Big Deserts & Gear Testing
November 16, 2016
We’re broken down in Bakersfield, CA at the moment, en route to the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show. We had a suspension problem on the truck last night, so now we’re waiting for some new leaf springs to get built. Time to crack a beer and update the blog!
Gear Testing Trip
Last week we had a stretch of prefect weather in the Northwest, so Ash and I ducked out of the office for a gear testing trip in SE Oregon. Originally the whole Mosko team was going to join, but Lee had to leave for Vietnam on short notice to work on our Spring production run, Andrew had just returned from Canada and he was stuck at home on kid duty, and Tiffany volunteered to hold down the fort. So then there were two.
We had several new items to test on this trip:
- The new tool roll
- The new Nomad tank bag (we had two prototypes of this)
- The new tent pole bag
- The new riding apparel
The Fatty (aka Tool Roll)
It’s time to pick a name for the new Tool Roll. We’re all liking “The Fatty,” as in ‘Roll a Fatty.’
After my earlier post on the Fatty, several riders popped up in our advrider.com thread and asked about waterproofing. This is an issue because the rear pockets on the R80 and BC35 (where lots of people store tools, including me) are not waterproof. Tools can rust. And the inner waterproof coating on the ballistic nylon we’re using is bound to wear through over time.
At first we had an idea to roll the Fatty up in a waterproof cover to give it a splash-proof level of waterproofing. So it wouldn’t be waterproof if you dropped the bike at a river crossing, but at least it would stop rain from soaking through. We tried this with some paper.
Then you’d bend over the ends of the roll and clip with a side release buckle right where the tag is in the pic below. This would be pretty waterproof.
The cover works as a tool/hardware ground cover when you’re working on the bike trailside, which is a cool benefit.
The thing we didn’t like about this is that you can’t use the handle on the tool roll, which is essential for pulling it out of pannier pockets, because it’s wrapped up in the roll. So next we took a pair of old cheapo foul weather gear pants I had in the shed for crabbing, and cut them up to make a new shape roll.
The ends fold in under the handle, so the handle is still accessible, but now the cover itself is a lot less waterproof. The belt that normally wraps the tool roll now wraps around the outside of the cover, keeping it in place.
I took this on the trip and it worked great. However, while we were gone, Andrew had an idea that we like even more. I don’t have any pics, but basically it’s an envelope that the tool roll slides into before it gets rolled. The envelope has its own handle. This system is 100% waterproof, even if you drop your bike in water. We tested it in the shop and it looks like it’s going to work. More on that later.
The Nomad Tank Bag
Man, I do ever love this bag. This was the first opportunity that Ash and I had to use the latest prototypes on an extended trip (although Lee and Andrew already have).
This is how I packed the different layers. I left the beavertail open, for the camera. Just my Delorme and knife tucked underneath.
I used carabiners to connect my DSLR case in the beavertail.
Organizational layer: sunscreen, batteries, earplugs, charging cables, pen, batteries for GPS/headlamps/Delorme, business cards & stickers, plus some other stuff I added later. Love all the small-item storage on this layer.
The bottom bucket layer had Mosko catalogs, spare maps, and still lots of space for things that migrated there over the trip.
Raincover in the top storage pocket.
Backpack straps stashed away
Ash and I both decided to forgo our hydration packs. We definitely had some misgivings: we always ride with hydration packs on this kind of trip. Storing water on the tank instead of our backs was an experiment.
Guardian Gnome found a new home.
Some riders have asked why we were so dead-set on making it easy to convert the Nomad into a backpack. I originally pushed hard for this because of international trips, where I like to pop it off the bike and throw it on my back, say at border crossings or walking around a market or city. I keep most of my valuables in there (so they’re not left sitting on the bike) as well as some water, so I have all that with me when I’m out & about.
This is a different kind of trip though, and it turns out we used our Nomads as backpacks literally every single day. Hiking in the mornings, bouldering around interesting rock formations, hopping off the bike to go exploring. Here are some pics of the Nomad in action as a backpack. Love this feature.
Here’s some things we learned:
- We both started with the bag too far back on the tank. After the first few hours of riding I was like uh-oh… But for these new prototypes, Andrew designed a really cool attachment system that allows the bag to slide way farther forward on the tank than a normal toaster-style tank bag would, without rubbing the bike controls. We slid the bags forward and that was the end of the issue, problem solved.
- On my bike, which has a vent tube on the gas cap, with the bag way forward, I was really concerned it would pinch the vent tube and I’d vapor-lock the bike. I’ve done this before and had the bike shut down on a steep hill climb. I was so sure it was going to happen this time too but it never did. For the next trip I’m going to find a way to protect the vent tube. Maybe with a 90 degree tube, or just some heavier tubing that for sure won’t pinch.
- With a DSLR in the beavertail, if I was up on the pegs on a steep incline, I could feel the camera. I love the quick camera access so I still rode with it there 90% of the time. But if the terrain was steep and rough, I’d move the camera to my rear drybag duffle instead. It’s better protected back there anyway.
