Kit Bag is our chance to have a nosy inside the bags carried by riders from different branches of the mountain bike tree. Each bag has been refined over the years by its owner – adding bits when they’re needed, chucking stuff out that’s just adding weight and bulk until, hopefully, the rider ends up with the perfect combination of usefulness and portability for their particular needs.
This issue we look at the minimal goods that all-round adventurer Tom Hill takes with him for a day out in the Scottish hills and an overnight in a bothy.
Words and Photography Tom Hill
‘With this issue’s kitbag, I’ve taken liberties and included three bags – carrying the kind of kit that I’d choose for a spring overnighter to a bothy. I’ve done this kind of trip with all the gear in a big riding pack, and it just isn’t comfortable over any distance. This list isn’t absolutely exhaustive, and is in addition to the usual gear you’d take on a big day out. Remember that if you are riding further than normal, a mechanical might leave you stranded a Very Long Way From Home. My preferred gear balances comfort and some convenience with weight. Fast and light is rarely luxurious. Slow and heavy ain’t that fun either though.’
Restrap bikepacking luggage. There are loads of great UK-made luggage companies now. Most do a variation of the seatpack/framebag/bar-roll combo. The advantage of soft luggage over traditional panniers is ease of fitting to a wide range of bikes, and they leave the bike feeling much more manoeuvrable on proper off-road terrain.
Rab Neutrino Endurance 200 sleeping bag. I’ve got a few different bags to reach for, basing my decision on time of year, likely temperature, and/or how comfortable I want my night to be. The 200 is a great three-season bag. Its warmth can be boosted by a liner or an insulated jacket.
Alpkit Numo sleeping mat. Again, great for three season use, the Numo is comfortable and packs down small.
Finisterre Nimbus PrimaLoft jacket. As with sleeping bags, I’ll pick my puffy jacket depending on the weather. Bothies are often cold and draughty, and not all have fires. A jacket means you don’t end up diving into your sleeping bag the second you arrive. PrimaLoft performs better than down when it is wet, but is still slightly bulkier/heavier for a given warmth.
Alpkit Gravitas waterproof jacket. Lightweight, but with a hood that fits over a helmet. The warmer and drier I am when I get to the bothy, the more pleasant the stay (and the better the return ride will be).
Merino thermals, spare socks, bobble hat. Warm, dry, light clothing to change into once I arrive.
MSR Windburner stove. Not the smallest or lightest option, but I like the minimal fuss involved. Worth bringing a spare lighter/matches too.
Light My Fire spork. Titanium for show, plastic for pros (and skinflints).
Opinel penknife. Use for chopping chorizo and fighting off zombies.
Dinner and breakfast. Ainsley Harriott may be one of the most annoying TV chefs of all time, but his flavoured couscous is a work of genius. Cheap, tasty, light. Even better, you can add warm water directly to the packet, so no dirty pots. Pimp that meal with chorizo, cheese, nuts and sundried tomatoes. Slab of chocolate for pudding. Instant porridge for breakfast. Cowboy coffee for the win – just let the grounds settle to the bottom of the mug.
Hipflask. Whisky, natch.
Petzl e+Lite. Compact and very light head torch. Perfect for finding the door when going for the inevitable late night wee.
Toilet paper/ziplock bag. Keeps the paper dry until needed, then sealed for packing it out after it’s been used.
Mountain Bothies Association membership. Weighs nothing, takes up no space, but helps fund the upkeep of many bothies in the UK.