Hello again and thanks for taking the time to stop by, I hope you find these blogs helpful in some way.
I'm frequently asked about what kit I use and originally I was going to include my entire bikepacking kit in one blog, but that would read like a novel so, I've broken it down into three parts.
Part 1- Bikepacking bags (tap link to read)
Part 2- Sleep System(s)
Part 3- Cooking & Accessories (coming soon)
Discovery through trial and error has been my go to for many years now, alongside umpteen nights of research and endless rabbit holes. I've invested in some ultralight pieces of kit that pack pretty small, but there's still a few pieces I'd like to 'upgrade' over time. In the essence of sustainability, I can wait until I need to but I thought it would be helpful to add them.
To bivvy or not to bivvy, that is the question.
Personally, I love using a bivvy bag. I adore feeling the elements on my face, the sheer simplicity of it and how lightweight it is. However, being from Scotland, a tent can sometimes be the most favourable option, I'm referring to the extremely cold and changeable weather as well as the midges, if you know, you know. My bivvy bag isn't the lightest on the market at 360g but, it's pretty durable, waterproof (Hydrostatic head is 10,000mm) and a tarp addition complements it well.
Hunka bivvy bag by Alpkit
'Rig' Tarp by Alpkit
3X3 tarp by DD Hammocks
Bikepacking tarp by DD Hammocks
Having a tent has its perks and I've grown to use them more often. When I'm on multi day trips I feel a lot more secure with the knowledge that I'll be quickly covered (literally) in any weather. As a solo female rider, the privacy and security a tent offers is also pretty cool and again it means I can hide from the midges and don't wake up with a midge net stuck to my face 😅.
Sierra Designs- High side. I had this tent for a very, short time. In fact, I only used it once. Whilst I loved the design, weight and packability, the 'awning' side is on the right and, I have a dodgy clavicle which meant facing the tent wall rather than the view. I quickly sold it and got the Soloist. Have a look at the link for specific details, from memory it was lighter than the Soloist, more expensive but wasn't freestanding.
Alpkit Soloist. I love this tent. Its pretty robust and seems to have passed the scottish weather beating test. The hydrostatic head rating on it is pretty good, I'd say its been suitably scottish proof.
Can sit up inside
HH 3000 (outer) & 5000 (ground sheet)
Tent wish list
If you have any experience of these please feel free to get in touch. I need to do a little more research before I commit to one.
I also have this travel hammock, which I'd love to use more but I think I'd need an underquilt too as I tend to find them quite cold to use all year round.
Also, here's a blog regarding Hydrostatic head (HH) ratings, I never purchase anything 'waterproof' without looking at the rating. I hope it's useful to those who want a bit more information.
I've probably spent more money than I'd like to admit on sleep mats. I started with a foam mat and then wanted something that packed down more so, I started to look at inflatable ones. My first inflatable one was by Alpkit (Numo) and I adored it sadly, I still felt the cold so I wanted something that was insulated. The Numo is no longer available but the Cloud would be the most similar from Alpkit and fairly inexpensive.
Once I treated myself to an insulated mat there was no turning back. This is also where my deposit for a house went. I do swear by Thermarest mats though, a good nights sleep is worth the investment.
I made a bit of an error buying the first mat and opted for the Thermarest Xtherm... the R value is 7.3 and, I hadn't realised how bulky it would be for my every day set up but I'm grateful I have it during those colder months and also use it for work on walking/canoeing expeditions.
My advice would be to utilise the Thermarest website if that's the brand you'd like to use and pay particular attention to the sizes. If you are petite enough you may get away with using a small one rather than regular. They also have blogs helping you choose the right product, their repair scheme is also excellent. I had a valve fail on a sleep mat and they sent a new one straight away.
I use the NeoAir XLite frequently (yellow one), the R value is 4.5 which I feel is pretty good for most of the year and, I'm a cold sleeper. The old crisp packet sound issue must be a thing of the past as it's pretty quiet. A friend bought the Sea to Summit version and let's just say there was tension between us the next day 😆.
The NeoAir Uberlite is unbelievably tiny. It weights 250g and the R value is 2.3 which, is still pretty good for most of the year. I do have to use a thermal liner when it gets colder so, perhaps I lose the size benefit but they both pack down small .
Sleeping bags & quilts
This Thermarest Quilt is beautiful, it's not rated but when space isn't an issue, it's nice to have something extra over you or for the van or picnics... The purple sleeping bag is my 2 season by Thermarest (Space Cowboy). I know, it seems I'm a big Thermarest fan.
I tend to use my 3 season sleeping bag the most by Mountain Harwear (Lamina). Why is it white I hear you all scream? It was cheaper okay, and better for the environment as it wasn't dyed. It packs really small and I pair it with a compression bag to make it even smaller!
This Alpkit blog may help you choose an appropriate sleeping bag. There's a lot to be said about sleeping bags and the blog is pretty comprehensive. Personally, I'm not a fan of Down and also allergic to it so I choose synthetic options, which also works very well in scottish conditions too. My top tip (if you're a woman) is to opt for a womens specific sleeping bag, we lose most of our body heat from bum/hips area so there's usually more fill in those areas, a mummy shape will hold more heat too. A Nalgene bottle filled with hot water is another treat for us cold sleepers.
What I wear
As I've previously harped on, I'm a pretty cold sleeper so I wear merino layers. I like to switch things up and try different combinations, it's comforting to know I have a back up of synthetic jacket or trousers available for when I'm travelling uber light.
Check out these merino/yak wool layers by Kora, or the merino stripey top and leggings by FINDRA. I'm a huge Montane fan and have had this Primaloft Prism jacket for many years, the trousers are ace too and would recommend both.
I hope this has been helpful. Happy adventuring.