- The optional Map Pocket wouldn’t stay attached to the Nomad when the DSLR is stored under the beavertail. Because of that, I opted to leave the map pocket at home on this trip. We’ll be adding a flexible MOLLE-style attachment system to fix this, so the map pocket will bend with the beavertail and stay attached.
- Inserting a full hydration bladder into the Nomad is a bit more tricky than on a standard hydration pack. You have to disconnect the hose to insert the bladder for the first time. There’s not much we can do about that right now, but it’s something we may address in a future version. Once the bladder is inserted, you can refill it from the top of the bag without removing it. In any event, Andrew found a bladder design he likes from Platypus that is much easier than the DaKine one I was using on this trip, and that should solve these issues.
- The hydration bladder consumes some of the volume of the bag. Riders who want a super slim-profile tank bag, or riders who like to pack a ton of stuff in their tank bag and need the extra volume, may want to consider wearing their water on their back.
- The rain cover takes up some bag volume too, plus the pocket it stores in could be quite handy for other items. Next trip I’ll probably stuff the raincover somewhere else on the bike and only move it to the tang bag when rain is imminent.
- Zippers: we’re using sealed zippers for water resistance. I had no problems with zippers on the trip. However, as many riders will attest, zippers are often the first thing to fail on a tank bag, and sealed zippers are more prone to failure than unsealed. On the Nomad, the zippers have to cross some heavy seams and make some tight turns. Unsealed zippers would navigate these challenges much better than sealed ones. The downside is the lack of water resistance. However we do have a rain cover for wet weather, and tank bags don’t typically get pelted by rain because they’re sheltered by the front of the bike. We haven’t decided which type of zipper we prefer yet.
My bottom line review: this is a friggin’ awesome tank bag. It’s completely unlike any tank bag I’ve ever used. I’ve never come home and had my tank bag be so completely and totally organized. Everything found a home. No more stew of batteries, chap stick, change, receipts, garbage, etc sliding around in the bottom of the bag. Plus, doing an extended trip with nothing on our backs was just plain awesome. I always forget how restrictive and fatiguing a hydration pack can be after hours of riding. I hope to see a bunch of ADV folks moving this direction in the future. This system really works.
Tracker 10 with Reckless 80
On this particular trip we were expecting rain and chilly temps (although it didn’t actually end up raining) so we had some puffy clothes to pack. We designed the Tracker 10 as an easy add-on for the Reckless 80 and Backcountry 35 bags, and this time we both used it that way. The Tracker 10 connects to the two D-rings on the back of the Reckless 80 using Simple Cinch Straps. It’s an awesome little stash spot. We found ourselves tucking all kinds of quick-access stuff in there along with our extra riding gear: snacks, a can of beer, socks… stuff like that. This will be part of my standard R80 kit going forward.
Plus the Simple Cimch Straps can be used to carry extra firewood over short distances, in addition to the beavertail and harness on the Reckless 80. Ash and I managed to get all our gear and 4 bundles of firewood out on the Alvord Desert in a single trip.
Tent Pole Pocket
A lot of riders using the tent pole holders on the Reckless 80 are reporting the same problem I’ve noticed: that the tent pole sleeves included with most tents are too flimsy, causing the poles to vibrate through the material, and leaving big gaping holes. My tent pole bags are currently completely trashed. On this trip I used the first prototype of our new tent pole bag. It will fit on the Backcountry 30 Duffle or the Reckless 80 system.
On this prototype, we had a miscommunication with the factory over the width of the bag, so it came in much wider than originally planned. I almost left it at home for that reason, but as it turned out, I used all the space. It’s perfect for long skinny things that don’t need to be packed inside a drybag: siphon, air pump, zip ties, tow rope, tent poles, and stuff like that. The whole thing tucks neatly under the beavertail and connects to the same daisy chan as the original tent pole holder.
Still, even though I used all the space, we’re planning to make the final design about 1/2 to 2/3rds the size of this one. And we’re also planning to make it cylindrical.
20L Dry Sak
We ship a 20L Dry Sak with every BC 30/40 Duffle, Scout 25/60 Duffle, Tracker 20, and Reckless 80. These are for dirty things like shoes and laundry. This trip I took two Dry Saks, one for shoes/laundry and the other for campsite/cooking garbage. This works much better than the little plastic grocery bags I normally accumulate on a trip and save for garbage. Highly recommend this as a garbage carrying solution, it really works.
Here’s a few more pics. Wild Horses, petroglyphs, arrowheads, campfires, cocktails, big hills, dry lakes, and so much awesome desert. Damn, I love the Northwest. Hope we get another stretch of good weather before winter takes over.
Something I’ll be taking on future trips: a proper first aid kit with sutures In this case, a sliced-up shirt and Neosporin did the trick
Oh yeah, the new riding apparel was so cool! We’ll cover that in a future post. Lots happening. Exciting times!