Sunday, July 10, 2011

First bikepacking trip report

I recently got in my first single overnight bikepacking trip.  I completed my planned route with no outside assistance needed and I arrived home alive.  The definition of success for such a venture.  My trip wasn't very ambitious, I've tackled bigger rides in a single day than what I completed over two days on this trip.  However, the point was to test my gear and packing strategy to make sure I had what I needed to camp overnight.  Soon I'll be ready to tackle multiple nights out which will enable me to complete some big loops.

I don't include a map of the route this time.  I wasn't exactly riding any stash trails, but I did do a fair amount of bushwacking and hit some little used areas, so I won't draw attention to them.  Basically my route was from home, up Left Hand canyon, Sunshine canyon, and all the way west to camp somewhere above of HW 72 south of Rainbow Lakes road, about 45 miles from home, around 9000 ft..  The next morning I continued west as far as the snow line allowed, near the wilderness boundary just above 11,000 ft on what is effectively a dead-end route for bikes.  Then I turned around and went home by way of Sugarloaf canyon and Boulder.

The biggest test of the trip was my new Hexamid tarp from  When selecting gear, it's a well known fact that reliability/comfort/affordability are traditionally in opposition to bulk/weight/cool factor.  Being a custom made at only 4 ounces, this tarp fall firmly in the latter category and I was afraid it might not do well in real world use, but so far so good.  Here it is in the back yard:

I'm also using a Tyvek ground sheet that I cut myself to fit the tarp, and I rolled and glued the edges so that water running over the ground (in case of heavy rain) would stay under the sheet.  Tyvek is the ideal material, it's pretty light, cheap, water proof, and tear/puncture resistant.  My sleep system is based on a Thermarest Neoair, a 40 degree Golite down quilt, and a silk liner.  This is barely warm enough so I rely on wearing riding clothes I already carry to stay warm overnight:

Here are some shots of camp taken in the morning:

Another cool piece of gear that I'm happy with is my Caldera Cone alcohol stove whose windscreen perfectly fits a Snow Peak 600 ml titanium mug.  I used it to heat water to cook some freeze dried backpacking food for dinner and to make coffee (Starbuck's Via ready brew) in the morning.  Here's the stove, fuel, and mug which all pack together into a pretty small package:

And here's the stove in action - I hope mountain lions don't like the smell of coffee:

Of course you have to fit all this stuff on the bike.  I'll post a complete equipment list later but for now here's the Fargo loaded up after breaking camp in the morning:

But of course the point of this trip was to ride - so, here's pictures taken on the route to prove I actually went somewhere.  Here's snow line near the wilderness boundary:

Some serious melting was going on, here the jeep trail is completely awash:

A new burn area between Left Hand and Sunshine canyons with a good view of downtown Denver way off in the distance:

And a fun section of trail I covered on the way down to Boulder.  Thanks to JP for pointing out the connecting network to me on a ride three days earlier:

Next - a detail equipment list and my packing strategy.