Bikepacking Gear Sorted (Maybe)

Words by Calvin Avison
Photos by Peter McKay

13 minutes

At the end of every trip I review everything I took. Was it fit for purpose, did I use it and if not why not, could I have not used it and was I missing anything?

After many years and quite a few multi-day rides I think I have finally got my bikepacking gear sorted! Well, maybe, but having just completed an 8 day ride from Melbourne to Canberra here are my thoughts on how and what I packed. 

This may or may not help someone, it may or may not be what and how I pack for the next trip, but I’m confident there won’t be too many changes if I rode this again tomorrow, or after I win lotto this Thursday.

Most of my bags are by Revelate Designs, mainly because there were very few options when I started out, apart from Revelate, and as much as I break things these are standing up well with only a few repairs needed. The front bag is my design custom made by Stealth back home in NZ.

Sleeping Gear

Starting at the back is the seat bag which holds my camp set up. It’s easy to take the dry bag out at the end of the day and everything to set up camp is in that bag. It also has an air valve which is good to squeeze all the air out.

Packing: first in is the Mattress blow up dry bag. Inside I have a Sea to Summit pillow. I started out using clothes packed in the dry bag but as the clothes got less and less, the pillow found its way in. Normally I blow it up to the max, but this trip I didn’t, keeping it with less air and I found it worked much better, that has only taken a few years to works out. 

I also keep the silk sleeping bag liner in here. It’s an extra layer of warmth and much easier to clean at the end of the trip than the quilt. I do find the nose of the drybag can be packed a bit soft and the harness will flatten out, I have a DIY rack in mind to replace the harness one day, maybe.

If the tent is packed up wet, I will put that in the mattress dry bag and put the pillow and liner in the tent bag which is less waterproof, keeping the rest of the dry bag contents dry…ish

Then the air mattress goes in followed by the tent.

Bikepacking bikes around camp
Dan Durston X-Mid 1 hiking tent

Thoughts on a Tent

Initially I started out with a 2 person tent that weighed heaps and packed up in such a way that I struggled to fit it between the drop bars (when the tent was in the front). I then moved to a bivvy and tarp for bad weather.

This worked fine but over the last few trips I wished I had a double skin tent, instead of waking up wet from dew and having no room to change or move. I was lucky to pick up a Dan Durston X-Mid1 tent whilst they were still available. I had trialled it on an overnighter in Long Plain the month before and was happy with it and this trip confirmed how much better the tent was to the bivvy, with very little weight and volume penalty, if any.

The tent is a hiking tent and I use some carbon foldable poles which also slide into the dry bag, and then I stuff the quilt around  the tent and sleep mat, filling any space.

Fortunately I am a warm sleeper so I can get away with a 4c quilt, it’s not very bulky and when it gets way below zero I sleep layered up with my camp clothes. 

Cooking Gear

At some point I will put my cooking gear in the seat harness as well. This consists of a 600ml titanium mug which houses the stove, waterproof matches (another hard lesson) a windbreak that may not get used again, all wrapped in a DIY Pot cosy and lid.

Whenever I am out with others I like to check out their gear and I’m always looking for improvements. Prior to this trip I had a mid-week overnighter with Peter and spotted his pot cosy and lid made from a car sunshade. I have to say it works a treat. I put my dehydrated meals in it, and they stayed nice and warm for the 10min of hydration and my morning coffee didn’t get a chance to cool down.

This also gave me a lid for the mug, I was using tin foil, but this never lasted so the sunshade mug cosy got a big thumbs up, I just need to cut a slit for the mug handle and I would say it’s perfect.

Back to packing, the mug does not always go in the seat bag, sometimes I keep it in the lower section of frame bag depending on how many meals I am carrying.

Bikepacking Gear Sorted by Calvin Avison

Final Additions to the Seat Bag

I also pack rain gear in the seat bag, although if there is a chance of rain that also goes in the frame bag for quick access.

In between the dry bag and harness I had a new addition to the kit, a pair of Xero Z-Trail sandals. I was a bit dubious about getting them because of the price, but they were well worth their weight in gold. Apart from letting the feet breath in camp, they were a treat in the river crossings which due to my shoes taking forever to dry was previously barefooted. 

On top of the Seat bag is a Revelate Sprocket which houses the spot tracker, a rag and chain lube. There may also be aquick dry towel or pair of socks or two drying/airing out on the seat bag and a spare tube taped to the frame under it

Top Tube & Cockpit

Moving forward is a Revelate Designs Jerry Can, which has another spare tube, pliers, multi tool, tubeless plugs, tube patches, derailleur hanger (again have been caught out here), 3 chain links (used all 3 in a mishap in the 2019 Hunt 1000) and this time I had a mini ratchet with the most common socket. This made assembling the bike at the airport so much easier.

