XWA Ways and Means – Weighted Decisions

The following is a listing of what I brought, what I wish I’d brought and what I left behind.

What I Brought

Clothing

  • *Bibs – two pair, wore one for Days 1 and 2, wore second for Day 3, both for Days 4-7
  • Jersey – food storage
  • Sleeveless baselayer – has cargo pockets if needed
  • Wool socks – two pairs
  • *Wool short-sleeve shirt – only wore for sleeping
  • Wool long-sleeve shirt
  • *Lightweight swim trunks – for sleeping
  • Cycling cap
  • Wool Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • *Insulated jacket
  • *Rain Jacket
  • *Knee warmers
  • Wool hat
  • Quoc Pham gravel shoes
  • Specialized fingerless mountain bike gloves
  • Katadyn BeFree 0.6L collapsible water bottle/filter

Sleep System

  • Bivy bag – 28-year old Outdoor Research model
  • *REI Magma 15 degree sleeping bag
  • *Thermarest NeoAir UberLite sleeping pad size small

Safety/Tracking/Misc

  • Garmin 530 bike computer
  • Garmin InReach
  • Powerbank
  • USB cords – 2
  • Smartphone
  • Smartphone cord
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • 5’ of cord
  • Small carabiner
  • Leatherman tool
  • Athletic tape
  • Gauze pads – 3
  • Sunscreen
  • Chamois cream
  • Wet wipes
  • Toilet paper

Cargo Bags

  • *Sea-to-Summit 20L lightweight dry bag – mounted to handlebars via Voile straps
  • *Revelate Terrapin 8L Seat bag
  • Revelate Mag Tank top tube bag
  • Repair Kit
  • Silca Tattico Mini Pump
  • Fix-It Sticks
  • Tire lever
  • Inner tube
  • Stans Darts – for small holes
  • Lezyne Tubeless Patch Kit – For larger holes
  • Spare rear derailleur hanger
  • FiberFix Spoke repair kit
  • Tire boot – made from old tire
  • Assorted zip ties
  • Park Tools inner tube patches
  • Chain lube – small bottle of Boeshield
  • Latex sealant – small bottle
  • 6mm allen key – for front wheel removal

What I Wish I’d Brought

  • *Evening glasses
  • *Sunscreen for lips

What I Left Behind

  • Stove
  • Pot
  • Fuel
  • *Leg Warmers/Pants/Tights

Additional discussion on * items

I brought a pair of Rapha Cargo Bibs and a pair of Voler Black Label bibs.  I was happy with both choices, though I missed the cargo pockets on the one day that I wore only the Voler bibs.  Like many riders I thought cargo pockets on bike shorts to be a stupid idea until I tried a pair.  Now I’m a convert.  From day 4 onward I wore both pairs of shorts – one over the other.  This was a butt-saver.  My limiter on the XWA (i.e. how far could I ride in one push) was my rear end.  I had no issues with any kind of open wound (saddle sore), instead the issue was bruising.

The wool short-sleeved shirt probably could have been left behind as I only wore it for sleeping.  On the other hand, it was nice to change into something clean at the end of the day. 

I would wager that many bikepackers might dismiss the need for some clean, dry loose-fitting shorts for the end of the day and for sleeping.  I think a pair of running shorts would be perfect here, but since I’ve given up running, I had nothing in the closet.  The closest item I had on hand was a pair of swim trunks that my wife and kids have deemed to short for descent company.  If you sleep in your chamois you are begging trouble.

Getting out of the chamois wasn’t fashionable but it was necessary

One luxury item that I packed was a Rapha Brevet insulated Jacket.  Sorry to sound like a Rapha fanboy here but this is simply the best insulated cycling jacket I know of.  The problem with most insulted jackets is that they are too hot to ride in (basically an end of the day item).  Not so with the Brevet Jacket.  This item is perfect for long descents and for when the sun goes behind the horizon.  The 2021 XWA began on May 23rd, and I would say that I was cool to chilled most of the time – especially on the Olympic Peninsula.  I say that this was a luxury item because if push came to shove I could have left it at home and instead layered my baselayer, jersey, wool long-sleeve and rain jacket.  The Brevet Jacket, however, eliminated a bunch of layering and allowed me to quickly pull on a layer when the temperature chilled.

I prefer to be warm.  For shorter training rides going a bit cold can be a good way to keep the pace high, but those rides are relatively short and there is a warm shower waiting at the end.  When it comes to long days and sleeping outdoors being cold saps energy and motivation.  For this reason, I brought along a killer rain jacket in the Rapha Explore GoreTex Hooded Pullover.  This is an anorak style jacket with a hood that fits over a helmet.  We did have some good rain on the XWA and I found wearing this jacket over a short-sleeve jersey to be an effective way to keep the rain out while keeping the sweat to a minimum.  On the cold morning outside of Warden I layered the Explore Jacket over the Brevet Jacket and was warm and happy.

Cold morning outside of Warden

During my high-altitude mountaineering days I always packed the warmest sleeping bag on the market (Feathered Friends minus 30).  No matter how cold I was during the day I knew that I was going to sleep warm.  For this reason, I splurged and bought the REI 800 fill power Magma 15 degree sleeping bag specifically for the XWA.  I’m glad that I didn’t go with my original plan of bringing a 40 degree bag.  Like the old saying goes – a man’s got to know his limitations – I’m not willing to lay on the ground shivering night after night.  For me, the added weight of a warm sleeping system pays off in the ability to ride steady day after day.

The Thermarest NeoAir UberLite was my secret weapon.  I bought the size small – three quarters body length – and it packed into size of a small RedBull can.  This ultra-small pad allowed me to eliminate any sort of frame bag. 

I fit all of my gear into a Sea-to-Summit 20L lightweight dry bag and a Revelate Terrapin 8L Seat bag.  The dry bag was mounted to my aero bars via Voile straps looped through two D-rings which were custom made by my son on his 3D printer.  The 8L seat bag is on the small side, but having limited space keeps the gear to a minimum.  The dry bag contained my sleeping system – I closed it in the morning and opened it at night.

Aero bar mounting system

When the sun went down the small bugs came out and I really struggled with bug eyes, or is it eye bugs.  I should have either packed a second pair of glasses or bought a pair with photochromatic lenses.  I think that the later is the better choice as glasses are bulky and difficult to pack.

I stopped at a grocery store to buy some lip sunscreen but in my rush I bought some sort of pseudo sunscreen lipstick.  The stuff was super greasy, and I ended up not using it as often as I should have.  The result was a painful two weeks of blistered lips.  When you’re out there all day you have to protect your lips, nose and ears (especially the sensitive skin behind the ears).

I elected to bring no full leg coverings, instead opting for knee warmers.  My knees are getting a bit old and keeping them warm and happy is a necessity.  I’m happy with this decision and any leg warmers or pants would have gone unused.