Packing Winter Gear AndrewM
Editorial

What To Pack: Winter Edition

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Oct 18, 2017

Packing

I was on a creeker* ride with fellow opinionated bike nerd James Wilson (of Obsession: Bikes) and he listened politely as I waxed about the virtues of mountain biking unencumbered by a backpack. It was  before fanny packs made their comeback but between my seat bag, jersey pockets, pump straps and water bottle I figured I had it all sorted. 

James blasts his bike into a steep techy climb and as soon as he can hear me sucking hard for air he lays down his counter punch. "I like my pack" he says "shoes, helmet, bike, pack - I keep it all ready to go and I can be off riding at a moment's notice when the opportunity presents itself". 

Packing Winter Gear AndrewM

I'm talking about all the gear in my pack that isn't in my tool roll. To check out my out-there-bike-repair setup check here

As my life has gotten busier the number of rides I've done sans pack have decreased significantly. There were maybe one or two short ones in 2017. These days I keep my pack watered up and fully stocked to go when opportunity knocks. My lights are charged, my shoes are warm on the PEET dryer, a dry helmet is in the cue and I always have at least one bike that I know is aired up and confirmed tight.  

*As famous as the North Shore is for the three local mountains - Seymour, Fromme and Cypress - there is also an abundance of suburban trails, both gravel and single track, often focused around waterways (creeks) which are great for getting the heart rate up and sweat on - particularly when snow prevents riding at higher elevations. 

Night Rides

This is the time of year when our local SAR is reminding folks to carry a light (not just your cellphone) because so many trail users get caught out at sundown. A crash, flat tire or other mechanical can force an uncomfortable night in the forest. 

I ride at dawn, dusk and the hours on either side so I always have a Petzl lamp sitting in the bottom of my pack. I change the battery and test it every year in September. I have needed it a few times. 

Packing Winter Gear AndrewM

A basic hike-out headlamp costs less than $50 and weighs under 100 grams. Mine goes unnoticed all year in the bottom of my pack. I prefer a basic AAA battery model and swap the batteries yearly - or after a use - into a less important household electronic device. 

This winter I've added Bontrager's Ion 800 R headlamp to my pack 24-7. It doesn't pump the same output as the NiteRider systems I use for dark & dank North Shore nights but its 800 lumens for 1.5 hrs are totally usable for most trail riding, especially combined with a bar mounted light. The Ion series uses GoPro standard mounts and I have a couple of helmets that use a tool-free and strap-free GoPro mounting clip. The trick is just remember to mount the Bontrager lamp on the proper mount for the helmet I'm wearing. 

When I have juice left in my legs the US$100 800 lumen light is great for riding a lap of the lower trails on my local mountains or for the spin home after an almost-night ride. 

Packing Winter Gear AndrewM

I'll have a more in-depth look at the compact 800 R in the near future. I've been using it as a stand alone light and in conjunction with a NiteRider system on my bar and as a back-up plan when I have both my big lights out. I've crashed my lights out of commission a few times over the years so this seems like a great keep-riding plan to me. 

When the going gets tough...

...the tough get Goretex. Perhaps the dorkiest looking kit I own is also one of my oldest pieces. My Gore Bike Wear cycling cap gets pretty gross pretty fast when I'm pedaling hard but on a truly torrential wet-and-cold day it's like my own rainbow rimmed box of sunshine. 

I never start a ride wearing it but if I start getting the shivers I pop it on my head and life is suddenly better. It's my never-be-the-wet-weather-whiner on a ride secret weapon. 

Packing Winter Gear AndrewM

Mmmmm... spare gloves. These Dakine Impact gloves live in my pack year round and make an appearance on every really wet - sweaty or rainy - ride I go on. My ancient Gore Bike Wear hat moves into their neighbourhood in the winter. 

I also always pack a super light windbreaker of the stuffs-into-its-own-pocket variety. I've worn this Dakine Breaker at least as many times to the coffee shop as on the trail but either way it's a handy piece to have when I need it and at under 60 grams it is not a bother to carry. 

The Breaker is soaked in a minute of heavy rain but in a surprise drizzle it's definitely better than nothing. On a colder than expected rainy ride I'll put it on under my rain shell and it's great for helping to trap body heat. Most importantly it can be a wee bit nipply sitting outside my favorite institutions after a ride. 

Packing Winter Gear AndrewM

What weights sub-60 grams and stuffs into its own chest pocket? A bunch of super light shells on the market that can be the difference between tears and cheers. I've washed this Dakine Drifter a ton of times and eaten sh*t in it a few and it's still in good shape. 

I always carry a heat reflecting 'space' blanket. It's been in my pack since the days when they cost $1 and in such rough shape I am too embarrassed to share the photo. A good reminder that I have been planning to buy the bivy version for a couple of seasons. Maybe a two-person bivy for those sweaty post-crash trail side snuggles. 

