Bikepacking 101 - The Planning Process

This is the first in a series of posts introducing others into the amazing activity known as Bikepacking...

 A driving force behind my career choice is the ability to share my passions with others—to help people experience the great outdoors through any number of outdoor pursuits. As the director of a collegiate outdoor recreation program I have the responsibility and privilege to expose 18 to 25 year olds to activities that are healthy, inspiring, and potential lifelong endeavors. My hope is always that the enthusiasm that I have for venturing into wild places will inspire them to find their own passion for such pursuits and make them an integral part of their lives…or at the very least they will gain a better understanding of themselves and an appreciation for our natural world and all that it has to offer if we take care of it.

Loaded and ready for Bikepacking...

As we enter into our fall programming schedule, those looking at our semester program guide will notice a new program…a new way to access and enjoy the backcountry…Bikepacking. The program consists of an evening clinic on the Essentials of Bikepacking (what it is, equipment options, resources, etc.) followed by two Intro to Bikepacking weekend trips. From the participants on the weekend trips I hope to find a crew of six to eight dedicated students to train and prepare for a weeklong tour on the Arizona trail. Throughout the late fall and into the winter I will conduct a few clinics on designing and making one’s own gear—from frame bags and handlebar bags to simple alcohol stoves. Our program has two industrial sewing machines for gear repair and such, so the potential financial barrier to entry into the activity can be broken down for the budget-minded student. 

Cookin’ with gas…or alcohol that is...

Additionally, as I thought about and designed the program this summer, my biggest concern was having the proper equipment to get the program off the ground. Being that we are located in the mountain biking mecca of Durango, Colorado, we already have a full fleet of mountain bikes for students to check out and utilize. The crux was how the students would initially carry their clothing and equipment without having to put it all on their backs (until the students find their passion for bikepacking and begin purchasing or making their own bags). To help with this concern I turned to Eric Parsons of Revelate Designs. As many bikepacking enthusiasts know, Eric has been at the forefront of designing equipment for bikepacking. Salsa design engineer and friend Sean Mailen and I both utilized his Viscacha seatpost bag during our ride of the Great Divide last summer (click here for our short film) and they worked great — easily holding up to the rigors and pounding that rides such as the Divide dish out on all equipment. Budgeting accordingly I ordered eight Viscacha bags and eight Tangle Bags (in various sizes) from Eric. Furthermore, utilizing scrap dry bag material, my student staff and I are making several simple gear slings to help carry bulky items (sleeping bags, pads, and other bags) on the front of bikes. With this initial investment, I feel confident that we can give students a great first taste to the fun of bikepacking. 

A simple OP-style gear sling...

My thoughts are that initially the seatbags and such will be utilized solely for the Intro to Bikepacking weekend trips, but as the program gains in popularity, these items will be available in our equipment inventory to be checked out on an individual basis (just like backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, etc.). How cool is that going to be when a student can come in and check out a set of bikepacking bags for the weekend to pursue their own individual adventures? Pretty darn cool.

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Overnighter Sponsored Riders Touring

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Brett Davis

Brett Davis

I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.


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Bong | October 8th, 2012

It looks like the Beverly Hillbillies packed for a mountain bike ride.

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Rich | October 8th, 2012

I’m way jealous!  We had nothing of the sort in college.  Of course we weren’t in the mountainous bikepacking heaven you are but as ERod-the video contest winner would attest to-adventure can be found everywhere.  And now I am aware of how many sweet places we do have to ride and bikepack within a short drive of Minneapolis.

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christopher bayer | October 8th, 2012

How do we get involved with this?

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Phat Phil | October 8th, 2012

Very jealous and envious of your students. What a great idea for a course !

Ken | October 8th, 2012

Hey, that’s great!

Someone made a “Beverly Hillbillys” comment and I thought “What do they mean?” Yer set up looks good to me.
I have an Evernew Titanium alcohol stove, but the ol’ beer can stove did great. I have a Revelate set up, including a Sweetroll which is an excellent piece of gear, but my ol’ homemade front bar sling (just like yours) did great too.
Sometimes I obsess over gear. Chasing the latest super bikepacking gear comes with the realization that it’s often not very tough. So I often prefer to put the wear on my trusty old “Beverly Hillbilly” gear. Besides, a beer can stoves and a homemade shelters do something for my soul that super gear cannot. I often find that getting super gear makes me realize that I didn’t appreciate what I had as much as I should have.
I put “gear obsessing” in the same category as riding a long way only to find that you have seen nothing along the way but the ground just in front of you. I could have accomplished the same inside on treadmill.

Being able make, customize or repair gear and then go use it is a really great opportunity for your students. Basic sewing skills solve a lot of problems, especially for adventurers.

I wish you the best with your program and I’m looking forward to your BP101 series.
Ken Ward, Ashland OR

BTW, I am originally a Hillbilly from Kentucky, so I guess I validate bong’s comment.

JayP | October 9th, 2012

Nive, very nice opportunity for those kids. As I get older I find more and more equal enjoyment in sharing as much as doing.

Good on ya Brett!

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yourmoma | October 9th, 2012

I dropper out of school so I would have more time to go bikepacking/ mountain biking. Your students are lucky to have this great opportunity!

Perhaps I missed it but are you from fort lewis? I think I will be applying there w/in a year, this brings it to the top of my list!

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Gerco | October 17th, 2012


Are the bikes Fargo or El Mariachi?

Cameron Dube | October 31st, 2012

This is great. I too am an outdoor educator in the post secondary scene and we have recently (fall 2011)started to introduce an Off Road cycle touring (6 day course).  Would love to chat about ideas and such.
On the topic of Revelate Gear, do you have a contact that I could correspond with to possibly try out some equipment in hopes of ordering for our programs?
We host two Adventure Industry based programs, the first being a two year Adventure Guide diploma which is heavily certification based (we are currently designing a “cycling guide” certification. The other program is called “Adventure Naturalist” and is a compressed diploma, being four semesters crushed into three. These students graduate with less “hard skills” but very well rounded in terms of nature interpretation.  Combined, these programs make up 170 students.

Cameron Dube

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | October 31st, 2012

Cameron, I’ve just sent you an email with some contact information. Thanks for your interest and congrats on being part of a really cool program.

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Wes | November 14th, 2012

Where’s that short film link? :)

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | November 14th, 2012

Wes - Sorry about that. It is added there now. And here is the link as well.

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Crazy Beth on a Bike | November 27th, 2012

What an awesome and awe-inspiring program.  How cool is it that you get to take a class doing something this much fun?  As a Salsa Fargo and Revelate designs product owner, I can’t wait to get out a little more and spend some more time bikepacking.  The products are great and really make things easier on the trail.  Wish I lived out htere where youdo, but I can always visit!!!!

sliver scraps | May 23rd, 2015

article very interesting and rewarding. I will share it with my friends. tks.

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