Online reviews helped enormously when buying gear for the Nullarbor ride. If Cuben fibre is new for ‘brown paper packages’, here’s a few of my favourite things …
The green cocoon
Top of the list would have to be ZPacks’ 20F sleeping bag. The long term average minimum temperature for our route was 6C but the nights could get very cold, so I wanted a bag that was light and warm.
At 5’1″ and a bit I’m compact so most production bags were too long, too heavy or too cold. I went looking for one that was juuuuuust right.
The ZPacks bags seemed to fit the bill – over-stuffed 900 fill power goose down with Cuben fibre baffles, very light, compressible and tailor made for length, width and temperature – bliss. They’re a bit more expensive than some production bags but way in front on warmth for weight. I considered the 30F bag but eventually opted for comfort with a short 20F (-7C) bag and pillow/stuff sack.
At the time, ZPacks had a long wait list so I was a little concerned about timing but Matt and Joe slotted it in to production to allow for international posting. Communication was excellent. The bag arrived in good time and the weight was accurate at 489 g for bag and pillow/sack.
It passed the couch test and the overnighter test. It’s so light that if you lift it up, it descends softly like a parachute. Initially I wasn’t too keen on the black lining – I’d prefer to see any crawlies – but it proved useful under caravan park lights and at dawn.
The light elastic drawcord at the top was easy to use half asleep and I barely noticed the flat zip. I threw a warm jacket over my hips a couple of nights and wore a beanie quite often but I was generally warm and comfortable (but often wearing light wool).
The pillow stuff sack was good too. The roll top allows some compression of the sleeping bag, and when reversed and filled with clothes the fleece lining made a comfortable pillow I didn’t have to chase all night.
I also bought a Cuben fibre ZPacks Multi-Pack (below, 86 g with all straps) for use as a handlebar/handbag. I think the ZPacks description of it as water resistant (rather than waterproof) is accurate. With sustained rain it got damp inside but I just moved the phone to a pannier.
I wanted some capacity to carry luggage up front but width is limited with 38 cm drop bars. So I made a simple harness of webbing and buckles and wrapped any load in the cut-down emergency blanket that serves as a tent footprint.
The sling and footprint cost around $15 and weighed under 300g. One buckle (from an old backpack) broke when cinching the straps one morning but I had an emergency buckle so it was easily replaced.
I generally carried my sleeping mat (Exped Synmat UL7 S) up front together with extra water if needed, with the Multi-Pack on top (as above). With such a small bike and cantis I need to keep the load either high or light so it doesn’t pressure the front brake main cable.
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 tent
Like the ZPacks bag, the freestanding Fly Creek UL1 tent just worked. Fast up, easy down, in rain and gales I stayed dry. The whole kit – extra pegs, sand stake, stake/tent bags and repair kit – totalled 1118 g.
There’s some easy weight savings even among these few things if need be – spare stakes and bag, extra straps for the Multi-Pack and so on, so it becomes a matter of convenience and redundancy.