Trails for All; Trails for Weather

The other thing I pack with me for winter riding is knowledge of the local trails that are designed, built and maintained to handle traffic in the rain. If I have any doubts it is really easy to contact the local trail association where I'll be riding for advice. 

For my local go-to wet weather ride I have a "have-at-'er" from the builder of a well armored trail with excellent drainage (7th Secret etc. - thanks Pete!). I also recommend this write-up by TORCA's Steve Sheldon as an excellent resource for winter shredding with a low-Karma hit. 

Packing Winter Gear AndrewM

Water, tools, gear and batteries at night. My bag isn't light by any metric but my Mission/Acre pack rides well with a load and has proven durable and weather-proof after years of heavy use. 

What's missing? Anyone throw an electric hand warmer in their pack for those times the hands freeze up to the point of refusing to cooperate? How much extra good do you carry in the winter?

Obviously riding off-season in a rain forest is a lot different then in the freezing cold and gear needs will vary greatly but I know there are some great universal products and tips out there. 

 

Comments

cooperquinn
+8
Cooper Quinn  - Oct. 17, 2017, 10:17 p.m.

A bit of extra food and some fast sugar. its amazing how many more calories your body burns though when its wet and cold out - and how much faster you can suddenly find yourself bonking out on rides that wouldn't normally be an issue. 

Also. A flask. Full of....well.... what goes in a flask. Its like a sweater on the inside.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Oct. 17, 2017, 10:51 p.m.

Ack... it was under my tool roll - beautiful reminder!

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+5
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 18, 2017, 7:07 a.m.

flaskfriday is every day for rides between October and May.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+3
Andrew Major  - Oct. 18, 2017, 11:22 a.m.

Every day ending in Y during every month ending in ‘er’ or ‘ary’?

Seems like a good rule.

Reply

Timmigrant
+3
Tim Coleman  - Oct. 18, 2017, 10:43 p.m.

Is Pete new around here? Only October to May? I'm so confused.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 20, 2017, 7:28 a.m.

Summer whiskey can get a little warm. That's when it could be beer time.

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jt
0
JT  - Oct. 18, 2017, 7:30 a.m.

Great call on the Gore hat. Gotta add that to my bag. For the spare gloves I keep a set of waterproof gloves, SealSkinz and Gore being the biggies, but I found a set from Carhartt that have been life/hand savers. A bit much in the 50's/10's but well worth it when it dips cooler.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 18, 2017, 11:23 a.m.

I still haven’t found winter gloves I love. I have some soft shell Gore gloves that take the place of my Dakines when the temp drops below 5c.

Gore hat. Seriously a ride saver.

Reply

craw
+2
Cr4w  - Oct. 18, 2017, 8:05 a.m.

First aid stuff. On shorter rides I'll go minimal: just a triangle bandage and tensor. For longer rides I'll bring one of those small premade kits and a SAM splint (bulky but very light). 

Winter rides will often get a fresh base layer and spare gloves.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 18, 2017, 11:24 a.m.

I’ve got a tube, tape, a Leatherman and all the sticks in the forest - sell me on carrying a splint?

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craw
+1
Cr4w  - Oct. 18, 2017, 1:42 p.m.

The triangle bandage is incredibly versatile for flesh wounds and the tensor is good for locking down a damaged joint. Though strangely those bandages are only available at MEC. Shoppers doesn’t deign to carry such things.

The splint is mouldable so perfect for an elbow, hand, wrist or ankle injury. Shape it to fit and secure it with the tensor. On further consideration it is a bit overkill. I’d definitely add a tensor which can comfortably manage a huge range of injuries.

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Mikebragg
0
Mike Bragg  - Oct. 21, 2017, 5:20 a.m.

Sticks are great in a straight line, the SAM splint can be fashioned into a pretty nifty collar if needed.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 21, 2017, 7:51 a.m.

Thanks Mike, I didn’t consider that.

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cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Oct. 18, 2017, 1:16 p.m.

Yes, good point. And I think I actually gave Mr. Major flak on an earlier piece for not mentioning that. 

So someone should give me a hard time this time.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Oct. 18, 2017, 10:43 a.m.

At some event or other Maxxis was giving out a plastic envelope with a multi-sealed roll top to keep your phone dry and it's amazing. A small portable charger is worthwhile as well. Your phone can be your ticket out when things go sideways.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 18, 2017, 11:31 a.m.

I was eyeing a little portable charger but there was no info on how long it would hold a charge just sitting in my pack. 

I’m bad for remembering to charge anything I don’t regularly use - hence my hiking light using AAA Batteries - and it would probably be dead when I actually needed to charge something?

Reply

craw
+1
Cr4w  - Oct. 18, 2017, 6:29 p.m.

It's worth getting a decent waterproof case. I got one from Catalyst that fits my Iphone 6+ without being too bulky. I found the Lifeproof a hassle to use and it offers very limited crush/crash protection - also a huge hassle if you want to switch cases often. The Catalyst is burly without being too too big and is relatively easy to get your phone in/out. You can also use a standard Apple aux cable with it. It's supposedly submersible - I've never tested this but it's proven totally adequate to handle winter riding and evaporation/condensation while in my pocket.

