Minimal Master: Gary's bikepacking gear list

Gary – post green chili cheeseburger in San Antonia, New Mexico – with his custom AMPierce and my Ogre, both in full bikepacking modes.

Although people have been making do with overstuffed backpacks for years, framebags are an increasingly popular way of maximising stowage space on a mountain bike, without the weight penalty of racks and panniers. They’re better suited to technical mountain bike touring too, and a key ingredient of ‘bikepacking’.

These days, I’ve been riding more and more without a rack and panniers, or trailer, and seeing if I can whittled everything down into soft bags fitted around the frame – ‘bikepacking’, as it’s become known.

Although the minutiae of packlists ultimately boils down to personal preferences, I’m always curious about what other people have chosen to carry on tour, particularly when there’s room for so little. Gary’s lightweight setup has been honed over time and is about as minimal as you get, within reason. (though of course the word itself is open to much interpretation…)

This is a rundown of the gear he brought on our ride around the San Mateas Mountains, and how his bike is set up. Bear in mind we were riding dirt roads and expected a variety of weather conditions, reflected in layers and sleeping bag choice.

Thanks Gary for sharing your packing wisdom!

CLOTHING

Regular bike shorts with Endura Humvee ¾ length pants or baggie shorts over the bike shorts depending on temps.

One Smartwool and one poly top, if it’s cool I wear them both, I like zips on at least one of them.

A super light windshirt (less than 4 oz), mine is an old Go-Lite, it’s one of my most used pieces of clothing, it breathes really well and adds warmth for very little weight.  It also dries very quickly.

Boure leg warmers w/zipper (can be rolled up to make knee warmers).

Bike gloves with over gloves for cold/rain.

Sunglasses.

Shoes - Shoes- dicontinued Lake model with rubber sole.  I really prefer a rubber sole over a plastic one.  Hiking and walking in general is better. I also like a fast drying shoe. I had some Pearl Izumi X-Alps which I loved but they took forever to dry.

Light wool cap and thin balaclava. In warm weather a bug net for my head.

Rain shell and pants are old and made by Red Ledge, fairly light and inexpensive.

Montbell UL down jacket- one of my favorite pieces of clothing, a lot of warmth for very little weight and packs down quite small.

I always sleep with long underwear to keep the bag clean and help with comfort. In cold weather I wear a light polypro or wool top and bottom and in warm weather I use very thin silk, the socks I wear depend on the expected temperature.

I keep the clothing I think I’ll need throughout the day in my backpack for easy access.

SLEEPING

Feathered Friends Lark sleeping bag w/800 fill down and Epic shell (38 oz. 10 deg.) for cold weather and Western Mountaineering Summerlite (32 deg, 19 oz) for use all other times.

Equinox (Campmor) 6X8’ Silnylon Tarp or the 8X10 for two people, 5 stakes, Kelty Triptease line w/ bungees to keep tarp from sagging

Neo Air mattress 20X72”

silnylon gound cloth w/glue sprayed on one side to help with the slipping, it still slips some though, I think I’ll go back to Tyvek

KITCHEN

Homemade beer can alcohol stove (see Zen Stoves), homemade pot support and windscreen, Evernew 900ml Ti pot, lexan spoon, lighter, matches, wool hat as cozy or mylar bubble insulation pot cozy, recycled pastic bottle w/insulation as cup.

ELECTRONICS

Camera - SD1200 IS Power Shot.  Carried in pouch on shoulder strap of pack.

Cell phone with spare battery

Garmin GPS - Garmin eTrex Vista CX

SPARES/TOOLS

2-29” tubes w/removable cores, QBP brand, 2 oz. bottle of Stans sealant (I’d take 2 of these on a long trip), Topeak multitool w/chainbreaker, separate small hex wrenches, Leatherman Squirt (tiny tool w/pliers and scissors), extra water cage bolt, chainring nut and bolt, cleat bolt, tire boot material, needle and thread for tire repair, tire plug kit, shoe goo, super glue, patch kit, shift cable, 1 set of brake pads, Fiber Fix spoke, spare alloy nipples, around 6 extra chain links and 2 extra quick links, safety wire, lots of zip ties and assorted rubber bands, duct tape and electrical tape wrapped around pump,  Topeak Master Blaster pump mounted on downtube or tiny Crank Bros pump for technical rides (it’s lighter).

PACKING

Custom frame bag by Scott at Porcelain Rocket

Revelate Designs seat bag, harness and front bag.

Anything Cage bags by Scott

Salsa Anything Cages or King stainless bottle cages on fork depending on trip

Osprey Talon 11 or 22 backpack depending on trip.

