Our Favorite Winter Layering Accessories for Bikepacking

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Following up on our recent Essential Layering for Bikepacking guide, here’s a roundup of our favorite extras and accessories—a variety of add-ons to up the warmth of your feet, head, neck, and limbs while bikepacking and camping…

While the “six-pack” layering method for bikepacking works well as a base (find that in the related posts grid at the bottom of this post), there’s always room for extra accessories to keep you warm at camp and while out riding. And with our Good Night 2021 event approaching, you might need it. In this follow-up article, we share some of our favorite accessories for upping the warmth quotient of your kit while bikepacking. Find them broken down into four categories below. Also, be sure to stay tuned for part three of this layering guide next year, which will review our favorite rain and wet weather gear.

Head and Neck

The most obvious accessory is a neck warmer, beanie, or balaclava. Even with a hooded down jacket, these can come in extra handy while riding or layering up at night. Finding one that’s lightweight, small, and can be worn under the helmet is a plus.

PEdALED Wool Neck Warmer

Virginia: The PEdALED Essential merino neck warmer is a great addition to the layering wardrobe. It’s constructed from Dryarn, a merino and polypropylene blend that blocks wind while still being breathable. It’s a simple design, but a few details make it stand out from other neck warmers. It’s tapered on one end, so it stays in place when worn over the nose and mouth, but it’s easily pulled down to solely cover the neck. A locking drawstring at the opposite end of the warmer can be tightened to reduce drafts. I’ve found that this neck warmer can also be used as a lightweight beanie by tucking the excess length of fabric in on itself.

44g / Made in Italy / $TBD / Details

Wool Cycling Caps

Cass: Another great option for keeping your noggin warm is a good merino cycling cap. Randi Jo’s caps are our favorite, and she makes a version with merino wool ear flaps to keep you cozy. Come winter, I always dig out my woolen Flip Up Hat. It’s stylish, beautifully made, and extremely well priced, especially given its Oregonian origins. I’m sorry I won’t be anywhere cold enough this year to wear it! Or you can get a lighter “Tropical Wool” cap just to offer a little extra insulation.

Made in Oregon / $42 / Details

Patagonia Overlook Wool Beanie

Logan: A beanie is probably one of the easiest items you can bring along for added insulation. There are plenty of great options, but I’ve always loved the lightweight, jersey-knit Overlook liner beanie, made of merino wool and recycled polyester blend. It can be worn under a helmet or hat for added warmth, and it’s Fair Trade Certified sewn with Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) wool. It’s also very small and very light.

26g / Made in Vietnam / $39 / Details

Legs and Knees

Merino leggings or long johns are one of the pieces in our six-pack layering kit, as are shell pants. However, a pair of merino knee warmers can be a great addition for use while riding. And if you’re really cold-natured, or camping in sub-freezing temps, you might want to live in complete comfort with some down pants. Here are a couple of our favorites.

DeFeet Kneekers

Logan & Virginia: Anyone who suffers from knee pain or stiffness knows that the cold makes those aches worse. Knee warmers are a great way to keep things moving smoothly. They’re also another great option that allows for on-the-go adjustments to changes in the weather. Unfortunately, most knee and leg warmers have a fatal flaw. They just won’t stay in place, despite the overlapping chamois approach. Thankfully, I’ve discovered DeFeet‘s wool Kneekers. They’re super comfortable, keep my legs nice and warm, and they stay in place far better than any other knee or leg warmers I’ve tried. I’m not sure if the fit is more secure because the material they’re made from—a blend of merino wool and Lycra—is extra stretchy or if it’s thanks to the warmers’ unique tubular design. It may also be a product of their length. Both the knee and leg warmers are longer than others I’ve tried. As such, there’s a little room to adjust/shorten where the warmer sits on the calf, thereby giving a little extra slack at the point where the knee bends. No matter the reason, it’s a relief to finally wear leg and knee warmers that don’t require constant readjustment.

119g (L/XL leg length)/100g (L/XL knee length) / Made in NC, USA / $35/$45

Montbell Down Pants

Virginia: For someone who hates the cold, but loves the outdoors, it doesn’t get much better than this. Montbell’s down pants offer incredible warmth in an amazingly lightweight and compact package. Diamond-shaped baffles keep the 800 fill power down in place, but other than that subtle aesthetic element, the pants are very minimalist in design. They have a drawcord waist and thin elastic cuffs at the ankles. They don’t have any pockets, but that’s a great choice in my opinion. Their absence helps keep the silhouette of the pants slim, versus the Michelin Man aesthetic down clothing often offers. While I won’t be riding through brambles or cactus fields in these plants, the 10-denier ripstop nylon does offer some protection from abrasion. They also have a DWR coating to shed precipitation. The pants come with a small stuff sack for safe-keeping in the pack. Montbell’s light down pants aren’t cheap, but I think they’re worth the investment for folks like me who often find themselves heading off to the warmth and comfort of their tent when they’d really rather be sitting around the campsite with friends.

