Editor’s Dozen: Logan and Virginia’s Year End Picks
With a lot of good items left over from our awards roundups, we’re putting down some of our favorites in several end of the year Editor’s Dozen gear lists. Here’s a collaboration from Virginia and Logan with twelve of their prized bikepacking finds from 2019…
It’s always tough to wrap up all that was appreciated in our 2019 Bikepacking Awards. So, this year we decided to tack on a few Editors Dozen lists, each containing a collection of things we each treasured this year. Following up Cass’ 2019 Editor’s Dozen, and piggybacking on my own “mid-season” Dozen, Virginia and I decided to pair up on this one. Here are 12—or a baker’s dozen, rather—things that delighted us this year. Some we both liked and a few we each appreciated on our own.
Search and State Field Shirt
The Search and State Field Shirt has quickly become one of our most favorite favorites. We both have one and they perform and look great on the bike, at camp, and around town. The Field Shirt is constructed from a lightweight puckered Japanese cotton that creates a permanent textured surface. This texture (think seersucker in a square pattern versus stripes) creates pockets of air between the fabric and the skin, facilitating heat dissipation and air circulation, making it a great performance piece. The cut of the shirt is also thoughtfully tailored for cyclists. With a slightly elongated rear hem and sleeves, this garment is well designed to accommodate a rider’s stretch.
The Field Shirt not only performs well, it looks great doing it. The breezy fabric moves beautifully, and the subtle texture of the puckers picks up light that complements the fibers’ rich, saturated hues. This shirt’s very casual elegance and superb functionality make it hard to beat.
Like all Search and State apparel, this shirt is cut and sewn in midtown Manhattan. It features reinforced buttons, a custom utility label, and is available in two color palettes, Vintage Red or Vibrant Blue (as shown here). It sells for $145 on SearchandState.com.
Camp and Go Slow Rattlesnake Bar Tape
While I live in the Appalachian Mountains most of the year, my heart is usually drying out somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. So, anything that conjures images of the rich cactusland of the American Southwest hits home. As soon as I saw the new Camp and Go Slow bar tape, I knew I had to have it on my bike. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it seems quite well made. With a woven exterior and foam under-layer, it offers a little padding and seems like it will be fairly durable.
Another thing to love about the Rattlesnake bar tape it’s made extra long for extra broad bars. I wrapped these 520mm Crust/Nitto Shaka bars with it and still had some left over. That bodes well for the growing number of ultra-wide drop bars that are currently popping up. I’ve now only used it on a handful of rides, but so far it’s developing a nice patina and holding up well. Learn more over at CampAndGoSlow.com.
We recently added an inflatable solar lantern to our overnighter bikepacking kit. They’ve been around for a while but haven’t really made it on our radar as something we necessarily need. However, after going on a trip this summer with a friend who brought one, it clicked. Hang it in a tree and light up camp. No batteries required. What’s not to love?
This particular model collapses to about 1/2″ thick and has the diameter of a CD. It weighs 128 grams and can last up to 24 hours on a single charge. When it runs out, set it in the sun for a few hours. Or better yet, strap it on your seat pack to charge while you pedal. Find the Luci Outdoor 2.0 on Amazon (currently on sale for $11).
Montbell Peak Dry Jacket
I’ve become an advocate for Montbell’s jackets over the years. They always seem to fit perfectly, they’re incredibly lightweight, and each of the four I’ve tried has performed at a high standard. The Peak Dry Shell is Montbell’s rainproof jacket made with GORE-TEX Shake Dry fabric. Shake Dry essentially puts the waterproof membrane on the outer layer of the jacket that beads water, eliminating the need for a durable water repellent finish. It’s also supposed to be highly breathable during active pursuits.
This is the first time I’ve tried a Shake Dry jacket and I’ve been quite pleased. The other day I went out for a ride when it was 37°F with a nice, saturating, misty rain. After a mild gravel climb we got on some singletrack for a more strenuous climb. I was surprised at how the jacket didn’t seem to wet out immediately as I would have expected. It actually stayed relatively dry. Better yet, it seems to do a really good job at regulating temperature. I never really got hot, nor did my core get too cold during that ride.
The Montbell Peak Dry Jacket weight just 208 grams and retails for $299, which is comparably priced to competing jackets. I’ll try and give this jacket a more thorough review down the road. In the meantime, learn more over at Montbell.com.
I noticed Neil Beltchenko was rolling the new Teravail Ehline on his Salsa Cutthroat, so I asked him what he thought about these tires on a drop-bar bike. He got pretty excited when talking about them, so I decided to give them a try on my new Kona Sutra LTD build. After all, I wanted an XC tire that would have enough meat to ride mildly technical singletrack, explore dead-end and semi-abandoned doubletracks, and still roll fast on gravel… and also not be too sluggish on pavement. These tires haven’t disappointed.
