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  1. #1
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    Bikepacking "Dabbling"

    This weekend I picked a safe route to test my mettle.

    The idea was to navigate ~50 miles on my 29+, hauling just water, food, medical, and spare clothes - with the normal bike tools and spare tube. Mixed terrain with a 9 mi. road prologue, 27 mi. of off road/doubletrack/gravel, and 14mi. on rural roads to the Southern Tier Brewery in Jamestown, NY. I was fine, but...

    - The trail was harder than the first 2 miles I'd surveyed last year. It was humid and it took me over an hour longer than planned to cover the 27 mi. It is a beautiful, well-maintained, well-marked trail - with some serious grunt climbs and plenty of roots, random rocks, and groundhog holes where it traverses a couple cow pastures. Oh, and on the cow pastures - there are ladders to negotiate the electric and barbed wire fences, which are very tricky with a heavy bike. There is an easy road bypass for each, but that's not what I was out for.
    - I ran short on water due to the overage on time. Thankfully, there are water stops and camps within limping distance of each end of the trail. No problem, but I need to carry more water. I was very happy to not use a CamelBak, though. I had a 2-bottle fanny pack (48oz), and more water on the bike.
    - One of my electronic maps failed. The trail itself offered but one single navigational challenge (out of ~20 crossings and turns). My downloaded map (pdf) kept me on course. I exited the trail to find my last 14 mi. was now electronic vapor. Probably my incompetence, but nonetheless, I very much needed navigational support. Paper map next time.
    - The trail would have been even harder, and maybe not even fun in some places had I been carrying camping gear and more food. I was popping off mounds and roots clusters everywhere - it was soooo fun. The fence ladders would have been much more difficult - even risky.
    - The idea of stopping eventually felt very weird. I think this is something that experienced bikepackers know; but you are carrying only so much water and food, which limits your range. If you come up short, you will become very uncomfortable. Again, my route was very safe in regards to retrieval or bailout had anything happened, but stopping immediately brought thoughts of the sun setting, water running out, bugs eating me alive...
    - My choice of food was positively awful: a stack of 300 calorie peanut butter protein bars. Worst food ever invented. I've tried them several times already, and they were tolerable, but it always becomes harder and harder for me to eat when I am working hard and going longer. Trying to eat these things while still covering ground was pretty sucky. I'm going back to liquid calories, or just full-on sandwiches/bagels/wraps.
    - My speed was gauged on whether the flies were biting my triceps. They got me a few times pretty good.

    Overall, it was an incremental (I stress the mental part) victory. At no time did I feel bad and I never cramped (which, unfortunately, lends some credibility to those awful protein bars). At 50 miles and 4500' it's a layup shot for most experienced bikepackers, but I needed to find my style and my weaknesses so I can plan better next time. Mission accomplished.

    -F

    PS - If I had to do it again today, I think I could have, but my butt was unusually sore so it woulda been more like work. Still doable, though. I would have needed a LOT more calories today, though. Or maybe a lot more yesterday.(?)

    PPS - I think I would be better writing down all my route cues by hand and keeping them on paper. It seems more reliable, and chances are I would remember it all.

    PPPS - The guy who posted pictures on MTBproject did the same thing I did: he never stopped to take a picture at the fun parts because he was having too much fun - so all the pictures look like flat doubletrack. There were some blistering downhills with root balls, jumps, berms, and short drops. Someone who really knows it could rip some of those sections rightly.
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  2. #2
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    Nice write up and accomplishment, thanks for sharing.

    I did my first bikepack w/ camper stuff a few weeks ago with some friends. About 30# worth.
    We topped off water everywhere we seen it and I planned and did end up carrying 3 liters plus a 20 oz bottle thinking 3 L could cover a day of riding.
    We were a bit sketchy on maps and write ups of the trails versus our climbing abilty and needs on a variety of connections around Pikes Peak. Was blistering hot and steep hike-a-bike but we got our taste of adventure.
    In the Middle Ages, the biggest mistake was not putting on your armor because you were 'just going down to the corner.'

  3. #3
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    Hey, I started this thread as a place for beginners to maybe post some lessons learned. I haven't even done an overnighter on the bike yet, but I am learning fast.

    My latest triumph? By ditching some of the nice little bags that everything seems to pack into individually, I grouped them into sleep, food, clothes, tools, and other. Now all my sleep stuff fits in one bag (tent, sleeping bag, etc.), all my cooking and food fits in one bag, clothes are a little more scattered... but I don't have to unpack one to get to the other. Lots more room, and I can ride no hands fully loaded.

    Baby steps...

    -F

    edit: I read back on ramblings and it sorta missed the main objective: By removing certain items from their individual pack bags, they can be re-configured into a different shape (shorter and fatter, or longer and skinnier). In addition to the reduced overall volume, it also increased the packing density, and somehow even balanced the load better.
    Last edited by Fleas; 07-26-2018 at 07:02 AM.
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    Hey, I started this thread as a place for beginners to maybe post some lessons learned. I haven't even done an overnighter on the bike yet, but I am learning fast.

