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Thread: Anyone into Backcountry mountain bike camping? Newbie looking for tips.

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    Default Anyone into Backcountry mountain bike camping? Newbie looking for tips.

    I'm interested in doing some Backcountry Mountain Bike camping this spring/summer/fall. I've been car camping since I was in diapers. I have decent experience with back country camping (hike in) also. But this will be my first time attempting back country camping via bike.

    I should also add that I'm not the average beyond baller; Just a normal guy on a budget. The mountain bike I plan on using is only a hardtail 2009 Giant Yukon I bought recently for $500. Click here for specs:

    http://www2.giant-bicycles.com/en-ca...llections_id=4

    I'm going to be carrying a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, cookware, extra clothes, rain gear, etc. Likely in the 40lb and 60 liter space range. Mostly only 1 or 2 night trips, possibly the occasional 4 or 5 night trip.

    I guess my question is what would be my best type of setup? My thoughts are that my selection is pretty much Backpacks, racks, panniers, or a combination of the three. And I want to keep budget in mind too, I'm willing to spend $300 - $500 for the setup, but not much more than that. This price range is strictly for racks, panniers, backpack, etc. I already have small, lightweight camping gear, just need a way to carry it by bike.

    I'd also be interested in trail suggestions within 3hrs of Calgary, that I can do with a budget setup, and backcountry camp. An isolated area is preferred, ie no permits, other campers or facilities required or preferred. I would also be interested in meeting and doing a ride and 1 or 2 night backcountry camping trip with other beginner/newbies, if there any who are interested.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by Mixalot27; 02-23-2011 at 10:56 AM.

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    Never thought of doing this on a bike, but to be honest, i'd definitely be down for a weekend in the summer sometime man.

    Im big on cycling in general.. and yea, that actually sounds really awesome.
    But id say just bring some minor bike repair gear (multi-tool, tubes/patch kit, mini pump, etc...) And of course the camping supplies to live.
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    I use to have a Bob-trailer and was the only way to go 12 yrs ago. It felt a little funky behind a full-suspension bike but that was part of the adventure. Last time out I cycled to the far side of Lake Minnewanka for a weekend stay.

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    Me and a buddy like to combine a few activities at a time. Biking then park/lock the bikes in the woods and go for a hike, go somewhere fishing, and then setup camp. If you do it right, its amazing fun!

    The biggest enemy will be weight. You are gonna need to start buying lightweight gear for everything that you do. Seriously. My buddy has titanium cookware. LMAO!

    Max 40L backpack. No question about that. I have tried a 60L, and you have no idea how much the thing sways from side to side. First time we tried this, we packed our backpacks got on the bikes and both of us fell off a few metres down the road. We left the bikes and made it a hiking weekend. LoL

    Forget the tent, way way too heavy. You need one of those Bivy sacks and a lightweight low temp sleeping bag and a nice sleping pad. It is essential that you have a high end sleeping bag, do not cheap out here. You probably know how cold it can get, and you also need it to pack into a small volume. I had one of those shitty walmart sleeping bags last year...never again. Also you want one of those lightweight tarps that you can setup above your camping spot in case of rain.

    As for a location start out with the elbow loop. Lots of cool things to do there. The whole loop is 5 hour bike ride so you won't get stranded. Lots of wildlife around, seen quite a few bears there so as always bangers/spray is a must. Im a bit biased as I fly fish and there are some sweet lakes along the way with a bunch of cutties that are abudant, easy to catch and tasty. You could also go down the sheep trail from the loop. About a 2-3 hour bike ride you will get to Dennings Cabin, which is a cool cabin in the middle of nowhere that is always stocked with A LOT of food. Its pretty sweet actually.

    Elbow loop is actually a great place for anyone getting into mountain biking trails, camping or not. Plus there are campgrounds along the way just in case, though there are rarely people there.
    Last edited by dimi; 02-25-2011 at 09:59 AM.

