The Lake Trail Gear List

Every gear list should be specific to the trail it’s for. What follows is my The Lake Trail (TLT) Gear List. The Lake Trail is a 133 mile bikepacking loop around Lake Tahoe. The complete loop consists of roughly 16,000′ of climbing.

The Lake Trail offers amazing views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Eastern Sierra Mountains. Consisting of single and double track, dirt and paved roads, the trail offers a wide range of riding. Some of it is easy, while other sections are very difficult.

The trail has plenty of water available, with the longest dry stretch around 15 miles or so. On trail food supply is limited to Miles 0 to 4 and Miles 67 to 113, but with the loop being so short this doesn’t prove to be much of an issue.

To learn more about the trail you can read my journal for my TLT thru-bike here.

SET UP

My bike set up for The Lake Trail was pretty simple. The set up itself wasn’t that different from my AZT set up. Different tires and saddle were really the only differences of note.

If one choose to, the loop could be ridden non-stop, and has. I wasn’t attempting this but I still kept my step up as simple and light as possible. Personally, I don’t see the need for a full suspension bike on this loop.

Pro-Tip

Every trail requires its own unique set up. Don’t assume your last set up will automatically work for your next trip. Do some research, see what others used and find out what worked and didn’t, then make your own informed decision.

The Set Up

Phillip the Trail Donkey - The Lake Trail - The Lake Trail Gear List

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

Nothing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

When it comes to my bike set up, I was quite happy. There isn’t anything I would change if I were to attempt the ride again. Phillip (My bike) performed great. Everything from tires, to gearing, and the choice to ride a hardtail were spot on.

PACKING SYSTEM

The big difference in my packing system for The Lake Trail over my other bikepacking trips, was that I didn’t run any type of harness or storage bag on my handle bars. My Big Agnes Fly Creek Bikepacking specific tent attached directly to my handle bars eliminating the need for a harness.

The rest of my bags were the same I used during my Bikepacking Triple Crown. I did find that between a lighter front end and the decomposing granite (very loose and sandy) my front end tended to washout if I wasn’t careful.

Pro-Tip

Be sure to load you bicycle so that the weight is evenly distributed as possible. A load bike handles very differently than an unloaded one, which can greatly impact your overall ride experience.

Cockpit Set Up:
Revelate Gas Tank

  • Food
  • Chapstick
  • Sunglasses cloth

Revelate Jerrycan

Zipties, Park Tool CT-5 Chain Tool, Crank Brothers M10 Multi Tool, Pedro Tire Lever, (2) seat bolts, Shimano Cleat, (2) Cleat bolts, (2) Quicklinks, Glueless Patch Kit, Tire Plug Kit, Park Tool Tire Boot TB-2, (2) Valve cores, C02 inflator, Mini Leatherman

Handle Bar:

Fork Legs:
Water Bottle Mounts

Frame Bag Set Up:
Defiante Packs Custom Frame Bag:

Left side:

Right side (Main pocket):

Seat Bag Set Up:
Revelate Terrapin

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

I would try and move my tool kit from the top tube to the down tube to help lower the center of gravity.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

Like with most aspects of this adventure, I was happy with my set up. My packing system was no different. The only issue I had was one of weight distribution. The front end of my bike tended to want to wash out, as if there wasn’t enough weight on the front tire.

With that said I have experienced this before when bikepacking with other configurations so I’m not completely convinced my packing set up was to blame.

SHELTER

Everyone’s approach to shelter is different. Some like to go with the bare minimum, while others want all the bells and whistles. I used a bivy on the Tour Divide, a full Fly Creek Platinum HV2 on the Colorado Trail and fast packed with the Fly Creek on the Arizona Trail.

When Big Agnes came out with their bikepacking specific Fly Creek last Fall I knew I wanted to give it a try. If one went at the right time of year I’m sure they could simply tarp it on The Lake Trail (Keep in mind the ground is usually soft and loose, so good stakes are needed).

Pro-Tip

Use the shelter that makes you the most comfortable. Nothing is worse than a long uncomfortable night after an already long day on the bike.

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

Nothing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

Overall I was very impressed with the Big Agnes HV UL2 Bikepacking Fly Creek. The added features like the helmet keeper, shelf, and stuff sack/carrying case were great. I really enjoyed have the full ground sheet, which covers the vestibule area. It was nice to be able to sit outside the tent but not be in the dirt or to have to sit inside with the door open to do the same thing and let bugs in.

Set up was a snap. My biggest concern was how hard it was going to be to get the tent and poles back in the stuff sack with it attached to my handle bars. In the end it was quite simple.

SLEEP SYSTEM

One’s sleep system is about a personal as gear comes. Some people sleep warm, while others cold. The weather for my attempt at The Lake Trail was supposed to be ideal. Temperatures in the day were 50-70 and at night the lows were just below 40. Ironically the only two times I was cold was during the day, not at night.

I choose to take the same set up I used on the John Muir Trail. I was only planning on being out two nights but still took the extra comfort of an air pad over a foam one. Part of this decision was the packability of the air pad over taking my trusty Z-Lite.

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

Possibly use a foam pad instead of an air pad.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

Just like on the John Muir Trail I was quite comfortable. The 30 degree bag was perfect but not being used to sleeping on an air pad (much taller than my Z-Lite), I found it hard to stay on it at times.

Big Agnes does make a pad/sleeping bag system, where the air pad fits into a sleeve on the bottom of the bag. This might be the key to me staying on my pad.

Clothing

I’ll get it out there right up front… when it came to packing for this trip, blew it big time. I didn’t pack either arm warmers/sun sleeves, a wind jacket or an under shirt. The weather was supposed to be great but…

I attempted to find a bike shop open before I started but I failed. I ended up riding in my puffy jacket, which I have never done before. I also got rained, sleeted, and snowed on and had near freezing temps one afternoon during a crazy snow storm with thunder and lightening.

