Bikepacking Shakedown Cruise: Equipment & Gear Thoughts

Loaded 80 pound rig, near the top of Mt. Sizer. Panniers, tent, sleeping bag inside a trash bag, and a small Osprey Daylite backpack (and a sun hat near the handlebars, which fit snugly under my helmet):


My first real BACKpacking trip was a bit over 35 years ago, and BIKEpacking is largely analogous to backpacking, except for the bicycle! (easy, right?) It’s important, though, because it’s a mechanical device than can break-down and you’re going a bit further than you may want to walk, should something go wrong!

Bicycle: 2010 model Specialized Hard Rock. Used heavily, and maintained well at home, with the exception of a recent professional replacement of a worn chain, chain ring (front gears), cassette (rear gears), and bottom bracket (bearings for the pedals).

I carried 2 tubes, a patch kit, wrenches, a chain tool, a master link, a pump, CO2 cartridges, a spoke wrench, and a derailleur hanger (I didn’t know what this was until a friend’s failed out in the woods). What I consciously did not bring was a spare (folding) tire, a cassette removal tool, and extra spokes. I expected that most normal repairs could be done in the field, barring the failure of any major component.

Rack and Panniers: Though I inquired with the about his equipment, I decided to do “entry level” the first time, as long as I wasn’t a ridiculous distance from the car. My philosophy is to try a new sport or activity with a low investemnt, then upgrade later. How many people have a garage full of “lightly used” shiny and expensive gear that they no longer use? I bought a Topeak Explorer rack and their matching MTX panniers for under $100. This matching pair works well with the panniers sliding on the “track” and the yellow plastic tab snapping under the front bar of the rack.



Underside of panniers, with the slide-on track and yellow attachment clip:


The equipment worked very well. I can see that the panniers may not hold up to extended heavy use, but for short trips or “entry level”, it worked great! The design, including the roll-down hard sides on the panniers, make it a good choice for beginners.

(While we’re on the subject, I always try to have a “what if” backup plan, especially on solo adventures. If the rack or pannier failed, I carry steel wire and heavy zip strips for makeshift attachments and repairs.

Other equipment: Kelty Cosmic 20F down bag, Eureka Spitfire tent, assorted lightweight cycling clothing as described in previous posts, off-the-shelf food from home, and water. The water consisted of a one gallon grocery store jug. plus a dozen 1/2 liter bottles of Crystal Geyser. (Again, the theme here being a low investment with a backup plan. If one or more of my water containers failed I’d still be fine. I also carry a Katadyn Hiker filter, plus iodine tablets in my survival kit. Never have more than half your eggs (or water) in one container if it could put you in danger.)

Some of the off-the-shelf food and water, totalling ~6000 calories:


Clothing, before I gave up the gray wool sweater:


For the most part I was not concerned about weight as much as volume. I wanted to load-up the bike and do some steep hills as a test of myself and the gear. The volume (size) became more the issue with the water (and beer) taking up half of my storage space. This caused me to leave my sweater and sleeping pad behind, which I regretted only a little.

I also carried my normal day trip stuff, including a survival, repair, and First Aid kit, Garmin GPS (and batteries), SPOT locator (and batteries), iPhone (and 2 “New Trent” brand USB battery packs), as well as a paper map.

Given that I’m travelling solo, I also plan for injury or snakebite. I know I can often get AT&T signals on hilltops for quick “check-ins”, as well as carrying (and testing daily) my SPOT locator…also with 2 sets of extra batteries.

How did everything work out? More or less perfectly! ~6000 calories of food was almost used up, the water was almost used up, I was only chilly for a short time, and there were no equipment failures…except for a broken spoke on the last morning!

I noticed a rear wheel wobble and brake rub the last morning from a broken spoke. It wasn’t bad, just a bit of extra friction that I didn’t need. After my last long descent of the day I disconnected the rear brake and was on my way. On a longer trip I would have wanted to replace the spoke. This time, given that I was almost done with the trip, I would not have done so, even if I had a spare spoke.

As previously blogged, I had concerns about the rim brakes overheating and damaging the tires. Besides the spoke, a spare folding tire would be a good idea on a long trip.

I would also buy a handlebar bag or front panniers to put some weight up front. With a rear-heavy rig, I didn’t have as much steering control as I wanted.

Remember: Though I love shiny new gear as much as the next person, simple and inexpensive are OK if you have confidence in Plan A, as well as having a Plan B. That Plan B should ensure your safety and hopefully allow your trip to continue as-planned.

Think about what you’d do “what if”…Safety and survival capabilities make for peace of mind and a more enjoyable trip under a variety of conditions. Have fun and “be careful out there!”

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
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