Editor’s Dozen: Cass’ Favorite Gear of 2022
As part of our continuing “Best of 2022” coverage, Cass picks his favourite gear, both old and new, that has survived the vagaries of this year’s rutted roads and trails, along with some noteworthy themes that have stood out too…
Similar to the last couple of years, I haven’t had the opportunity to try out a lot of new gear in 2022. But what I have been using has seen many a dusty mile and rainy kilometre as part of my ongoing efforts to create a network of bikepacking routes in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I’ve been living this year.
A few of my very favourite items have popped up in our recent 2022 Bikepacking Gear of the Year post – see the grid below for a link. This includes the elegant and supremely practical Frances Farfarer, that I tow daily almost without fail, and which has done much to change the way I bikepack (or rather, dogpack) this past year.
Also in the same roundup is the recently launched Sinewave Beacon 2, which illuminates my way when I get caught out at past dusk on a bikepacktrip trip, or I’m heading into town on a late night paleta mission, or trying to keep various devices topped up. I’m finishing up a full review of the Sinewave right now, so expect to see it shortly.
In the meantime, here’s my favourite gear from 2022. At the bottom of the post, I’ve run through the last few years of Editor’s Dozens and namechecked a few items that have fared especially well, and I’m still using regularly.
Wizard Works Framebagracadabra
170-255 grams / Made in UK / £92-104 at Wizard Works
I often run a full frame bag, either my custom-made Buckhorn or a Porcelain Rocket 52Hz, the latter being ideal during the rainy season here. But I love the aesthetics of a partial framebag, and having easy access to a water bottle on the downtube can be really useful too, especially on day rides.
The delightfully named Framebagracadabra by Wizard Works fits two of my bikes and never fails to give them a little extra pizazz. It’s sewn with loving attention to detail in the UK and every little stitch has stayed true. In terms of durability, I’m a big fan of its large-toothed zip – finding it far superior to the ‘aquaguard’ style that so often splits when a bag is overstuffed or jammed with dust. I bet finishing touches like the elasticated lacing helps in that regard, too.
I do miss not having a thin, non-drive-side pocket – it can be a great spot for tucking away a phone, for instance – but the internal mesh compartments are really handy for keeping small items, like a multitool, from jostling around and causing havoc within. The Framebagracadabra is available in five patterns and colours – including neon pink and camo – but I love the faux paint splatter finish most!
Cocoon Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow
112 grams / Made in China / $30 at REI
Over the years I’ve tried various inflatable pillows, but they’ve never quite made my long-term pack list. Maybe I was just stubbornly resistant to the idea of needing such luxuries when camping, when I could just as well scrunch up a pile of clothes instead…
Well, it’s time to eat humble pie and admit that the moment has finally come – I now feel I need a ‘proper’ pillow to help me sleep soundly at night. Is it age? Maybe! But rest assured, I won’t be succumbing to Logan’s favorite camping chairs just yet! I’ve ended up with a Cocoon Camp Pillow, and although I picked it up because it was on sale, I really like it. It’s not the lightest inflatable pillow on the market, but it’s small enough to slip in with my sleeping bag when I pack it away, and it’s definitely worth the extra bulk in terms of bonus ZZZs. It’s soft to the touch, inflates quickly, and doesn’t slide around under my noggin like a freshly caught fish. Between this and my locally bought wooly socks, my camping setup now feels distinctly five-star. All in all, it’s 112g well invested.
Overflow bags – Road Runner Comrad Backpack and Apidura Musette Bag
115h grams / Made in USA / $100 at Road Runner Bags
55 grams / Made in the Philippines / £32 at Apidura.com
I’ve sneakily shoehorned two items in here because whilst they’re both designed for overflow food or gear, they’re distinct in their execution. Road Runner’s US-made Comrad Packable Lightweight Backpack isn’t especially feathery on the scales and it doesn’t compress to the size of a tangerine, but it does strike a very pleasing balance between packability, durability, and features. There are sleeves for water bottles, comfortable padded straps, a chest harness for added stability, and a quick-access drawstring opening, making it a great option for both iackpacking trips and impromptu grocery store runs on the commute home. I really like the big outer, pleated pouch too – there’s plenty of space for a waterproof without worrying it will slip out. The bag is both quick to unpeel out of its integrated pouch and easy to pack away, which makes it very usable – unlike some designs that require a certain amount of finger dexterity to squeeze into their stowage pockets. It’s rated to carry up to nine kilograms in weight, and whilst there’s no listed capacity on the Road Runner site, rest assured, it’s amply big.
