PEARL IZUMI X-PROJECT PRO SHOES - $350
I remember when Pearl Izumi debuted their X-Project shoes. They seemed like they had a ton of potential and you could see where they were headed - trying to find a balance between fairly stiff shoes that pedaled well, but allowed you to walk when you got off your bike for whatever reason. They seemed like a proper trail shoe, but svelte enough for a cross race. Well, here we are years later and we've been riding and loving the X-Project Pros. They fit great! We've always struggled to find shoes that fit well, not too cramped, not too floppy. We've slowly become converts of the latest boa system. In the past we were worried about accidentally flipping them open mid-ride, but that was just a fear. So far no issues. The toe bumper is nice, They hike pretty well - the coverage is not as complete as the X-Alp Launch II (our other favorite walkable bikepacking shoe) So, these have become our go-fast trail shoes. When we want to do a long day, we know we may hike a bit, but we're mainly concerned with efficiency and going fast, we grab these. When we know it's going to be more time hiking, scouting around, we grab the X-Alp Launch II. Either way, Pearl has your feet covered. These are great!
REVELATE DESIGNS MAG-TANK - $59
This one is a no-brainer. It's goal in life is to keep snacks at arms length. OK, I suppose you could keep a point & shoot camera, tools or batteries, but really it's goal in life is to keep you fed on the bike - and the one-handed magnetic flip closure guarantees you can feed yourself while rolling along. Why buy Revelate instead of one of the other bag brands? Because they're OG. They were there from the start, defining how we carry gear on our bikes. It's one thing, though to be the originators, but yet another to keep inventing as newer or larger brands start biting your product. Somehow they do keep refining their product and innovating and the Mag Tank is just one example of their evolution. You can still buy the slightly larger, zippered version of this bag - it's called the Gas Tank, but this one is slightly smaller - to stay out of the way of your pedaling legs and it's easier to use. If you got one single bag for any of your bikes - gravel grinder or MTB, this should be a contender. The second would be the Mountain Feedbag, but that's another review. Also I should say that I have yet to break any of my Revelate bags. The attachment is well thought out and they're easy to use. Tip!
NUUN PERFORMANCE HYDRATION - $20 pouch/$24 for 12 sachets
What is Nuun Performance? It's a drink mix. Hydration. You care about this, right? I suppose for me, this is a carry-over from the days when I raced. I experienced some leg seizing cramps on an hot, all day endurance race and since then I've done all I can to not have that happen again. I did some research and realized that to hydrate properly, you don't just drink water - you want some salt, some sugar, some electrolytes in there to help your body absorb. Could you make your own with table salt and fruit juice? Probably, but there's much more going on here. Most of us don't know the exact science behind how our bodies absorb, but Dr. Stacy Sims does. She basically wrote the book on what we know about sport hydration today. She came up with the formulas for OSMO, Skratch, NBS…and Nuun Performance is her most recent project, so with this you're getting the benefit of her continued research. Do you need this product for every ride? Nope, they suggest their tabs for any ride up to 1.5 hours and start adding some carbs to your drink over 1.5 hours, that's where this product comes in. Can you add more mix to suit your metabolism? Yep. They recommend an extra 35 percent for “Ironman or equivalent levels of effort” But don't take my word for it, the next time you plan to ride over 2 hours, give this a shot and see if you don't perform better on the bike. We like that it doesn't taste overly sweet, and the Blueberry-strawberry flavor and Mango flavors are both easy to drink. Highly recommended.
OAKLEY CROSSRANGE PRIZM TRAIL - $180
I've been asking for these for awhile now. I wanted the high-end lenses in the casual frame styles. I know - genius. The Prizm lenses are fantastic. If you haven't tried the trail lenses for mountain biking, I highly recommend you check them out. They help you see the trail and that's half the game in mountain biking - looking for the right line, scanning for obstacles. So now you get the benefits of the high end Prizm lenses in a more casual style. Everyone wants to look like they don't care about performance these days - I mean they still want performance, they just don't want to look like they care. You get the idea. Style with ease. Oh - and the Crossrange come with two different arm styles - let's call the one with rubber gripper on it the sport arms and the ones without the casual arms - you know, for easy on/off action. Thank you Oakley. Just what we wanted!
