Editor’s Dozen: Lucas’s Favorite Gear of 2022
Closing out our Editor’s Dozen series that looks back at our favorite pieces of gear from the past year, Lucas shares his top 12 picks for 2022. Find his roundup of assorted things that saw lots of use and made a lasting impression during his bikepacking trips around the UK, Germany, and the Rocky Mountains here…
Last year was a weird one in that I made a big move back across the ocean and still haven’t quite found my footing. And much of my year was spent living out of a suitcase in one place or another. That said, I still managed to squeeze in a good number of multi-day bike trips, coffees outside, and probably more day rides than ever before, providing me with plenty of opportunities to test out new gear and figure out which longtime items are finally worthy of recognition.
I’m a little late to the party, but I’m following Cass, Logan, Virginia, Miles, and Neil by wrapping up our 2022 Editor’s Dozen series with a look back at 12 things that had an impact on me in 2022. Without further delay, let’s dive in. You can find my full list below, featuring a mix of new and old favorites.
Goodyear Connector Tires
645 grams / $69 at REI
In recent years, 700 x 50mm has become my tire size of choice for true all-road riding. The aptly named Connector from Goodyear has lived on my Sour Purple Haze (more on that soon) since I first built it up early last year, and I’ve found it to be an excellent tire choice for quickly rolling out my front door in search of dirt tracks. Once there, the Connectors have proven to be grippy and comfortable when run at a moderately low pressure. I’m impressed by how well they shed mud, and although they’re not super light at 645 grams/tire, they’ve lasted longer than other tires I wanted to love but quickly went bald.
At $69, they may not be not an outstanding deal, but their performance matches their price relative to other options on the market. I quite like the look of them, too, especially with the tan sidewalls. In fact, Goodyear’s whole range of All-Terrain tires—the Connector, County, and Peak—are worth a look. They’re available in a sensible array of 650B and 700C sizes from 35-50mm wide, which should suit a broad range of ramblers and racers on everything except the really gnarly stuff. Note that my Connectors actually measure closer to 47mm wide, though they no doubt punch above their width.
Jack Supply Slugger
850 grams / Made in USA / $190 at Jack Supply Co
The Jack Supply Sluggler was easily my most used handlebar bag of 2022, and I regularly swapped it between bikes, where it always seemed to feel at home. While it doesn’t offer any noteworthy innovations over similar bags, the Slugger is a reliable, no-nonsense bag for all-purpose riding. Beyond quite a bit of discoloration/sun fading on the lovely X10 cotton duck fabric, my Slugger has held up impressively well to lots of riding in all conditions. The attention to detail in the finishing is second to none, and I can hardly find a single fraying stitch.
Inside, a rigid HDPE liner helps the bag keep its shape, and the expandable 13-21 size makes the Slugger super versatile. It comfortably fits in between the drops on all of my bikes (with an average bar width of around 46cm), and the side pockets are surprisingly capacious. The Slugger’s $190 price tag puts it in the middle of the range for similar bags. With so many folks sewing and selling bikepacking bags these days, finding a connection to the maker has become an important part of choosing a bag, and I appreciate that Cody of Jack Supply is friendly and responsive and makes all of his bags in Portland, Oregon.
Restrap Fast Straps
~8 grams / Made in UK / $13.99+ at Restrap
Everyone is using Voile straps somewhere on their bikepacking setup by now, but I think the Restrap Fast Straps are an endlessly useful alternative to mix things up. Whether it’s securing a U-lock to the side of my basket or compressing a layer in the bottom of my handlebar bag, I’ve found a ton of ways to incorporate the Fast Straps into my kit.
Made in the UK from a tough Hypalon material and available in 25cm (9.8″), 45cm (17.7″), and 65cm (25.6″) lengths, they have a good amount of stretch and clamp firmly into place once you’ve found the right length for your intended application. If orange isn’t your thing, they’re also available in a stealthy black. And, as with all Restrap products, they’ve covered by a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
Whether they’re frame builders, bag makers, designers, tinkerers, or anything in between, getting to know the people who make the things we use as cyclists is one of the most fascinating and rewarding parts of my work here on the site. I find it oddly satisfying to have met and spent some time with the person who hammered the copper rivets on my Brooks saddle, machined my multi-tool, or sewed my frame bag. Last year alone, I was able to take an inside look at several small and large companies across the industry, ranging from a tiny garage shop in Minnesota (Lunch Break Brazing) to a sprawling facility in Germany (Ortlieb).
Although they aren’t always among the most popular pieces with readers, I believe sharing the stories behind the brands we all know—or have yet to discover—has a great deal of value. At best, I’m able to get the people I interview to put the need to sell products aside and speak candidly about what motivates and inspires them. Even when those walls aren’t quite broken down, I still find it fascinating to see the spaces where things are made, particularly somewhere as storied as the Brooks England factory, which I visited last summer.
