It seems it takes a lot of gear to go lightweight in the mountains in winter. Here is my kit list for a typical winter bikepacking trip in Scotland.
There are a few comments about choices at the end of the lists.
- Surly Pugsley fat bike
- Surly Marge Lite rims *12
- Surly Nate 26×3.8 120tpi, gorilla tape seal, Stan’s sealant and valves (how to tubeless article coming soon)
- Shimano XT 160mm discs
- Easton carbon bars and stem
- Specialized Phenom saddle
- Ergon GE1 grips
- Hope 100mm no spider cranks & BB & 32R chainring
- Shimano XT trail pedals *1
- Shimano XT shadow rear mech
- Shimano 42:10 cassette
- KMC X9 SL chain
- Bike Shield frame protector, and Holt’s Touch up paint where I forgot to protect the frame
Revelate Designs Sweetroll
- OS map in Ortlieb map case
- Camp polycarbonate snow shovel *2
- Exped UL7 mat
- Berghaus Asgard insulated jacket
- Pack towel, toothbrush, toothpaste
- Cat hole trowel, pocket tissues, lighter, drywash gel
- MSR snow stakes, 4off *3
- Spare gas
- Mammut 3/4 leggings (for sleeping in)
- First aid kit (Melolin dressings, micropore tape, Savlon, sun screen, Ibuprofen, Rennie, Asprin, lighter, ClO2 water purification tablets)
- Rapha musette *4
- Tiso polartec balaclava
- Lowe Alpine Mountain cap
- GoreTex Paclite overmitts with pile fleece inner
- Rapha Brevet Insulated gilet *5
Surly frame bag
- MSR Windburner stove
- Hilleberg Enan tent (fly and footprint only, MSR guy lines in splay config, sometimes double pole, MSR Groundhog pegs), held with Velcro strap (article on this tent coming soon) *6
- Hipflask with single malt or homemade sloe gin
- Food, see section below
- Essentials dry bag (Petzl Tikka plus head torch, Light my Fire steel, Jetboil canister piercer, Powertraveller ?? Power pack, Silva compass, whistle, duct tape wrapped round pencil, firelighter, Apple lightning lead, micro USB lead, Garmin lead, Exposure lead, Powertraveller lead, Sennheiser Momentum ear buds, Apple folding USB plug, 5m of 3mm cord, eye mask, ear plugs, toothpick)
- Exposure lights, 2off
- Light my Fire Ti spork
- 2 large sandwich bags (for shoe vapour barriers)
- MucOff dry lube
- Sea to Summit 10mm X 1.5m strap
Revelate Designs seat pack
- Rab Summit 600 sleeping bag
- Rab Event bivi *6
- Thermarest prolite 3/4, held with Velcro strap *7
- Yaktrax crampons
- Exped Schnozzel bag
- Surly UL inner tubes
- Topeak Mountain Morph pump
- Rapha tool roll (puncture repair kit, Park tyre boots, needle, thread, spare disc pads, Park chain tool, spare chain links plus missing link, latex gloves, Crank Bros multitool)
- Food for day
- 3L Camelbak bladder
- Berghaus Paclite overtrousers
- Gore Bikewear Power Gore Active jacket
- Oakley sunglasses
- Leatherman Skeletool
- Abus Combiflex cable lock
- Quadlock tripod mount
- Wallet (double sandwich bag with cards, cash, railcards, CTC card)
- Rapha mesh baselayer *8
- Arm warmers
- TNF waffle fleece
- Oakley M frame with yellow lenses
- Endura full length bib tights
- Arc’Tyrex Squamish windbreaker *9
- Castelli neoprene gloves *10
- IPhone 7plus in Quadlock case & jacket (apps: OS Maps, MetOffice, National Rail, GPS2GRID, AyeTides, Garmin Connect, Petzl MyLight, Apple Camera)
- Garmin Fenix 3 gps watch
- Shimano MW7 winter boots *11
- Breakfast – tea, half Soreen, Nakd bar
- Daytime – Haribo, fig rolls, Baby Bells, beef jerky/kabanos
- Arrive at camp – Battenburg cake, tea
- Dinner – cous cous or ready cooked quinoa with smoked fish plus whatever is in the pantry eg dried mushrooms, sultanas, stock powder, salt, dried tomatoes, chopped mixed nuts, hot water to drink (gourmet bikepacking food article coming soon)
- At home with my wife I leave a routecard detailing my route, escape routes, a description of gear carried and an estimated return time. If I don’t make the return time then it’s time for her to call the mountain rescue.
