Bike packing the C&O- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Bike packing the C&O

    In case anyone was interested in knowing what it's like, here's my video of my trip last year. To make it easy for us, we left our cars in Williamsport, MD, and did 60 ish miles Friday, 80 miles Saturday up to Frostburg and back to the same camping spot from Friday night, and then Sunday, 60ish miles to our cars. The pawpaw tunnel was awesome!

    https://youtu.be/r8bXsMXWnNI

  2. #2
    drev-il, not Dr. Evil!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kemc2k6 View Post
    In case anyone was interested in knowing what it's like, here's my video of my trip last year. To make it easy for us, we left our cars in Williamsport, MD, and did 60 ish miles Friday, 80 miles Saturday up to Frostburg and back to the same camping spot from Friday night, and then Sunday, 60ish miles to our cars. The pawpaw tunnel was awesome!

    https://youtu.be/r8bXsMXWnNI
    Next time get someone to drop you off in Cumberland so you can do the whole thing!
    "Keep your burgers lean and your tires fat." -h.d. | ssoft | flickr

  3. #3
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    Ya gotta love that DH from Frostburg to Cumberland. But, that is on the GAP and it's better when you get the whole run from the tunnel.

    I've done the whole thing out and back, C & O and GAP. Started at Mt Vernon and camped the first night at hiker biker site @ mile 27. Then 64 miles day 2, 86 thru the Paw Paw tunnel day 3. Took me 10 days to Pittsburg and back. The best part was chasing the Locomotive down the mountain from Frostburg. Crossed in front of it twice going into Cumberland. Way cool.

  4. #4
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    Looking for tips and pointers on doing this myself. My biggest concern: riding with a two-wheeled trailer. Some sites recommend it. Some sites say it's a mistake. Anyone know the practicality a two-wheeled trailer is on the GAP and C&O?

  5. #5
    I am the owl
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    Quote Originally Posted by connolm View Post
    Looking for tips and pointers on doing this myself. My biggest concern: riding with a two-wheeled trailer. Some sites recommend it. Some sites say it's a mistake. Anyone know the practicality a two-wheeled trailer is on the GAP and C&O?
    I've done the full Canal several times and would not take a trailer. There is no need for it and you'll just take more stuff than you need. Each time I did it I trimmed my load down from the previous time. You'll be much happier hauling less weight.
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  6. #6
    drev-il, not Dr. Evil!
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    Quote Originally Posted by riderx View Post
    I've done the full Canal several times and would not take a trailer. There is no need for it and you'll just take more stuff than you need. Each time I did it I trimmed my load down from the previous time. You'll be much happier hauling less weight.
    Agreed. Trim down and learn to camp with a little less or smaller/lighter-weight equipment.

    For example, riderx and I went with some friends, and one carried wine bottles, while another carried a full spice rack and fuller-sized kitchen equipment. The wine-o could have gotten away with wine in the crushable boxes, while the chef could've used lighter weight cooking equipment and put his spices in little baggies

    There are so many ways to lighten up, and thus, make the ride more enjoyable. Check out the bikepacking forum here, as well as googling for other bikepacking sites for hints, tips, and best practices.
    "Keep your burgers lean and your tires fat." -h.d. | ssoft | flickr

  7. #7
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    Have done out and backs on both the GAP and C&O out of Cumberland. Realize sections around Cumberland are just a fraction of the whole mileage available, so take that into consideration when reading my comments. If you aren't aware, the C&O is more rustic than the GAP. GAP is full on legit crushed stone graded rail trail (one step down from a concrete sidewalk). C&O is a an old tow path that mules and/or tractors drove on. For the C&O, on the sections I rode, the surface varied from gravel to gravel double track, dirt double track, dirt. Numerous potholes = think they would be hard to dodge when riding with a trailer. I would be concerned or agitated riding the C&O after a significant rain (mud). I can handle a few muddy spots on a MTB ride, but mile after mile of it would get old.

    The official GAP website is really informative and easy to navigate. Check it out.

  8. #8
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    Thanks RiderX and Drevil for the responses.

    I already have a 18 lb bikepacking setup that I use frequently for 1-3 nights. I'm planning on 7-8 days for this C&O/GAP trip so I had the notion of "treating" myself on this trip with just a little more vacation-style "comfort." Nothing crazy - but just a little less extreme minimalist.

    So I bought this: Allen Bike Cargo Trailer.

    Does a two-wheel trailer make it difficult to pass and be passed on the trail? Does it meander through the single-track trough trying to get one or the other wheel "in" the trough? Does the uneven-ness of the trail cause too much vibration and noise?