Teravail markets the Ehline as a “fast rolling tire for modern XC riders.” In layman’s terms, I think that means they are supposed to be smooth yet still have enough teeth for slightly more aggressive riding. I’ve found that they live up to both of those claims. Considering they have rather deep tread, they roll pretty fast. And, they still do a good job at hooking up in the corners to maintain traction on both loose gravel and singletrack. They’re also quite supple; I think their deeper tread and slight V-shaped profile add a little more depth for soaking up small bumps and maintaining speed. They’re not overly heavy, either. The 29 x 2.3″ Light and Supple version I’ve been testing tips the scales at 805 grams. All and all, I have high hopes for them as a good dirt touring tire. They are currently priced at $75/each online, but you can order them from your local shop for about the same price.
Patagonia Provisions Mussels
Patagonia Provisions mussels are a fantastic option for the bikepacker’s pantry. We had a chance to sample the variety pack, which comes in three different flavors: Lemon Herb, Savory Sofrito, and Smoked. Each flavor is created using only sustainably sourced, certified organic mussels that are grown and harvested by family fisherfolk in Galicia, Spain (which you can learn about here). As far as meat production/consumption, mussels are one of the most sustainable. They’re easy to cultivate, low on the food chain, and actually improve water quality and aquatic ecosystems where they grow. What’s more, the “tin” in which they are packaged is actually made from BPA-free aluminum and is #1 household recyclable. The remainder of packaging its cardboard, making them virtually plastic-free.
These tasty tidbits are a good source of protein and iron, and, according to Patagonia, they’re “packed with essential vitamin B-12 — well over 100% Daily Value per serving. They also contain over 450 mg Omega-3 fatty acids per serving.” Best of all, they taste great. The lemon herb are our favorite. They are delicately seasoned with parsley, thyme, onion and black pepper. The lemon flavor is understated, with just enough oomph to add a touch of brightness to the other, more earthy flavors. The Savory Sofrito and Smoked varieties are also great. All flavors are finished in organic olive oil and a mussel broth that really highlights the subtle flavor and brininess of the mussels themselves.
They aren’t cheap, but if you want to treat yourself sometime, the variety 3-pack sells for $20 on PatagoniaProvisions.com, while each individual flavor is available in single 4.2 ounce (120 gram) cans for $7. It appears you can get 20% off your first order at this time.
Although it’s been out for a couple of years, I’ve recently enjoyed the Blackburn Countdown and thought it was worth a mention in this roundup. One thing that generally drives me crazy about bike lights is that their batteries simply die without much notice. The Countdown curbs this disadvantage by supplying an LCD readout that tells you how much time is left on the screen. You can toggle between high/medium/low and the time remainder adjusts in real time, too.
Unfortunately, you simply can’t capture LCD readouts with a digital camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Either way, I’ve been pretty impressed with this light. A rechargeable 1600 lumen light with no extra battery pack for $159 (on Amazon) is a pretty good deal and it works. The Countdown also seems pretty sturdy. It has a solid mount that I’ve used on drop-bars and mountain bike bars with no issue to speak of.
Surly Insulating Sheath
Here’s something we never leave home without. Koozies, can coolers, cozies, or whatever you call them, aren’t just for beer anymore, although they work great for that as well. We often have 2-3 of these in our bikepacking bags on every trip, particularly on local overnighters. We use them to pad stoves in our cook-pot, keep a couple post-ride beers cold, and cushion a cell phone or camera lens so they don’t get beat up during the ride. These things are priceless.
And, some of the best ones come from our friends at Surly Bikes. Their latest “Do Not Arrest This Person” Insulating Sheath sells for $5, or if you’re at a trade show, you can usually steal one from their booth when they aren’t looking. Here’s one over at TreeFortBikes.
Five Ten Freerider EPS Mid
The Five Ten Freerider EPS Mid is nothing new; it actually won an award a couple years ago on this site. But they are new to me and I’m pretty happy with them now that the temperatures have dropped. The EPS Mid are quite similar in look and feel to my beloved Frerider Elements that I featured in my last Dozen. However, they have a high-top and are insulated with Primaloft. Essentially, they’re a cold weather take on Five Ten’s classic Freerider shoe.
My toes seem to go numb faster than most folks’ do, so if the temps are under 55° I usually reach for some heavier shoes. The EPS mid have been great and I’ve ridden in them in near-freezing temperatures and they’ve kept my feet toasty. Even better, they don’t seem to be overly hot when temps are in the 50s. It’s worth noting that they have the softer, tackier Stealth S1 sole compound, which isn’t as hardwearing as the Guide Tennies. But, it’s the same compound used on my Freerider Elements that have lasted me thousands of miles and are still going.
