Bike Camping Gear Status (and the XO-3 as a camping bike)

Hello friends. It’s May, and I already have several bike camping expeditions under my belt for 2014, though not as many as I would have liked. (I never do as many as I’d like.) So I’ve had some time to test out gear, and get ready for when I can do some actual touring this summer. I’ve been making a bit of switches to the setup this year. Astute readers probably have figured this out due to all my “camping gear for sale” posts as of late. So while I have a few minutes, I’d like to talk a little about gear!

Sleeping bag, etc: The North Face Cat’s Meow 20F bag I purchased last year was a good one, and worked well. But I knew it was a “compromise” bag, as I didn’t have a lot of cash to spend. The Cat’s Meow was bulkier and heavier than I wanted. So this year I wanted to find a decently priced down bag, something with a little higher temp rating because I found the 20F to be a tad overkill sometimes in summer. So I ended up getting a good deal on a Mountain Hardwear Hibachi 32F/0C down bag. This bag is a good part of a pound lighter than the Cat’s Meow (2.25 lbs), and also packs down smaller. That’s all well and good, but how is it sleeping-wise? Fine. I don’t really notice any appreciable difference between it and the Cat’s Meow, and I’ve used it on some cold nights.

If it does get colder, I got myself one of those vapor barrier liners from the Grant Petersoneque Rivendell Bicycle Works. Haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but it’s only 4 oz and packs into the stuff sack of my sleeping bag.

Sleeping pad, etc: I’m still using the Klymit Static V sleeping pad I picked up last year, though sold the REI Stratus pad. And I still use the Exped pillow from last year. All in all, the sleep bag, pad, pillow, liner, and stuff sacks, etc. come in at about four pounds total.

Tent/Shelter: I talked about the new Marmot Eos 1 tent a couple months back. So far, it’s been good to me. I fashioned a groundsheet out of some Tyvek, and also switched out the stakes with some lighter ones, so now the total packed weight is at 3 pounds. (So my sleep/shelter setup comes in at 7 pounds total. Not ultralight, but still pretty good.)

I ended up selling my Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy because it was overkill, but then decided I still wanted some sort of bivy. So I ended up getting a real good deal on a Mountain Hardwear Conduit Bivy. This is a minimalist, basic bivy, but it packs real small and weighs under a pound. It wouldn’t be good for real buggy conditions, nor do I intend to use it in rainy weather (I have a tent!) but for some nice quick summer camping under the stars, it will work. And I also got it with the idea of using it as an extra “layer” for my sleeping bag. With the bag, liner, and bivy, I’ll be able to sleep in some fairly cold conditions!

Bridgestone XO-3: I’ll admit it. When I sold the Long Haul Trucker in December, it was a huge “leap-of-faith” that the XO-3 would be capable of fulfilling the role of prime touring bike. And so far, it hasn’t failed me, though I haven’t done anything resembling a true tour yet. But it has handled itself capably for the overnighters I’ve taken this year. Yes, there are some issues with the mustache handlebars that I’m trying to rectify, but if all else fails, I can switch bars.

The big issue then is “Does the XO-3 carry the stuff I need to carry, and do it in a way that doesn’t feel like ass?” And the answer is yes, my friend. Of course nowadays I’m travelling lighter than I used to. No more “four panniers plus more” setup that I employed last during the Cross-Continent Tour. After the San Juans tour last September, I realized that I could travel with a pretty minimal load. (I say pretty minimal.)

Currently I’m going with the Camper Longflap saddlebag in back, frame pack, and a small front basket. And with the recent changes in the gear (see above) my camping stuff takes up less space and weighs less than it used to. For my overnights I’ve also packed clothes, food, stove, and other essentials, and it all fit. On the Vernonia trip I had room to spare, which of course is a good thing.

I still need to tweak a few things, like add another bottle cage to underneath the down tube. But the biggest tweak to make this a more able tourer is change the drivetrain. The 50-40-30 triple crankset coupled with the  7 speed cassette of 13-28 doesn’t give that low of a gear, in the upper 20’s. I’ve been making do, and touring on the lightish side helps. But it would be nice to get the low-low around 20, so a more mountain-style triple, say a 48-36-24 triple in front with maybe a 13-34 in the rear would help. I’ve also toyed with the idea of a wide-range double in front, like 42-26 with the 13-34 in the rear. We shall see. I need to get it taken care of soon, though…

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