Apidura’s 7L Packable Musette is more minimal and is made from a thinner and likely less hardwearing fabric. Still, at a mere 55g, I find it an excellent option for light, temporary loads – I can throw in a bag of corn chips and a few avocados before finding a camp spot for the night. Being able to easily adjust the strap length means that I can run it close to my body without the need for the removable sternum strap – it’s stable enough that once, I even used it to safely transport the tiniest little puppy, abandoned by the roadside, to an animal shelter.The Packable Musette also stuffs away into its own mini bouch – though it’s a relatively tight fit to get it in there – and in turn this can be velcroed to your bike’s frame if you’re short on real estate.
I’m a big fan of overflow backpacks, and I’ve also tried Outer Shell’s 14L Backpack in the past (see my 2020 gear roundup in the grid below). It’s another good contender, although it’s less burly than Roadrunner’s offering and has developed some holes that needed patching.
K9 Sports Sack Air 2
On the subject of backpacks, I reviewed the largest of K9 Sport Sack’s Air 2s at the very beginning of the year; there are four to choose from, suiting all shapes and sizes of dog bodies, be they long torsoed or short-limbed. And whilst my 19kg dog Huesos has far outgrown its official 14-kilogram weight capacity and his back is now a little too long for it too, it still comes in handy for short journeys.
We mostly use it to ride Huesos to the local trails, or for local bikepacking trips where he can run for the majority of the time, portaging him here and there to save wear and tear on his paws. As heavy as he now is, it’s always fun having Huesos’ long legs wrapped around me like a scarf and getting my ears cleaned on the go – the sight of us cycling by never fails to garner a smile from anyone who sees us. I like this particular K9 model because it packs down small and it’s relatively easy to stash in a framebag, or strap to a handlebar when it’s not needed. Unfortunately, the next model up in size is much bulkier – I wish there was a slightly more capacious version of the Air 2 that featured a hip belt for heavier loads. If you want to learn more about Huesos’s rags to riches story, including a review of the K9 backpack, see here.
145 grams / Made in USA / $120 at thisisfarewell.com
There’s always a certain satisfaction in running gear from places you’re connected to in some way, and whilst it’s some time since I’ve been in new Mexico (all being well, I’ll be back soon), I’ve really enjoyed running a few of Santa Fe-based Farewell’s bags this year.
Their front bag, the Atalaya, and tool bag – aka the Baked Potato ($42) – have pretty much lived on my bike since I received them. Initially, the dyed finish appealed to me, and whilst this has faded over time in the strong Oaxacan sun, it still exudes character – apparently, the dye process is experimental Rit dye with a vinegar solution that seals it into the Dimension Polyant X10 cotton duck fabric. The simple, barrel-shaped Atalya I’ve been running has been superseded by a slightly larger model (Atalya Plus, 7L, 285g, $155) with an internal pocket and an outside compartment. Still, mine has been great for stowing my prized Patagonia Houdini, a dog leash, my sunglasses, and some snacks – and is barely noticeable when empty. It attaches securely with super grippy Voile Nano straps and comes with an additional shoulder strap that clips in for off-the-bike haulage.
I should also mention the origami-style, collapsable dog bowl with snaps ($32) that’s also made by Farewell. Although its edges were recently nibbled by a mischief of hungry mice, it joins me on every day ride and bikepacking trip with Huesos, as it’s easy to stuff into a stem bag or framebag and it has enough kibble capacity to fill his hungry belly. It holds water well and if I’m careful, I can pour back any H20 that he doesn’t drink into his bottle via the corner funnels.
OneUp EDC Pump
Some gear gives you a little pleasure each time you use it – I feel that way about my 10-year-old Clikstand stove, for instance. Similarly, I find myself marvelling at the level of detail that’s infused into OneUp’s EDC pump – including the seal that slides neatly down, shielding its innards from muck and stopping the lovely, CNC-machined handle from sliding out in an ungainly manner.
The EDC is available in various builds to suit needs and budgets. At 307 grams, mine is admittedly rather heavy, mostly because its packed with trail tools – somehow, those OneUp engineers have devised a cylinder in which nests a little-finger-size multi-tool and a tubeless repair kit, stowed like a time capsule, with every pocket of space being utilized. I don’t have any need for a C02 inflator, but the pump head includes one of those too. One downside is that the EDV Presta-valve only – and one of my bikes has a Shraeder tubeless system – and I’d also mention that all those extras do ramp up the price considerably from the base model.
I must be slow to the OneUp game, as Logan reviewed his in 2018 and was still raving about it when I saw him last. You can read his full write up, complete with scene-setting tree stump, here.
Forager Cycles Link Wrench
21 grams / Made in USA / $31 at Forager Cycles
The Link Wrench is a petite but perfectly formed wrench that lives in my Nittany Mountain Works Tool Roll – it’s so nice to use that I’d like to pass it on as an heirloom to my son one day (if not for biking, then for his RC cars!).