Brooks Cambium C17 Saddle
Both Virginia and I have been smitten by the Brooks Cambium C17 saddles. She became a convert a couple years ago and I just started using it a couple months ago. Made of vulcanized rubber with a nylon cover, the C17 is weatherpropof, durable, good looking, relatively lightweight, and comfortable right out of the box. Most impressive to me is the unique cushion the suspended rubber top provides. It’s firm enough to be very supportive, but has just the right amount of give for a little bump compliance.
The Brooks C17 is also quite durable. Virginia’s has seen a lot of miles in Armenia, Georgie, Ethiopia, and beyond. And as Lucas mentioned in our Long Term Gear List, his have “been through two years of constant use and show only minor signs of wear.”
Rodeo Labs Lamb Transport Woolie
We are in love. Several months ago we came across an image of donkey nannies on the internet and thought, “What could be more adorable than this?” In fact, Virginia insisted that we procure one for ourselves. To clarify, a donkey nanny is an ass that’s been outfitted with custom saddlebags in which baby lambs are transported from the high, sub-Alpine hills to lower lying pasture lands for grazing. Turns out we weren’t the only ones smitten by these charming creatures.
Inspired by these hardworking and adorable beasts of burden, Rodeo Labs created their Lamb Transport Jersey. The jersey features small details and design elements that pay homage to both the nannies and the land from which they hail (Lombardy, Italy). Constructed with an Italian-milled wool blend fabric, this long-sleeved jersey incorporates three generously sized rear pockets, a full-length zipper, and banded collar, all in colors of the Italian flag. A small donkey head icon adorns the right breast of the jersey, while three adorable printed lambs’ heads peek out from above each one of the elasticized pockets. A simple graphic herringbone print, reminiscent of a traditional wool weave, adorns the rear of each sleeve, the chest, and the pockets. Aesthetically speaking, this jersey is seriously bad-ass.
We’ve had limited opportunity to test-drive this jersey, but our first impression is great. The elongated, elasticized waist stays in place nicely and the pockets are amply sized for carrying essentials. The weight of the wool blend fabric provides a substantial warmth to weight ratio, making it a great choice for late fall to early spring rides. Perhaps most importantly, now that Virginia has her own Lamb Transport Jersey, her hunger to own a donkey nanny has been (at least temporarily) satiated, and we don’t have to turn our backyard into a stable. Thank you, Rodeo Labs!
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 3 Carbon
We’ve always been big fans of Big Agnes’ 3-person tents and have used the Fly Creek UL3 to no end throughout Africa, Europe, and all over. Having that extra “person” space is absolutely crucial when traveling as a couple on long trips. So when Big Agnes announced a two-pound 3-person tent, we had to check it out. However, with a $1,200 price tag, the new Big Agnes Tiger Wall 3 Carbon brings new meaning to #tentisthenewrent. I will say that it’s equally as impressive as it is expensive, and downright aesthetically etherial.
The Tiger Wall is a newer design with two doors and two vestibules. And the Carbon designation stands for their new carbon pole set and Dyneema construction, resulting in a three-person tent that weighs less than many single-person shelters on the market. I’m not going to get into too many details—I’ll save that for an upcoming full review—but I will say that we are both quite enamored with this tent. And its angelic glow has looked pretty cool in the depths of the Pisgah National forest during several recent overnight trips. Stay tuned for more.
Bonus #13: A Dehydrator
Store-bought, packaged camping meals are undoubtedly convenient, and many are quite tasty, but they’re also expensive and wasteful. In fact, we’ve yet to find convenience camping food that isn’t packaged in single-use plastics. DIY homemade pre-packaged camping meals are a great way to customize meals to your own taste and dietary restrictions, save money, and cut the waste. What’s more, by creating your own meals you can really amp up the vegetable content, something that’s too often lacking in store-bought products. There are dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients available at many grocers and online retailers, but, with a modest investment, you can start preparing ingredients in your own kitchen. Enter the food dehydrator. Dehydrating veggies is simple. As for meats, we’ve got limited personal experience, but most dehydrators come with recipes for various jerkies. Once you’ve got the “raw” ingredients, putting together camping meals is pretty simple. Beyond meal prep, food dehydrators are great tools for creating tasty, healthy, no-waste snacks like dried fruits and veggie jerkies.
The model we bought is the COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator—$135.99 on Amazon—which features stainless steel construction with glass door. It has a digital temperature control and timer with automatic shut-off, six dishwasher-safe stainless steel trays, one plastic (BPA free) fruit roll-up tray we haven’t used yet, and one plastic (BPA free) mesh screen for tinier veg and fruits. It also came with a recipe book.