    My latest triumph? By ditching some of the nice little bags that everything seems to pack into individually, I grouped them into sleep, food, clothes, tools, and other. Now all my sleep stuff fits in one bag (tent, sleeping bag, etc.), all my cooking and food fits in one bag, clothes are a little more scattered... but I don't have to unpack one to get to the other. Lots more room, and I can ride no hands fully loaded.

    Baby steps...

    -F
    I would assume with Bikepacking the 'journey' is more rewarding than simply getting it right the first time, and every time after. Keeps you interested.

  5. #5
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    Nice dabble, fleas. TFPU.

    So many tricks everybody's got em...


    - Bivy low, climb high; the old mountaineer adage. Position for AM sun.

    - Disregard what racers do.

    - Take a rest day or super light day every week or two if you're on a long one.

    - Plan for stuff to go wrong. Whether you can fix it, or someone else has to, you'll get back on the route less worse for wear if you aren't fixated on everything being perfect.

  6. #6
    101
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    I find that my setup is constantly evolving -finding more effective and ingenious ways to pack, cut weight, leave stuff behind and integrate new ideas and gear. I do like and need to eat plentiful amounts of food and also need quality food or I feel like shit, so quality nutrition gets a priority for me. Any weight penalty there is made up for with performance.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 101 View Post
    I find that my setup is constantly evolving -finding more effective and ingenious ways to pack, cut weight, leave stuff behind and integrate new ideas and gear. I do like and need to eat plentiful amounts of food and also need quality food or I feel like shit, so quality nutrition gets a priority for me. Any weight penalty there is made up for with performance.
    Yeah I hear all about people fueling on gummy bears and gas station burritos. Not sure how long I'd last like that.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  8. #8
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    Just a short excursion today/tonight, with 2 days of "stuff" to get a feel for the weight, but no extra clothes, and I discovered something: contrary to my OP, the idea of stopping - now that I was "stocked" - was a non-issue! With what I had on board, I could have stopped literally anywhere, and not gone home for 2 nights. I also figured out how to secure all my stuff, including what seems to be a heavy handle bar roll, on rooty singletrack. ...and handling was heavy, but still fun. Really enjoyable.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  9. #9
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    I hear you on good food. Are you cooking? Stuff like dried salami, almonds, dried fruit work well for me. Salmon( or other fish) in foil packets as well. I have a trangia alcohol stove and do breakfast of rolled oats, raisins and ( be kind) starbucks via instant coffee. Those little shelf stable 1/2 oz creamers are great. 3 in the coffee, 2 in the oatmeal.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    I hear you on good food. Are you cooking? Stuff like dried salami, almonds, dried fruit work well for me. Salmon( or other fish) in foil packets as well. I have a trangia alcohol stove and do breakfast of rolled oats, raisins and ( be kind) starbucks via instant coffee. Those little shelf stable 1/2 oz creamers are great. 3 in the coffee, 2 in the oatmeal.
    I think I can go really far on just bagels, peanut butter, and honey - not sure how long before I get sick of it. But beef sticks, corn/bean salsa, flour tortillas, Fig Newtons, dried meals - and my downtube bag holds several beercan-sized containers as well.
    Coincidence? Not.
    Still not sure what to do about cheese in hot weather. I do love me some cheese.

    Not very light yet, but I like a full tent and decent food, so it will be a long time before I decide what I'd rather not lug up the hills.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  11. #11
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    I dont scrimp on food. My tent is like 3 lbs or so. Just got a 1 lb sea to summit air pad , nice stuff. Thought about say a tarp with a bug net for light weight stuff? Got bugs to deal with? For my 5 day trip in NH, I carry 2 sets of cloths for on bike, 1 for off, plus a full warm layer and a raincoat. Been cold and wet, not a good combo. One night was 48 F, lots of days in the 80-90 F range. Love my wool base layers. Most of my trips in New England, lots of resupply spots, food, water, sit down places to eat etc. So take say 1 corn, bean, cheese wrap and freeze. Eat that the first day. Hard cheese like parm should last too. I tend to seek out dirt roads, bike paths and such as opposed to really tech single track on my trips, longer flatter miles that way.

  12. #12
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    I ditched my tent a couple years ago and went to strictly hammock camping. My hammock packs up into a ball the size of a grapefruit and weighs nothing, and my rain fly packs up small and is also way under a pound. The biggest bonus is that I also find it more comfortable than a tent.

    I am not sure I could ever see myself going back to carrying a tent around with me. Once it's gone you really realize how much space they take up.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    Yeah I hear all about people fueling on gummy bears and gas station burritos. Not sure how long I'd last like that.

    -F
    Haha !! No kidding.

    We had some good food and top notch coffee on or first outing. The guys even hid some beers a few weeks earlier on a hike part we intersected with. Found beers went in the creek to get a nice chill.

    I too re-did my packs and made them longer / skinnier so as less bulk. Most everything could be reconsidered and moved or reshaped.
    The time spent to 'play with the stuff' and experiment is well worth a better, sturdier pack and less fidgeting or fixing on the trail.

    Any bike and gear weights ?

