Riding light: Camping with two kilograms

Adventure enduro is a holistic discipline. It revolves through the same cycles of preparation, riding and planning the next adventure. Throughout the process, the bike, riding gear and other equipment are continuously perfected. Each day of riding gives more insight; equipment either works or it needs to be rethought. High quality gear, that performs reliably under extreme conditions, is of paramount importance in running successful expeditions.

 

Tent bag: 1218 g / 2 lb 11 oz,  3.9 litres

Quilt bag: 402 g / 14.2 oz, 3.9 litres

Kitchen bag: 436 g / 15.4 oz, 1.3 litres

Total: 2056 g / 4 lb 8.5 oz, 9.1 litres

 

The evolution

It’s amusing to look back now at the articles I wrote in early 2015 on camping gear and the mobile kitchen. My “ultralight” camping setup weighed around 4.5 kg (9 lb 15 oz)  at the time and probably took over 20 litres of space. Progress has been made since then, and while I still carry some of the equipment from 2015, the total mass and volume have been cut down with over a half.

The reason for slimming down the luggage is the performance of my KTM 500 EXC. It is a very light bike, not designed to carry other loads than the rider. So every kilogram that goes on it, will make it worse on the trail. This is true for every bike of course, but there’s a huge difference between adding 10 kg of luggage on a 110 kg race bike or on a 250 kg adventure bike. The added weight doesn’t make such an impact on the performance of the bigger bike. And either way, unless you’re Chris Birch, the latter is very rarely seen on as technical trails as the former, so the added weight doesn’t matter as much to begin with. However, riding on steep and technical mountain trails or in the soggy Siberian wilderness, weight matters a lot. Low weight is not everything, but it’s definitely crucial.

 

The ultralight house of one

Terra Nova Equipment Laser Photon 1 including poles: 724 g / 1 lb 9.5 oz

Terra Nova Equipment Titanium Pegs, 10 pcs : 14 g / 0.5 oz

Vaude 15,5 cm Titanium Pegs, 6pcs: 48 g / 1.7 oz

Ghetto Tent stakes pouch: 8 g / 0.3 oz

Ghetto Waterproof tent bag:  42 g / 1.5 oz

Total: 836 g / 1 lb 13.5 oz 

 

Mobile shelters vary from sleeping rough under a riding jacket to huge double tents with inside parking for the bike. I tend to gravitate towards the lightest and smallest option and don’t mind sleeping under the stars. However, the prospect of bloodthirsty flying insects flying around will have me packing a tent in a heartbeat. Arguably one could carry a mosquito head net and sleep under an ultralight tarp for rain protection, but I find the added comfort and personal space of a light solo tent worth the extra weight.

I’ve had the Sierra Clip Flashlight for probably around fifteen years, and it’s still going strong. It’s quick and easy to pitch, has plenty of room, a large vestibule and so far it has stood up well against the elements. The only downside is that it weighs around 1.5 kg (3 lb 4.9 oz) and the pack size is 13 x 48 cm which makes it too big for my panniers.

There were several options for solo tents, but few met the criteria of a sub-kilogram weight and a max 42 cm pack length. The clear winner by a huge margin was the Terra Nova Laser Photon 1. The specified max weight is 0.72 kg (1 lb 9.4 oz) with pack dimensions of 10 x 35 cm yielding a pack volume of 2.75 l. The closest rival is the MSR Carbon Reflex 1, which weighs about a hundred grams more than the Laser, but has a much bigger pack size of 13 x 43 cm and pack volume of 5.7 l.

The Laser Photon 1 is made with extremely lightweight materials, which requires some care while handling the tent. Pitching the tent took some getting used to, but once it became routine it didn’t take too long. I’ve left the end poles of the tent fitted permanently which makes pitching the tent faster. The tent included a set of one gram titanium pegs, which are ridiculously small. They are very easy to lose and I doubt that they’d hold in rough weather. So I beefed up the set with six sturdier Vaude titanium pegs, which I use on high stress points of the tent.

The tent seems sturdy and I don’t expect trouble in rough weather, but it’s always a good idea to take wind direction into account when pitching. I find the sleeping space comfortable and the ventilation works well enough. There is just enough space to sit up and even get geared up while sitting sideways in the tent, if I put my legs out into the vestibule. The vestibule isn’t big, but my riding boots fit there nicely, along with other items that need to stay dry but are unsuitable for inside storage.

The greatest concern I have with the tent is the floor. It’s made from an extremely light fabric, which will wear quickly on rough ground, and will provide very little protection from sharp objects. This issue could be easily countered with a ground sheet, but with an appropriate fabric weight it would add plenty of mass and pack volume, so it seems rather counterproductive.