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    This is what I mean by Bivy sack. MEC has a bad selection though so look around.

    http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_l...34374302701559

    PS: As the poster above mentioned, a bike toolkit/tire patch kit and an extra tube is mandatory. Some kind of survival kit and first aid is a good idea too.
    Last edited by dimi; 02-25-2011 at 09:54 AM.

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    Just typing all of that got me so stoked!!! Mountain bike camp fly fishing soon!
    Last edited by dimi; 02-26-2011 at 06:32 PM.

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    I've been doing some research on the internet and I'm thinking of getting the Topeak Trunkbag DXP and Topeak Explorer Rack:



    In the top compartment I can fit my Sleeping bag which is a -7 Kelty 600 Down bag, weight 2.5lbs, compression to about 10L.

    I think I can probably strap my tent on the top of the bag. My tent only weighs 4lbs, so its not too bad. I can't get used to those bivy sacks, too clostrophobic.

    In one pannier I can put my stove, cooking gear and food. I also have titanium cooking gear, haha.

    The other pannier I can put a repair kit, first aid kit, rain gear, etc.

    Then I will also carry a 40L backpack for clothes and other needed items.

    Also I can probably put a few other small bags on my handlebar, frame, seat, etc to hold a few odds and ends.

    For water I plan on buying a Steripen purification system with chemical tablets and/or boiling for backup:

    http://www.steripen.com/traveler-mini
    Last edited by Mixalot27; 02-25-2011 at 12:17 PM.

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    Originally posted by swak
    Never thought of doing this on a bike, but to be honest, i'd definitely be down for a weekend in the summer sometime man.
    Cool we'll have to try to set something up for summer.

    Originally posted by Darell_n
    I use to have a Bob-trailer and was the only way to go 12 yrs ago. It felt a little funky behind a full-suspension bike but that was part of the adventure. Last time out I cycled to the far side of Lake Minnewanka for a weekend stay.
    I've hear good things about the BOB trailers but the cost as well as storing it when not in use is difficult as I live in apartment. I've always wanted to bike and also kayak Lake Minnewanka, haven't done it yet. I always think it might be too crowded though.

    Originally posted by dimi
    Elbow loop is actually a great place for anyone getting into mountain biking trails, camping or not. Plus there are campgrounds along the way just in case, though there are rarely people there.
    I think I've biked the Elbow Loop a few time before. Is it the one that starts at Little Elbow campground, near forget me not pond?

    If so then yeah I'll definitely do that one, its a short drive me and a good ride, not too difficult. I've also found some good spots on 54A near where Etherington Creek and Cataract Creek campgrounds are. I've also done some riding before in the Crowsnest pass area and I think there are some pretty cool trails there.

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    Awesome thread!!

    Back country mountain bike camping has been a subject of obsession for me for over a year. By the way, I'm the "buddy with titanium cookware" whom dimi was referring to. Alright.. where to begin?

    Dimi and I are both avid cyclists, fly-fishermen, and overall outdoors enthusiasts. Last summer we began planning multiday back country trips on bikes to remote alpine lakes where wild trout can be caught. However, we were unable to successfully execute such a trip due to inadequate gear. So over the last year, we began acquiring the right gear: ultralight, smallest possible volume, multiuse, and nothing extra. Weight and volume are your biggest problems. If your gear weighs in at 40 pounds, then you won't be able to pedal in the back country; not even on the Elbow loop which is 80% fire road double track.

    As a mountain biker, I want to enjoy the biking aspect of the idea as much as possible. Otherwise I'm hiking. So I will show you my arsenal (still a work in progress) for the upcoming season. It uses a 36 liter pack, and weighs in around 20 pounds. I have A LOT of back country gear, and I have experimented with different set ups. Unfortunately, the lighter/faster you go, the exponentially more expensive it gets.

    The idea is to have all the necessities, nothing extra, cut as many corners as possible without compromising safety, and be creative.

    Here is my list:

    Pack: Osprey Stratos 34, large size (36L volume), weight: 1240g

    Bivy sack: Integral Designs Micro Bivy, weight: 525g, packs down to about 1 liter.