    **********************************
    If you're curious about my setup and what I want to take different on the C&O/GAP, read below:
    **********************************

    Minimalist kit:

    Tent: Wenzel Hiker (very heavily modified down to 1 lb 8 oz.)
    Sleep system: Therm-a-Rest Neolite X-Air and light blanket
    Kitchen: Freeze-dried food on a Trangia Alcohol stove system, Titantium spork and knife, Sea-to-Summit X-cup, Platypus 1L collapsible water bottle (plus water in Camelbak), tiny Bic lighter, a couple paper towels & zip loc bags for trash
    Personal and Hygiene: Sea-to-Summit towel, Sea-to-Summit wilderness wash, 1x1.5" sponge, travel sized deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, 3X5" medical kit, one change of cycling clothes, 1oz. 100% DEET, sunglasses, disposable contact lenses
    Electronics: Fenix Flashlight, 10000 mAH charger, cellphone
    Tools: tube, pump, patch-kit, tire levers, multi-tool w/ chain tool, swiss-army knife, lube (wtih 5' duct tape wrapped around it)
    Other: 10x10' 3-mil disposable painter tarp (for emergency) wrapped with ~20' paracord (I've used this to "rig" a tarp when necessary)

    That setup is minimalist, light, effective, and to be truthful - less than comfortable. The tent is a coffin. The air mattress is just slightly better than bare ground. No Pillow. The food is paste. No dessert. I end up sitting around on the ground, or a hard log, or a rock. I drink water. Not beer. I sleep in cycling clothing. I stumble around camp in my rigid-sole cycling shoes. You get the picture...

    What I want to change for a more vacation-style tour:

    Tent: something a little taller - like a 7x7 Dome tent (so that time in the rain isn't spent lying down in a 30 inch tall coffin) plus I can put my friggin' gear inside!!! [Add pounds plural with an "s"]
    Sleep: switch to my Klymit Static V. Take my little camp pillow for comfort. Add a simple pair of underwear to sleep in so as to not sleep in farkin' spandex. [Add more than a pound]
    kitchen: I have a Biolite Stove. Can I take it? Would be wonderful to have both a stove and a campfire! Too heavy? Ok, I have a non-electric, wood-burning fire stove here:Link. Can I have some more satisfying food other than pasty gruel? Beer and desserts are a must. They feed the soul. I'm on vacation for goodness sake! [Add pounds plural with an "s" - especially for beer]
    Personal and Hygiene: Not much would change other than maybe a better towel and a change of clothes. I'd like "town clothes" if I choose to stay at a B&B and want to spend the evening at the local bar. I also bought a camp stool so I don't have to sit on rocks.
    Electronics: I should take a better light for the Paw-Paw tunnel than what I've got. I also bought a cool UCO lantern than would be nice to take along. I have a new Delorme InReach satellite communicator device that I hope to take for messaging and emergencies.
    Things I'd like to take: a point & shoot camera, a book, camp shoes (flip-flops would be just OK), a hat, a poncho, the GAP & C&O Trailbook, JiffyPop popcorn, a travel kite (yes - a kite. I love flying kites. Don't worry, I'll find a spot...), my Goal-Zero solar charger....

  9. #9
    drev-il, not Dr. Evil!
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    Quote Originally Posted by connolm View Post
    Thanks RiderX and Drevil for the responses.

    I already have a 18 lb bikepacking setup that I use frequently for 1-3 nights. I'm planning on 7-8 days for this C&O/GAP trip so I had the notion of "treating" myself on this trip with just a little more vacation-style "comfort." Nothing crazy - but just a little less extreme minimalist.
    ...
    Haha, it sounds like you know what you are doing!

    I've done shorter sections of the C&O with a loaded trailer (Burley D'Lite) and it wasn't too bad. I've can't recall seeing too many ruts except in the winter, but they were relatively short and not very deep, so I don't see that being an issue. Also, the C&O is wide enough that nobody will have a hard time passing, unless they are going full gonzo speed and you are weaving back and forth on the trail

    However, like wi1trackrider mentioned, the C&O is sporadically pockmarked, uneven and slightly rooty in parts. The trailer may bounce around a little, and it might get annoying.

    If I was going for a more casual, comfy, and slower paced ride and wanted to carry more stuff, I'd consider one of those Allen trailers also.
    "Keep your burgers lean and your tires fat." -h.d. | ssoft | flickr

  10. #10
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    If you must take a trailer, a one wheel trailer would be best. There are sections where there is grass in the middle of the trail, so one wheel will be dragging with a two wheel trailer.

  11. #11
    I am the owl
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    Thoughts and experiences to help you decide on your setup:

    - There is no single track, but as noted above, there is a center strip that will make a 2 wheeled trailer a burden.

    - On canal trips I've always planned for one meal in town (late lunch/early dinner). Breakfast and dinner I carry with me and eat at camp. Bill's Place on the western portion, and either Shepardstown or Harpers Ferry on the latter part. Hancock has easy access for quick resupply (convenience store stuff)

    - The canal campsites have a fire ring, picnic table and spot-a-pot. So, a campfire can be easily had without your stove. Chair will be more comfortable but not necessary (I've carried one on on rare occasions)

    - On my singletrack adventures I go light but not ridiculous and accommodate much of what you look like you are striving for. I have light weight shoes (Cushe) and a pair of knickers for post ride chilling. I carry beer (cans, they go in the hydration pack, crush when empty). Light (500 lumens), sometimes a lantern (this one: light, rechargable, packs small). Either a Jetboil stove or a kettle and small gas stove

    - For the Paw Paw, you don't need a big light. 250 lumens will be more than enough and I've done it with much less.

