparel, and more. Plus, find a list of bikes that are already in our sights for 2024…
Over the course of this year, we reviewed 15 new bikes and an extensive array of bags and gear, encompassing both major brands and smaller makers. To kick off our ninth annual Bikepacking Awards, the 2023 Gear of the Year rounds up a diverse assortment of proven products distributed across 10 categories. Scroll ahead to find our selections for the top products relevant to backcountry cycling, camping, and bikepacking, ranging from tools and apparel to the bikes that have left a lasting impression.
It’s worth noting that a few of these products have yet to earn an in-depth review on the site. Nevertheless, it’s all equipment we’ve personally used and confidently recommend. While the focus is on 2023 products, these awards draw from the full gamut gear we’ve tried throughout the year, regardless of when a specific item was released. After all, contrary to marketing hype, the latest and greatest isn’t always synonymous with the best. The essence lies in achieving balance, recognizing that bikepacking is more about gear that withstands the test of time than it is innovation.
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. We normally have a single winner here, but there are two items in the top spot this year.
Miss Grape Ilcoso
The Miss Grape ILCOSO impressed several of us this year after extensive testing in Colorado, Canada, and the Appalachian Mountains. This unique modular handlebar bag cradle and accessory mount solves several issues that often come hand in hand with bar bags, such as tire clearance and cable interference. Find our detailed review here.
€128 at Miss Grape
Revelate Nano Panniers
The much-anticipated revamp of the Revelate Nano Panniers was well worth the wait. These minimal panniers each have a 7-11L volume and weigh just 255 grams, and their unique four-point compression system is unlike anything we’ve seen. Find our extensive review after 2,000 kilometers of use here.
$249 at Campfire
Other Top Picks
Tailfin Top Tube Pack
As we mentioned in our review, Tailfin successfully reinvented the top tube bag this year using their new ultra-grippy and versatile V-Mount system to forego a steerer tube strap and create a super stable bag. All in all, both the Zip and Flip versions are very well-executed and cleverly engineered additions to the Tailfin range.
$75 at Tailfin
New Revelate Frame Bags
Revelate Designs released three new frame bags this year, all of which were carefully thought through to match newer bike geometry and are made in Oregon with 100% recycled fabrics. Revelate isn’t one to launch new products willy-nilly, and it was clear when we tested the Rifter, Choss, and Sandur that they were all very well made.
$120+ at Campfire
Ron’s Bikes Fabio’s Chest
The latest Connecticut-made waxed Cordura Ron’s Bikes Fabio’s Chest is not a featherweight bag, but after thousands of miles of use, it’s become a trustworthy favorite, and it’s clear why this modern classic has developed quite the fanbase. Find our full review here, written after a big 1,000-mile scouting trip on the EDT.
$270 at Ron’s Bikes
Top Six Bikepacking Bikes
We tested a fair number of bikes in 2023. We reviewed 15 and have a few more still in the works. Here are our top six Bikepacking Bikes for 2023, two of which have a review on the way.
Even with a lot of great bikes in the mix this year, the Stooge was a clear decision for me, especially considering my closing statement in the review: “If someone asked me to pick just one bike to spend the rest of my life with today, it would definitely be this one.” It was easy to convince the rest of the team based on my passion for this bike. Be sure to read the review if you haven’t already.
Esker Hayduke LVS
We haven’t wrapped up our review just yet, but we’ve put the new Esker Hayduke LVS through the wringer for several months, and in true BIKEPACKING.com fashion, we’re giving it an extensive, high-mileage test. In the meantime, know that we’ve been impressed enough by it to give it a spot in our list of favorite bikes this year. UPDATE: Find our detailed review of the Hayduke LVS here.
Pipedream Sirius S6
The Pipedream S6 is another one we’ve yet to review. However, we had high hopes based on my experience with the S5 last year and got the S6 several months ago. The new titanium S6 shares the same amazing geometry and upgrades the platform with rack and gear mounts and a lovely titanium frame. Watch for Neil’s review soon.
If you’re a fan of steel hardtails but want to dabble in full-suspension, the SST is a fitting option. Better yet, the SST’s excellent geometry and above-class performance supersede its impressive aesthetic. Everyone we’ve spoken with who’s tried the new REEB SST has had nothing but good things to say about it. Find the review here.