    Sleeping pad: Therm-a-rest NeoAir weight: 410g, pack down to the size of a beer can and gets stored in one of the side pockets on the pack.

    Sleeping bag: MEC Merlin -3C weight: 725g, packs down to unbelievable 2 liters with a compression sack from MEC. Used this bag in below zero temperature and never felt a hint of cold.

    Tarp: Integral Designs Slitarp 2 weight: 410g, packs down to the size of a beer can and goes into the other side pocket on pack. Excellent tarp, seen a lot of abuse last summer and still strong. Keep in mind you need ropes and pins to rig this up, add another 150g.

    Water filter: Katadyn Pocket filter weight: 550g, I've yet to acquire this unit, but I believe it's the best way to address the water issue. It allows you to drink from pretty much anywhere, so you don't have to always haul a full (3 liter, 3kg) water bladder. And, only one of these is needed for a large group, so the more people, there greater the weight savings.

    First aid kit: Adventure Medical UltraLight .5 kit weight: 113g. Very small, customizable, only 1 needed for the group.

    Bear spray: 225g, self explanatory. Unfortunately, this item can't be shared. I think everyone in the group needs one.

    Multitool: Gerber Suspension multitool weight: 190g, this is the one I have and it has all the necessities. I believe a pliers/cutters combo is KEY. Otherwise, I'd carry only a knife.

    Flashlight: small, light-weight; the one I have is about 120g, 3 AAA batteries, VERY powerful led light, $20 from Walmart.

    Bear bangers: just in case, small and compact, 80g.

    Cookware: I've got the Snow Peak Solo set titanium pot and cup combo, as well as titanium spork; all together 150g.

    Jacket: MEC Hydrofoil, 440g, windproof, rainproof, shell.

    Pants: Gore Countdown AS, haven't got the weight of these, but they are super light, water proof with zip vents for breathing, and of course, zip-off legs so they can be shorts!

    Clothes: browse MEC's base layer section. I pack long-johns, long sleeved tight tee, extra pair of socks, extra briefs. Preferably wool for max warmth. My estimated weight is 600g.

    Bike pump: Crank Brothers PPP, 120g.

    Bike tool: Crank Brothers Multi 17, 168g.

    Tube patch kit: I've got a tiny one with a few patches, sand paper, vulcanizing glue, and tire levers all weighing in at 40g. A tube is also a good idea, add another 200-250g. The good thing about these last three items is that only one person needs to bring them. Weight savings.

    Camera: GoPro with extra batteries and memory, handle bar mount, chest mount, approx. 400g.

    Fishing: Temple Fork Outfitters 9ft, 6wt, 4pc rod, reel, small fly box, extra line, leaders, etc. No case. Approximately 800g. The rod sections are rubber-banded and strapped to the outside of the pack.

    Food: Freeze-dried meals and Clif bars only. For 3 day trip I estimated about 860g per person. Of course, this is motivation for fishing

    Water: given the ability to drink out of any stream or puddle with Katadyn filter, one needs to carry only about 1 liter (1kg) of water to minimize weight and volume of pack.

    Altogether, this setup has everything necessary for one person, as well as including shareable items; and weighs in at 9.3kg or 20.5lbs (with water). Most of the items I already own except the Katadyn water filter. But the lump sum of the entire setup is well over $1000. With sleeping bag, pad, bivy, tarp, filter being the most expensive items.

    Keep in mind: bike repair gear, multitools, tarps, cookware, flashlights, first aid kits, water filters, etc. are items that can be shared. So within a group of say 3-4 people, only one instance of each item is needed.

    Another option for water is purification tablets. Much smaller/lighter than the filter pump. Also much cheaper. However, these often leave a bad taste and take up to an hour to fully dissolve and purify the water. This means you will be carrying more water on you (3L instead of 1L, that's 2000g extra!!) because you can't afford to stop and refill as often.

