We both love riding our bikes in rugged and wild landscapes. This often leads us to embark on trips that involve more time, more hike-a-bike, more mileage, and more adventure than we were anticipating, and consequently, more fun (sometimes the type 2 kind) and memorable bikepacking trips. Both teachers at Prescott College, Kurt of Geology and Kaitlyn of Adventure Education, we spend our chunks of time off in search of ways to ride single-track, camp, and explore places unknown to us by bike.
The advice we give below draws on our experience from past tours and our preparation for an impending adventure in northern Patagonia. We’re aiming to navigate along a 1,000-mile route of singletrack and dirt roads through the volcanoes, lakes, and hot springs on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides of the Andes. You can check in on our trip and hear some stories and photos that we’ll be sharing at www.salsacycles.com/culture.
It’s always a balance of being prepared but still going light. Also keep in mind that many backcountry enthusiasts tend to “pack their fears.” For example, Kurt is paranoid about running out of water, so he often carries way more than need be. Be conscious of this and consider such fears when packing.
For our Andes trip, we’re carrying 30 and 35 degree sleeping bags from Western Mountaineering and a well-used Black Diamond Beta Light shelter with carbon poles from ZPacks. This will keep us dry and warm at night. We’ve got full rain gear, a bit of warm clothing, and shoes that keep our feet comfortable for extended hike-a-bike (Pearl Izumi X-Alp for Kurt and X-Project 3 for Kaitlyn). And for climbing volcanoes (or really extended hike-a-bike), we’ve both got some lightweight trail running shoes from Inov8. These double as camp/town/running shoes.
All this gear will be stashed in some ~20-L Osprey packs, Revelate Designs seat bags, frame bags (one from Salsa Cycles, one homemade), and homemade handlebar bags that are the perfect diameters. For Kaitlyn’s small Horsethief, Eric at Revelate made the world’s smallest bikepacking-specific seat bag. It’s not much larger than some conventional seat bags, but it will at least hold her rain gear and Tyvek ground sheet and it’s really cute. To add capacity without adding more weight to her bars, Kaitlyn has a bag about the size of a bike bottle strapped to the bottom of her down tube for carrying repair items.
We also are advocates for clearly differentiating between what we carry while racing versus touring. While touring, we strive to pack lightly and simply, but we also bring along a bit of non-essential gear. On this trip, Kaitlyn has packed a book, a journal, a trucker’s hat, a snazzy titanium Salsa mug, and a stylish flannel shirt. Kurt is carrying a small tablet (for writing, backing up photos, and it also has detailed maps of the entire region), another book (to trade with Kaitlyn later in the trip), three pairs of socks, his own mug, and a second camera lens. These obviously aren’t essential, but they all make longer tours feel a bit more like a vacation than a race.