I wasn’t able to join him as we’d originally planned, but one of my favorite Field Trips to date is Josh Meissner’s Inside SON piece, which I highly recommend reading if you didn’t get a chance to do so yet. Otherwise, I especially love visiting frame builders and hope to share more portraits of their work in the year ahead—stay tuned!
Giro Helios Spherical Helmet
270 grams / $187+ at Jenson
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many helmets I tried on during my yearslong search for a replacement for the discontinued Lazer O2 helmet that became my go-to model. When stopping into a bike shop, I’d almost never miss an opportunity to try all of them on. Invariably, I wouldn’t be happy with the fit, and most of them ended up looking like a mushroom on top of my head. Just when I was ready to give up, I tried on the Giro Helios Spherical, and it looked and felt great from the moment I first pulled it on.
The Helios Spherical is actually the first model from Giro that I’ve gotten to work for me, and it’s hands down the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever worn. It’s quite light, has great ventilation, and features some subtle reflective details. I sometimes forget I’m wearing it, which says it all, and I think the range of colors and sleek profile add up to a good-looking helmet for riders with a broad range of tastes. At $250, it’s also an undeniably expensive helmet, though I found mine on sale for around $175, and I don’t regret the investment one bit.
The Right Layer
Having the proper layers packed can make or break your ride, and I’ve been working on dialing in my gear so I don’t have any excuse not to get out or stay out on the bike, regardless of the weather. Whether I’m packing for several nights away, a long day ride, or simply a commute, I like knowing that I have the right clothes for whatever is in the forecast. In particular, three jackets stood out for me in 2022 and came with me nearly everywhere, depending on the season.
The first is my Rapha Explore GORE-TEX Pullover, which has actually been my favorite rain jacket for right around three years now. I rarely leave home without it stuffed into my handlebar bag, and it has kept me dry through countless light and heavy rainstorms. It’s an impressive rain jacket, especially considering its minimal weight, and I find the chest pouch surprisingly useful. It has a fit that works exceptionally well on and off the bike, and I appreciate the reflective details on the front and back.
Another lightweight jacket that’s saved me on more than a few occasions is the Rab Phantom Waterproof Pull-On. It packs down to almost nothing, easily fitting into a stem bag or side pocket of a handlebar bag. I find that it’s the perfect layer for warm-weather riding when I end up staying out longer than planned or get an early start, as it offers superb wind protection, light rain protection, and doesn’t cause me to overheat. Plus, the eye-catching orange helps me be seen by cars when I’m riding in the dark.
Lastly, a more recent addition to my kit is the 7mesh Outflow Primaloft Hoody. In the fall, it replaced the aging Rapha Explore down jacket that I reviewed on the site a few years back, and it offers a fantastic weight-to-warmth ratio. While it’s not quite as packable as the lightest insulated jackets, it makes up for it with its supremely comfortable fit and performance in true winter weather. I absolutely loathe winter and do my best to avoid it when it rolls around each year, but this jacket has made it far more bearable.
Shwood Camp Topo Sunglasses
28 grams / $79+ at Shwood
Like helmets, I’ve always struggled with sunglasses. Cheap ones typically feel like they filter the world through a crappy, plasticky lens, and I don’t trust myself not to break expensive pairs. As a result, I’ve typically been forgoing sunglasses when I ride, not wanting to wear cheap lenses that darken everything and dreading hearing that ominous crunch sound when I inevitably step on and wreck another pair of nice sunglasses.
I stumbled upon Shwood’s wide range of sunglasses last summer, and their CAMP Topo line of glasses sit perfectly in the sweet spot between affordable and high-end. They’ve available in six frame colors and with four lenses, ranging in price from $79 to $99. I went with the upgraded HD Plus Polarized G15 lenses on the pair I picked up and have worn regularly since last summer, and I liked them so much that I just ordered a second pair with the same lenses. They feel great on my face, and I’m more than happy with the clarity of the lenses. I like that they’re not too sporty looking and fit comfortably under my cycling cap and helmet, and the little sleeping bag soft case they come with is incredibly cute, even if I swapped it out for something more protective right away.