186g (W’s M) / Made in Vietnam / $209 / Details

Arm Warmers

Another way to stay warm while riding is to add a pair of arm warmers. Arm warmers also help keep your hands warm by keeping the blood pumping through your arms warm. Our favorites are the DIY variety.

DIY Arm Warmers
  • DIY Arm Warmers
  • DIY Arm Warmers

Virginia: The DIY arm warmers that I made from an old Icebreaker merino base layer are the supplemental layer that I reach for most often. It’s been over 10 years since I constructed them, but they’re still holding up really well. Versus any other article of clothing, they provide just the right level of warmth over the widest range of conditions. On days when there’s just a light chill, I pair the arm warmers with a short-sleeved tee. When it’s colder outside, I layer a long-sleeved jersey or jacket over them. They’re easy to remove, and they take up so little space, that it’s easy to store them anywhere, even in the pockets of my shorts. Another awesome thing about these arm warmers is that they were constructed from an article of clothing that was no longer being used. The shirt was a bit too snug on me through the torso, but the arm warmers fit perfectly. I also managed to make a neck gaiter out of some of the material. That’s a win, win, win in my book.

53g / Re-purposed in the USA / $0

Feet

Some claim that if you keep your core toasty, the rest of your body will follow. But a lot of folks have the opposite experience, with feet being the main culprits while sleeping or riding in cold weather. Here are a few small items that we like to layer on in addition to wool socks.

GooseFeet Down Socks

Logan: GooseFeet Down Socks are a lifesaver in that regard. Each pair is constructed with a 10d or 20d Durable Water Repellant (DWR) coated nylon shell and has a gentle elastic band sewn in at the top to keep them on your feet. They are filled with 850+ “power premium” goose down treated with DownTek for additional water resistance. All that said, the beauty of these things is their size and weight. They come with a little stuff sack and can further compress down to the size of an apple. All GooseFeet products are made in the USA and the Down Socks ship within two weeks of the order date.

70g (M’s L) / Made in Georgia, USA / $69 / Details

Wintersilk Socks

Virginia: For those of us who suffer from cold feet in evenly moderately cold temperatures, sock liners are a great option. WinterSilks is, unfortunately, no longer in business, but there are comparable products available from other manufacturers. What makes these liners so great is the silk and wool fabric blend (70% silk, 30% wool blend). The material is super thin, so it doesn’t add bulk. Instead, the silk and wool provide a breathable, moisture-wicking layer that keeps feet dryer, and thus warmer, than a thicker pair of socks can.

28g / Made in China

Goretex Socks or Liners

Logan: Although sometimes disputed, we’ve found Gore-tex socks to be invaluable. They can act as an insulating layer between your socks and wet shoes. If the depth of the river crossing is less than the height of your Gore-tex socks, charge through. When wearing your shoes, you can tiptoe over submerged rocks and not have to think about it or slow down. If the depth of the crossing is higher than the sock, one possibility is taking off all of your socks, putting your shoes back on, crossing, and then quickly putting on your (still dry) wool socks with the Gore-tex socks over them. This will keep them relatively dry from the wet shoes. We like this approach for rocky or rough river bottoms. As an alternative, plastic doggy-doo bags (or grocery plastic bags) can do the trick in a pinch. The model we have is no longer made, but Gore has some similar Shield Socks on offer for $50.

Other Cozy Accessories

Sometimes you just need something extra to keep you warm. Here are a few we like, however off-topic.

Big Agnes Fussell Quilt Review

Quilt

Instead of a sleeping bag, consider a good quilt. Many of them allow you to open up the foot area and make a large blanket that can be wrapped around you at camp. And what’s more comfortable than a blanket?

Foam pad

As far as layering your sleeping situation goes, adding a lightweight foam pad, like Rockgeist’s Animalist, to your system ups the temperature rating a good bit. And when not in use under your sleep system, you can sit on it at camp to keep you warm.

Winter Bikepacking Guide

Hand Warmers

Disposable hand warmers make a great addition to shake off a chill in dire situations, either at your feet or hands. Better yet, if you’re at camp, heat up a Klean Kanteen in the fire and use a hot water bottle technique. That way there’s zero plastic waste involved.

Have other winter accessories to heighten the warmth of a typical layering kit? Leave them in the conversation below.

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