FRAME AND FORK

Custom AMPeirce 29er

Fox Fit F29 fork (80mm) or Salsa Fargo V2 rigid fork.

FRAME DESIGN

17”C-T

23” ETT

12.25” BB height

70.5 deg. HA, 73 deg. STA

465 axle to crown, I can run a rigid fork or an 80mm suspension fork

Black Cat swinging dropouts

Short chainstays; 16.75” with the dropouts all the way forward.  The curved seat tube, 73mm BB shell and Andy’s artful building allow this.

Single speed specific, no shift cable braze-ons

This is my third 29er.  I knew exactly what I wanted from this frame and had Andy build it accordingly.  I am extremely happy with it.  I’d build it the same way if I were to do it over with the exception of shift cable braze-ons and possibly S&S couplers.

BUILD

Cane Creek S-6 headset, Ritchey 100mm stem, 11deg bar w/Cane Creek bar-ends, Moots Ti post, old Sella Italia Flite gel saddle, Shimano SPD pedals,  Magura Marta SL brakes, 180/160 rotors, front wheel- King hub with Bontrager Duster rim 32* 14/15 w/alloy nips, rear wheel- Hope Pro 2 SS trials hub, Stans Flow rim, 32* 14/15 w/alloy nips run tubeless. Current tires – Michelin Wild Race’R front and Geax Saguaro rear (not the TNT version), I’m pretty happy with this combination for our area.  Deore LX crank w/Enduro bearings in Shimano cups, modified Sram X-9 short cage derailleur and X-9 twist shifter, 1X6 gearing w/11-25 cassette (homemade) 11-13-15-17-21-25, BBG bashguard and N-GearJump Stop to retain chain on single ring up front, 32 tooth Salsa unramped ring, Sram PC971 chain.

Dinglespeed (2 rings, 2 cogs) since 06, recently converted to 1X6 specifically for bikepacking.  It’s not the climbing that I had an issue with but the road sections with the limited gearing. I can see a 1X9 in my future because it’s just about as simple as the 1X6 and it will shift better.

Since I wrote this I’ve purchased a set of Stans stock wheels, they are built with Stans 3.30 hubs, 32 14/17 spokes with the brand new and redesigned Arch EX rims.  My bike is 6 oz lighter even though I’ve added a 9 speed cassette.

WEIGHT

Bike weight with no gear is 24 lbs. 15 oz. or 11.3 kg.

Loaded bike with gear and two days food, but no water, was just under 45 lbs or 20.4 kg.  This does not include the backpack or clothing worn or for the day.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My gear list is continually evolving but over the years it changes less and less.  In warmer weather I take fewer clothes than I did on this trip and often go without a stove too.  When doing a trip that includes technical single track I feel having an even lighter kit makes a noticeable difference in the fun factor.  I really don’t feel I make a compromise in comfort, contrary to some people’s belief.  Carrying a lot of gear only complicates the experience for me.

Update

Although tubeless tyres are more prone to sidewall failures than regular ones, knowing what to do in an emergency situation is useful if you’re going light and not carrying a spare. Here’s Gary’s advice:

I carry a heavy needle with some dental floss for thread and a couple of the Park TB2 glueless tyre boots for smaller cuts, which will cover most repairs. For longer, 2-3 ” long for gashes, I add I cut a section of sidewall cut out from an old tire, using Shoe Goo (REI has small containers) to glue the boot in after sewing the cut.  Let the glue dry overnight with the tube in place; just a bit of air to hold pressure on it – I’ve not had a cut so bad that I couldn’t wait till night to do this.  Usually you can just use a Park boot and maybe sew it up. I carry superglue (for tubeless) to hold the cut together – this isn’t an issue with tubes as it’s easy to get inside and boot it.  The Saguaro I was using on our trip had 2 spots with minor cuts.  I just covered the cut area with Shoe Goo and let it sit on it’s side overnight.

Check out Joe Cruz’ ‘every last thing’ packlist for his South America fat tour.

Adventure Cycling Organisation has a suggested bike packing list, or for more kit geekery, lose yourself down the rabbit hole of Bikepacking.net’s forum.

Packing light has a lot of knock on effects – you can build your bike up with lighter components and wheels. You can even save weight by running a single chainring – as seen here with an N Gear Jump Stop and BBG Bashguard – which offers enough of a gear range for most conditions.