Black Mountain Cycles La Cabra
The Black Mountain Cycles La Cabra has received more review requests than any other bike on the site over the years. We weren’t disappointed after testing one extensively this past spring. The La Cabra not only has a great selection of provisions, but it possesses a remarkable balance between surefooted stability and nimble responsiveness that assured it a spot in this list. Find our review here.
Santa Cruz Stigmata
Let it be known that the Stigmata is the first carbon bike that’s made it into our annual Gear of the Year awards since 2019. It’s that good, and Neil summed it up as the best gravel bike he’s ridden in a long while. Despite a couple of cons, like the obvious lack of fork mounts, it’s a worthy addition to our list of top bikes in 2023. Find the review here.
Again this year, we asked our Bikepacking Collective members what they thought about the bikes we reviewed in 2023. We sent our supporters a list of all of them, asked them each to select two, and tallied the results. Here are the three that came out on top based on the Collective’s votes.
Otso Fenrir Ti
The Otso Fenrir Ti is a versatile bike that can do any number of things, and it’s a full two pounds lighter than the stainless steel version we reviewed a couple of years ago. The Bikepacking Collective certainly saw the value in such a bike. Find an in-depth review of the Fenrir Ti after 550 miles of bikepacking, gravel grinding, and trail riding in Utah and Colorado here.
The Kona Sutra is a perennial classic touring bike that has been around in various forms for nearly two decades. However, they made some thoughtful updates to it over the last couple of years. Lucas reviewed it this year, and folks in the Collective took note, voting it in the number two spot. Read the full review here.
Curve GMX+ Ti
Inspired by Australia’s long-rooted history with overlanding, the Curve GMX+ Titanium is designed to handle big rides through challenging terrain. We finally got to review one in its home turf with 2,000 kilometers of pedaling through Australia. Our members took notice. Read the full review here.
Best New Component
We normally have a single winner for this award, but again, it was a little too close to call this time, so we have a tie for the top spot for Best New Component…
Shimano GRX 12-speed
The new Shimano GRX 12-speed isn’t perfectly suited for everyone’s tastes, but there are two things that secured its spot in this list. One, the GRX 1×12 group was built around the brand’s wide-range mountain bike cassettes, such as the 10-51T, making it semi-cross-compatible and providing an excellent range and platform for many modern drop-bar 29ers. Second, as I summed up in my review, it’s one of the cleanest and quietest drivetrains I’ve used.
$1,000+ (levers/RD/cassette) at Backcountry
Tumbleweed Big Dipper
The new Tumbleweed Big Dipper is a well-balanced and comfortable handlebar that’s intentionally designed for drop-bar mountain bikes with careful consideration of quality and materials and meticulous thought put into the angles, reach, and drop measurements. Two of us on the team were quite impressed with how all this translated on the trail and all the decisions that went into it. Find our review here.
$115 at Tumbleweed
Other Top Picks
After a ton of use in a broad range of conditions and terrain, the 29 x 2.6” Maxxis Forekaster became a go-to tire that easily doubles for dirt-touring and singletrack mountain biking. It falls neatly in the middle of the brand’s other two popular tires, the DHF and Rekon, and is fast, durable, and corners very well. Find the full review here.
$95 at REI
Growtac Equal Brakes
We’ve been quietly testing a pair of Growtac Equal mechanical brakes this year. Not only were we happy to see another option in an otherwise forgotten category of components, but we were quite pleased with their performance after putting some miles on them. Stay tuned for a detailed review.
$365 at Velo Orange
Hope Union RC Pedal
We tested the Hope Union RC pedals in a variety of conditions this year; they endured rain and heavy mud and continue to run smoothly without needing service. The Union RCs are exceptionally well-built, reliable, and offer class-leading performance with an almost transparent ease of use. Find the full review here.
$190 at Backcountry
Five Six Upgrades of 2023
While this category usually represents top-shelf components that are rather pricey, we decided to mix in some that were more literal this year. Still, there are a few high-dollar items that are well-designed and could be a worthwhile investment if you have the extra dough.