Keeping Print Alive
Just when we thought print was going to die off entirely, it’s been roaring back over the past several years, and 2022 was no exception. There’s something special about sitting down to read a story that’s not on a screen, and I’ve been busy adding to my collection of bicycle-themed printed matter. Some of my favorites of late include Conan Thai’s wonderful Silk Road Mountain Race photo journal, Wizard Works’ How to Bike Camp zine made in collaboration with my friend Matty Waudby, the newly launched Other Means magazine, the second installment of the Rough-Stuff Fellowship’s photo book, the always thought-provoking Cyclista Zine, and our own Joe Cruz’s Seek After zine from his tour of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s peculiar spomeniks in 2020.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about my love of print and not mention The Bikepacking Journal, our twice-yearly printed publication. Producing it has been a labor of love since we launched it in 2018, and I’m immensely proud that we’ll be releasing our 10th issue this spring—a milestone that relatively few printed publications get to these days. I may be the most biased person out there, but I can wholeheartedly recommend checking it out if you’re a reader of the site and haven’t yet signed up to support us by becoming a member of the Bikepacking Collective.
The $10 I spent on a Tyvek footprint for my Tarptent Contrail more than a decade ago was probably the single best investment I’ve ever made in outdoor gear, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Some 10 years later, I’ve used it with every tent and bivy bag I’ve owned since, and my little piece of Tyvek has protected the bottom of my tent and helped keep my sleeping bag clean and dry on bikepacking and camping trips in something like 20 countries. It seems to be nearly indestructible, outlasting and proving stronger than several more expensive tent-specific footprints. Frankly, I don’t think those are worth the money.
Tyvek is readily available by the roll at home improvement stores, and several sellers on eBay and elsewhere will cut a piece to your desired dimensions for very little money if you’re not the DIY type. Using a footprint is a great way to extend the life of your camping gear, and it’s also super useful for an impromptu picnic or coffee outside. The piece of Tyvek pictured here is a relatively new one that I bought in 2022 and has maybe 10 nights of use on it, but the original is so soft now that it almost feels like a super thin cloth. A word of warning: Tyvek is incredibly crinkly and loud when new, but it breaks in and quiets down quickly!
$16+ at Coava Coffee
I was first turned on to Portland-based Coava Coffee back in 2020, and I’ve become a regular customer in the time since because I appreciate their selection of coffees from slightly less-expected countries. Last year, I particularly enjoyed Coava’s offerings from Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea. If you caught my review last fall, you’ll know I was making espresso with the Picopresso on nearly all of my bikepacking trips, typically with beans from Coava.
In addition to whole bean coffee, they have an impressive range of instant coffees that are among the better instants I have tried. Also, they offer bulk pouches of instant coffee that make 25 cups, which is very handy if you’re heading out on a long trip or traveling in a group and don’t want to haul the full coffee kit with you. Plus, it helps cut down on single-use packaging. Other roasters that featured heavily in my 2022 rotation were Ruby Coffee Roasters, SK Coffee, and Little Owl Coffee. If you’re interested in trying something new, all of them, including Coava, will ship anywhere in the US and offer subscriptions too.
Zpacks Altaplex Tarp with Doors
I love sleeping outside in the open air. Getting caught in the rain, not so much. Although it came and went from their lineup within in the space of a year and clearly wasn’t particularly popular, the Zpacks Altaplex Tarp with Doors has become my favorite shelter based on my unique needs as a 6’3″ bikepacker who likes to sleep close to nature. It provides plenty of room to sit up and excellent coverage for taller users when lying down. It gives an open feel while still offering great rain protection, which I had a chance to test during a tour of rainy England over the summer.
The Altaplex Tarp with Doors stuffs down into a tiny, lightweight package about the size of a NeoAir sleeping pad, meaning I don’t have to feel bad about hauling it with me and not setting it up on a clear night. I love the pink color too. The Altaplex Tarp with Doors may no longer be available, but the Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp with Doors is a fairly close substitute that’s not quite as spacious but comes in at a slightly lower price point.
My past self, who used to haul a Leica and a drybag packed with rolls of film on every bikepacking trip, can hardly believe it, but I fell in love with cheap old point-and-shoot cameras last year, and using them has changed the way I document my two-wheeled trips and my daily life. After selling off all of my film gear around five years ago, I’ve been drifting between digital camera setups, never quite connecting with anything. My trusty DSLR has been with me for years now, but it’s a pain in the ass to haul around.
I sold my Fuji X100V last year and decided to replace it with a $70 Canon S120 from 2012, and I’m so glad I did. Sure, I won’t be making massive prints with its 12.1-megapixel resolution, but it shoots entirely adequate RAW files, and it literally fits in my front pocket. I love that using a point-and-shoot means I don’t have to lug around a bigger camera or constantly pull out my phone every time I want to take a photo, and shooting with them has helped me feel excited about photography again. I appreciate the simplicity of using a point-and-shoot for quick snapshots, especially with the integrated flash.
I’ve been having a ton of fun trying different point-and-shoots, including the Sony RX100 III pictured above, which I picked up for $150, and I like knowing that trying various cameras won’t break the bank. Good point-and-shoots are surprisingly capable cameras too, and several of the photos in this post were shot with one.
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