Editor’s Dozen: Logan and VA’s Summer 2022 Gear Picks
The days are hot, humid, and long here in the eastern United States, marking the half-way point in the year for gear testing. Here are a dozen products that have become some of Logan and Virginia’s summer favorites, including a rack hack, shorts and apparel, some rad new handlebars, and more…
We test quite a bit of gear on this site. But there’s simply not enough bandwidth to produce time-intensive, in-depth reviews of each and every product we get ahold of, so we may not publish as many as we (and you) might like. To solve this, we try to punctuate these feature reviews with roundups, indexes, awards, and first looks to make sure that all of our opinions and findings see the light of day. With that, here are 12 products that Virginia and I have been using quite a bit this season and really like. Each is in a mini-review format with a quick writeup, photo gallery, and impressions. Note that all of these were picked because we’re really enjoying them, so the pros definitely outweigh the cons across the board.
The MSR MugMate is a reusable coffee filter made of 150-micron stainless-steel mesh and nylon. It fits on top of a mug and features two side tabs that suspend it in hot water for steeping. We picked this one up nearly a decade ago before heading out on a big tour in Africa. It saw a lot of use on that trip, but has been in a box ever since, replaced by other brewing methods like instant coffee and an Aeropress Go. I recently broke it out again on a big Eastern Divide Trail scouting trip and remembered why I like it.
For one, it makes a pretty good cup of coffee. It’s also light and easy to nest within a more significant setup, and it doesn’t really require any additional parts. I keep it stored within my Snow Peak Titanium mug, which is nested inside a Vargo BOT. All in all, it’s simple, light, and has proven to be very durable.
17 grams / Made in China / $19 at REI
Stooge Moto Bars
At some point, I was nitpicking specs within another handlebar review and someone suggested I check out the O.G. of this style of handlebar: the Stooge Moto Bar. I got one a few months ago and have been running it on my Nordest ever since. The 7050 alloy Moto Bar is 800mm wide with a 38mm rise and 17 degrees backsweep. It also has a generous clamp area designed to provide plenty of space to strap bikepacking bags.
While the Moto Bar has a wide and tall stance that’s reminiscent of 1970s Klunker culture, it isn’t overdone. 17 degrees of sweep is kind of a sweet spot for me. That, the 38mm rise, and 800mm width round out a set of goldi-locks numbers that offer a great hand position that works for everything from trail riding to bikepacking to just general dirt road cruising. So far, it’s probably my favorite handlebar that I’ve used.
340 grams / Made in Taiwan / £66 at StoogeCycles.com
CIVIVI Elementum Pocket Knife
Back in the fall, I was pushwhacking on an abandoned trail in southern Virginia and lost the folding knife I’d had going on seven years. I hate losing stuff like that, but it was a chance to see what else was out there and try something new. I read good things about Civivi knives and decided to pick up their Elementum.
The Elementum has a 2.96” D2 stainless steel blade, a ceramic bearing pivot, and an olive green Micarta handle, all in a small and light 77-gram package. I’m not really a knife nerd or expert when it comes to this stuff, but I really like its simplicity and feel. It’s stayed sharp so far, opens and closes smoothly, and has a user-friendly pocket clip. No complaints and I hope I don’t lose this one.
77 grams / Made in China / $52 at AMZN
Gore Passion Shorts
It’s the crux of the muggy and moist summer here in the southeast where thin, breathable, and quick-drying clothes are crucial. I usually bring thicker, durable shorts along on multi-zone touring trips, but I’ve recently been on the hunt for options that are more summer-friendly. Gore Wear sent their Passion shorts a while back out of the blue, so I gave them a shot.
There are a few things that quickly made them my favorite shorts this summer. Aside from being rather long in the inseam, they fit really well. They have a slim fit that’s not too baggy, and with a turn-up of the hem, they’re the right length for my long legs, too. Another nice touch is the minimal velcro waist-band. I have a 33 waist, so I usually have to opt for a 34 and wear a belt, since most manufacturers don’t make my size. These are spot on and the velcro band makes them easy to fine tune and leave the belt at home. The double button closure is nice, too. It keeps them from pinching at the waist and they stay closed. They’re also fairly easy on the wallet, compared with a lot of shorts on the market, and they seem to be holding up well.