SRAM AXS Transmission
While a lot of people might disagree—after all, wireless shifting isn’t for everyone—SRAM’s latest and greatest invention, the AXS Transmission, is one of this year’s most impressive releases. Not only does it take the derailleur hanger out of the equation, it also works beautifully, offering clean shifts under load and the ability to shrug off knocks and dings. Several of us here were pretty blown away after putting hundreds of miles on it this year. Find the X01 Transmission review here and the GX review here.
Berd Hawk 30 Wheels
The new BERD Hawk 30 wheels combine the brand’s unique fiber spokes with beautiful 30mm carbon rims and their own Talon hubs that use DT-derivative interchangeable ratchet freehub internals to make the lightest mountain bike wheels on the planet. Better yet, they’ve bowled us over with their ride quality. Watch for a review soon.
$2,295 at Berd
Hope Tech4 E4 Brakes
Hope has once again outdone themselves with their latest hydraulic brakes. Similar to the Tech 3, the new Tech 4 are intricately machined with the same legendary feel and modulation but also get a lighter lever action and a few more upgrades, including several color options. Stay tuned for the review.
$245 at Backcountry
Doom Ti Bikepackers Delight
The Doom Bikepacker’s Delight is a unique 7/8” bar that offers nice angles and a sturdy feel with a tangible bit of full-bar flex for comfort. The titanium version adds a little more compliance and and vibration damping that does an excellent job at minimizing hand fatigue. They’re a hefty investment but worth it if their angles and measurements fall into your comfort zone. Find our review here.
$250 at Doom
DURO CRUX 29 X 3.25″ TIRES
The revamped Duro Crux is literally an upgrade if you’re used to riding on normal-sized tires. And with a versatile tread that’s grippy on burly trails, comfortable over corrugation, and fast-rolling on forest roads, it can be a great all-around tire. As long as you’re fine with pushing a large-volume tire, its durability makes it a good contender for long-distance bikepacking. Find our review here.
$80 at Jones
Bike Yoke Sagma
The BikeYoke Sagma saddle presents a unique elastomer system that complements its small and lightweight form factor to create a saddle unlike anything else we’ve tried. It’s customizable with different elastomers, and the two of us on the team who tested it found it to be remarkably comfortable and hardwearing. Find the review here.
$169 at BikeYoke
Best Tools & Gadgets
For the Best Tools & Gadgets, there are always a lot of great options. This year’s winner is…
Garmin Edge 1040 Solar
We’ve been testing the Garmin Edge 1040 throughout the year and have found it to be a really interesting device. Although it has a lot of functions we haven’t even tried, what it does really well is why bikepackers will love it. It has a big screen to navigate, you can upload GPX files on the fly, it has good base maps, and best of all, it has amazing battery life thanks to its solar capability. Stay tuned for the review.
$750 at REI
Other Top Picks
SQ-TOOL NINE KEY CARD
The SQ Labs x Wera Tool collaboration is an impressive little tool. This high-quality, compact eight-piece hex wrench set fits in a flat card holder, which can be used for other items, too, which we’ll cover in our upcoming review. The set includes hex 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6 hex wrenches, Torx 10 and 25 bits, and a Philips bit. Stay tuned for more.
$50 at SQ Lab
Pact Lite Kit
Although this is a tool kit no one wants to talk about, the new Pact Lite Kit has been a favorite this year. The PACT Lite Kit is an all-in-one backcountry bathroom kit for burying your poop and features a lightweight trowel with a nested storage capsule containing a set of mycelium tabs and compressed wipes.
$35 at Pact
Wolf Tooth Remote Pro
With its added adjustability, a bearing pivot, and increased leverage, the new Wolf Tooth Remote is one of the smoothest and most refined dropper levers we’ve used. It’s no surprise that it quickly became the favorite of a couple of team members.
$69 at Wolf Tooth
Accessory of the Year
This award is specific to accessories that may not fit into the bikepacking bags category but are made for bikepacking and/or carrying gear.
Ortlieb Quick Rack
Much to our surprise, the Ortlieb Quick Rack was a game-changer this year for those of us who like swapping setups between multiple bikes. The lever-actuated lower peg system coupled with a quick-release seat post strap makes getting it on and off the bike super fast and simple. It’s an excellent solution for moving from bike to bike and using small panniers or a rack-top load on overnighters, weekend trips, and commutes. Find our detailed review here.