Bottomline, double check your bag to make sure you have the proper clothes and remember that weather can be unpredictable.

Pro-Tip

Carrying too much or not the right clothing not only adds weight to your pack but bulk as well. Find clothes that work for your body type. Don’t carry items that aren’t getting used, and lastly find items that serve one than one purpose.

RAIN GEAR: 

*The Helium HD is no longer made but an equivalent replacement would be either the Helium II or the Interstellar Jacket.

BIKE WEAR: 

EXTRAS:

Craig Fowler on the The Lake Trail - The Lake Trail Gear List

CAMP WEAR: 

*The Verismo Hooded Down Jacket is no longer made but an equivalent substitution would be the Baja Pullover.

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

Nothing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

Despite forgetting my arm warmers and second layer for my upper body, I managed. Yes, I was cold a few times, but I survived. If I had the two missing pieces of clothes, I feel my kit would have been perfect for the conditions I encountered.

Hydration/Cooking

Most of my bikepacking has been racing so I haven’t cooked on my trips. This time I knew I would be wanting to enjoy a hot meal at the end of the day. I tried to keep my kit simple and the bulk down to save space in my packs.

As I usually do, I only cooked dinner. For me there is something about having a hot meal at the end of a long day that just feels good. Most days I look forward to dinner, even though it’s just dehydrated noodles or rice packaged dinners.

The bottles on the fork legs worked great. So did the Sawyer Micro, paired with a Platy Bottle. The water on the loop is amazingly good so one doesn’t need a complex hydration/filtering system.

HYDRATION: 

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

For future trips I would look into getting a smaller pot, possibly a simple mug, and I would use meals where I just had to heat water, then pour the hot water into the meal.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

The set up I used above took up more space then I would have liked. Cargo space when bikepacking is limited and this is an area where I could save some room. Also with the trip being so short I could have left my stove at home and just at foods that didn’t require cooking for a couple of days.

Health/First Aid

During my many miles of  bikepacking, and hiking I’ve learned to use sound judgment and to be safe or as close to safe as I can when alone in the backcountry.  Applying prior experiences to new situations and using caution when approaching them allows me to trim down my Health/First Aid set up to what I consider the bare minimum.

Pro-Tip

My Health/First Aid kit shouldn’t be yours.  Your set up should mirror your own personal experience, skill level, and comfort level.  Know your abilities and what you’re comfortable with or without. Knowing these things will help you build the right Health/First Aid kit for you.

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

Nothing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

The only item I used from my first aid kit was my sunscreen. At no point did I feel like I needed to have more with me or that I was missing anything important. I don’t think I’d change a thing.

TOOLS/REPAIR

Every repair kit should be different for each situation or ride. A solid well thought out Tool/Repair Kit should mirror who’s using it and where they are going. Your judgement will always better than someone else’s.

My Tools/Repair kit was put together by sitting down with my bike and looking it over from back to front and top to bottom.  I looked at what could go wrong, if I had the knowledge to fix it with my mechanical skills, and then made sure I had the tools or parts to fix it.  A well put together Tools and a repair kit are key bikepacking gear items every trip needs.

Bikepacking Tools & Repair Kit - Bikepacking gear - The Lake Trail Gear List

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

I forgot to go through my kit and remove the extra seat bolts, which no longer would work as I didn’t have my Thomson post on the bike. I also want to find a good down tube bag to move my kit lower on the bike (to get the weight lower).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The only item I used was chain lube and my pump once. In the future I may look into trimming my kit down as most of the items I have never used. I’m just not sure if I want to gamble though.

Pro-Tips

  • Make sure your multi tool works on ALL bolts on your bike.
  • Know your bike and tools, just like your other bikepacking gear choices.
  • Cover your bases, be prepared for anything.  You’re on your own!

Odds/Ends

  • Sunglass Wipe

Electronics

In 2001 when I did my first thru-hike the only piece of electronics I had on my gear list was a Petzl Tikka headlamp. It’s crazy to see how many more electronics are in my kit.

I’m glad to have the advantages most of the items bring to my hike and bike adventures, but up keep does get tiring. As much as electronics have complicated things, they have also simplified things at the same time.

With this trip only being a couple of days long I didn’t ming having a few bells and whistles. I barely used the external battery as my power usage was pretty low.

Pro-Tip

Besides simply turning off Wifi, bluetooth, and data usage, try using the low power settings option on your phone while in the backcountry. This will help you conserve power and go further with the power you have available.

THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY:

Next time I would leave my watch, its power cord, and ear bugs at home. With the trip being so short I didn’t really need them.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

Taking my iWatch was an impulse decision. I wanted to see what kind of data the ride would generate. In the end it wasn’t a must have item.

I never used my ear buds but on a longer trip with less scenic views I probably would have.

All my electronics worked just fine and did what they were supposed to do, so at the end of the day I was happy. I brought items I didn’t need, learned what I needed from taking them and what they offered and in the future I’ll have a better understanding if their needed on my next trip.

Final Thoughts

Overall I was pleased with the gear on my The Lake Trail Gear List. Not having my arm warmers/sun sleeves and a base layer, made the trip less comfortable than it should have been. Despite the bad packing that led to this, the trip was a success.

If I was going to offer advice to others for putting together their own The Lake Trail Gear List, I would say “Know limits and what you can can can’t deal with. Familiarize yourself with the route and plan accordingly. Do your own research and test your gear, and you’ll be fine. If in doubt, rely on your past experience to help make decisions. Remember, use what works for you in your own The Lake Trail Gear List!”

Lastly, be sure to test your gear and do a proper Shake Down Ride.