Sneak Peek Inside my Panniers: Outlier, Ibex, Icebreaker, MSR and Gretel Ehrlich

Packing for a cyclo-touring trip demands a special kind of efficiency that drives me wild (in the good way). Smaller and lighter is better whenever possible and extra-mega-multi-use items become instantaneous BFFs.

When you have a lot of gear and you can only take a few things, it really makes you think about what works and what doesn’t. Small annoyances become big deals and the cream of your gear crop quickly rises to the top.

It’s worth noting here that people tour in all kinds of different ways. Some people are traveling around for months and months. Some people are concerned about weight. Some people are toting guitars. Whatever makes you happy, man. Whatever you are willing to drag over mountains. Go for it.

You can do it cheaper. You can do it lighter. You can do it sexier. As long as you’re out there doing it, enjoying it, and rocking it, I don’t think it really matters all that much.

The New (very rough) Plan

This tour is going to be a short 7 day trip exploring the Anza-Borrega Desert SW of Palm Springs and east of San Diego. I’d originally planned to ride down the coast from Aptos to Huntington Beach, but after seeing rain, fog and 30 degree mornings in the forecast, I decided that would be maybe a little too epic. Besides, sun and silence sounds real good right now – and I hear I’ll get plenty of both down there.

Since gear is such a central part of touring, I thought I’d do a few posts to share my approach and my favorite pieces. This time we’ll focus on a few of my favorite items from inside my panniers. Next, we’ll have a look at some of the bigger hardware I use: bike, tent, etc.

Outlier Women’s Daily Riding Pant (Winter Version)

Outlier sent me these pants to test out about a year ago last winter and I’ve been wearing them everywhere ever since. The fit is amazing. Flattering, sleek, and comfortable – they truly nailed the tailoring. That’s a good thing, because at $180 you should expect perfection. With boots and a blouse these are super office-worthy (the stunning photography on the website doesn’t lie).

The fabric is durable and water resistant, without being stiff. The winter version, which I have, has a slightly heavier hand and a soft lining – super cozy in cold conditions. These are the one pair of pants I pack when I tour because they are cozy and functional without looking at all technical. They slide on easily over a nice baselayer and can be worn on the bike as an extra layer of protection in a pinch. Definitely the most versatile pant I’ve ever owned and one of my absolute favorite pieces, touring or not.

Ibex Woolies Crew in Black

I have a lot of baselayers but I still consistently find myself turning the laundry basket upside down to find this one so I can wear it again and again and again. The fit is slim but not tight (apparel manufacturers like to call it body-skimming :) and the hand is super soft and light. It makes my arms look slim, my waist look small and my boobs look good. And, hey – it’s all about boobs, right?

Seriously – the fit and fabric are what make this shirt (which is probably more appropriately called a shirt than a base-layer, because although it fits well under everything,  it’s super easy to rock solo). On the tour it’s my go-to piece after I set up camp when the weather is relatively pleasant. If I find myself facing a cold day of riding, it works like a champ under a jersey on the bike.

I got my Woolie Base-layer as part of Ibex’s sponsorship of the Wend Cyclocross Diaries in 2009. I’ve gotten more out of it than I’d ever dreamed I would. (A close friend tells me that the Rapha base-layers are “made out of kittens” so I am curious to see how  it compares. I should be able to report back on that in a few months.)

Icebreaker Expedition Weight Socks

I can’t tell you the exact make and model of these Icebreaker socks because I got them at the 2009 Friends and Family sample sale. I can tell you that these are the thickest and warmest socks I’ve ever worn. I carry these even though they’re fat and bulky because there is nothing that makes me happier than putting them on my feet when I crawl into my sleeping bag at night.

Gretel Ehrlich

Yes, I do keep a feisty, old woman in my pannier. I love her. You can get a quick overview about her awesomeness right here.

Her books inspire me to adventure bravely and live reflectively. And her prose is absolutely brilliant. This lady can write.

If I’m not in the mood for Tim Krabbe’s “The Rider”, I take along one of her stunning books instead.

MSR Pocket Rocket

This stove is so small if fits in my bowl which fits over my fuel which fits in my pot. Tiny.

Then in the morning it makes me the most beautiful boiled water, which turns into the most beautiful coffee. Ever.

It’s small and all I do when I tour is boil water, so I don’t have very sophisticated stove needs, but it kicks ass. Super efficient (my fuel seems to last forever!) and perfectly simple. Besides, it’s called the pocket rocket. I mean, really – how can you argue with that?

I picked it up at Next Adventure in Portland.

Rookie Gear that Got the Call Up

I’m testing a few new pieces of gear on this trip. These pieces are only “rookies” in so far as I have not had a chance to put them through the paces yet.

I feel good about heading out into the great yonder with the Rapha Women’s Classic Softshell because nothing I’ve seen from them has disappointed me so far and it comes on a very high recommendation from an extremely discerning friend who shelled out hard-earned cash for it.  I acquired this jacket through trade for work I’m doing with Rapha this year (more on that later) – I’ll report back with first impressions, including how it fares on this tour, in a month or so.

I’m also making room in my packs for a pretty wicked camping product from a local Portland company called Poler Stuff . (Most of their camping gear isn’t publicly available until June-ish, but it’s crazy, rad and super smart!)  More on that in a coupla weeks.

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