$100 at Ortlieb
Other Top Picks
Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket
The Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket’s primary purpose is to keep a water bottle in an easy-to-access location. It’s also particularly handy because it has four super useful stash pockets that are perfect for chapstick, earbuds, snacks, and other items that are best stowed within reach. The new version we tested this year greatly improved upon the last, too. Find it in my Editor’s Dozen from this past spring.
$65 at Rogue Panda
Wizard Works Hobgob Hip Pack
With two years of development behind it, the London-made Wizard Works Hobgob is one of the nicest and most feature-rich hip packs we’ve seen to date. Miles spent a couple of months wearing one in advance of his recent review, and he noted its top-notch construction, remarkably user-friendly design, and ability to comfortably haul his full-sized camera while riding.
£195 at Wizard Works
Peak Design Out Front Bike Mount
While the Peak Design Out Front Mount may appear to be just another phone mount in an already crowded market, it’s proven superior to competing products we’ve tried in the past. It’s perfect for everyday riding or quick bikepacking trips where a GPS device isn’t needed and has a number of ingenious engineering touches and comes backed by a lifetime guarantee. Find the full review here.
$70 at REI
Camping Gear of the Year
This award goes to camping gear we’ve tested in 2023 that has proven to be reliable and outstanding in its class.
Durston X-mid Pro 2
Single-walled, non-freestanding shelters have their own inherent challenges, but Durston’s X-Mid Pro 2 is one of the best we’ve tried. It’s simple to set up and tear down, requiring only four stakes. More importantly, it’s comfortable to live in, with a unique offset pole and internal parallelogram design that effectively increase the tent’s inside space. And of course, it’s also extremely lightweight and packs up incredibly small. Find our full review here.
$639 at Durston
Other Top Picks
Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid XL
After using the Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid XL all year, as both a shelter for two and a solo tent, Neil has been blown away by its overall construction and craftsmanship and the fact that it packs down into a relatively small and light package. Mountain Laurel Designs’ exceptional attention to detail and the durability and UV resistance associated with Silpoly secured it a spot in this list. Review here.
$365 at Mountain Laurel Designs
Exped Mega Pillow
The Mega Pillow is Exped’s largest, most luxurious pillow and the closest thing Emily and Miles have found to their pillows at home. The microfiber topper is soft, removable, and washable, and while it might not be the most packable pillow out there, it’s been an essential accessory for comfortable nights under the stars.
$45 at REI
Big Agnes Rapide SL
Miles and Emily brought the Big Agnes Rapide SL double sleeping pad along on six-week bikepacking trip in Australia earlier this year and have had a hard time going back to regular pads since. The Rapide SL is their lightest double sleeping pad, with a generous 40″ width, 4.8″ thickness, and 4.8 R-value that’s kept them warm on a number of sub-freezing nights. There’s no getting around its bulky pack size, but they think the added comfort it offers on long trips is worth it.
$299 at Big Agnes
Best in Bikepacking Kitchen
This award category is designated for packable food, recipes, or camp kitchen utensils that have impressed us in 2023.
Stasher Bags aren’t new for 2023, but two of us on the team discovered them and started using them regularly this year. These handy silicone bags are extremely durable, come in a variety of sizes, and can be used for storing takeout food, leftovers, or hydration mix (as shown). They’re also impervious to boiling water, making them great for rehydrating your own DIY meals. Find them mentioned in our recently updated Guide to Low-Waste Bikepacking.
$10+ at REI
Other Top Picks
Gas Canister Refill Adapter
When we reviewed the new FlipFuel device earlier this year, we made it clear that it was previously released under another brand. Still, FlipFuel did a good job at taking it to market and spreading the word. As a result, a couple of us are regularly using it to refill small fuel bottles and top them off for local overnighters. It’s a simple and inexpensive solution that’s beneficial for anyone who uses canister stoves. Find the review here.
$35 at AMZN
Miles and Neil were both very impressed with Hydrapak’s new line of filters and soft, collapsable bottles. The 42mm Filter Cap is compatible with all HydraPak 42mm opening products, including flasks, Seekers, and Flux bottles, and it has proven to be efficient, durable, and easy to use. Find the review of the Seeker+ here and the Flux+ here.