    - Summer kit is laid out below not including a Sony Nex 5 camera that I take along. Colder weather just sees a heavier sleeping back and warmer clothes. Tent pictured is an old REI Roadster, just replaces with a Big Agnes 1 man. Both have a vestibule for gear + enough room to sit up - bigger than a coffin
    In the old days on my full pulls on the canal I was toting a 7 lb. 2.5 person tent. Glad to ditch that but still got by with a rack and 2 panniers with that setup and none of my gear was light like it is now.

    Drevil and I ran support for our wives and a group of friends on a canal trip and we pulled multiple trailers. Fine for that, but we were not doing the full run. I have a BOB and it is used mostly for singletrack trail work missions. Handles just fine on bumps, rocks and roots.

    Whatever you decide, I'm sure you will have a good ride!

    Summer bike packing kit by sso, on Flickr
    SingleSpeedOutlaw .com
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  12. #12
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    Well I know a little more now...

    Thanks RiderX, Kemc2k6 and Drevil.

    I took the trailer out for a test ride today. It's awesome on pavement. I will definitely use it on multi-day road tours. But it is problematic on anything rough. It bounces and rattles against the hitch mount. The contents vibrate and make noise. It may also be a bit too big.

    For this test ride, I took a carbon fiber bike. I'm worried that the torque and rattling on the hitch mount (it mounts through the rear wheel quick release) will damage the frame. Also, I put all of my more comfortable gear inside and it was still less than half full.

    Bike packing the C&O-7836bd86c90b7cf2b2219cde4fc2fc8c.jpg

    I'll spend this week attempting to rig a pannier based sled...

  13. #13
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    I have gotten my basic bike packing gear down to under 10 lbs with a sleeping bag. On the C & O I used a rear rack and 2 lb panniers, which allows me to take my larger cooking gear and 7 days of food.

    The biggest single item is a 30 oz military bivy bag. I tried a smaller one but it sweat badly and the zippers were a pain. The one I use is tough, has fool proof zippers and full enough to put the air mattress and sleeping bag inside and still have room to roll over easily.

    I have a 12 oz single pole tarp for inclement weather. I've put everything except the bike under it in major storms and stayed dry and comfortable.

    My basic cook kit is a home made double wall alcohol burner and a 1 liter pot with lid. One oz of Heet can boil 2 cups of water in just over 4 minutes for coffee and oatmeal or a freeze dry meal. Burner is 12 grams, pot is 110 grams. Great for short trips.

    My larger kit uses an 2 liter Al grease pot as a kettle, a 1.5 liter pot, 2 alcohol burners, one high heat and one low, a cup, spoon and fork. I can do 2 courses, cook for 2 or 3 and do a 20 min simmer for rice and grains. Then can boil my drinking water and have hot water for dish washing and sponge bath. I used it on 500 mile self contained trips.

    Panniers suck on rough trails. Frame bags have to be made for your bike and are limited in size. Mine are home made and only fit basic kit and change of clothes.

  14. #14
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    I ended up doing the whole thing, GAP and C&O, the week of labor day. Seven days with the trailer.

    I'm working on a full trip and report with pics and gear tables. I'll post it when done.

    Sent from my VS990 using Tapatalk

  15. #15
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    Was that one way or out and back?

  16. #16
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    One way Pittsburgh to D.C. It totaled 364 miles for me.

    Sent from my VS990 using Tapatalk

  17. #17
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    I finally did my write-up and gear review. I posted it in Bikepacking where we also discussing this. Look at posts #25 - 30 in this thread.

    Thinking about it more, I probably wouldn't use the trailer again. The biggest reason: concern over breakdowns and flats. I got through without incident - but having two extra tires doubles the flat risk. And my hitch was on its way toward breaking.

  18. #18
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    I think my total load was about 48 pounds - 18 for the trailer and 30 for gear. Everything was in the trailer except two water bottles. I did not have to ride with a backpack or anything else attached to the bike.

    I am glad I took the bigger tent. I was able to wheel the trailer into the tent at night. That made things easier for packing/unpacking and was also more secure.

    If I had to do it again, I might do it a week or two earlier when night temps were warmer. I think I hit 42 overnight in Confluence.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by connolm View Post
    I finally did my write-up and gear review. I posted it in Bikepacking where we also discussing this. Look at posts #25 - 30 in this thread.

    Thinking about it more, I probably wouldn't use the trailer again. The biggest reason: concern over breakdowns and flats. I got through without incident - but having two extra tires doubles the flat risk. And my hitch was on its way toward breaking.
    That was a great write up! Thanks for sharing.

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