If you've ever been bikepacking, you know that you'll always forget to bring the one thing you'll need on the trip. Interestingly, I ended up being in an altogether different situation the last time I went on a fantastic off-grid adventure in Wales by packing an accessory that I thought I probably wouldn't need and ended up using all the time: my neck gaiter.
Bikepacking is a great activity, and if you haven't tried it yet, you definitely should this summer – travelling around on a gravel bike with your provisions in tow opens up a whole new world to discover. On my most recent trip, we ended up swimming in reservoirs, having peanut satay noodles for lunch next to a half-derelict lodge, and cycling along one of the most stunning routes in the world, dare I say, with the rolling Welsh countryside as the backdrop.
We were lucky enough to have beautiful sunny weather for the whole journey, which was lovely for swimming, but it did get somewhat unpleasant during ascents. The sun beating down on you isn't something you yearn for when trying to climb 14% hills. You get sweaty, and your neck will see a lot of solar activity, too, which can get painful over time.
Out of sheer luck, I chucked my Buff Neck Gaiter (retailer link) in my bag when I left home and was pleasantly surprised to have it on me for the ride. You see, Buff's tubular neckwear has UPF 50 protection and can keep your neck from burning without overheating the area too much. I used their Merino gaiters when I did the Mongol 100 ultramarathon, so I knew how great the company's products are.
But it's not just the sun protection I like about the gaiter. I could saturate it with water while overheating, keeping my neck and back cool. Best of all, I could use it to prevent biting midges from absolutely assaulting my face by pulling the gaiter up on my nose. Since it's so thin, I could still breathe normally and let the midges much away on my legs and lower arms instead.
So, next time you plan on going on a bikepacking or hiking trip, put a neck gaiter in your hiking backpack. It doesn't take up any space, but it'll make all the difference should you need it. Best off, it's dirt cheap. I know I'll be taking it with me on my next trip this weekend!