Salsa’s Anything Cage provides a neat means to add capacity, without resorting to a front rack. At 100g each, they can carry 4L of light but bulky kit. Alternatively a fork with water bottle eyelets – like the Salsa Fargo V2 seen here – can be used to haul extra H20 for desert riding. Hose clamps work well too for both these cages.

Everything has its place, like this spare tube taped to the seat post. Go bikepacking and become a minimalist packing master!

37 thoughts on “Minimal Master: Gary's bikepacking gear list

  1. Pingback: Apaches, conquistadores… and a bomb: a historical bike tour, New Mexico. « while out riding

  2. Gary Blakley

    Hee hee, I think “Master” is an overstatement but thanks, Cass. My gear weight is considered middle of the road by some people. I’d drop 5-7 lbs off of this list for summer time single track riding in the form of lighter bag, fewer clothes and no stove.

    One thing I forgot to add to my spares list that I carry is an extra chainring bolt/nut.

    Reply
  3. cass

    Sure, you can always go lighter (-;

    But I think the kit you carried meant you were covered for pretty much any weather condition, within reason. Also, I like the freedom that a potset allows, especially for longer tours.

    And besides, how would you make your morning cup of coffee (-;

    (I know, you’d drink it cold…)

    Reply
  4. gypsybytrade

    Pack the grounds in your lip and savor it for the first few miles of the day. It takes the bite out of the morning. Both you and Gary balance light weight with practicality. Neither of those systems is likely to leave you stranded or uncomfortable, which is what matters. Cass, are you still shivering through the nights? Gary, is the 6sp made by the Jones method?

    Reply
    1. Gary Blakley

      Hi Nick! I’ve been doing mexican instant coffee with powdered milk when I don’t have a stove. On cold mornings it’s just like iced coffee. It’s surprisingly good. Maybe I’ll have try a pinch of fresh ground in my cheek. :-)

      My gearing differs from Jeff’s in that he uses the larger cogs and carrier of a cassette. I want higher gears, not lower, so I just stacked the six 9 speed cogs and spacers I wanted onto the hub. Hope hubs have a steel cassette body so no worries of the cogs digging in.

      Where are you and Lael off to this summer?

      Reply
      1. gypsybytrade

        Gary, I might be stuck in town for the summer, but that will afford lots of tomfoolery in the coming year or more. I still want to land in Silver CIty sometime soon.

        Reply
    2. While Out Riding Post author

      Yeah, I’m going to upgrade my sleeping bag at some point, but I ended up getting myself a Riv vapour guard like yours, so that’s tiding me through nicely. I had a really cold night in the Gila, similar temps to the Abiquiu-Cuba section we ride. The vapour guard made all the difference (as did not forgetting my lighter, so I could make a warm meal…)

      At some point, I’ll be investing in something from Western Mountaineering I think.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that a megamid tarp isn’t ideal for cold weather solo camping. Again, it will have to do until I can get my hands on my Tarp Tent Rainbow that’s back in the UK. I’m resisting a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 for now…

      Reply
        1. While Out Riding Post author

          I had the Mountain Equipment version (it was developed in collusion with Mont Bell, just branded different for the UK market) and loved it. I should check them out again.

          Didn’t notice the Platinum… Less than a kilo for a two skin? Nice. As my Rainbow has gone somewhere across the Atlantic, I ended up going for a Tarptent Moment as it’s cheap(er), and freestanding with the extra pole.

          Reply
      1. Gary Blakley

        Nick, I was torn between the WM and the Montbell bags when I bought mine. I came very close to ordering them both and returning one of them. I went with the WM bag based on all the positive reviews. I am very happy with my choice but I’ll always wonder about that elastic bag.

        Reply
      2. Gary Blakley

        Cass, I’m excited that you got a Moment. I am very interested in this tent, hopefully we’ll get a full report?. My main concern is condensation. Was it an issue with your Rainbow? I’m hoping to talk Patti into a Tarptent for this summer too.

        Reply
        1. While Out Riding Post author

          I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t even had a chance to use it properly yet! It’s only been pitched down in the park. The issue for me, that I didn’t realise before ordering it, is that 4 short poles are actually built in to the tent itself, limiting how small it can be packed down. I’ve yet to figure out a good solution to bikepacking with this – I noticed Scott did a custom job for someone to get round this issue.

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/porcelainrocket/6777751206/in/photostream

          The tent itself looks nicely thought out, and stable too. I ordered the second pole stabilising/freestanding pole, as that was the big pull for me – I like freestanding tents when I’m travelling, for extra versatility. I’d have stuck with my old Rainbow in the interests of saving money, but it’s lost somewhere in England )-:

          Reply
          1. Gary Blakley

            I’d like to check out the Moment when we come by. We’ll have to see how it will pack up then. Do you know how Joe packed his? Did you have much condensation with the Rainbow? If it shows up do you wanna sell it?