I use it to snug up the bolts on my Old Man Mountain Divide rack and it can also be used it to open 11 and 12-speed quick links too. I’m lucky enough to be riding a titanium bike, but if I didn’t, this would go some ways to satisfying a Ti fetish! You can read Logan’s First Look review here.
Specialized Butcher Grid Trail 29 x 2.6″
Made in Taiwan / $70 at Jenson
If truth be told, I inherited my pair of 29 x 2.6″ Butchers from friends who came to visit Oaxaca. There are various compounds available, and mine were actually take-offs on a bike they were selling in their shop. Why do I like them so much? In part, it’s because the tread is aggressive enough to feel confidence-inspirting on the loose and often rutted terrain here, whilst being durable enough that I don’t feel like I’m burning through rubber (and pesos) on every ride.
But mostly, it’s because Specialized has worked some kind of dark art tubeless magic on these here Butchers. The tyres seat and inflate more easily than any other I’ve tried, without the need for even a breath of compressor air or the Specialised Air Tool Blast Tubeless Setter that I bought for frustrating tyre and rim combos. I only have a basic floor pump, and it’s effortless to install them. I’ve tried these tyres on three different rims and spoken to others who report similar good fortunes. This is great for peace of mind if I’m travelling by bike and need to unseat and reinstall my tyre for any reason. There are tyres with tread patterns that I prefer, but ease of tubeless setup is win-win for my peace of mind – stubborn tyre and wheel combos can really kill the vibe when it comes to tubeless touring, no matter how good they are individually.
Jones Fender Blanks
600+ grams / Made in USA / $185 + hardware (approx $70) at Jonesbikes.com
You may well have seen Ass Saver’s new Win Wing making the cut in our Gear of the Year 2022 awards. But when the rainy season is upon us here in Mexico, the deluges are so intense that nothing beats a full-length fender.
Unfortunately for plus-tyre folk, fenders – aka mudguards – that promise room to spare for large-volume tyres are few and far between, and I’m actually in the process of trying out two somewhat premium sets. Simworks by Honjo’s Flat 80s ($285) fit up to a 29 x 2.8″ tyre, whilst Jones’s new Fender Blanks clear a massive 29 x 3.25s (there’s a version for fat bikes too). The former is made from shiny aluminium in Tokyo and the latter a light and durable ABS plastic made in the US, and will need additional stays for £35 a piece.
There are downsides to full-length ‘guards: they can clog up in tacky mud, they can be precarious if anything wedges its way in, and they’re not very travel friendly if you need to remove your wheels. Although it ultimately ensures a fit that’s suited to your specific bike, both of these models are complicated to install without access to a workshop – though Jones are planning to offer prepped versions that specifically fit their bikes. Still, when it comes to staving off monsoonal rain, riding in a group on a wet day, and keeping your bike’s drivetrain protected during inclement months, it’s hard to beat them.
If you’re seeking options that are more friendly on the wallet, check out SKS Bluemell 75s, or for less coverage, try Mudhuggers, which are made in the UK from 100% recycled polypropylene.
Porcelain Rocket/Rockgeist Big Dumpling
377 grams / Made in USA / $175 at rockgeist.com
I love taking photos when I bikepack, but it’s hard to keep gear protected from the elements and coseted from the vibrations of dirt road touring and trail riding. I’m not exactly sure when I inherited this bag – Logan was kind enough to pass it onto me – but for when the weather takes a turn for the worse, there’s nothing I trust more with my digital camera than the 6L Big Dumpling. With its armchair-like padding, it’s really comfortable to wear. And thanks to the rolltop closure and bungee cord, it’s quick to access too. I’ve added an additional camera insert that I bought online, but if you’re a dab hand with a sewing machine, you could make one too, as Logan has in the past.
Although I prefer not to carry much more on my hips than a camera body and a lens, I can fit a second lens in there too if needed. And at the end of the day in my tent, I can load it with valuables if there’s any doubt about the weather.
I see there’s also a smaller, 3L version available – the $135 Little Dumpling – I bet that would be ideal for smaller mirrorless or fixed-lens cameras. I have a very affordable, smaller Dos Erres Riñonera hip bag that I like a lot too, mentioned in last year’s roundup, which feels more low-key and unassuming in some situations. But when conditions really takes a turn for the worse, the Dumpling is the hip bag I reach for. Mine has a couple of cracks in the plastic stiffender, but nothing that affects its performance. For other ideas on how to carry a camera on a bike trip, check out last years’s Guide to Bikepacking with a Camera here.