    You will also note that I omitted a stove/fuel combo. This is because I like to start fires for cooking. But this is extremely risky because if it's windy and raining starting a fire is much harder. A compact stove like this weighs 90g, fits inside anywhere, and can be shared. But fuel is what takes up the weight and volume; the smallest can weighs close to 400g and occupies 0.5L of volume in your pack.

    Finally, the Elbow loop is a perfect place to try this kind of activity. There are great alpine lakes and secret spots for camping along the way.
    Last edited by elesdee; 02-26-2011 at 06:28 PM.

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    I didn't think bikes were allowed in a lot of back country areas? Or at least that you can usually only go for so long before they have a bike rack you can lock up to.

    Something about reducing the human impact in the back country?? Please correct me if I'm wrong, I imagine to some degree I really am.
    -U

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    Anything goes in Wildland Provincial Parks. But some trails in non-Wildland Provincial Parks are for hikers only. I am not sure as to why. It is either a safety concern on busy trails or the authorities are actually trying to convince us that biking is harmful to the environment due to erosion. I think it's the former.

    Despite this, there are AWESOME non-sanctioned trails like Ribbon creek and Galatea which I am fully planning on poaching this summer.

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    Originally posted by elesdee
    Anything goes in Wildland Provincial Parks. But some trails in non-Wildland Provincial Parks are for hikers only. I am not sure as to why. It is either a safety concern on busy trails or the authorities are actually trying to convince us that biking is harmful to the environment due to erosion. I think it's the former.

    Despite this, there are AWESOME non-sanctioned trails like Ribbon creek and Galatea which I am fully planning on poaching this summer.
    Nice, makes me want a bike again.
    -U

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    Originally posted by Unknown303


    Nice, makes me want a bike again.
    I remember you selling a SC Bullit a few years ago. I guess it's gone now so check out Pinkbike.com for some used bikes if you like.

    Mixalot: I just want to add my opinion on racks, panniers, and other such attachments. I think putting all your stuff in one back pack is better.

    All those racks and panniers add huge weight to your overall setup. And further, I honestly think you don't need all that volume unless you're going for five days or more.

    I've packed all the gear listed above, 3L of water, plus 3-4 500ml cans of Heineken into a 38L pack with room to spare.

    Finally, there is a trade off: wearing a pack brings the center of gravity higher but keeps overall weight low, and maintains good maneuverability of the bike. Hanging all your stuff off the bike brings the center of gravity lower at the expense of increasing overall weight and making the bike harder to move around under your body.

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    Thanks a lot for the post elesdee. Its very helpful to see your detailed packing list. Your setup is pretty sweet. 20lbs is amazingly light. I doubt I will be able to get that light but hopefully 30 max. I won't have fishing equipment to bring at least.

    I wasn't really thinking of biking all that far of a distance loaded. More of just biking in a few km's (as far as I need to get some place nice with not many people around) and then making a base camp. Then do more serious biking after unloading most of my gear.

    I am rethinking the pannier setup. Like you said, it increases weight by at least 3 or 4lbs. I am worried about them flying off over bumps, getting torn up by branches, etc. Also frequently there are obstructions on the path such as creeks to cross or fallen trees which would be difficult to navigate with panniers.

    I think I will still go with a rear rack though. The rack weight is only around a pound. I can put my most bulky stuff on it such as tent, sleeping bag, etc. I think I will also get a small handlebar bag to keep a few things, perhaps my bike repair and first aid equipment. Then the rest I will carry in a backpack. So I will probably end up carrying about 10lbs on my bike. And then 20 on my back.

    I guess the first thing I should do is decide on what gear I need to bring. Lay it all out and see how much it weighs and how much space it takes up. This will give me a better idea of what kind of setup I will need to carry it.

    When I get around to doing this, I will post the itemized list of my gear similar to how you posted yours, and maybe take a few pics of how its looking.