184 grams (large) / Made in Cambodia / $52.50 at Backcountry.com
Tailfin 10L Mini Panniers
The Tailfin Mini Panniers are no stranger to this site, so I won’t dig too deep into features and specs here. You can read Cass’ review and find more about them on his own Editor’s Dozen from last year. However, they are relatively new to me. After being impressed by their Suspension Fork Mounts (SFM) in Baja, I was determined to give one of Tailfin’s more mainstream products a chance. So I tried Cass pair of 10L Mini Panniers on an overnighter in Oaxaca and was immediately smitten.
Honestly, these might be the most well-engineered panniers I’ve used to date. 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. Better yet, there are replaceable inserts allowing the clasp to work on multiple-sized rack rails, including my trusty Tumbleweed T Rack. Last but not least, they’re 100% waterproof which kept an iPad, clothes, and other things dry on a 10-day Eastern Divide scouting ride that was complete with tornadic activity, multiple inches of rain, and death mud.
424 grams / Made in China / $75 each at Tailfin.cc
Silca Borsa ECO Bag
Despite having a ridiculously messy workshop at home, I like to keep pretty organized while out on longer bikepacking trips. I generally put different categories of stuff in different bags and try and keep things compartmentalized within my system. Silca sent this Borsa bag a couple of years ago and it’s recently become an integral part of my kit, taking on photography paraphernalia duties.
At 7 x 4 x 1” (17.8 x 10.2 x 2.5cm), the Borsa is made for carrying small items such as a phone, cards, etc. However, with a large single-zipper opening and side pockets with a divider, it’s perfect for spare camera batteries, SD cards, cables, and all the stuff that comes with carrying a camera on the road. Plus it’s nicely padded, which gives me a little peace of mind. The version I have, which I suppose was an earlier iteration, has an exterior fabric made from inner tubes, but the current version is made from premium recycled leather. The latest version also has an interior zippered pocket on one side.
87 grams / Imported / $40 at REI
CampAndGoSlow Bar Tape Bag
Speaking of organization, this is another little ditty bag that I’ve come to love over the last few months. When you order the Eastern or Western Rattler bar tape from Campandgoslow, it comes in a usable bag, instead of throwaway packaging. Good on you, Campandgoslow! Better yet, the bag is the perfect size for a few things…
I have two of these cotton duck bags. One I use as my hygiene kit for a toothbrush, toiletries, etc. The other is used for camp gear, such as my headlamp, bear-hang cordage, a shovel, knife, and other camp-side odds and ends. Unfortunately, the Rattler tape no longer comes in these nice cotton bags. Instead it has a nylon bag, which I’m guessing is about the same size and just as useable.
33 grams / Made in Pennsylvania / $44 (with tape) at CampAndGoSlow.com
Ms. Fusion Rack Hack
In full disclosure, I didn’t invent this hack. The credit goes to Seth Wood, who showed it off on Instagram a few months ago. Miles shared it with me and I immediately thought about an older Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion mini-rack that was floating around in a storage bin. The Mr. Fusion was once a favorite of mine, but frankly, I haven’t used it in a while. Dropper posts are a priority nowadays, and Mr. F wasn’t designed for droppers. However, “Ms. Fusion”—as Seth referenced it—is, so I dug out some parts, procured a pair of the interesting dual-tube clamp mounts from the Surly “Rear Rack Upper Kit” and recreated Dr. Seth’s Ms. Fusion Rack Hack.
The beauty of this mini-rack hack—if you happen to have an old Mr. Fusion and the necessary parts—is how light and simple it is. All told, the rack, mounts, and two uprights weigh only 230 grams. Add in a pair of Voile straps and a light dry bag and the entire system weighs a less than many soft seat packs. And, of course, you retain the full use of a dropper post. I used the Ms. Fusion with the Revelate Polecat bag on the Wilson’s Ramble and it performed flawlessly.
