My gear list for the Colorado Colossal trip was a slightly slimmed down version of the gear list I’ve developed over the years on other bikepacking trips. Every trip I do produces a gear list that is slightly different than the trip before. I’ve found that I have a foundation of items that are usually taken on every trip; certain foods, safety gear, cooking items and sleep system. The final additions are the extra items necessary to make that specific trip possible/better. These items are based on riding type, terrain, season, longevity, weather, planning, foreseeable issues, partners, etc. Previous experiences or newly gained skills/techniques can also play a part in the variation of gear needs from trip to trip.
When planning out my gear I like to ask myself several questions to decide if I need it or not:
Will I really use this?
It seems like a straightforward thought but I think many of us get used to always bringing something that we “figure I’ll probably use it at some point”, when in reality the chance of using it is incredibly slim. An example of this could be a backup stove. Could you just make a fire to cook with instead? Could you just ride further to get food if your stove did die and fire wasn’t possible? Do you just need to buy a new stove you can count on?
Does the item have more than one use?
This is a good question to cut down on the stuff that rarely gets used. It forces your to find ways to combine uses so you aren’t carrying something that only gets used once. For example, I took a pair of cheap waterproof pants from REI and had them sewn into 3/4-length pants. I use them in and around camp, and also for rainy days or cold mornings when first getting started. It is one gear item with multiple uses. Another example might be to consider your rain jacket also to be an additional insulation layer, and skip bringing some other layering item.
Can I plan better so that I don’t need to bring it in the first place?
For example, could I just plan out my stops and food grabs better so that I don’t even need a stove on this trip? Or if the weather really was that bad couldn’t I just stop and make/take shelter instead of continuing to ride in it? Such planning might mean not taking along an insulated jacket, thick wool beanie, extra drivetrain parts, etc?
These guiding questions usually get me down to my essential gear. I like bringing gear that is practical, reliable and durable. Those factors come before worrying about weight. We live in such great times now incredible gear, much of which is reliable, durable AND lightweight. I want to be minimalist but I don’t want to be stupid. I like to plan for almost the worst and hope for the best.
I highly recommend making sure you have everything you need at least a month before your trip. Take opportunities to get it all together, pack it up, unpack it, and then review your list again. I usually end up doing this three or four times prior to a trip and this process helps me find redundant items or things I just don’t need.
With these guiding principles I was able to bring exactly what I needed for the Colorado Colossal Road Bikepacking trip and nothing more. That was incredibly satisfying and made the trip that much better because I didn’t have to think about what I was missing while riding, or about the heft of stuff that I never ended up using.
The Colorado Colossal trip was also the best experience I’ve had with electronics so far. My goal after doing the Tour Divide several years ago was to reduce the amount of E-crap and take along a better backup power source. With the advent of so many things charging off of USB it’s made this a lot easier to achieve. On the Colossal trip I carried an iPhone, Garmin 800, Princeton Tec EOS light, Fenix PD32 Ultimate flashlight, Sony RX100 M2 camera, 18650 charger, and then all the associated charging cords. This kit ended up being much smaller than my Tour Divide kit because I only needed one USB wall charger and three different power cords. This packed up much easier than multiple adapters or battery charging docks.
A major selling point to me of the Sony RX100 M2 camera is its ability to charge off USB unlike my older Olympus EPL-2 (it also takes amazing pictures). I also picked up a Fenix flashlight for night riding (or camp light) that runs off of 18650 batteries. This led me to finding a sweet little charger to charge the batteries or charge something off the 18650 batteries. Now I can carry around just one type of battery (3x 18650 batteries on this trip) to run my Fenix flashlight or to charge camera and phone while deep in the woods. This also allows me to charge my Garmin 800 whenever I need to; even while riding. I found this new electronics kit to be half the weight and probably around 1/3 the size of my Tour Divide version.
I have picked up a Big Agnes sleeping pad since the trip to replace my old leaking Peak Elite AC. The Peak Elite AC served me well but I should have replaced it years ago. I typically bring Crocs on my trips but didn’t this time. I thought that might make uncomfortable in camp but I didn’t really notice it at all. I think as long as my riding shoes don’t get soaked or muddy before stopping it was fine not having camp shoes.
Colorado Colossal Bikepacking Gear List
Salsa Colossal Ti 60cm
Homemade alcohol stove, double-wall
Alcohol for fuel
Salsa Titanium spork
.7 Liter Titanium pot
Scotch-Brite cleaning pad
AquaMira water purification drops
Garmin Edge 800 GPS
24 oz water bottles (x2)
Salsa bib shorts
Salsa cycling cap
Oakley Jawbone sunglasses
Pearl Izumi arm warmers
Pearl Izumi gloves
Shimano mountain shoes
Twin Six nylon jacket
Homemade 3/4-length rain pants
Topeak mini pump
Leatherman Juice mini tool
Crank Brothers multi tool
Canister of sealant
18650 batteries (x3) with charger & cord
Stuff sack for electronics
Personal hygiene kit
Overall, I was really happy with my gear on the trip. It did its job and then disappeared until I needed it. The best gear out there is the gear that does its job and allows you to focus on the reasons you are on the adventure in the first place. The only thing to do now is plan out that next adventure; Trans-North Georgia? Kiwi Brevet? Oregon Outback? Oregon Three Rivers? The Alexander?
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Sean 'Mailman' Mailen
I was born and raised in the hills of Tennessee. I decided in high school I wanted to design the best bikes and parts possible; I’ve been following my dream ever since. I love about every possible mode of cycling, mountain biking is the most fun, but if I’m on two wheels I’m happy.