bikepacking, sorta

The 2017-2018 ski season is off to a very slow start. SO, rather than cry (too much) about it, we decided to get the skinny tires rolling…

Bikepacking is essentially longer distance riding with all your gear packed on your bike; which is why this post is called “bikepacking, sorta”…

See, we “sort of” did a bikepacking jaunt. We loaded all of our gear on the bikes, but we only pedaled about 2 miles into the Rio Grande National Forest. The plan is to do a much longer ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route – the same route we did this past week – but let’s face it: it’s winter, and we have an (almost) two year old to manage.

But, 2 miles or 20 miles, we learned quite a bit and we had one heck of a good time!

|The Route|

First off, two skinny-tire bikes fully loaded with some Oveja Negra packs were the perfect option, but not if there is a lot of snow on the trail. Though the route itself was relatively clear along the Pinos Road (FR14), there were still sections where I struggled a bit while pulling the Chariot. I guess 15 pounds on my bike and 50 pounds in the Chariot were a wee bit much on the snow…anyway, next time, we’ll do it without snow, and all will be well. I’m sure 🙂 But when we do another winter trip, it’ll be with some Framed Fat Bikes and a Fat Bike Pulk from Ski Pulk – yep, that’s right, we’ve got some ideas up our sleeves!

Anyway, we parked around the Burro Creek Trailhead along the route, loaded up, and pedaled. We traveled about 2 miles, unloaded, setup camp, ate some snacks, and kept on pedaling. I suppose we could have continued up and found another campsite…BUT, since it was going to be a cold night and we were new to this thing (with a kid in-tow), we went the “safe” route, and kept it under 2 miles from the vehicle.


|Camp Setup|

For this trip, we took ALL the cold weather gear you could imagine.

First, we packed in a Seek Outside 8-person tipi/hot tent. That’s right, I said a HOT TENT. This thing is awesome. Seek Outside is based in Colorado and makes a range of tents and tipis. This little bundle comes with a titanium wood stove (also made in CO) and I am in love, with a few caveats/pros/cons:

  • + SUPER lightweight. The sil-nylon body with netting (to keep the bugs out in the summer), carbon pole, (I think) titanium stakes AND the titanium stove weigh in under 12lbs. For a large shelter and heat source, I’d say that’s a pretty lightweight option to have some 4-season outdoor fun!
  • + SOO roomy! The 8-person tent feels like a mansion. It’s literally huge and probably a little too big for the 5 of us (2 adults, one kid, 2 dogs), but I’d rather go big that small because you don’t ALWAYS have to heat all that space.
  • – Stoke that fire. The stove burns hot, but it burns fast; like, DEVOURS wood, fast. We have a wood stove at home for our primary heat source, so we know how to use them and this one was definitely hungry. Anyway, the night ran between 10-15 degrees, so keeping it stoked would have been really nice. However, while I was the nugget snuggler, Sam was the fire keeper, and let’s just say, it got cold in there. Also, make sure if you get one of these puppies, you keep your gear a good distance from the firebox.
    • Lesson learned #1: Position is key. If you position the fire keeper closest to the wood stove, they can easily feed wood from their bag all night long without having to get up, put some shoes on,walk over to the stove, add the wood…return & repeat.
    • Lesson learned #2: Down sleeping bags melt, FAST. Ya, unfortunately, my Outdoor Vitals bag lost its fight with the wood stove that night…just keep a good distance from the stove, people. I tried, but rolling around at 3AM/fighting one of the dogs for the sleeping bag and being stationed too close to the stove don’t mix. I’m just glad the whole thing didn’t go up in flames.

We packed three down sleeping bags including an Outdoor Vitals 0 degree Summit, a 30 degree Big Agnes Bag and a really old 0 degree bag made somewhere in CO. They worked really well, but it was still chilly because we let the fire go out (I had the expectation of being HOT all night, but we slacked…).

Other items:

  • Jetboil Stove and a couple bowls, mugs, fork/spoon
  • Aeropress Coffee Press
  • Good To-Go dehydrated dinners (Marinara w/ Penne was KILLER! and the Pad Thai was pretty yummy), local ground coffee & lots of snacks (Forest loves oranges, and we brought GORP, Kind Bars, biscotti, tea, raisins)
  • LOTS of warm clothes, especially my Feathered Friends “Ellia” down jacket


|The Outcome|

It worked. Period. Maybe it was the gorgeous night sky, or it could have been me  forgetting my main camera, or even the fact that Forest has been camping in the high country since he was 3 months old…whatever the combination was, it was in our favor.

  • Yes, the fire went out & it got cold;
  • Yes, I destroyed a sleeping bag;
  • Yes, we had a couple meltdowns due to an overtired kid and underperforming gear (Blackburn needs to stick to hard goods and not make bags anymore because all the clips on their panniers broke off Sam’s bike – ya, the meltdown was ligit.)
  • and YES, I’m going to do it again!!!

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