Accomplished bikepackers Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle have just embarked on a Patagonian bikepacking adventure. Before they took off, they wanted to share their bikepacking wisdom with the community.



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.

Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle
Advice on what to carry?

Carry everything you need to be safe and mostly comfortable in the range of conditions you expect to encounter on any given trip. The lighter your bike and your backpack, the more fun you’ll have riding. But it’s easy to go overboard on ultralight, so step back and think rationally: Will I be warm enough if I have to descend for an hour in a snowstorm? If I get stuck out in a long downpour, will my critical gear stay dry? Will I have some dry camp clothes to change into when I bury myself in my sleeping bag to warm up? Can I repair anything that’s likely to go wrong on my bike (and do I have both the repair items and knowledge to do so)? Do I have enough water capacity to get through the driest of sections on my route?

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.

Advice on what to eat?

Eat real food, not robot food. High protein and high fat meals provide sustainable energy levels for hours – avocados, nut butter, sausages, bacon, coconut anything, smoked salmon, etc. Rice, mashed potato flakes, dried sweet potato cubes, and rice pasta are all good meal starters for dinners. Carry along some coconut oil to add to meals for extra calories, and make sure to pack salt to add. For snacks, we’ll look for salami, cheese, avocados, chips, chocolate anything, fruit, and donuts, of course.

Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle
Size, specs and species of your ride?

For our hunt for rugged trails in the Andes (we’ll most certainly end up in terrain more rugged than we bargained for…), we’re both riding Salsa Horsethiefs. These are bigger squish trail bikes capable of, with comfort and ease, pretty much anything you can imagine encountering on a big bikepacking trip aside from deep mud, deep sand, or snow. Hopefully we won’t see too much of any of that. Kaitlyn’s Horsethief is a small; Kurt’s is a medium. Kaitlyn is running a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain with a tiny 24-tooth stainless steel Wolf Tooth chainring. Kurt has a 2×11 Shimano drivetrain. Kaitlyn’s using a Rockshox Revelation fork (130mm travel) and Kurt’s using a Rockshox Pike fork set up at 140 mm of travel. Both bikes have Maxxis High Roller II tires on the front and Ardents on the rear, set up tubeless and with reinforced sidewalls all around. On the handlebars, we both have extra chunky ESI foam grips and bar ends for maximal hand comfort.

Thoughts on essential bike equipment?

Don’t embark on your adventure without durable tires filled with ample sealant and a light that can guide you in the dark, because bikepacking trips seem to always be harder than normal on tires and run longer than expected.

Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle
Water purification method?

We’re carrying Aqua Mira for treating water. We’ve tried the Sawyer in-line filters on other long trips, but even with frequent back-flushing, ours have clogged. So we’ll just go with tried-and-true chemical treatment for this trip.

Stove/fuel strategy?

Both of us have relied on the little Trangia alcohol stove for years now. The stove costs something like $25, nothing can go wrong with it, and denatured alcohol is readily available in pharmacies, hardware stores, and even in some gas stations (at least in colder regions). In a pinch, everclear will work, too.  And if you’re lucky, you might find pink alcohol in some pharmacies!

Thoughts on essential gear for staying alive?

Pack so that your sleeping bag stays dry, you can weather an all-night storm without getting soaked, bring enough food to get your butt to the next town even if something goes wrong, and carry paper maps – and know how to use them! Bring a first aid kit and resources for getting yourself out of anywhere in any condition.

Favorite trail/bikepacking recommendations?

Southern Utah. The Alps. The Colorado Trail. The Arizona Trail. Hopefully the Andes. Really, as long as you’re bikepacking, it’s probably going to be awesome. Just avoid Vermont during mud season and southern Arizona in June.  

For more insight into their adventures, head over to Kurts blog – http://krefs.blogspot.com/

4 Comments

  1. Hey,

    I’m hoping to meet Kurt & Kaitlyn on the road at Patagonia 🙂

    Saludos,
    Federico Cabrera
    http://www.theironlyportrait.com

  2. Pingback: Adventure Advice from Avid Adventures: Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle – Bikepackers Magazine | hoddyworden

  3. Smithhammer

    Eat real food, not robot food. High protein and high fat meals provide sustainable energy levels for hours…”

    You’ll have no problem finding an abundance of meat and potatoes in Patagonia! And if you get really hungry, try a “Lomo a la Pobre.” Have a great trip, and looking forward to the updates!

  4. Pingback: Fast Forward - Lael Wilcox on the Arizona Trail - Bikepackers Magazine

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