230 grams / Made in USA and Taiwan
7mesh Farside Shorts
7Mesh bills the Farside as their “surface adaptable summer trailshort”, and we think they’re hard to beat for steamy trail rides or multi-day bikepacking adventures. The four-way stretch nylon fabric is not the most flexible that we’ve tried, but we actually find that to be an advantage. While our movement is in no way hindered by the fabric, these shorts actually stay in place and maintain their fit throughout long rides. The fabric is also extremely lightweight, breathable, and doesn’t cling to the skin, which makes them super comfortable on hot and humid days. It’s also quick-drying, thus really practical for extended trips when doing a bit of laundry is a concern.
The Farside are not just great riding shorts. They have a shorter (9.6”/24.4cm) inseam than traditional MTB shorts and laminated hems, which makes them a good option for rock scrambling and hiking. The shorter hemline and relaxed fit also make them appealing for casual, out-on-the-town wear. They also have ample pockets, including a zippered side, which we find indispensable for storing valuables, such as a passport or credit card. All-in-all we’re super happy with the Farside shorts, and if they hold up as well as our other 7Mesh gear, we anticipate sporting these for a very long time.
Kistbow Essplanade Shirt
Anyone who’s ridden with me knows that I wear black wool T-shirts 99.9% of the time. However, when I read Kitsbow’s claim that “hot and humid is managed with the Essplanade Shirt,” I had to give it a try. Typically on local rides in the forest this time of year those black wool Ts get drenched with sweat after about 45 minutes. The Essplanade aims to curb that with a loose fit, vents, a button-up design, and engineered fabrics.
The Essplanade is made from a polyester cotton blend (85/15) that contains antimicrobial fibers to keep the stink at bay. It looks similar to the Icon, but it’s lighter weight and looser fitting—I typically wear a large icon but got the medium Essplanade, which fits well. I’ve been absolutely amazed that the Essplanade stays almost completely dry on muggy, hot rides. I sweat a lot, and as mentioned, usually my favorite wool Ts—even the light ones—get soaked in these conditions. I think a big part of it is being able to quickly button and unbutton the front, which allows the full back vent to do its job. But I also think Kitsbow did a great job with this fabric. Now I just need them to make one in black.
215 grams / Made in NC, USA / $165 at Kitsbow.com
Rapha Explore Glasses
Alright, in full disclosure, these aren’t sunglasses I would regularly wear in public. I’m more of a classic Frogskins kind of fella. At first I felt a little silly wearing what I may or may not have mocked prior to this experiment. However, this time of year I’ll try anything to keep bugs out of my eyes and the visibility high.
I first wore Rapha’s Explore Glasses on a long solo scouting trip. I was immediately impressed. They don’t fog up, the lenses are nice and crisp, and they offer more coverage than my usual shades. They also come with a clear lens, which if you’ve ever ridden at dusk near a river on the east coast, you know that’s a great option to have on hand. And honestly, they’re not as shredgressive as a lot of glasses out there. The tortoise color scheme adds enough of a classic element to tone them down a little. They’re not cheap, but if you’re looking for a good performing pair of glasses for long rides, these should be on your list.
29 grams / Made in China / $190 at Rapha.cc
Gore TrailKPR Gloves
Wearing full-finger gloves in the summer is no fun, but sweaty palms make it necessary in the heat and humidity. Even worse, a lot of my usual gloves get really smelly really fast, such as one of my long-time favorites, the Giro DND. I recently got these Gore TrailKPR gloves based on the fact that they’re very thin by comparison and I’ve been quite impressed.
One of my requirements with gloves, particularly those I wear on long rides, are that they don’t have built-in padding. Palm pads have always made things more uncomfortable for me and I find that it’s more important to have good grips and a proper bike fit to avoid hand numbness. Gore’s TrailKPR are completely devoid of any padding and have a great Ax-suede grip. They also fit snugly so no wrinkles can cause discomfort. And they seem cooler than many other gloves due to the thin fabrics. Even so, I’ve got several dozen rides on them so far and they’re showing no signs of wear.
31 grams (large) / Made in Cambodia / $40 at Backcountry.com
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