          2. While Out Riding Post author

            Sure thing. I don’t remember a condensation issue with the Rainbow, but most of the time I was in warm temperatures. The Moment has mesh triangles at the foot and head of the tent – which can be covered up if needed – to help with airflow. We’ll pitch it and you can check it out.

            I think Joe carried his Moment in a drybag, with his Revelate Sling. I guess he packed stuff around it, which I find a bit awkward. Or maybe carried it separately in the sling, which would seem easier. I’d like to stash it where it’s easy to get to, in case it needs to be dried out during a break. The Rainbow packed really quickly into the seat pack.

  5. samh

    I thoroughly enjoy the overlap between the UL backpacking set and the UL bikepacking set. Thanks for sharing this gear post as well as the T.R., Cass and Gary.

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Thanks Sam. The only aspect I struggle with is trying to squeeze in a camera that’s bigger a point and shoot camera, let alone my computer… Inspired by Gary, Nicholas Carman and Joe Cruz, I’ve whittled my kit down to a full framebag setup, but to shed panniers, I’d still need to carry my computer, a Macbook Air, on my back.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        But why should you shed the panniers Cass? I think that if you add up the weight of all those framebags it would not be dissimilar to a rear rack and panniers. I checked out Joe’s set-up, nice but personally I like to retain capacity for carrying food for remote stretches and I don’t like to carry anything on my back – surely one of the advantages of biking over hiking! Sarah

        Reply
        1. While Out Riding Post author

          Hey Sarah.

          Well… You’d probably be best to check with Scott for the exact weights, but I’m pretty sure a full framepack setup is a chunk lighter than a rack and pannier setup. But it’s not just the weight, it’s also the way it’s positioned on the bike.

          It’s a conundrum I often mull over… I love the feel of this kind of setup, but also miss the range panniers or a trailer afford. And, as I like to travel with my netbook and a couple of lenses, it’s hard to cram everything in.

          Ultimately, I think it boils down to the kind of riding you do, and if you’re a mountain biker at heart. If you’re keeping to paved roads or relatively well-graded dirt roads (like much of the Great Divide), I don’t think there’s such an advantage. Racks and panniers do a good job, while keeping your cargo options open.

          BUT! I as you soon as I hit more technical terrain, then I really notice how much better the weight is distributed with a framebag/seatpack setup. The bike’s more lively and maneuverable. And, that’s when saving those extra grams (both with a framebag and minimal packing) can really be felt too. For instance, I know wouldn’t have enjoyed a large chunk of the Arizona Trail with racks and panniers – they’d be snagging on rocks all the time, and generally getting in the way on the fun singletrack. On a ride like that there’s also hike and bikes to contend with – which is a whole lot more tolerable with a lightweight, bikepacking setup.

          The downside, as you say, is a shorter range. Less capacity for carrying food can lock you into needing to cover a certain distance every day. Or the need to carry a backpack – though Joe seemed to have got away without this. I know plenty of people – especially those coming from a mountain biking background – who have got used to wearing a backpack all day. I’m with you on this, in that I prefer not to if I have the chance.

          Again though, this is also dependant on the kind of terrain I’m riding. If it’s involved mountain biking, I find I’m moving around the bike so much that weight on my back isn’t an issue. If I’m just sitting in one place on the saddle, I really start to notice it on my back.

          For me, bikepacking on singletrack is the holy grail. It combines the best of all worlds. That feeling of self sufficiency I love from multi day rides. Reaching remote places. And the fun and thrills of mountain biking. The downside? It has to be in shorter stints…

          I’ve gone on way too long… I think Joe summed it up really well here.

          Reply
        1. Gary Blakley

          Sam, I’m with you on that. I’ve carried a pack so long I forget it’s even there. I’ve learned that a good fitting pack makes a huge difference in the comfort level as does keeping the weigh in the pack low. I try to keep the load under 10 lbs. and usually a lot less by keeping bulky stuff in the pack and no more water in the bladder than I need. I also really appreciate having water so readily available in rough terrain.

          Reply
  6. Sarah

    I’m definitely from a mountain biking rather than touring background, rapidly becoming one of Scott’s best customers and looking forward to using his stuff on shorter trips on trails back home. The difference between you and Gary is that you basically are living on your bike. Joe did ditch the backpack, he also doesn’t carry a computer. To me the downside was that he has very limited food carrying capacity which works ok for him as he is fast and strong and willing to put in huge days to reach town but I think I would still need panniers or trailer on a trip like this as I want to be able to go to very remote places (and still eat).