$50+ at Hydrapak
Vargo BOT XL
Bigger isn’t always better, but we were excited to see our favorite ultralight cook pot reimagined in another size. We have’t used it extensively to figure out all the possibilities for Tetris-like cook kit options, but we’re already impressed with it enough to give it a spot here. The new size not only makes it capable of being a cook pot for two, but it also adds the capability to store a larger 230-gram fuel canister, among other things.
$110 at Vargo
Outdoor Apparel of The Year
The Outdoor Apparel of The Year award is for clothing and outwear we’ve tested in 2023 that’s exceptional and has proven to be long-lasting.
Spesh 2FO Roost Flat Syn
The Specialized 2FO Roost has been in one of our roundups before. However, Big S came out with a new an improved version this year that has a synthetic upper, making them not only more aesthetically pleasing, but seemingly more durable. I now have over 1,500 miles on this pair, and they still have plenty of life left. Still, that’s not my favorite aspect of these shoes. Their outstanding pedal grip is what makes them extra special. They’re better than most other shoes I’ve used, and unlike Five Ten and others, the rubber grip doesn’t seem to deplete with time.
$120 at Specialized
Other Top Picks
Shimano GE5 Shoes
The Shimano GE5 was the favorite in the clipless/SPD shoe category this year. The GE5 ticks a lot of boxes with a wide toe box and a secure fit that offers confidence both hiking and descending. Better yet, it has a great flex/stiffness ratio, perfectly recessed cleat pocket, and a grippy rubber outsole, all of which add up to it being an excellent hike-a-bike SPD shoe. Find our review here.
$105 at Backcountry
Ornot Lightweight Mission Shorts
Although we reviewed the Ornot Lightweight Mission shorts at the end of 2022, they became one of our favorites throughout the year. Made in California from Bluesign-approved materials, these lightweight, stretchy do-everything shorts are perfect for anyone who appreciates a short-ish inseam and is looking for shorts they can wear during rides and everywhere in between. Miles and Lucas both swear by them.
$125 at OrNot
Bedrock Mountain Clogs
While the Bedrock connoisseurs on our team had a little time getting adjusted to the thong-less life, they’ve both become converts to Bedrock Clogs in the “off season.” They’re not exactly sandals in the truest sense of the word, but for those who are accustomed to Bedrocks—folks who live in them—they’re a good alternative that provide a little more warmth and security than our go-to adventure footwear.
$160 at Bedrock
Most Interesting Bikes for 2024
We announced dozens of new bikes in 2023… perhaps not quite as many as past years do to the slower sales, but still a fair number. While we can’t test them all, we try to get our hands on as many as we can for review. Of the many bikes that will (hopefully) be on the market in 2024, the five below have most piqued our interest. All feature something unique, especially well thought through, or are just worthy of debate!
Featuring some mesmerizing lines in a curvy step-thru steel frame design, the made-in-Japan Crumbworks Chunk looks like a super interesting ATB with a blend of old and new standards and room for voluminous 27.5 x 2.8″ tires. We hope to get ahold of one for a test soon to see if it’s not just good looks. Find more details in this dispatch.
The new Bassi Coyote looks like another promising ATB-style bike. This Montreal-designed steel adventure machine has plenty of rack and cargo mounts, clearance for large 27.5 x 3.0″ or 29 x 2.4″ tires, internal dropper post routing, nice frame graphics and colors, and the ability to run a rigid or 120mm fork. Find more details in this dispatch.
The new Priority 600HXT is a trail-focused hardtail based around a 6061 alloy frame, a moderate 140mm fork, internally-routed dropper post, and Pinion’s C1.12 gearbox. It also has lots of mounting points and clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tires, making it compelling as a bikepacking bike. Find more details in this dispatch.
Stooge Scrambler V3
On the heels of an excellent experience with the Stooge MK6, we can’t help but look forward to the next generation of the brand’s other flagship platform. The V3 Scrambler should be out this spring, and we’re eager to try on one out for a proper comparative review and see how the “adventure Stooge” lives up to the hype.
Otso Voytek 2
The Next generation of the Otso Voytek has a few new features that grabbed our attention when we saw it on display at this year’s MADE event. The new Voytek has a fresh new geometry, additional cargo mounts, and Otso’s new GeoChip system that allows you to adjust the reach and head tube angle on the fly. Find more details in this dispatch.
Stay tuned for more from our 2023 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…
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