I think everyone learns things in different ways. For me, I learn by doing. This trip to California really helped me learn a lot about bikepacking and multi day events. Before I dig into lessons learned, let me show my intitial set up. I rode a new Salsa Fargo set up with the following equipment.
Front Dry Bag strapped to handlebar
- Exped Airmat sleeping pad
- 20 year old North Face Bivy
- 20 year old North Face 45 degree down sleeping bag
- Knickers for camp and/or colder riding
Revelate Design Seat Bag
- Clothes inside a Pacific Outdoor Drybag for camp/evenings consisting of: Wool base layer, Primaloft vest, wool cap, wool socks, and gloves
- Misc stuff because we also had work to do at end of trip - Battery chargers for phone/camera, extra memory cards
- Rain Jacket
- Any extra food I could fit
Revelate Designs Custom Fargo Framebag
- Tool Kit consisting of extra chain masterlink, zip ties, chain tool, Multi tool, tire lever, tire boot, patch kit, extra derailleur hanger, and leatherman
- Small safety kit of antibiotic ointment, Chamois Butt'r, Lipbalm/sunblock, bandaids, etc
- Two 29er tubes
- Esbit stove with fuel 6 fuel tabs - 2 per day for hot water
- Food - Salted nut mix with some extra cashews mixed in, beef jerkey, chocolate, Emergen C, Nuun tabs, & Ibuprofen
- 2 liter water bladder
Revelate Design Small Gas Tank
- All the food I could stuff into it - Clif bars, Jerkey, Clif Shots, whatever!
Osprey 22 back pack (Not Shown)
- Two small point & shoot cameras with extra batteries
- Extra dry bags
- Titanium cup
- Mini Tripod
- Arm Warmers/Knee warmers if not wearing them
- Food if needed
While I did complete the ride and managed to use everything I brought, I really learned something valuable that I only could learn by doing a multi day trip. I learned through suffering up repeated climbs and 10+ hour days that weight matters. Sounds obvious right? But my kit really wasn't that different than the many sub 24 hour overnites I had done. What was different? You don't pay for your mistakes on overnights. You pay for your mistakes repeatedly on multi day rides. This is where you learn to make do with less. Multi day rides also emphasis those things you overlooked, overpacked or don't have the right stuff. You simply don't get that learning on over nighters.
The other thing that is missing in my kit, and it was a big mistake, is that I didn't really prepare properly as I did not have a way to treat water, thus making me dependent on others or finding safe drinkable water. This was a big mistake and I won't make that one again. On day two it took us 10 hours to pedal 50 miles, I was severely dehydrated after a few of our "scheduled" water stops didn't happen due to the fact that the small winery and the inner city youth camp were no longer open or in business. I suffered dearly and with a bit of luck, we found a home with an outside water tap at the top of one of the countless climbs. It was like an oasis and it saved me on this day.
Another big lesson I learned on this trip is that food (and water) are essential and if you are not 100% sure of the next available source, you need to take advantage of what you find. One day we rode up to a self serve apple stand. We spent $5 and got a bag of apples. Again, take advantage of the food sources you find.
Next time, I do a multi day self supported tour such as this, I assure you that I will not be carrying a back pack unless it is very small and only holds my point & shoot camera and little bit of food or water. I will also not carry an extra camera and all the extra stuff I carried for the business trip portion of our journey. I'll ship that ahead next time. The freedom gained by no back pack is obvious and over the course of 3 days and 300 miles, the cumulative effect is immense. Lesson learned.
So….If you are an experienced overnight or S240 bikepacker, I encourage you all to do a longer trip. It's the only way you pay for your mistakes or shine light on your gear shortcomings. If my encouragement isn't enough, maybe a few more pictures will help get you motivated to do a longer trip.
I hope just a little bit that by sharing our gear, the experience and the images that we push you just a little bit to get out there, to learn and to go further or lighter than you've gone before. Who knows what you might learn.
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Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.