A lot of folks wonder what to ride with on a Ramble. You don’t need a lot, but you should be self-sufficient while on the route. I’ve seen all types of loads which is great but this is a bikepacking event and the goal is to be able to take care of yourself if you need to stop, weather sets in, or whatever else might happen.
So here’s what I ride with during a Ramble. It’s a light piece of kit and could go lighter with a lighter rain jacket, bivy or quilt instead of a sleeping bag and tent (things I sometimes use in warm weather).
1. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2. A great tent for bikepacking: light and roomy, I ride with this over the 1 person. Not much heavier but loads roomier. I use an inexpensive piece of plastic for a ground cloth. There are lots of options for shelters and more folks are using hammocks, tarps, etc. but I still prefer a tent. I own a host of cottage industry gear made from exotic fabrics and each has their uses. This tent, however, is one I come back to time and time again. Easy to set up, and much tougher than the lightweight fabric leads you to believe. As we say… “it’s a fantastic piece of kit.”
2. Big Agnes Flume UL 30*. I find a 30-degree bag works best for me and a good combination of lightweight and warmth. If I’m cold, I’ll layer up with a jacket and socks. Plus, sleeping in a tent will extend that range. I always recommend the best bag you can buy. This particular one actually goes smaller in a different stuff sack when I pack. I have some bags 25 years old and still awesome so consider longevity when looking at gear. I also like a traditional mummy but there are lots of styles these days. I prefer down, that is treated for water resistance, for packability. But…synthetics have made leaps in the past years and are an excellent choice.
3. Down vest. Protip: this is a Costco brand (32 Degree), cost me $15 and has lasted years of abuse. It packs super small and it’s so light, it’s stupid not to bring for stops, riding, etc.
4. Rain jacket. Since I also backpack, some of my clothing does double duty. I love this Marmot jacket and its hood is sized to go over a helmet. Not the lightest and can cause condensate if you don’t vent, but keeps it me warm, dry, and if layered with the vest, keeps that down dry. I could lighten my load by getting a lighter jacket, but then there are tradeoffs. We’ve never had a Ramble that didn’t have rain.
5. Arm warmers, knee warmers, full finger gloves, light wool shirt, wool socks, hat. I’ve worn all of this during a Ramble. I hate wet socks so carry a dry pair. I prefer knee warmers because they’re easier to get on and off and I find my calves don’t get cold even in the extreme. Check out Giro for a lot of this gear. You also notice I tend toward black. Classic, yes, but also hides being dirty.
6. Sleeping Pad. This is a Big Agnes Q-Core SLX. I like it because it’s light and warm. But I’ll admit I sometimes don’t bring one. I tend to slide off pads (though there are bags that have sleeves for them to prevent this) and 8 times out of 10, I’m sleeping directly on the ground by the time I wake up. If it’s warm enough, I do just that. I’ve had some of my best backcountry nights just on the ground. But, when it’s cold you need some good insulation between you and Mother Earth. Don’t underestimate the value of good sleep, so don’t skimp. 

7. Nuun Hydration tabs. Because one needs hydration and I drink more fluids when it’s flavored. I really notice a positive performance difference over just using water both on the ride and in the following day recovery: much better with hydration tablets.

8. Lighter. Because fire.

9. Ride food. I use a mix of Honey Stinger bars, chews and gels. I’ll start the morning grabbing something from camp, but that’s the first to go.

10. Skin care. I have sunscreen (70spf) in another bag, but I always carry a sunblock lip balm and some Chamois Butt’r in easy reach. I’m about 50/50 if I’m riding with a chamois and Chamois Butt’r is much more important to me if I’m not.

11. Grab bag. I’ll have sunscreen, first aid, pocket knife, battery and other odds and ends in this bag. Contents change on the ride, weather, etc.

12. Phone, lights, headphones, computer with GPS, glasses, multitool. The glasses are just cheap readers, but I need them for up close. I don’t ride with my prescription glasses. I always bring powerful lights that double as a flashlight or signal.

13. Water bottle. My bike holds only one with a frame bag, but a water bottle allows me to mix hydration tablets, dump in half a Coke or whatever without messing with my main water.

14. 3L hydration reservoir with a filter top. I stopped using a Sawyer purifier after discovering this top by Katadyn. They are designed to fit these reservoirs and they work fantastic. I just scoop and go.

15. Blackburn Outpost Seat Bag. My tent, jackets and clothes stuff in here. It all packs very tight and layered in the importance of need: tent on the bottom, clothes on top.

16. Blackburn Outpost frame bag. This bag unzips at the bottom and expands for greater volume, but I’ve never needed that. My 3L reservoir, food, grab bag, multi-tool, lights, etc. all fit in here easily.

17. I ride tubeless but still carry a tube. I always top off sealant before I head out and keep my bike in good repair so, in over 30 years of riding, I’ve had very few mishaps that weren’t minor and couldn’t be fixed on the road. Because we have vehicles and a full complement of gear at camp, my focus is on flats, a broken chain, and loose fixtures. So I carry a tube, boots, patch kit, CO2 (and a pump on the bike), master link, and a multi-tool. The small black bag is my normal seat bag so I just keep it all together since I know what’s in there.

18. Blackburn Outpost handlebar bag. My Sleeping bag goes in here in a smaller stuff sack that is waterproof. I also put my sleep pad in here, looped around the sleeping bag. It’s a neat pack and not much wider than the actual bag that holds the dry bag. I always have a ton of room in this bag for a wool shirt or something extra that I might start out with. This bag has tons of lashing points and I lash tent poles here if I have them. I always have 3 or four toe straps on this bag for lashing whatever.

So there you have it.

In warmer months, I will ditch the down vest in favor of a wool shirt that I’ll start with, usually the warmers and extras. Sometimes my shelter options change, but this is pretty much it. It all packs small and adds about 10-12 lbs to my bike even with water. If you’re looking for what to take, this is a great starting point. Add or subtract based on your personal needs, experience, and comfort.

Some things you’ll notice: I don’t use a handlebar bag that is easy to get into. I’m not a grazer when it comes to riding so I personally don’t need readily accessible food. If I get hungry I stop or reach into a clothing pocket like on the back of a jersey. But you might, so check out options. Other things missing is a mess kit: bowl/utensils and cup. Lots of folks carry this as it doesn’t add much weight. Because I’m usually working at camp, mine seems to stay in the trailer so it’s lost it’s way to the bike.

Remember…you get a camp bag so larger items like clean camp clothes, larger jacket, etc. can all go in that. What a camp bag is and exceptions will be another post.

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