Friday, June 7, 2013

Bike camping prep

It's a big fat Pug: at 58.5 lbs loaded, minus food, some water, and a few odds and ends. 
I've been gearing up to do some bikepacking since sometime last year. My philosophy has been to do it on the cheap when feasible, as I don't have the time or resources to commit myself to a load of camping of any sort. By way of checking out what other people use for equipment and compiling a spreadsheet tailored to my own needs, I've been able to ascertain what I have, what I need, and what I can do without. Initially the big gaps were lightweight versions of a tent, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping mat. That's of course apart from the means to carry all my junk.

Selling a few bikes recently and putting the proceeds into an REI sale, I was able to acquire a Kelty Salida 2 tent, a Sierra Designs Zissou (as in Steve) 23 long down bag, and a REI Flash long insulated air mattress. Coupled with the set of Revelate Designs framepack, Viscacha seat bag, and Sweet Roll handlebar bag (via Gypsy), that I've acquired over time, most of the big gaps have been filled.

About as light as most Big Agnes SL series tents, at about half the price.
Spacious for one, plenty for two inside. 
I had originally planned to go with any one of several Big Agnes tents, mostly on their reputation of quality from more seasoned bikepackers. I particularly like the Big Agnes Slater UL2+ and may one day go that route, but for now, in the balance of economics versus how many nights I'm likely to be able to camp to justify a fancier tent, economics won out. There is a bit of a weight penalty, but a pound or so is something that I can live with in the short term.

The Salida 2 itself has a decent reputation as a good value light weight tent, albeit with fewer bells and whistles. The great REI return policy provides a bit of insurance either way. I gave the new items a test with a back yard campout. All seem to be more than good enough for my purposes, and considerably better than my 10 to 20+ year-old, much heavier and bulkier equipment.

As for cooking equipment, I've gone the ultra cheap route. I've now built a few Penny stoves and found them to be a terrific design; nearly free of cost, extremely low mass, using easy to source fuel, and with good fuel consumption. In the same spirit, I sourced an on-sale Stanley 700ml covered pot cook set for $15. There are plenty of lighter pots out there, but it isn't too heavy and it's just about the right size.

I have Lexan utensils, but prefer something that is more heat resistant. I had some cheap, and therefore light, stainless steel utensils in my car camping kit. The only problem was the fork was too long to fit in the Stanley pot. A couple of minutes with a hacksaw and a grinder, and the problem is solved.

Step 1: Hack a bit off the cheap stainless fork...
... so that it's about the same length as the spoon. 
Step 2: Grind a nice curve that can serve double duty as a jelly spreader or tire lever.
Step 3: Beam a little about how this combo is more hobo-chic than a titanium spork, even if it weighs a bit more.
I packed everything up in the bags on the Pugsley and took a little ride with Scout. The whole setup is still missing some food and water, but all of what I'll need for an overnighter is about 87.5% there. The bike is heavy, and it certainly feels somewhat heavy, but is definitely not unrideable. It's just a matter of getting a feel for it in the context of what I hope to do with it, and dialing it in a little more. I'll likely be pushing it up steep hills, but there's a likelihood that I'd be doing that unladen anyway. In all, it's now an all-terrain, two-wheeled RV, and RVs aren't renown for speed.

Hard to tell from this phone pic, but that's a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress going over my neighborhood. Four big radial engines create a nice rumble.
It rolls pretty well loaded.


  1. That set up is much better than a high dollar set up that never gets used or lost/damaged while on trail. I'm sure you're all over it but there are some good reports over a and of course there's Mr. Peterson's S24o's.... looking forward to your first report

    1. Thanks. I had fun putting it together. It's the result of armchair bikepacking while I'm supposed to be doing something else. indeed has a lot of fine rigs honed by some top notch explorers. I may eventually be able to do multi day trips, but more than likely most will be S24O for the foreseeable future.

  2. Looking good! Your cook system is composed of durable parts, so it will be hobo-chic for a long time to come. I especially like the looks of that Stanley pot for solo travel. Tent looks like a good deal, with enough room for two small girls or a full-sized girl if needed. Sierra Designs has a nice line of down bags these days.

    I found the handlebar system to be a little floppy on the rough stuff, and wrapped a few gear straps around the bags and bars while underway.

    Time to ride!

    1. The Stanley pot seems durable, and more or less like the stainless steel version of some Snowpeak ti pots I've seen. It came with two insulated plastic mugs that nest inside, but they didn't allow for packing the stove inside, so I'm using a cheap camp cup. I was originally going to use my 30-ish year old Boy Scouts aluminum pot, but 500 ml seems a little small.

      The tent and bag are light years ahead of my old stuff. Worst case scenario, I remember your story about your bag from REI. Good pointer on the straps for the bar bag. I hope to fit in an overnighter in the next week or so.

  3. The amazing thing here is that you have a 20lb camping load, because your everyday Pug is nearly 40lbs.

    1. I've never bothered to weigh the Pug unladen, so I wasn't sure of the starting point. Is 20 pounds decent? I suppose I was hoping for as light as reasonable, but as heavy as it needs to be. My camping funds don't allow me to count grams, so I just try to avoid the obviously heavy stuff.