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Sure, it’s not for everyone and locks you into covering certain distances. I’m kind of amazed Joe could travel like this for so long, as generally it’s the kind of setup you’d run for a few weeks, not half a year.

      But I can also see that once you’ve travelled like that, it’s so hard to go back. When I was re-ridding some of the Divide last year, Nancy took some time out and I managed to offload the trailer in Abiquiu. Riding to Cuba lightly laden was such a different experience, especially given the snow and mud.

      Oh, to rid myself of my computer and all those electronic gizmos… (I’ve thought about it) I’ve accepted that I need to carry more stuff, but by carrying a full bikepacking gear while on long tours, my plan is still be able to lightweight sidetrips. The discipline of learning to pack light can be a good thing too, wherever you’re headed.

      Reply
    2. While Out Riding Post author

      I was kind of curious about this. Some weights:

      Seatpack – 310g
      Handlebar ‘sausage’ and bag – 340g
      El Gilberto Frambag for a large frame – 480g
      Total: 1130g

      Ortlieb Backroller Plus (the lightest ones): 1700g
      Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus bar bag (the lightest, M in size): 680g
      Tubus Cargo rack (light but strong): 650g
      Total: 3030g

      The capacity of a rear panniers and bar bag setup is 47L. A bikepacking setup is roughly 25L, plus whatever a framebag is (which really depends on frame size). Let’s call it 7 litres – making 32L. This assumes you’re going a la Joe, with no backpack.

      Not to say that panniers and a bar bag don’t have advantages (like extra capacity and complete waterproofing), but the weight difference is noticeable, as is its position. So, the lighter you go, and the rougher the trails, the more sense a bikepacking setup makes!

      For me, using a lightweight tent (the Tarptent Rainbow packs tiny, is super roomy and weighs 900g) and moving to a MFT camera system (rather than lugging round a DLSR and lenses) is the only way to make it do-able. Downsizing from my standard issue Trangia to a Clikstand stove system made a big difference too. All these changes involve compromises, but not ones that sacrifice too much.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        Wow, cool! I imagine that once I’ve played around with “full bike packing gear” (I plan to try just seatpack and front roll on my dual sus) I’ll totally love it and may well consider touring that way in future… I agree panniers are totally rubbish on single track, used to use the trailer thinking it was better but that had it’s drawbacks too. We have finished our trip, can you believe it?!

        Reply
        1. Gary Blakley

          Sarah, I don’t have much to add to what Cass has already said. On the trip we just finished I carried all the food, full size tent, stove, and both pads. Patti wanted her ‘stuff’. I had up to 3 days food for both of us. Just to give you an idea of what can be carried with framebags. My motivation in hauling all the gear was to make our climbing speed a bit closer. The improvement in the way a bike handles over panniers is significant it really does make a difference.

          Reply
  7. Pingback: Bikepacking: the joys of travelling lean and light. « while out riding

  8. DaveC

    Great post, looks like tremendous riding on that trip; and good to see my derailleur getting used so well Gary.

    I’d just add that in my book 480 grams is rather heavy for a framebag. I’ve built one for a 18″ frame which weighed half that.

    I also don’t understand the backpackanoia, but I also spend more time hiking than riding these days.

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hey Dave. The 480g listed is the heaviest, burliest of PR’s framebags (dual compartment, big zips, extra tough fabric etc…), so I quoted that one for reference. Also, it was for a large, roomy frame (a Thorn Nomad), so that’s going to effect things too.
      Just been out riding with Gary today!

      Reply
      1. Gary Blakley

        Hi Dave, We just got home from our Stagecoach, and more, trip. I agree that Eric’s and Scott’s bags could be lighter. I got to see Kurt R’s seatbag that Eric made using cuben fiber when he came through on last years TD. I think we’ll start seeing more lightweight bags from these guys soon. I’ll be trying for lighter bags next time around for sure.

        Yes, your derailleur and shifter are getting lots of use (1X9 now), one of my better investments recently. I’ll send you the photo link of our trip when I get them all posted.

        I really like the term “backpackanoia”. :-)

        Reply
    2. Gary Blakley

      While unpacking I dumped out the dirt and mud as best I could from my frame bag and weighed it. 315 grams. Mine is smaller than Cass’ and only has one compartment along with the left side map/tortilla storage. Not too bad but I know it could weigh less with lighter fabric and maybe a bit less velcro.

      Reply
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