It's the 'Welsh Ride Thing' this weekend. This blog entry (EDIT for reference - this was written before the event) is solely about kit set up, with a note that this weekend is really only a tester for some much bigger future plans, and thus, 'kit heavy' for what is essentially just a few days in the hills. In addition, the weather has been horrendously cold for April, with bitter Northerlies bringing snow on and off all week, so extra clothing and extra sleeping materials, have become a necessity.
Firstly then, the bike. I'm on the 29er full suss. A wonderful long distance machine, but not designed in any way, to carry luggage. Therefore some modifications have been required. The dropper post has been exchanged for a rigid Thompson seat post, and the rear shock blown up to 200 psi. There is a little movement left in the shock, but in reality the bike performs like a hardtail. This allows the seat post-clamped rack to be added without the worry of the back wheel hitting it. The clamp unfortunately has to sit higher up the post than I would like, or my heels catch the panniers when I pedal. Yes, that means the entire luggage weight is focused around that one pivot point. Hey ho, it is what it is. If the frame or seat post crack, then live and learn. The panniers have been kindly provided by a friend. They are just basic commuter panniers, thus kit is loaded within dry bags. The dry bag on the top holds dry clothes and my new additional sleeping bag (see below). There is no bar bag for a reason, I just hate stuff on the front, however, this does mean the bike is very tail heavy. There is very little in the rucksack, 2 litres of water, more food, my Paramo coat, one sleep mat and the camera, the rest of the weight is on the bike.
So, sleeping bags. The tiny orange one is the OMM 1.6, the large grey one is an Alpkit Ghost. I can cope with the OMM down to around 5 degrees, but any lower and it'll be a very cold night. With the weather being as it has over the last week, the Ghost was panic brought Wednesday evening with uplifted postage and sure enough, Alpkit delivered this morning (Friday) as promised. Top notch service and I am most grateful for it. The limit temp of the Ghost is only -0.8 degrees, but that's still a vast improvement on the OMM alone, and, both together they will provide a super snug night for less weight than that of an average 3 season synthetic bag. It's also easier to pack two separate small bags than one large one. I will only ever use synthetic bags, not just because of the ethics involved in down production, but also because the UK is a rather wet place, and I suspect a down bag would last very little time before becoming soaked.
Brake pads. These two brand new sets were fitted and a spare set is packed in the tool bag. Welsh grit eats composite pads, especially on a fully laden bike.
There are no plans for massive through the night mileage, thus I am taking the little Magicshine MJ890 again. Fully charged it should be enough bar light for the whole weekend, and I have plenty of back up light too.
GPS unit is the ever-faithful Garmin Etrex 30. Runs on universally available AA batteries and is bomb proof. Route is loaded up (more details on route planning for this event will follow).
Obvious stuff so easily forgotten - credit cards, cash, painkillers and waterproof pouch. Money and cards carried in various pockets to spread the risk of loss.
Waterproof smartphone, fully charged, protective covers and clip for this clumsy owner who has yet to have a phone survive the life of the contract.
Heavy stuff in water bottle on the bike to lower the weight and keep it off my back. CO2 cartridges, spare AAs, spare Leyzne helmet light battery, emergency whistle, tyre levers, multitool.
Pencil. Sometimes you just have to right down the thoughts before they are forgotten.
Spare tube. I know it's a risk to only take one, but the 29er is tubeless so it would have to be pretty catastrophic to need two. The Leyzne pump I hate as it always unscrews valve cores (but I haven't replaced it through laziness). Tiny lock to stop casual walk-offs. Two tiny good luck charms (long story)
Ever faithful and loved Deuter back pack with rain cover and a new source bladder. The bladder is the best I have ever used, easy fill, detachable drink tube, lockable mouth valve, and all for a great price.
Ex army radio pouch on rucksack pack.....for the camera. Fabulous to have it in easy reach, means I can take photos without stopping. The camera is an Olympus TG-4. I can't recommend enough, waterproof, tough, not that heavy and with great manual and automatic settings.
Still running my old Fox Flux helmet, due to laziness regarding change over of the Leyzne mount, but it's a great helmet anyway, even if massively overdue for replacement. The Lezyne Superdrive XL is one of my top 5 favourite bits of kit. Simple, very bright, internal battery, easy to fit the spare battery, and reasonable run time. It's bright enough to ride off road on it's own, so acts as a back up to any bar light, and, for this trip with hopefully limited nightriding, it should be more than enough.
Used, abused and now deeply loved - FiveTen resoled winter boots. More detail in a blog entry here
8 year old winter gloves. Just a cheap Halfords set from a long time ago, but they are so warm, I adore them. It will be a sad day when these finally wear out. I only use them on long distance rides now so they last as long as possible.
Cheap Mountain Warehouse softshell with a hood. Bargain, £30 job, but it's actually pretty comfy to ride in, and has invaluable zipped pockets. It's not the lightest, but the wallet isn't an infinite money pit either. Note: this isn't my main coat to survive a blizzard (see below) but as far as softshells go it really does tick the 'warm when wet' box.