It's also worth getting some Nanotips for your gloves - paint this stuff on your thumb and index finger and you can easily operate your phone's touchscreen. Totally works.

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morgman
0
Morgan Taylor  - Oct. 19, 2017, 8:12 a.m.

Going one step further than the phone case, I often have a small dry bag to hold other electronics like my camera, satellite communicator, and spare battery.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 19, 2017, 8:23 a.m.

The challenge with my cellphone is accessibility. If I really need it it’s nice to have it in reach... at the same time I don’t want to smash it or drown it. Cases/methods that protect it from the latter make the former a challenge.

Reply

TU
0
TU  - Nov. 2, 2017, 9:10 p.m.

Looks like a great pack.  I like the wide band at the bottom of the pack.  Will it allow more weight to be carried on the hips instead of the lower back?  Also, I'd like to know what size you'd recommend, 10L or 14L?  Thanks.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 2, 2017, 10:02 p.m.

Hi Tu,

I use the 10L and have only very, very rarely wanted for more space. It can just barely carry a full bladder, everything shown here AND my 4/3 camera. 

It's as weather proof as anything on the market - I do carry my 4/3 camera in an additional dry bag - and supremely comfortable. 

My pack shown here has taken an endless sh*t kicking for years and though it looks a bit rough up close (dirt in all the seams, some obvious wear areas, perma-sweat stains and etc) and it still works as good as the day I got it (a gift from my awesome wife). 

I actually have a second one (decadent I know) that has seen less duty but having a second set of gear (jacket, helmet, shoes, pack, etc) is my favourite luxury after good beer.

I will warn you that in the hottest summer days that pack does not breath as well as others I have tried (like the new Camelbak Mule). That said, I've ridden with it in Moab and Sedona and wouldn't have traded it for anything else - it's simply that comfy. 

Hope that helps!

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Oct. 18, 2017, 11:20 a.m.

PEET dryer is now on my Xmas list. Cheers.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Oct. 18, 2017, 11:27 a.m.

It was life changing and I think every adult going out in the rain should have one. I use the passive drying model (no fan). Draws about as much power as a lightbulb and dries and of my shoes overnight.

Also noticed it cuts way down on the smell of cycling shoes if I throw them on after a ride (wet from rain or sweat).

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morgman
+6
Morgan Taylor  - Oct. 18, 2017, 12:21 p.m.

I tend to do this year round, but I do like to pack a completely separate insulating layer (Arc'teryx Atom or similar) in case I actually find myself injured and in need of extrication. A wool jersey and a GoreTex jacket may be fine for riding in the rain, but stop moving for any amount of time and the cold takes over quickly.

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Endur-Bro
+1
Endur-Bro  - Oct. 18, 2017, 5:22 p.m.

Patagucci Down sweater and 7mesh Revi jacket get packed is a stuff sack along with an extra top. Giro winter merino socks on the feet. Space blanket and a Lit My Fire spark stick. Headlamp as well. High sugar foods. Might even let someone know I’ve wandered into the woods. Silky saw for cutting out windfall. Maybe a toque, eh?

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AndrewMajor
+2
Andrew Major  - Oct. 18, 2017, 6:07 p.m.

I was given a new Silky last Christmas (to replace my old folder) but I tend to only carry it after wind events and first rides on trails that are best left alone for the winter. It’s pretty light so maybe I’m overthinking things by min-maxing when I carry it.

Re. Fire starter I used to carry waterproof matches but now have a butane lighter in my tool roll. I do often wonder about whether I could start a fire on the saturated Shore any time I’d really need one.

Will definitely consider adding a mid-layer. I generally ride on a long sleeve merino baselayer and H20 proof shell but you and Morgan are right to point out that’s not great if not moving.

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morgman
0
Morgan Taylor  - Oct. 19, 2017, 8:16 a.m.

Fortunately the waterproof Porcelain Rocket 52hz framebag from Stephanie's Wednesday also fits my XL Blizzard. I don't know if my well-loved ACRE pack will be making too many appearances this winter, except possibly to carry my big camera and extra water.

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Endur-Bro
+1
Endur-Bro  - Oct. 21, 2017, 4:34 p.m.

I don't carry the saw too often, (the Pocketbook would be the hype though) but I figure if I'm out alone and I'm dismounting to get over a downed greasy log I should cut it out.  Especially now that I've seen the result of windfall from seasons past that has little sticks piled up on each side to make it m0ar rideable.  I blame strava for that. 

Dryer lint, Dorritos, some of those weird Fire Starter packs all could work. 

I couldn't believe how cold I was last weekend while out for a ride.  I doubled back to the truck to get my down jacket and throw the long sleeve merino on for the climb.

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