DANNER GEIER “440” WORK GLOVES - $50
I found these at the Portland Danner store. The tag reads “Elkskin work glove made from tannery run leather. Tough and long-wearing. Since 1927 in Centralia, WA” I'm always on the lookout for well made American product that looks like it could have been made in 1950. Maybe like every other city slicker, I'm a sucker for good workwear. This summer we've been putting in the hours with trail work and I've come to realize that a good pair of gloves makes all the difference. If you put in a couple hours work with a Macleod wearing bad gloves, your hands will hate you. These make me want to do more work. I know nothing about Geier gloves, but a Google search made me realize there are probably boutiques in Tokyo selling these for $150 a pair. What can you say, the Japanese have good taste for well made American workwear. Get a pair. Your hands will thank you.
TRAIL BUTTER - $18 for 3 pack
Trail Butter 2.0 here! Beautiful new packaging and they've tweaked the formulas a bit to be tastier and more user friendlyd. All of the formulas are now peanut free. Maple Syrup & Sea Salt (my favorite flavor) is now vegan. As we've said before, Trail butter is a great snack on its own, as well as being a great format for having nut butter for your morning oatmeal. It's made from real ingredients and packs a whopping 760 calories per pouch. That's a really good calorie to weight ratio. Get some!
SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRALIGHT INSULATED PAD - $130
Let's get the specs out of the way first. Packed size = 4 x 9 inches. Inflated size = 72 x 21.5 x 2 in. Weight = 15.5 oz. This pad strikes a nice balance of packability, added warmth, comfort and durability. I think what I appreciate most compared to another brand's ultralight pad is how you feel stable and comfortable at the same time. I don't feel like if I roll to sleep on my side that I'm going to roll off. I attribute that to the 181 air sprung cells that work like the coils in a traditional mattress. Another trick is that you can perhaps get more warmth if you pair this pad with a lighter weight summer bag. The weight penalty is small here for the added Thermolite insulation. Sea to Summit has been getting rave reviews for these pads, so if you're in the market for a new sleeping bag, give these a serious look. The non-insulated pad is supposed to be quite nice too (and priced at $100) although we can't say since we have yet to try it.
LEATHERMAN JUICE S2 - $65
Did you know Leatherman multi tools are made right here in Portland, Oregon. They are. Everyone should have one, bikepacker or not. I think the most useful tools in the Juice S2 are the pliers (technically the pliers include standard and needle nose pliers as well as standard and hard wire cutters) and the scissors. I mean it's great to have a can opener and bottle opener and a blade and screwdrivers. That's the thing about multi tools, you don't know how you're going to need them until you need them. Basically you're going to have them taking the place of other specialty tools that you can't afford (weight-wise) to bring with you. We think the Juice S2 is the perfect blend of small and lightweight tool that has just enough function without being just a lump in your pack. Essential.
ORANGE SEAL TUBELESS SEALANT - 4 oz. $7/8 oz. $13/16 oz. $20
Does it cost a little more than Stan's? Yes. Does it work better. Yes. We don't need to convince you of the performance benefits of tubeless tires (especially for mountain bikes) It's 2017. The jury has reconvened and it's unanimous. Tubeless is better. So, buy some extra peace of mind. A good sealant is going to take care of those goatheads, those tiny punctures - you could have 50 of them and a good sealant will handle it. You won't even know about it. You'll just keep rolling along, sweating up the climbs and grinning on the descents. We've been loving tubeless for road as well for at least the past nine months. Pick up some Orange Seal. The 4 oz. is going in my pack for the Oregon TImber Trail. Because I trust it. It's that simple.
GOPRO HERO5 SESSION CAMERA - $300
If it happens and you don't get a video clip did it really happen? OK, I'm making fun of our digital lives, but if I'm going to be real, the reason this very site exists and the reason we spend any time on Insta is that we want to share the stoke for what we love to do. The desire to capture an experience and share it with folks we care about is what it's all about. Now that we know why what about the how? Well, simplicity is a good place to start. Unlike an iphone, which takes decent video, the Hero5 Session has one big button and a blinking red light that tells you when it's recording. That's key - especially when you're shooting on the move. That's the other big factor - as they say the best camera is the one you take with you. So, the form factor is very appealing here. It easily fits in a jersey or backpack pocket and it's easy to hand hold. In fact, I haven't found a mount that I like for this, because my pet peeve is shaky cam video. I'd rather watch nothing at all. The other reason GoPro became relevant for me recently, is that it's not all fisheye like it used to be - you can choose a normal view that doesn't distort so heavily. Also, this camera is waterproof, so you can take it tubing, swimming, whatever. The point is that it's so small you'll bring it with you everywhere - and that's where the magic happens - when you didn't plan to shoot at all. 4K video 10 MP photo, voice control, yep…all that. Need a sample? Here's one I did awhile back on a road ride.