Also on the top tube is a Revelate Gas Tank. This housed thebattery bank and is easy to run a lead to the Garmin, Di2 or phone from here. I also had a torch, toilet paper and lollies here (Pineapple lumps or chicos as a preference).

Frame Bag

My full frame bag has two sections.

The top section normally has a 2lt bladder (downside to operating at a warm temp is I burn the water). Unfortunately this sprung a leak so wasn’t used and the space was filled with food. I also keep the water filter and CNOC dirty water bladder. The bladder was another new addition for this trip, and it was so much quicker and easier to fill with the wide opening compared to the Sawyer bladder… another tick. I normally have the pump here as well but most of the ride I had this strapped to the front fork with the drink bottles and also rain gear squeezes in if rain is possible.

The lower section of the frame bag normally has the mug and tools, but this time I had cable ties and food, maybe more lollies.

Feed Bags

I use two feed bags which had bars and a Gatorade bottle which replaced the leaking bladder.

Normally I keep the arm warmers, winter gloves and a Sea to Summit backpack here. The backpack folds to nothing and is perfect when flying to the start of a ride, or home, and is also used to carry extra food. 

Our first night finished with a 20km climb from Marysville to Keppel’s Hut so the backpack easily carried packets of chips and clothes so I could make room for beers in the front bag.

Using the silpoly backpack from sea to summit, Bikepacking Gear Sorted by Calvin Avison

Handlebar Bag & Clothing

Clothes and/or beers I keep in a bag I had made that is held by the feedbag & frame bag straps along with Velcro’s around the aero bars. 

I think it’s 5 litres, maybe a bit more, I can easily stuff a four pack of beers in there, but it is for clothes and stays on the bike all ride. I found I don’t need that many clothes but with temps for the ride ranging from below zero and above 35c this ride did present a few challenges. 

For off the bike I pack lined running shorts and normally a running shirt but with potential cold weather and snow I grabbed a long sleeve thermal top instead of the shirt and some thermal leggings. The puffer jacket has only been on one trip and now doesn’t make the list, instead I take a MacpacNitro mid layer (female version doesn’t have a useless pocket) which packs to nothing and keeps me nice and warm. It’s hopeless if it’s windy but then the raincoat goes over it which I carry anyhow. 

Normally if the night temp gets close to zero I take some woollen sleeping socks, but this trip I had a pair of Ground Effect Lucifers. They weren’t as effective as the sleeping socks but then I think I let my feet get too cold around camp and they struggled to warm them up. I had tested them the previous month below zero and they did work, something for me to trial again on an overnighter as the lucifers, as funny as they look are a great wind stopper oversock for cold rides. I also keep the gas canister in here, a bit protected by the clothes.

Other clothes were just riding spares: two pairs of merino short socks and spare merino boxers. On the bike I had a Ground Effect Median Strip shirt that survived the 8 days without washing… although it could stand on its own at the end of the ride it still smelled like a partly used flower, ok it didn’t stink too bad and I wasn’t asked to leave any pubs.

Shorts are Nzo Zip Off Dusters. Again if there was no risk of cold weather I would have worn my Sifters, but these have legs that can be zipped on or off so good for those cold morning starts and when it does warm up, off the legs come; much easier than stripping off to take leggings off and it keeps the leggings clean…well cleaner. 

Going with the merino theme is socks and boxers. One trick that I tried this time when washing the socks and boxers was to sleep on them to help dry them out… this was fairly successful once they initially warmed up, but easy to strap to seat bag if needed during the day.

An Extra Pocket

Lastly is the Revelate Pocket. I haven’t used this for years but as this trip was 8 days with some gaps between resupply points I decided to strap this in front of my clothes bag. This carried anything that I may need during the day or at camp; medical kit, toiletries, hand sanitiser, sunscreen, bum cream and anything that I may need easily that day. It made life a bit easier and was easy to unclip each day and take with me to the tent.

The only thing I didn’t use during the whole ride was the rain pants, although I would place these over the seat during the night to keep it dry. I did forget the head band for the torch but that is a bit bulky and will be replaced with a DIY lanyard.

Bikepacking Gear Sorted by Calvin Avison

Does Weight Matter?

The million dollar question that I always get asked, “How much does it all weigh?”

To be honest I have very little idea, but at the end of the day it is what it is. I work out what I need to take and that’s what I take, weight is not as much of a consideration as volume. Having said that I do consider weight when making purchases, but it is down the list a bit but I definitely don’t leave stuff behind to save weight. Instead I just don’t take stuff I don’t need, except beer, I do need beer and maybe a hip flask for those social rides, can’t do without a good hip flask.


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