- I’m not sure about SPD pedals in winter, the pedals and cleats ice up pretty quickly. Next winter I might try flats or a combo flat/SPD pedal like the Shimano Trekking pedals.
- I’ve found a snow shovel really useful in winter. Clearing tent sites of snow, building snow walls against the wind, clearing up fire pits.
- Snow stakes are also great in sand and Scottish bog. I don’t use them often as by using the shovel I can usually get down to bare earth. When I do need them I am glad I carried them such as a recent stormy camp where the only pitch I could find amongst the deep bogs was on a patch of sand.
- I have a few of these small cloth bags that came free with Rapha jerseys. I don’t like merino wool jerseys in winter, I find them cold and dangerous, but the bags are useful for on the train, buying food at the cafe, foraging for berries and tinder … (I save the merino jerseys for summer.)
- I like gilets in general, these Rapha ones are filled with Polartec Alpha. Like the mesh base layers they are cool when it is warm and warm when it is cool, and it wicks sweat like you wouldn’t believe.
- Winter shelter choice is v personal and it took me a lot of experimentation. I love the idea of a tarp but at the end of a day I want to get in something at the end of a hard day that will protect me from the weather. I’m going to write an article on this tent as I hated it at first, unstable in bad weather and condensation levels I couldn’t believe. I’ve modded it a lot and use it fly only, we now get on ok. In combination with this single skin shelter I sleep in a bivi bag which protects the sleeping bag from moisture in the tent and whilst pedalling, gives me a sleep out option if the weather is fine and gives me a fall back if the tent gets wrecked in a winter storm.
- A second mat in winter keeps me warmer and gives me something cosy to kneel on when doing tasks in the tent.
- I love these Rapha string vests. They were a revelation in clothing. I have used them for all my adventures in summer and winter. Words can’t describe how good they are, buy one now!
- Windproof jacket with a hood, it also just works, adding wind protection without causing overheating or sweat saturation. The key to safe winter cycling is keeping dry from weather and sweat. A combo of the mesh base layer, waffle top and windbreaker keeps me warm and dry when pedalling hard between -10ºC and +15ºC, I’ll add the insulated gilet for warmth at the bottom end of that range.
- I only discovered neoprene cycling gloves this winter. They wet out quickly which initially I found a bit uncomfortable but I soon found they keep my hands toasty in typical British winter sleet conditions. I’ve use the Paclite overmitts as a windproof cover if my hands get a little chilly. I do have some heavy duty warm gloves for when it is really cold below -5ºC.
- I don’t like these boots! I sized up to a 46 from my usual 45 to allow two pairs of socks and a double foot bed for more warmth and they do keep my feet warm. However when walking through the snow, pushing the bike as I often have to do, the snow soon starts sticking to the velcro forcing the straps and cover open. Decent boot for a day ride in cold conditions, rubbish for deep snow winter bikepacking.
- I polish the rims with TurtleWax Hard Shell paste wax to prevent snow building up. I learned the hard way that the wax should be applied sparingly to the metal of the rims only. At first I applied it liberally all over the rim and the rim strip. The excess wax gradually worked it’s way under the rim strip then under the GorillaTape causing it to separate from the rim resulting in a flat which needed a full tubeless rebuild. Luckily this happened at home rather than during a ride. I now go easy on the polish. It does help reduce snow buildup!