It's so fun to make your own edits! I think this would be a nice choice for bikepackers to take on a trip. My only negative with this camera compared to the Hero 5 is the lack of a separate battery. When you run out of juice you're done for the day. Bring a USB cache and a cable and be ready to recharge as you go. Still these cameras are awesome.
NBS GOODNIGHT - $49 & RECOVERY+ - $40
We were thrilled to see NBS release “Goodnight” We first heard of such a product when we visited Stacy Sims at OSMO years ago. It was an experimental product that they never took to market. The complaint was that athletes didn't like the taste of the valerian. So, years later Breakthrough Nutrition has partnered with Stacy and you can now buy the updated 2017 version. The idea is that you'll blend up a smoothie with this mix and you'll both have a deeper sleep and get the benefit of the protein in the mix. This is one of those products that if you're doing a hard 4-day bikepack or a mountain bike stage race, taking this at night could give you that rest and recovery that will make a difference the next day. We're very excited about this product and plan to use it on the Timber Trail. Recovery Plus is a recovery drink mix that you can mix up with water. I think this will be particularly interesting for bikepackers who don't carry a vitamix or almond milk in their kit (everyone). Recovery plus rapidly restores glycogen and uses a 2:1 ratio of carb to protein. Give your body the amino acids it needs for protein synthesis after a hard workout or long day on the bike. We're thrilled products like this exist. We like what NBS is doing here! Take it with you on your next adventure and see how much better you feel on day 2, 3, and 4.
SHIMANO ME7 SHOES - $200
The ME7 shoes are billed as Shimano's top of the line “enduro” shoes. But the thing that's appealing and the thing that applies to bikepacking is the full Michelin rubber sole with chunky lugs inspired by downhill tires. I'm not talking about little patches of rubber covering select parts of a carbon sole - I'm talking full coverage. Thank you! The shoes are stiff enough and pedal well. My only complaint is that the upper is less refined than my favorite XC90 shoes - meaning they don't fit as well or as snugly. For some reason this model is only offered in full sizes, meaning I normally wear a 43.5 so for these I sized up to a 44 and wear thicker socks. Seriously. So, my request to Shimano is still - split the difference. Give me an upper that fits like the XC90 with a full chunky Michelin sole like the ME7. I like the ratchet closure. The speed laces work well. The lace covers work well to keep the grime out. The shoe is nicely ventilated over the toes. The neoprene over the heel is designed to keep junk out and it does just that. So, based on comfort and good sole grip I think anyone that splits their time between trail riding and bikepacking should put these on their short list. Another win for Shimano.
LEZYNE DIGITAL PRESSURE DRIVE - $75
Lezyne pumps are excellent. We're sold on their ABS flex hose. The flex hose lives inside the pump until you need to pump at which point you remove the hose and screw it to one end of the pump. The other end of the flex hose screws on to your tube's valve. The hose makes it so you can get busy pumping and not worry about breaking a valve stem. If you've done it, then you know how maddening that can be. So this model is essentially their high volume pressure drive, with a digital gauge. If you're like me, you have very specific tire pressures that you know and trust. Having to squeeze your tires to guess how much air you have in your tire makes you nervous. I count on proper tire pressure to make sure I have enough air to not damage my wheels and little enough so I get good grip in various conditions. So, knowing I'm at the right pressure is peace of mind. If you don't care, go for their Pressure Drive. Same rock solid pump without the digi gauge.
ROCKY MOUNTS WARRANT LOCK - $60
You have nice bikes. You sometimes ride those bikes to places where you need to leave your nice bike and you appreciate it your bike being there when you return. So you already understand the need for a good U-Lock. Rocky Mounts is a Boulder-based maker of racks and locks. Rocky Mounts hit a nice balance with the Warrant. Rocky gives the Warrant an 8 out of 10 on their security scale (don't ask me how the came up with that scale) 10 being a lock you'd use if you had to leave your bike overnight. So, you should feel confident using the Warrant on your nice bike while you eat dinner or get groceries. The size is good. It's roughly the same size as the pocket sized Kryptonite Evolution that has become standard. What this lock does well over the Kryptonite is the silicon overmolding which will protect your prized frame and it just looks burly. If I was a bike thief, I wouldn't take the time with this lock. The lock weighs 2 lbs. 7 oz. which is about 8 oz. more than the Krypto. I'd say it's worth it.