Gear for Bikepacking the Great Divide

I have been bikepacking for four years, and in that time I have fine-tuned my gear selection. Trial and error is the best teacher. What works for me will not necessarily work for you.

I am not sponsored by any companies. So far, these companies have been great about providing warranty repairs and replacements. I only mention the brand when I am particularly impressed by a product.

I recommend buying good gear and making it last. That is what I have done. I ride all of my bikes (and gear) into the ground. If the frame is not (yet) broken, I keep riding the bike, replacing parts when they need to be replaced. The same goes for gear.

I have good reasons for selecting each of these items. Please feel free to ask me about any of my choices.

Bicycle: Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29-er (Fox Float front shock with Lizard  Skins fork boot, no rear shock), Profile Design century aero bars, Ergon grips, Maxxis Ardent tires (tubeless), Shimano clipless pedals with platform, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, 2×10 gearing and a saddle you can spend all day in

Bags: Revelate saddle, frame & handlebar packs, top tube feed bag and Revelate Mountain Feedbag, REI dry sacks, extra straps (to keep bags in place)

  • Clothes go in the saddle bag. Tent and extra food go in the handlebar pack. Water, sleeping bag and air mattress go in (or on) the hydration backpack. Everything else (the heavy stuff!) goes in the frame pack.

Backpack: Osprey Synchro hydration pack with extra bladder

Clothes: Helmet and helmet cover, cycling cap, buff, 45Nrth balaclava, bib shorts and synthetic T-Shirt, sunglasses, cycling tights, base layer, rain pants, rain jacket, waterproof socks, compression socks, thick and thin socks, long-fingered cycling gloves, winter gloves, waterproof glove liners, booties, primaloft jacket, multi-sport clipless cycling shoes, sun sleeves/arm warmers

Electronics: AA and AAA lithium-ion batteries, USB charger (battery powered), rear blinking lights, NiteRider Maco handlebar and helmet lights (battery powered), Garmin 800 touring GPS (USB powered), Garmin eTrex 30 GPS (battery powered), mini MP3 player, camera, SPOT tracker

Personal: House key, passport, driver’s license, debit card, cash, health insurance card, sunscreen, lip balm, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Adventure Cycling maps, Aquamira water purification solution, travel soap, travel toothbrush & toothpaste, disposable razor, comb and hair bands, Sea to Summit DryLite antibacterial towel, ziplock baggies, field booklets (for journaling), a bear bell (fixed to the handlebar), knife, lighter, rope, baby wipes, a whistle

First Aid: Triple antibiotic ointment, Duoderm bandages, Eucerin and tea tree oil, bandages and bandaids, antiseptic towelettes, clothes pins, mole skin, tweezers, prescription z-pack (antibiotics), prescription allergy meds and allergy eye drops

Sleeping system: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 tent, Thermarest Fast & Light air mattress, primaloft 30 degree backpacking sleeping bag

Tools/Parts: Pump, patch kit, multi-tool (with chain breaker), quick link, tire levers, tire boot, CO2 inflator and cartridge, tube, spoke wrench, derailleur hanger, shoe cleat, duct tape, brake pads (two sets), chain lube, zip ties, cable, water nozzle, GPS mounts, Specialized crank tightening tool, wheel valve stem


Riding the Great Divide, starting Saturday

Staring Saturday, I am bicycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, from Silver City, New Mexico to (at least!) Whitefish, Montana. You can follow me here, at my SPOT tracker page. (I recorded this evening’s ride, just to make sure it is working. It is.)

I plan to be on the Divide 3-4 weeks (2,000+ miles!), camping, hosteling and writing as I go. I have another book in the works about riding the Great Divide. 🙂


The rig is just about ready!

I will try to post photographs, wherever there are libraries.

Happy riding,


Experiments in Living: Quality of Life, Finances and Ethics (Part II)

Image Source

In my last post I talked about how I am examining how the various pieces of my life fit together. Some changes I made last week exemplify this mode of thinking. Going carless has implications that ripple throughout many aspects of my life, bringing benefits that far exceed the (merely) financial benefit of not owning a vehicle.

Eight days ago I sold my car. I keep checking my parking space to confirm it is not there. The space is empty, and so is my stomach. I am hungry from biking everywhere!