    Mine is 31# as steel h/t and plus tires,

    Gear weight with a 3 liter frame bag of water and a fork cage bottle ( 1 gal total), tent, sleeping bag, tools, food, sleeping mattress, clothes, rain gear, etc.... 32 / 34#
    Total bike was 65 # or so.

    Converting to tubeless this weekend.
    In the Middle Ages, the biggest mistake was not putting on your armor because you were 'just going down to the corner.'

  14. #14
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    Another splendid (and safe) excursion.
    I packed more than enough to camp and ride for 4 days and 3 nights. That is a LOT.
    I rode (a short ride) to my friend's cabin on the AT. I was packed for tent camping, but I still stayed in the cabin. The cabin has a latrine, a good spring, and no electric. I unloaded the bike and we rode singletrack for 3 days (not on the AT). I repacked and departed on the 4th day.
    1. I am amazed at how much water we had to fetch over that short time. The spring made it convenient, but still a time expenditure. If I'd had to filter that much water, the time requirement would've been intrusive on our activities.
    2. Dried meals... so this is why there are "spice kits".
    3. Save your dried meal pouches for your next trip. They can be used for other foods (oatmeal, soup..) and rinsed and stowed and washed later. This saves on clean water.
    4. It took me ~1hr. to pack up, without the tent. That seems like a really long time.
    5. I wasn't so obsessed with self-sufficiency that I would turn down a trip to the pizza parlor in town or a stop at the beer store, but I could have. I could've even stayed and rode another day. Pre-packaged food really helped.
    6. I should have left more clean clothes in my truck and maybe some baby wipes.

    Great few days off!

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    Another splendid (and safe) excursion.
    I packed more than enough to camp and ride for 4 days and 3 nights. That is a LOT.
    I rode (a short ride) to my friend's cabin on the AT. I was packed for tent camping, but I still stayed in the cabin. The cabin has a latrine, a good spring, and no electric. I unloaded the bike and we rode singletrack for 3 days (not on the AT). I repacked and departed on the 4th day.
    1. I am amazed at how much water we had to fetch over that short time. The spring made it convenient, but still a time expenditure. If I'd had to filter that much water, the time requirement would've been intrusive on our activities.
    2. Dried meals... so this is why there are "spice kits".
    3. Save your dried meal pouches for your next trip. They can be used for other foods (oatmeal, soup..) and rinsed and stowed and washed later. This saves on clean water.
    4. It took me ~1hr. to pack up, without the tent. That seems like a really long time.
    5. I wasn't so obsessed with self-sufficiency that I would turn down a trip to the pizza parlor in town or a stop at the beer store, but I could have. I could've even stayed and rode another day. Pre-packaged food really helped.
    6. I should have left more clean clothes in my truck and maybe some baby wipes.

    Great few days off!

    -F
    Water something is definitely something you need to account for on any sort of backcountry trip. I have passed up on doing backpacking trips in a number of places specifically because there was no water of any sort available on the trail, and the only realistic way to do a trip of any length is to cache water beforehand. Lots of extra work that I simply don't want to deal with. I have two different filters - one is a MSR Miniworks pump that I've had for decades. The other is a Sawyer Squeeze that I can rig up in a number of different ways (but my primary is gravity). I use the pump if water comes from weak, small sources where I can't scoop or otherwise fill a bladder easily. The one thing I like about a gravity setup is that it doesn't really involve much work. Fill the bladder, hang it up, and let it go. I can do other stuff while water filters. I could even fill my dirty bladder whenever I find a source, and carry it until I reach camp, or stop to eat, or whatever and filter then.

    I've found the quality of freeze dried/dehydrated meals to vary enormously. Big chunks of meat rarely rehydrate well. If I get one with meat, I tend to prefer the meat ground up very finely. But I often go vegetarian on these meals. Beans take a longer time to rehydrate completely. Crunchy beans suck. I tend to go for the various ethnic dishes, because seasoning. You can definitely prepare your own dehydrated meals for backcountry use. I have a cookbook that addresses this technique. It's called "freezer bag cooking" if you want to look some stuff up. It does require a food dehydrator and some work before your trip. But you can oftentimes make meals you know you'll like, dehydrate and package them, and then you get to eat home-cooked food quickly in the woods.

    With more practice, your camp breakdown process will get more efficient. When it comes down to it, though, I actually LIKE to take my time. I usually have a cup of coffee that I'm sipping on while I break things down. I take my time to pack stuff up well so that it's easy to pull out when I make my next camp. But, when I set up camp, it still does take less than an hour most of the time. A big part of that will depend on how much crap you spread out at camp. Keeping that to a minimum really helps. Pretty much, I only fully unpack my sleep gear in camp, which is my hammock, quilt, and pad. I will eventually replace the foam pad with an underquilt, because the foam pad gets sweaty on my back. I only pull out what food and cooking gear I need at the time, so putting that away just takes minutes.

    Clean clothes and baby wipes in the car can be so big, depending on what it takes to get out of the woods. My last trip involved a 5 mile, easy downhill back to the car, so I didn't even build up a sweat. But baby wipes were nice to cut some of the built-up grime from previous days. It's worthwhile to pack some with you, too, to clean "strategic" areas before bed. Really helps me sleep better, honestly.

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