As I like to say, "what are you taking a picture of?" I try and ask myself that each and every time I snap the shutter. In my brain I am thinking, ok, I know the answer, now if I visualize the photograph, will my viewers come to the same conclusion. Sometimes we are photographing an emotion, other times an explicit subject; in either case, the rule still applies. If I can't get the two to match, I don't take the picture…
As I peruse through some of the online forums I see some common questions about what to wear for winter cycling and specificially what to where for winter Bikepacking. While everyone's internal heater is different, I think there are a couple of rules that apply across the board:
- Layering is the way to go, just like any other cold weather aerobic activity
- For deep cold, use of Vapor Barrier Layers for your feet and hands is critical
- When you start your activity, you must be cold. If you are warm, as your body begins to work, you are going to be HOT and this is not good.
- I believe for your core, a system of light weight base layer with a heavier weight layer on top of that and outer shell are the best ways to approach keeping you warm and dry. The base wicks moisture away, and a good shell with venting options allows you to regulate the temperatures and moisture buildup. See my winter gear sheet for what works for me, but one word: Wool!!
- Whatever clothing you wear on your core, you must be able to vent excess heat
- A base layer of wool and windproof nordic pants works great. Craft makes very good nordic pants that work well on a bike.
- You must be willing to slow down a bit when the heat is building, sweat is your enemy.
- It is important to stay hydrated.
- Keeping your head warm is critical and the use of a buff around your neck is not to be underestimated. There is a tremendous amount of heat loss that takes place at your neck, and the use of a buff can help either keep this in or let it out which helps to regulate your overall sense of warmth.
- Your shoes must be sized large enough to allow your layers (sock liner, VBL, insulating sock) to not cause any form of constriction. It is actually constriction on your foot in a tight fitting shoe that keeps warm blood from circulating to your toes and warming them up. You must get your boots big enough to allow your feet some room.
- The types of shoes to ride in is a complete post in and of itself. I for one like going clipless and staying attached to my bike. Others like platforms and use winter boots or some combination of LW hikers and Overboots. Look for a separate post on this item.
- For hands, I use a combination of VBL gloves and Pogies to keep my hands warm and dry. I carry 3 pairs of gloves so that they can be rotated from wet to dry. There is nothing worse than putting on a pair of gloves that are still wet from sweat.
All of this is based on my experience and my continued evolution in winter bikepacking. Your mileage may vary so feel free to chime in with what works for you.
Chocolate-Cherry Peanut Butter Trail Bars
Adapted from Laurie March’s A Fork in the Trail
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup natural peanut butter
2 cups natural flake cereal
½ cup dried cherries
1/3 cup slivered/crushed almonds
½ a high-quality dark chocolate bar (Green & Black’s Dark 85% passed my criteria)
Heat the honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and simmer one minute (not longer, or bars will be brittle). Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine well. The chocolate will melt to form a coating.
Coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with vegetable oil. Scoop the mixture into the pan and pat down evenly. Freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the pan contents to a cutting board and allow to return to room temperature, then cut into bars.
*Brown sugar’s degree of processing is debatable, but hey, it’s less processed than regular sugar. Honey would have been even less processed, but the entire honey bear is too damn heavy."
Recipe Courtesy of Simple Food Healthy Life
This can't be said enough when talking about the best way to travel light and travel in mixed conditions. It does not matter if you are hiking, trekking, cycling, kayaking, or just walking, layering is the key to dealing with conditions.
For example, on my winter Gaspe' bike expedition last year, I was garunteed to encounter conditions that ranged from zero degrees at night to highs in the 40's during the day. Snow, sun, sleet, and rain were all in the three week forecast. In order to deal with these types of conditions, while still meeting my goal of traveling light and in a bike-packing stye, layering was critical. In my book, everything in your kit should have multiple uses and this is absolutely mandatory when it comes to clothes.
My upper body clothing kit included:
- Base wool
- Medium weight wool
- Rain Proof Soft Shell
- Patagonia Puff
- Winter Parka
With this kit, I could start the day out cycling with just my base wool and softshell. As I heated up, I could vent the soft shell and regulate my body temperature very easily. Wool is a great insulator, does not stink, and dries out very quickly. At rest stops, when temps were cold and the wind was blowing, I simply threw on my Patagonia Puff to keep in valuable insulation and provide one more layer of wind break.
At camp, I would simply take off my soft shell, add my medium weight wool and throw on my parka. This allowed me to be somewhat comfortable while cooking, and then absolutely toasty in my sleeping bag. By layering up with my clothes, I was able to take a 20 degree bag into 0 degree conditions and sleep very comfortably.
Everyone is different with regards to how they react to cold and heat, so you will need to adjust accordingly. For me, I actually run a bit cold up top and a bit warm down below. So for this trip, I spent most of my time in my cycling knickers, only occasionally adding my wool knickers for added warmth. At camp, I would just throw my insulated pants over everything was good to go. On extremely cold days, the addition of my rain pants over my knickers was all I needed to warm up my lower body.
Lastly, the same was true for my head and my feet. Layering up my feet with sock liners, seal skinz and wool cycling socks was all I needed during the day. At night I would replace the seal skinz with a pair of heavy weight wool socks and my feet were then toasty warm for the night. My head was almost always covered with a Buff and then at camp, breaks or in the hammock, I would add on a beanie for additional warmth.
With this kit, everything had a purpose and nothing was wasted. By layering up, I was able to compensate for changing conditions and still have everything fit in my 3 bag (Seat Bag, Frame Bag, Handle Bar Bag) setup.
Yes, I know, I am always talking about tarps, but I have to say, they are the ultimate shelter for so many different conditions. Where they don't work effectively is in very exposed, high wind areas. Other than that, well, they just work, and you can string them up virtually anywhere. If you are kayaking, you have your paddle to serve as supports on both ends. Cycling, well, use your bike as one anchor and at a minimum, you have a workable setup. Find a stick or take off your front wheel and use it as the other anchor and you are good to go.
So, why am I writing about tarps again, well, I just got my new HMG Hammock Tarp, weighing in at a scant 281g w/lines and my new single line tarp ridge line - Dutch Edition with Dutchware in from Whoopie Slings, weighing in at a shocking 19g, and I am stoked. I have been a huge fan of a single line ridge line for hanging my tarps because it just makes stringing so easy. I have a detailed writeup on how you can add two prusiks and some micro biners and have a quick and easy way to adjust your tarp on the ridgeline. However, my setup was a little bulky and it lacked any elegant way to tie off the line to the two endpoints.
Well enter the new single line from Whoopie Slings, with this incredible Dutch hardware and I now have everything covered. The setup is even lighter than what I had before, is completely self contained, meaning the hardware cannot come off of the ridge line, and it is still fully adjustable not only with the prussiks but also at the end points of the ridgeline. Sweet!! I will post some pictures and a brief video later this week when I get a chance to get outside and test things out.
You can see more about the ridge line here.