Category Archives: Bicycle Gear Talk
These are awesome! We’ve talked about these lights before in a previous post about bicycle touring luxury items, but i no longer consider these a “luxury” item; they are now considered as one of our daily usage and necessity items. We’ve used these lights daily as the primary source of light in our tent.
They’re bright enough for reading with. We use them in place of a lantern most nights. However, they’re not too bright, like a lantern would be; instead, they provide a nice warm, ambient glow in the tent, much like that of a favorite coffee house reading nook.
They’re LED, so they don’t require much energy usage. Three AA batteries gives you over 300 hours of continuous burn time. In fact, we use these nightly (when camping) and only needed to replace the batteries last week; that’s approximately 2 months of usage for 30 mins or longer per night. When the batteries do start to die, they go into a dim function and change colors less often, but can still be used for quite a while before they completely die.
They are pretty durable. We keep them wrapped around the top, inside pocket of our tent and roll them up with the tent everyday. I don’t take any special care or precautions when rolling them up in the tent; I just roll the tent up just like i would if they were’nt in there. I’ve done this every day since the beginning of our tour and we haven’t had any issues…the lights are as good as new.
They’re super light weight; only 4.5 oz without the batteries. They basically weigh only slightly more than the weight of the batteries needed to operate them.
They’re fun! Besides providing good reading light. They also change colors, making our tent kinda disco’y (yes, thats a word i just created), but not too annoying like sleeping next a window that faces the Vegas strip.
I’ll admit, when it comes to sleeping pads i’ve been really picky. Chelsea doesn’t seem to care as much, but for me picking the right sleeping pad is essential. It’s already hard enough sleeping somewhere other than your own soft bed, but sometimes the wrong sleeping pad can be worse than just sleeping directly on the ground. Finding the right sleeping pad for me meant trial and error. I felt a little like goldilocks;this one’s too small, this one’s too high, short, puffy, warm, etc.
The first pad i tried was the Big Agnes Q-Core SL Sleeping Pad.
I selected this pad because it had very high ratings/reviews and it’s super ligt weight. It’s a pretty expensive pad, but we used some clever REI discounts and sales and got a great deal on it (Chelsea is an amazing bargain shopper). After a few trial runs on this pad i decided it wasn’t for me. I loved the super light weight feature, but i felt like the pad was too high off the ground and way too narrow. I felt like i was sleeping on a 2 x 4 all night and would roll off the side at any given minute. This made for a very uncomfortable sleep. I think part of the reason it’s so narrow is that the pad is made to fit inside a pocket on the bottom of Big Agnes sleeping bags, in a way that prevents the bag and pad from moving when you turn during your sleep.I actually had a big agnes sleeping bag and used them in conjunction, but i still had that “sleeping on the edge of a cliff” feeling, and would wake up jammed in the crack between the edge of the pad and the sleeping bag…anyone who has slept on a waterbed before knows this feeling. So this pad was out…too narrow for me.
The next pad a tried was a heavy, yacht sized REI pad, the REI Camp Bed 3.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad.
This pad was extra wide and truly comfortable. I had found my perfect pad; or so i thought. Turns out the pad is so wide that it doesn’t fit into our tent with Chelsea’s pad, or pretty much any other pad. Our tent is a fairly small backpacking tent, so there’s not a lot of floor space for my deluxe yacht sleeping pad. This REI pad also had an issue of weight and size. I doesn’t roll up very compact and weighs about 5x’s that of the Big Agnes pad. I was willing to carry the size and weight in exchange for the comfort, but the fact that it meant Chelsea would have to sleep outside of the tent was a deal breaker 😉 So for that reason, the REI pad was out.
After a little more searching around for the perfect pad we discovered (remembered) that we actually already own some good sleeping pads and had forgotten that they were packed away in the garage; Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad.
These pads seemed perfect, and guess what, my picky self had already gotten the long/wide version, so no sleeping “on the edge” feeling for me. It was decided, these were the sleeping pads we would take on the trip with us…and we did! After a few nights using the pads on our trip we noticed that we were both waking up sweaty in the middle of the night and sticking to our sleeping bag. At first we thought it was just really warm weather, after all we were camping in the Summer season. We also thought this heat could be from our sleeping bag, it’s rated at 30 degrees. However, after laying on just the pads by themselves it was decided that our sleeping pads were holding in way too much heat and this was the cause of our waking up feeling like we slept in a sauna. We stuck it out with these pads for about a month until we came across the next mega-sized sporting goods store in Fargo, ND. at which point we swapped our pads out for a lighter insulation rated Therm-a-rest pad
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture WV sleeping pad.
This is the pad we’re still using at this point in our trip and i’m happy to say that we are sleeping much more comfortably, and don’t wke up sweaty and hot every night. We sent our old pads home, as these are still great pads and will definitely get some use when camping in colder climates/seasons. We’re constantly learning new things on this trip and are so grateful for this opportunity and lessons. For more information about these pads, click the links within the post and go to the “specs” tabs on the REI website. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more product updates.
Earlier in this blog we mentioned our stove, the MSR Dragonfly. This was and still is a great stove. However, we decided to send this stove home and replace it with a new, smaller, and more simpler stove, the MSR Pocket Rocket. This decision was based on a few factors which I’ll expand on in a moment. First let me give you the pros and cons of each of these stoves.
Uses camp fuel (white gas) which is available anywhere in the U.S.; has a large sturdy base, perfect for large pots/pans and cooking on uneven ground; folds up compact; separate adjustments for fuel and flame make this stove perfect for the campground gourmet (which I am not) to cook full blast torch or slow simmer.
Separate bulky fuel bottle needed, which adds substantially to overall camp-kitchen weight/size in panniers; white gas spills a lot causing everything in panniers to smell of gas, and even ruined some silicon kitchen utensils; stove needs priming before each use, and is SUPER FINICKY and FRUSTRATING; Sound, this thing sounds like a helicopter taking off, loud is an understatement, not camp friendly for boiling water early in the morning.
Pocket Rocket pros:
Uses Isobutane fuel canisters, no priming needed, just turn on and light; compact size, can literally fit in your pants pocket; adjustable flame valve from simmer to full boil.
Pocket Rocket cons:
Uses Isobutane fuel canisters, which I’ve heard can be hard to come by, especially on the Eastern side of the U.S., so far I’ve seen them in every sporting goods store in every state since we left Washington (we’re in Minnesota now); fore mentioned fuel canisters take up room in Panniers; stove is very unstable, even on flat ground, balancing pots/pans while actively cooking is truly an art to master.
We decided to send our Dragon Fly stove home because of it’s size, sound, and mostly because it always seemed like a hassle to take out, put together, and prime. Some times we avoided making a meal because we were just to tired to go through the production of coking with this stove. Also, there were times when the stove would go out during the priming process and we had to wait 15-20mins for it to cool down enough to prime again and potentially go out again. For that reason alone I was just over using this stove. The Pocket Rocket has been so much easier to use so far, and while it doesn’t have a wind guard (it still performs pretty well in high winds) and is extremely unstable, it’s still far less frustrating and far less hassle then the Dragonfly. Also, I really like the extra space I’ve gained in my pannier with the smaller stove. I still plan to keep my Dragon Fly stove and believe it’s a great stove, it’s just not the best stove for bicycle touring IMO. It’s only been about a week since swapping the stoves out, I’ll update this post after using the Pocket Rocket more and let you know if I still believe that we made the right choice.