For seventeen years (a full half of my life!) I have owned and operated a vehicle. Watching my beautiful silver Honda CRV drive away without me was not easy. I recalled all the adventures I had with that car. However, to be fair, I have had far better adventures on my bicycles. 🙂

Eight days later I am happy with my decision. I enjoy bicycle commuting 5-15 miles a day. I feel more engaged in the city; more people talk to me, and I am quickly learning where everything is, forming a mental map in my mind. I use my bikepacking bags for groceries. There is something intensely satisfying about getting around everywhere on your own physical power. 

Sometimes it gets really hot. This is the Sonoran Desert, after all. But that is okay. I drink a lot of water and eat more, to fuel my body (instead of my vehicle). I am still learning how to monitor my energy levels and appetite, which fluctuate more during the day. I am still learning how to cook better, inviting friends over for dinner to sample my concoctions. My vegan cornbread and tamales are a hit!

It does take a little more planning to go places, but friends and family have been flexible with me. I tend to choose social engagements that are closer to my residence (i.e., within ten miles). I offer to chip in for gas, if a friend drives me somewhere (a win-win). For long-distance travel, I use Greyhound, which has the advantages of low cost, little hassle, relatively low fuel consumption per passenger, free Wi-Fi, free bicycle storage and extensive routes and schedules. And you can buy a ticket the day before you travel. In these ways, buses beat flying. 

I suppose going carless is a constraint on my freedom; however, owning and maintaining a vehicle is also a constraint on my freedom, in the sense that it demands precious time and money (money = time), not to mention the unpleasantness of driving on Tucson’s busy streets. Tucson’s bicycle paths are far more serene. The time I spend traveling is now time I enjoy. 

The other big change that happened last week is that I cancelled my car insurance and the portion of my medical insurance that pays for routine care. In the past year, I have pursued routine healthcare from clinics that take insurance and clinics that favor cash-paying patients (an “experiment in living“). I found that I much prefer the sort of care I get from a doctor whom I pay directly. What is more, I am wary of insurance companies dictating my healthcare choices and wasting my time with elaborate, paternalistic policies and unfair claim denials. Good riddance!

I now have insurance for what insurance is actually for: emergencies. There is one exception. Interestingly, my (old) dog’s health insurance policy is a mere $44 a month, a bargain when you consider the number of expensive procedures he has had. PetPlanUSA has never once disputed a claim. Perhaps we should take a cue from the pet healthcare system?

It is also interesting to compare vehicle and bicycle insurance. In my city car insurance costs eight times what renter’s insurance costs. Renter’s insurance covers bicycles. And yet my three bicycles have the same net worth as my former vehicle.

Although I have some basic insurance policies, the best insurance I have is my health (which I maintain through bicycling and a plant-based diet) and my strong bicycle locks. My bicycle locks even come with an anti-theft program: if a thief breaks the lock, then the Bell Garage will pay the renter’s insurance deductible.

What about routine bicycle maintenance? I am currently taking a comprehensive bicycle maintenance class through my local bicycle cooperative. Most cities have bicycle cooperatives, which rent out bike stands and tools. The cooperative also sells and gives away bicycle parts. There are always several knowledgeable mechanics on hand to show you how to service your own bicycle. There is something intensely satisfying about fixing your own bicycle. Last night I took a front wheel that could barely spin and remade it into a wheel that revolves effortlessly. Beautiful!

The final big milestone that happened this last week is that I finally reached my goal of getting my monthly bills down to under $300 a month. It is possible. These are my current monthly bills:

Bills [$260/month]

$10StateFarm renter’s insurance

$22 – PetPlanUSA health insurance for my dog (split with his father)

$22 – No contract TING flip phone

$180 – HOA fees (condo utilities, maintenance, Internet, property taxes, etc.)

$25 – Tucson Electric & Power electricity (with community solar blocks)

$ 1 – Ambetter high deductible health insurance (Bronze Plan through Obamacare)

I want to be clear. These choices are not just financial choices. They are also quality of life choices. They are ethical choices, too. If I ever purchase another vehicle, it will be fully electric, given the fact that fossil fuels are cancer-causing and environmentally destructive. Like many, I also believe our current healthcare system is corrupt. Creating economic demand for clinics that are transparent about prices and serve patients instead of insurers is extremely important.

Though I have only touched on a couple of my new habits, I plan to continue blogging about different experiments in living. Stay tuned!


Oro Valley (North Tucson), photojournal

For fast, flowy single-track and some challenging climbs, check out Oro Valley’s trails. Not every mountain bike trail in Tucson is advanced, fortunately.

The Route (Bumblebee Trail [lollipop stem] and Ridgeline Trail [lollipop top]):

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Carly and Hilary (above)