By Nick Legan and Alex Strickland
If your tent is a bit tired, why not save weight when buying a new one? With modern materials this can be a matter of pounds, not ounces. But of course, that savings also corresponds with a lightening of your wallet. NEMO Equipment claims that its Hornet Elite 2P is the lightest freestanding tent with two doors and two vestibules. While I didn’t do an exhaustive search, their claim seems valid, at least for the moment. Lightest or not, the Hornet Elite is certainly a gossamer shelter. Like many two-person tents, space is cramped unless you’re a pair of newlyweds. But the head space is exceptional and the vestibules expand the sheltered area, keeping extra gear out of the elements. Set up is a cinch and its packed size easily fits in a bikepacking seat pack or on top of a rear rack. And that weight? Just a pinch under a kilogram packed, or two pounds, three ounces for those of us working in Imperial. – NL
While not a new company, Astute saddles are just beginning to hit U.S. shores. I’ve spent a couple comfy weeks aboard the Italian firm’s MudLine VT, a perch intended for mountain bikers but great for road riding too. Designed to reduce core movement while pedaling, Astute saddles feature triple density memory foam and varying shapes and widths. I hopped on the Mudline and found a happy place with very little adjustment. With a deep center relief channel, a rounded shape, it isn’t dissimilar to my usual Selle SMP. Ladies, fear not. Astute also produces women’s models. - NL
A soft cooler probably doesn’t make sense for a long tour, but for hot summer bike overnights, the 15L IceMule Classic Cooler is darn near indispensable. I’ve thrown it in the back of the truck for post–after-work–ride refreshment, strapped it to front racks for picnics, and even floated a river or two with it in tow. A highly insulated YETI it isn’t, but for a relatively light and extremely flexible drybag-style cooler, it’s pretty impressive. Welded seams and tough construction has proved burly in spite of my occasional carelessness and the PolarLayer insulation keeps food and drink cold for at least a day. The air bleed valve is nice for keeping the cooler packed down as small as possible and though I ditched the shoulder strap quickly, it’s a nice option to have if you’re on foot. –AS
It was with great skepticism that I bolted up the Shockstop, an elastomer-equipped “suspension” stem, as I tend to prefer my shock absorption to be of the hydraulically damped type. And my first rides on the Redshift model did little to change my mind: when standing I got a ticking creak from the main hinge, I didn’t like my hand position moving up and down when up in the hoods, and because of the angles involved couldn’t feel much in the way of shock stopping when in the drops. But as the weeks went by — and I rode other bikes not equipped with the Shockstop — I started to change my tune. The out-of-saddle creak is profoundly annoying, but when cruising along the ride is, well, it’s amazing. Combined with some “Road Plus” 650bx47mm tires and a supple steel frame I practically float down blacktop. Available in +/-6 degree or 30 degree rise and from 90-120mm in length (not to mention a number of elastomers available to dial-in the stiffness), the Shockstop is worth a try if you’re looking to smooth out rough rides. –AS
On the subject of smooth rides, this flip-flop upgrade is like trading in a 2x4 for a cumulus cloud. Oofos makes “recovery footwear,” which feature a cushy foam that’s much less spritely than what’s found in most tennis shoes. The result is a strange combo of support that you sink into. These slip-ons are more expensive than a pair of gas station sandals and certainly take up a bit more space (though they are quite light), but post-ride they truly do offer a sense of “recovery” on account of the instant comfort for tired feet. Without a rubber sole, I was worried that outdoor wear would quickly tear up the undersides and even possibly the top of the OOahh, but they’ve survived a fair bit of abuse and still look new, and they’re almost certain to be strapped to the rear rack on my next tour.