Gear Essentials for Winter Bikepacking Expeditions
When it comes to bike packing in extreme winter conditions, like my recent trip to Alaska to compete in the Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI), the right gear is essential, not only for comfort, but for survival. During my rookie year competing in the ITI in 2019, I learned a lot about gear. I returned to the trail in this year feeling prepared, practiced and so much more confident in my ability to survive and thrive in the most extreme conditions.
A successful expedition starts long before you head out the door. Spend the time with thoughtful gear selection, trial and error and constant tweaking. You will be glad you did.
Want to know what my packing process looks like for a winter expedition like the Iditarod Trail? Want to know exactly what I chose and why? Watch the video here:
Here’s the complete list of all the gear I used out on the trail. Rusch approved!
Velocio Women's Signature shorts
Velocio Women's Recon thermal long sleeve jersey.
Wigwam Merino Wilderness wool socks plus spare, lighter pair in case my feet get wet
First Lite Catalyst Soft Shell jacket and pants. This is technical hunting apparel that is proving to be great fat bike riding gear. I added a traditional Alaskan and cold weather piece that many Alaskans and dog mushers use. My ruff was custom made by a woman in Fairbanks AK and attached with velcro so it can be used on different hoods.
Down jacket: Patagonia Micropuff Hoodie
Glove smorgasbord: Combo of The North Face (liner), Black Diamond (shell), and Outdoor Research (super warm and oversized to fit over all). I use multiple layers from super thin, to medium shell gloves to puffy down ones. I have poor circulation in my hands and I sweat a lot. This is a deadly combo in cold temps, so I bring lots of gloves and constantly add or remove layers to regulate. Chemical hand warmers are the back up when all else fails to keep my hands warm.
Revelate Designs Expedition Pogies on my handlebars are like little sleeping bags for my hands and keep them warm when riding.
45 NRTH Wolvhammer Boots: I size them up 2 sizes to allow space for insulated insoles, thick socks and make sure my toes aren’t squeezed. Tight boots make your feet colder. They have cleats on the bottom. For Alaska, I put studs in the bottom for traction when walking across ice.
Insulated "over booties" by Dogwood Designs.
45 NRTH Greazy Wool hat
1. Bike: Fatback Corvus
2. Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle 26 tooth front chainring because snow biking is slow due to conditions and a loaded bike for expeditions. Eagle 10-50 cassette gives me a big range in gearing.
3. Tires: 45 NRTH Dillinger 5 Studded Fatbike Tires
4. Wheels: ENVE Composites m685 27.5 rims
5. Saddle: WTB Koda
6. Bags and storage: Revelate Designs' Nano panniers, Mountain Feedbag, Mag Tank 2000 & Jerrycan for top tube bags. Ranger frame bag, Pronghorn handlebar bag. These bags allow me to use all of the space on the bike for cargo (food, clothing, headlamp, batteries, sleeping bag, etc).
7. Navigation, satellite tracking and emergency communication: Garmin inReach Mini is a satellite device I find essential for safety and navigation in expeditions like this. Plus, a Garmin Etrex GPS as an additional navigational tool.
Cold Avenger Outlaw face mask.
Smith Wildcat glasses with dark lenses for day and clear lenses for night time.
Sea to Summit organizer bag straps
Sea to Summit Alpine Down Winter sleeping bag.
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus insulated sleeping mat
Chemical Hand warmers: I use these in an emergency if my hands or feet or body get cold. Also use these with my batteries to keep electronics warm and working.
Adventure Medical Kits: Med Kit and Bivy Sack
Frost Tape for my face to protect skin
Revelate Designs WamPak as 2nd layer, close to my body to keep water from freezing.
2 MiiR thermoses for hot drinks.
GU Roctane Recovery drink: I bring multiple packets and will mix these with hot water in my MiiR insulated bottle.
GU Roctane Drink: The warm drink will keep me going, but also being able to drink instead of eating frozen food is sometimes a more reliable way to get calories in.
GU Chews These will freeze, but they are small and you can pop them in your mouth frozen and let them melt. Or keep them inside your clothing, near your body to warm them up.
Date/cashew/coconut bars: homemade recipe from Shalane Flanagan’s cookbook: Run Fast, Eat Slow. These are very calorically dense, taste great, and do not freeze. I cut them into tiny, bit sized squares so I can just pop one in my mouth. About 50-75 calories each.
Chocolate matcha balls: also from Shalane’s cookbook above, little nuggets that are high in fat, very dense and don’t freeze.
Bacon: made at home. Calorie dense and light weight and tasty.
Red Bull: 1 can in each drop bag and 1 at the start. I wish I had more of these each day.