Gear That Really Lasts (or can be repaired)
I’m no fan of gear that sacrifices durability for the diminishing returns of performance – especially if it can’t be repaired or maintained economically.
For my penultimate pick, I’m digging into my Editor’s Dozen archives for a ‘gear that really lasts’ catch up. Running through my 2020 and 2021 lists, I can say that I’m still using almost everything that’s on them – see the grids below for links. Those that stand out particularly include Tailfin’s Mini Panniers, which I’ve regularly used with third-party racks thanks to their clever, screw-in plastic inserts, and Old Man Mountain’s Divide, as I’ve yet to find a configuration or wheel size that I can’t make work. Tailfin’s AeroPack is also a firm favourite of mine, and I’m happy to see the company offering a full list of spares, including bushings, on their website.
Invariably, I find a multitude of uses for my Austere Manufacturing buckles, whether strapping gear to the bike itself, or even for lashing the bike down inside a bus – once those cam buckles bite down, there’s no budging them. It almost goes without saying that my BXB Goldbacks – I have a medium and a large – look as good as the day I got them. You’ve probably seen them pop up across the site, as many of us are fans of these expandable and durable, Tucson-made bags.
My Buckhorn custom framebag is certainly mud-stained and sun-faded but still going strong – it’s back on my bike again now the dry season is upon us here in Oaxaca. I should give a shout out to the TranzX Kitsuma, too. It may not be the quickest, longest, or smoothest dropper post out there, but it’s proved itself to be incredibly reliable and feels appropriate for most bikepacking uses. And whilst the price may have crept up to $159, it’s still a great way to dabble with droppers, especially for ‘vintage’ MTBs and older steel hardtails that run 27.2mm seatpost diameters.
My Tarptent Double Rainbow Li is going strong, despite its ultralight credentials. I’ve patched a few small holes and we’ve added a Tyvek groundsheet to beef up the floor for camping in really heavy rain. I recently sent off my Bedrocks Cairn 3D Pro IIs to be resoled, as these are by far my favorite footwear for touring and mooching around here, come rain or shine. For those who spotted those fancy Cane Creek eeWings in the photos above, it’s now three years since I’ve been running them, with one change of bearings. Even my JBL Clip 3 speaker is hanging in there, surviving dusty roads and rain, though it’s now patched up with electrical tape and the actual clip is broken. I’ve mentioned the Sinewave Beacon 2 earlier that keeps it charged. It’s positioned with a GoPro mount on a Dr JOn’s MC Deck, another of my earlier Editor’s Dozen picks. It sits high enough to keep the light beam clear, keeps charging cables within easy reach, and creates space for a GPS head unit too. In the case of my Wahoo Roam, there’s some delamination around the screen and a pixel blotch has appeared too, so whilst it’s still usable, I’m waiting on a replacement from Wahoo.
In fact, only my beloved Fuji X100V hasn’t made it through the year. A few months ago, the shutter button and ISO dial started to malfunction, so I sent it into Fuji USA to be repaired. The prognosis wasn’t good: fixing it was deemed uneconomical and the best they could do was to sell me a refurb model for $900. The jury is still out on what to do, as it’s beyond my budget right now but I love the camera dearly.
Bikepacking Meetups in Oaxaca
Now that the world has mostly opened up again, bikepackers have started to pass through town in increasing numbers. Whilst my own travels haven’t taken me beyond Mexico this year, it’s been a treat to meet riders who are through-riding the Trans Mexico or heading south to tackle some of the routes we’ve been posting to the site. It’s at times like this, when the season is beginning, that really does feel like we’re developing a bikepacking community here – and I’m always especially thrilled when I hear about riders coming from other parts of Mexico.
If anyone gets in touch, I’ll invariably invite them on my morning loop with Huesos. We’ve also enjoyed some fun campouts too. I’ve written about these a number of times this year – most recently the Tale of a Bazillion Punctures, along with a Rider and Rig with Karl Kroll and his Salsa El Mariachi, Samer Abouhamad and his Bombrack Hook EXT, and JC, Basquiat, and Zaïna’s Omnium. If you’re passing through Oaxaca City, do send me a message. And don’t feel you need to get fancy with your bike, either. Chad’s vintage 26-inch machines are a great examples of affordable, appropriate bikes for much of the terrain here.
Extra stocking filler: Simwork’s Human Mushroom Patch
Made in USA / $6 at Sim.works
These patches are based on a beautiful illustration by Nicholas Haig-Arack. Mine is stitched to my dyed Atalaya front bag and has yet to lose any of its vibrant colours and detail. The design certainly resonates and it would make the perfect festive stocking filler for any fungiphile!
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