    I'm wondering about water filtration/purification systems. It seems water filters don't protect against viruses. The Steripen system does kill viruses. That and its lighter and smaller than any water filter system. The downside is it uses expensive batteries and electrical gadgets can be unreliable, hence the need for chemical tablets as a backup. I haven't actually purchased a Steripen yet though as I wanted to do more research.
    Last edited by Mixalot27; 02-28-2011 at 01:03 PM.

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    I was thinking of this too... at Cypress Hills for eg. Not too serious rides but enough to have fun (or so ive been told).


    I guess it wouldnt be "bike camping" as much as drive-car-to-campsite-and-then-bike. You could just carry enough for one night in the bush and camp another night by the car.


    2-3 people in a tent is usually good. Going solo means youre carrying a lot more crap instead of spreading it around.

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    I hate to be that guy, but big Elbow Loop is not exactly what I would describe as a good "beginner" loop - it is about 44 kms and at it's farthest point about 20kms (that's about 5 hours if you had to walk out) from the parking lot. I have seen people in real trouble that far out - bike problems, water shortages, fatigue as well as VERY shifty weather, let alone if you actually injure yourself out there you could be in real trouble.

    Other than that...cool thread - lots of good info.

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    Found some awesome resources on this cool, new outdoor sport of "bikepacking".

    This is a good start, with photos and general info, with some useful links.

    Then, explore this page and the links it leads to.

    Here's a cool article about dudes bikepacking in the Kananaskis.

    And finally, this is the most useful resource I found. Check out the Personal Bikepacking Setups section to see photos and descriptions of how people rigged up their bikes.

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    ^Thanks for the links elesdee. Lots of good info to look through.

    I've been doing some research on The Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. Its the longest off pavement bike route in the world. Starts at Banff and goes to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

    http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/greatdivide.cfm

    I'm thinking of trying a small segment of it this summer, perhaps around the Fernie/Sparwood area. And then if it seems like a good trail, possibly a longer trip (week or two) next summer.



    Originally posted by revelations
    I was thinking of this too... at Cypress Hills for eg. Not too serious rides but enough to have fun (or so ive been told).
    Sounds good man. I've never spent much time at Cypress Hills. But my sister and husband now live in Medicine Hat, so I might end up spending some time down that way this summer.


    Originally posted by oupzwrongthread
    I hate to be that guy, but big Elbow Loop is not exactly what I would describe as a good "beginner" loop - it is about 44 kms and at it's farthest point about 20kms (that's about 5 hours if you had to walk out) from the parking lot. I have seen people in real trouble that far out - bike problems, water shortages, fatigue as well as VERY shifty weather, let alone if you actually injure yourself out there you could be in real trouble.
    Appreciate the concern. It can be dangerous out there for sure. I'm trying to take as many precautions as possible. But stuff can always happen. My worst fear is I break my leg or something which prevents me from being able to ride/walk out. But you need to take some risks in life so I'll likely give it a shot.
    Last edited by Mixalot27; 03-13-2011 at 08:30 PM.

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    I've been eying the Great Divide trail for a while too, but need to do some experimental rides in more comfortable and familiar terrain first (Elbow loop).

    And yes, it is a dangerous trail if you're unprepared. It's busy on weekends, but can be totally empty on weekdays.

    Last year I did it on September 5th. The night before it snowed 5cm and the ride was tough. I was alone, and the fresh bear tracks continuing for about 3km made it much sketchier than I wanted.

    I've met a guy walking his bike out from the halfway point. I also heard stories of guys getting seriously hurt.

    But of course, MTBing is dangerous on any trail. In this regard, the Elbow loop is relatively easy (mostly double track, gradual slopes), that's why I suggested it is a good beginner ride.

    Anyways, Mixalot, you seemed to have the right idea about combining bike bags and backpack. Most setups on Bikepacking.net involve frame bags, seat bags, handlebar bags, and small backpacks.

    This makes sense. If you're in for a long haul and pedaling uphill, your body has to be as light as possible. The total weight of you, bike, and gear is the same regardless of how you spread it out, but having as little as possible on your back allows you to pedal more efficiently.

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