For quite a few years I’ve done a solo backpacking trip at this time of year up in northern Minnesota. During those trips I’ve experienced the full range of just what mid-to-late October weather can bring: beautiful sunny days in the 50’s and 60’s or bitter cold, wind, and snow.
The bikepacking trip I took last week was the first time I’ve chosen the ‘bike’ over the ‘back’ for this annual outing.
I chose the Chequamegon area not only for its great riding, but because I know the area somewhat well, and knew that I could have a great time whether I rode a lot or a little.
One difference between this bikepacking trip and my previous backpacking trips was that I really didn’t have a specific agenda. I didn’t have to get to anywhere in particular and was free to take my time, take as many photos as I liked, and whatnot. I wasn't trying to get from point A to point B. In fact, the only place I had to be was in the Rock Lake trailhead sometime around 1pm on Friday to meet up with Bobby and E-Fred.
Why talk about all this? Because it plays into what gear I chose to take and which gear I chose to leave.
Here’s the breakdown of what I took and where it went on my El Mariachi.
Minimalist rack prototype contained:
-POE dry cylinder
-Wiggy’s FTRSS sleeping overbag
-Groundcloth from an old tent
-GoLite Shangrila-1 shelter
-Two lengths of nylon rope for hanging shelter
Enabler fork contained:
-Singlespeed rear wheel for emergency backup
-Granite Gear insulated Nalgene bottle holder with 34 oz of water (can't find these on their website anymore)
-Regular 24 oz water bottle
Revelate Designs seat bag contained:
-Lightweight sack with additional riding clothes (wind vest, wind jacket, knee warmers, long sleeve wool baselayer: unless I was already wearing these)
-POE dry sack with camp clothes (Patagonia NanoPuff pullover, some cheap nylon pants, fleece hat, spare pair of socks)
Wildfire Designs frame bag (not sure he makes these anymore) contained:
-Ditty bag with two 29’er tubes, aluminum tire levers, patch kit, mini pump
-MSR Titan kettle with fuel canister inside it and lid
-POE Ether Compact 6 sleep pad
-Ditty bag containing personal and survival items (mountain money, wet wipes, matches in waterproof container, lighter, vitamins in film canister, toothpaste, iodine tablets, emergency space blanket, spoon)
-MSR Pocket Rocket stove in plastic container
Wingnut Hyper 3.0 hydration pack:
-Spare chain links
-Gerber fold up 6” saw
-Super tiny compass
-Ultra Pod tripod
-Panasonic Lumix LX-3 camera
-18mm lens adaptor
-Petzl E+Lite headlamp
-wallet and car keys
-small POE drybag that my camera could go in if needed
-and all my food for three and a half days (6 packs of oatmeal, 7 packs of ramyon, bag of Reeses peanut butter cups, one foil packet of tunafish, about 10 packets of GU-type stuff, about 6 packets of drink mix type stuff, 10 packets of cocoa)
-after meeting up with Bobby/E-Fred I also had five Miller High Life’s in here…
Around my neck:
Was this a lot of stuff? I don’t think so. Looking back at the list these are the very few items that I could have left behind.
-one length of nylon rope
-Gerber fold up 6” saw
-some of my cocoa as I didn’t eat it all…but I could have eaten it all I suppose…
There are really only two things I wound up missing:
-chainring bolt tool (my middle ring became seriously loose and it just isn’t that easy to tighten without something to stop those chainring bolt backs from spinning…I got it done though)
-some more protein (either more tuna or some beefsticks). I am sure I was running calorie deficient but let’s be honest, I was already storing a bunch of extra calories on my body…
Also keep in mind that I wasn’t racing anywhere, I was just riding…which is pretty much just what I do.
You should also know that my goal is always to take as much weight as possible off my body. That’s why the hydration pack basically just held food items, most of which were dehydrated.
That’s the scoop. I’m pretty confident I could have handled temps down to zero degrees with this setup, but there would have been some shivering involved. I tried something for the first time and that was putting my sleeping pad inside my sleeping bag to turn the compressed sleeping bag into insulation and let the air pad warm up. And had the forecast even shown a hint of rain, I would have included my rain jacket and pants.
Hope the list is of use to some of you as you consider your own setups. Honestly the point isn't sweating the gear, it's about getting out there and enjoying it.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.