Mini-tool bag. Oasis purification tablets so I can drink out of muddy puddles in desperation. Compass (my riding buddy will have maps, and I have a reasonable knowledge of Snowdonia, so as long as I can follow a direction I'll get us to a road in the event of an emergency). Zip ties. Tubeless repair kit including mini knife. Mini leatherman with another knife, and, more importantly, pliers, to tighten valve cores before I use that stupid Leyzne pump that always unscrews them. Spare brake pads. Mini roll of duct tape, Super patches. Magic links for 9, 10 and 11 spd (I am 10 spd on the 29er, but leave the others in so I don't forget them if riding a different bike, and to be able to spread good karma if I need to help out another rider. Shim. Mini crystal (long story, it's traveled a long way). More painkillers (Aspirin to give to someone if 999 says so, and for me if I am having a bad time of it). Tyre boots. Spare £20 emergency fund. More duct tape. Spare cleat bolt - I'm on flats on the MTB, but I have had two occasions where one of these was needed, and I leave it in, again, for good karma if I can help out. Another chain link.
Magic menstruation prevention with the instructions torn out of the info sheet. Unfortunately will need this. I'm typing this at 8 am on the Saturday and, yes, my period has just decided to turn up. Two days early. Bastids. 22 feckin days since the last one.
Last minute making of toothpaste dots. They dry well on a radiator.
Oh the luxuries! Well the mascara and toothbrush are essentials. The hair stuff and soap, not so much for 2 days in Wales, but I will need to carry them on a longer tour and thus wanted to assess packing and weight. They are my normal brands, but decanted into empty free bottles collected from hotels when I am away with work. I've noticed this bike packing thing has made any tiny container appear attractive!
It's Wales. If that Northerly stops and it warms up significantly, we are likely to get bitten to death. It's unlikely the sun cream will be used. I was going to leave it behind. I still might.
Why, it's a small fold down travel cup! To allow me to make tea out of the jet boil, and thus have food and warm drinks on the go at the same time.
Perefection in a mini-stove. The genius that is a Jetboil.
Even the coffee press fits in nicely.
A tiny lightweight Alpkit headtorch. Last minute buy, but I suspect it'll become an essential. Pretty bright and runs on a single AA battery, of which I carry spares for the GPS unit. The tiny white dot is actually a little LED red light for running, but it will also work in an emergency of my bike red light failing.
Caffeine....coffee, tea (Yorkshire, Earl Grey and Lapsang) and powdered soya milk. The powered stuff is a bit like coffee mate. It doesn't dissolve too well, but tastes good and it'll get me through. Better than nothing.
Emergency dry food rations. Couscous, packet soup for morale, oats for 2 x breakfast, Nakd treats. I'll also buy proper fresh food from shops/cafes and have a pocket full of sweets.
G33K kit item #345 - folding composite spoon weighing just 9.5 g
Phone (and Lezyne headlight) charger. You never know when you might find a socket.
Stupidly light Sawyer water filter. Free water - or at least 100 000 gallons of it. Taking the cleaning plunger too, as I will need it on longer journeys.
Loo roll and tampons. Because of the inevitable.
Alpkit bivvy bag. Cheap as chips and works perfectly.
3Trees parachute fabric inner liner for the OMM. Adds a degree or so to the rating and is lovely and soft next to my skin.
Spare gas (there is a lot of tea to be drunk)
3Trees microtarp. Guide rope. Alpkit titanium superlight pegs. I hope we aren't sleeping on stone, that's all I can say about that.....
Leg warmers in a plastic bag
2 x sleeping mats. One very expensive Thermarest neolight. Weighs nothing, but my feet couldn't cope with hanging off the end of this 3/4 mat at this time of year. Alpkit Lumo - longer, comfier, not as warm, but as easy to blow up. With the weather being like it is, I am planning on using both. The Thermarest below for the extra insulation and the Lumo to sleep on in comfort.
Mini-bungees to secure dry bags. Pittance from Mountain Warehouse.
Gaiters. Urgh. Last minute decision as the rain is supposed to be torrential at times and my boots stay wet if the water gets in.
Spare warm gloves.
The last third of a book (no point in taking pages I've read)
Paramo winter waterproof jacket as a spare layer to sleep in but also for hillside mechanicals in bad weather. The perfect coat, warm, waterproof, large enough to put over several layers, drys exceptionally quickly. Expensive and unlikely to be crash resistant, hence I only wear it when it is really needed.
Spare riding clothes
Sleeping clothes that double up as riding clothes for the last day if the weather turns out to be as bad as the forecast predicts.
Ready to pack into panniers
The seat post rack - got it ages ago from a bike jumble for a fiver. Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn't move around much at all.
Post ride edit - as a note, at the bike weigh in on the Saturday, the bike, panniers and rucksack with water and food weighed 59.5 lb in total, and, as will be detailed in the upcoming ride blog, it was pretty much a perfect set up. Incredibly manageable for climbing. There was nothing I wouldn't take again. I would, however, add a little bottle of chain lube. When I can afford it, I would like to exchange the microtarp for a larger shelter like a 'Gatewood Cape', to allow me to sit upright and cook. Plus, dare I mention an N+1, but I am now looking for a suitable hardtail frame which will take the componentry off the 29er. For over a year I have been planning on getting a Shand Stoater, however, the WRT has made me realise that it is likely to spend as much of my time on off-road steep terrain as on gravel and tarmac. A mountain bike is really the way forward for touring/bike+bivvy. So maybe a custom steel 29er is the way to go.................?