Do you ever feel like just getting away from it all? Getting out of the city? Back "in the day", so to speak, Europeans used to take weekend trips with not much more than a loaf of bread and some cheese. As long as the bicycle has existed, bicycle touring in various forms has also existed. It appeals to our sense of adventure, our need for freedom from the daily grind, and is a wonderful way to interact socially with others.
Touring has come a long way in the last hundred plus years. For a few years now, "bikepacking" has started to emerge as a newer form of touring. Simply put, bikepacking is just like backpacking, but on a bike. It's focus is on off road adventures ranging from riding on fire roads to the nicest single track you can find. In its simplest form, a bikepacking trip is a single overnight. That can stretch as long as you want it to. At this point, the "Great Divide Trail", going from Canada to Mexico, is one of the most epic and well known examples of a bikepacking route. Just like backpacking, bikepacking is self supported. So, you need to carry your gear with you. As this category has grown, my interest in how to get involved has also grown. What gear to you need to bikepack? What routes are there? And, whom else is interested in this. I know I can ride, and ride quite a few miles, if needed. But, how to carry all that gear on the beautiful single track trails of Oregon, or wherever you may be? That takes some knowhow. To that end, over the next few posts we will be providing an introduction to a few pieces of gear needed to have an adventure:
The first place to start is "where am I going to put my gear?". Both Salsa and Surly, with the help of Revelate Designs have developed really nice frame bags to hold a good amount of gear in a small space. The large "triangle" shaped bag sit in the triangle of the bike. Granted, this can get tricky if you are using a full suspension bike. But, it can by done. Typically, you would pack your tent in this bag along with other things. These bags are extremely durable and will stay compact on the bike. With big velcro straps, they are very easy to attach to the bike. A few different compartments keep things a bit organized on the inside and they are even padded to help protect the frame and bag. Revelate designs also makes a few different frame bags that work really well. Examples of Frame Bags Used:Salsa Frame Bag, Revelate Design Tangle Frame Pack, Revelate Gas Tank Frame Bag
The other essential bag to use is the Revelate Designs Viscacha Seat Bag. This bag has been thought out and has been developed by bikepackers to hold a good amount of gear close to the bike and out of the way. It works incredibly well. It's, basically, a giant stuff sack that attaches to your saddle/seatpost. It has a roll down top which is easy and will keep everything protected from the elements. And, perhaps one of the very best features is the compression straps built into the bag. This allows you to stuff this bag with what you need, but still keep it compact and close to the bike. It won't move around much. You can put just about anything you want in this bag. Clothing, cooking equipment, etc. No problem at all.
The next thing to think about is shelter. There are plenty of different options to decide on in this category. The riders who want super light gear with look at a Bivy. These are single person, light weight shelters designed to keep you warm and dry. Other riders prefer to have a tent with them. One important thing here is weight. Choose a tent that is geared toward, and developed for, back packing. You need a shelter that is fairly light weight, will protect you from the elements, and packs down into a compact unit that is easy to carry. The single person shelters will be the lightest and smallest and will allow a sizable person to rest comfortably. But, with technology moving forward, even the 2 or 3 person tents can be an option, depending on what you need.
The tent that was recommended to me was the Sierra Designs Light Year 1. This is a single person shelter. This is a very well made product and I am impressed with how easy it takes care of the need for shelter. At about 3 pounds, it is light weight, and I have no problem getting it in my frame pack. Initial set up is very intuitive. Lay out the tent and stake it down. Connect the poles and the tent is up. If you need to put on the rain fly (and we do here in Oregon!), it is simple and covers the whole tent. One concern of mine is setting up the tent when you get to where you are camping. You might be really tired. Or, the weather might not cooperate and you need a fast set up. This tent has put my mind at ease in this regard. In addition to that, even at 6'2", I can sit up with head room to spare and I can lay completely stretched out with room to spare. The footprint of this tent provides room to put bags inside the tent, as well.