Due to a plethora of reasons I prefer not to mount things externally on the 500 EXC. However, I also have a rigid rule against placing fluids inside the panniers, which creates a bit of a paradoxical situation, as the tent will most certainly be wet at some point. The problem was countered with a dry bag for the tent. Or I should probably call it a wet bag, as its purpose is containing water inside it. It’s sewed with a light waterproof fabric, which should be rugged enough to hold up against the abrasive life inside the panniers. Just to be sure, I just might place the tent in a plastic bag, prior to packing it into the dry bag.

The ultralight sleeping pad

Sea to Summit Ultralight Mat: 382 g / 13.5 oz

 

Foam sleeping pads are excellent due to their reliability, weight and low cost. However, as I don’t pack things externally onto my bike, and within my double fifteen litre panniers a foam pad would take way too much space, I’m forced to use a compact inflatable pad. So I went with a Sea to Summit Ultralight Mat, which weighs 382 grams (13.5 oz) and packs into 7.5 x 17 cm and 0.75 l, which is absolutely tiny. As it is ultralight and inflatable, it is more prone to punctures so a repair kit is essential. Luckily the Ultralight Mat comes with a repair kit.

As I don’t carry a ground sheet for the tent, extra care must be taken to protect the sleeping pad in rough terrain. I usually place my riding jacket and pants under the sleeping pad, to protect it from sharp objects. To make packing more streamlined, I leave the sleeping pad deflated inside the tent. It will roll up nicely with the tent and ride in its dry bag.

 

The death of sleeping bags

Enlightened Equipment Enigma down quilt: 376 g / 13.3 oz

Ghetto Waterproof bag:  26 g / 0.9 oz

Total: 402 g / 14.2 oz 

 

One of the heaviest pieces of camping equipment is the sleeping bag, so I decided to get rid of it entirely. I have been keeping an eye on down quilts for a while, and they make a lot of sense to me. In sleeping bags, your body weight squashes a large portion of the insulation, which makes it an ineffective dead mass along with the fabric that holds it in place. Sleeping bags also tend to have a long zipper, which adds weight.

I decided to go with the Enlightened Equipment Enigma down quilt. They are made to order and fully customisable. I specced mine at +5°C with 950 FP down. I believe this will be warm enough for all above freezing conditions, but I went with the long and wide profile, for extra warmth. With colours I went full enduro ninja; the inside fabric is 10D black and the outside is 10D charcoal. My Enigma weighs 376 grams, so close to just a third of the sleeping bag I was carrying before. The quality of the materials and workmanship are excellent.

The Enigma down quilt plays a critical role in more ways than one. As I usually carry no mid layers, the Enigma will be my extra insulation layer on cold evenings in camp and especially during the odd cold night high up in the mountains. The Enigma is also my emergency insulation, so it has to remain dry in all situations. For this reason, I’ve upgraded the original ultralight pouch with a waterproof bag. I sewed it into a long cylindrical shape that fits the profile of my panniers.

 

All this for coffee?!

Snow Peak Trek 700 titanium pot and lid: 124 g / 4.4 oz

MSR Pocket Rocket stove: 86 g / 3 oz

MSR Titanium Spoon: 18 g / 0.6 oz

Gas cartridge: 170 g / 6 oz

Lighter: 20 g / 0.7 oz

Ghetto Waterproof pouch:  18 g / 0.6 oz

Total: 436 g / 15.4 oz 

 

I don’t usually cook food in camp, as it makes a mess of the pot and cleaning it requires carrying a washing pad, soap and water. So I usually stick to food that doesn’t require cooking, but I do like to drink coffee in the morning so the stove and pot are essential. Well maybe not essential, but a small piece of luxury, if you will. To be honest, I could easily leave the kitchen behind, but this is too ascetic for some riders I roll with, and I suppose it’s nice to have a portable heat source for when things get…complicated.

The MSR Pocket Rocket may no longer be the lightest stove on the market, but after almost two decades of use, mine still works like a charm. So I see no sense in replacing it, but if I did, it’d be for a Snow Peak LiteMax because of its more compact size and lower weight.

My pot, or drinking mug, is a titanium Snow Peak Trek 700, which fits a small gas cartridge inside it. I also carry an MSR titanium spoon and a standard BIC lighter. I see no need in carrying special survival matches or other fire gadgets, as the BIC lighters are cheap, available anywhere and will remain perfectly dry if stored in a ziploc bag. I pack the stove, lighter, instant coffee and tea bags inside the pot and the gas cartridge on top of it. They all fit nicely into a small 10 x 17 cm DIY pouch with a pack volume of roughly 1.3 litres.

 

 

Let me know…

So there it is, the two kilogram camping kit. There is always room for improvement, but at the moment I’m very happy with it. It could of course go even lighter, but the expenses would go up significantly per gram, which does not make it a sensible pursuit to me for now.

Please let me know what you think and what you would have done differently.