Gear review: better than the rest, worthy of note and would avoid

There is nothing quite like bikepacking for a long time to test and often kill gear. Riding a bike down little dusty, bumpy trails seems to be a step above hiking in terms of wear.

It seems with most gear there are several options that more or less do the same thing. So this is far from an exhaustive list, rather a short list of noteworthy things – good and bad.

Anything on this list has either lasted a really long time, or a pretty long time and is showing no real signs of dying anytime soon.

Better than the rest.
These two things I would not replace with anything else and I consider them to be in a league of their own.

Porcelain Rocket 52hz framebag.


The Porcelain Rocket framebag fits my Singular Swift beautifully. It’s truly waterproof, has no zips, a rolltop closure and is made of a solid fabric. It’s pretty much perfect as far as I can tell.

MapOut iOS app.

This app is excellent for planning routes and looking at sections in detail. It’s also super fast and the map downloading is better than any of the other ten or so I’ve tried. Before this I used Gaia GPS and

Items worthy of note.
Things that work very well, but there are probably similar items that do the job.

Surly Extraterrestrial 29 by 2.5” tyres.

These are a good middle ground for a long tour. They’re high volume, good on gravel or dry-ish trails, pretty fast on pavement and have good puncture protection. They’re not so good in the mud however. On my bike they lasted me about 8000km. I’m about 77kg and my bike and gear is usually anywhere between 29kg-45kg depending on food and water!

The photos above show them after about 8000km. I switched them around with about 1200km to go to make them last.

Revelate handlebar harness.

This holds a 22L Ortlieb drybag beautifully. No need to tighten the straps during the day and it’s still going strong with only minimal wear. The photo above is taken after about 13000km of use.

Arcteryx Atom LT insulated jacket.

I’ve worn it for years and hundreds (thousands?!) of times. It’s often the perfect cold weather riding jacket and breathes pretty well because of the fleece panels on the side. They’re so good we even have matching ones. Weirdly somehow Eileen’s always looks better than mine.

Dexshell waterproof socks.

I’ve used and killed several pairs of sealskins in the past. These Dexshells have been thrashed and still keep my feet (almost perfectly) dry.

Trangia burner.

It’s simple, silent, there is no maintenance and it never fails. Yup it’s slower than gas or petrol, but beyond that I have no complaints. Common misconceptions are: you can’t simmer or fry with it, you can’t light it in the cold and it does not work at altitude. All of these are false. If it’s very cold drop a tiny bit of toilet paper in the alcohol and light that. I’ve used it at about 5000m many times with no troubles. I use the burner with a modified Trail Designs Caldera Cone.

Montane super prism gloves.

These are super warm, ok for putting on with wet hands, surprisingly tough and very light. These ones above have suffered a couple of crashes and many, many days riding.

Icebreaker underwear.

I’m not sure how these last so long, but they do and are incredible. I don’t use any other underwear these days. Eileen had Icebreaker underwear too, but both pairs were stolen in Peru. She reckons they’re still going strong, somewhere.

Blackburn outpost cages.

These are still in pretty good nick and have nice slots to put the straps through. It’s also easy to attach extra bottle cages to them for more water capacity.

Brooks Cambium c17 seat with cut away.

I moved from a leather Brooks to this one for better wet weather resistance and love it. I find it very similar to my old nicely worn leather one.

Gravity filtering system.

We hooked up a Sawyer mini filter to two 2 litre Platypus bottles and it’s possibly the best equipment change we’ve ever made. Since the Sawyer mini we’ve moved onto a Platypus Gravityworks filter cartridge and it’s faster now.

Hilleberg Anjan 3.

We have found this tent to be the best combination of strength, size and weight. It’s suffered brutal conditions and other than the expected tent zip issues it has been great. We’ll replace the outer tent zip and guy lines one day, but the fabrics and general tent structure are still solid. Prior to this we’ve extensively used a Big Agnes Copper Spur and MSR Hubba Hubba. Hilleberg customer service has been incredible and sent us new zip sliders for free.

Things I would avoid
Older, metal Salsa Anything cages.
My one is bent and cracked and only just made it through.

Salewa firetail evo approach shoes.
They promptly cracked where my foot flexed and fell apart completely.

Northface Ultra FastPack shoes.
These lasted about 25 days riding and hiking before developing holes that grew very quickly. I took them to North Face in Wanaka, New Zealand who pretty much told me I was using them wrong. Eileen still likes hers, but only because she hasn’t found anything better.

Ortlieb framebag.
The zip on this bag failed in an irreparable way after about 15 days use. This confirmed my general approach of avoiding zips if at all possible. I got a refund and bought the Porcelain Rocket bag which is vastly superior. All other Ortlieb bags from their bikepacking range have been very good though.

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