I unintentionally stumbled upon ultra-light bike camping after gifting myself a carbon road bike. It’s one of these goofy, early 90’s models with carbon tubes epoxy bonded to aluminum lugs. After sitting in a garage in Fresno for 20 years, it’s ready to debond with a SPRONG! at any moment. I love it (and check the tubes for wiggle after every ride)! Lacking a rack, or brazons with which to attach one, my bike camping gear with this bike is constrained to whatever I can tie to my bike (or myself) with velcro straps and bike tubes.
After a little fiddling, I have narrowed my kit down to:
- sleeping bag and pad
- bivvy sack
- patch kit and pump
- fanny pack to hold odds and ends (i.e. camera, toothbrush, sunscreen and a stash of chocolate bars)
Now that I’m gearing up for multi-day to months-long off-road adventures, I’d like to keep the minimalist ethos while maximizing self-sufficiency. I don’t have enough patience to be the micro-gram gearhead/engineer type that seems to populate the ultralight bike forums. Instead, I take an empirical approach where I throw a bunch of gear on to my bike and add and subtract as the road-test demands.
To get started though, I’m collecting as many gear lists as I can from Tour Divide racers. These folks ride from Banff, Canada to the border of Mexico on minimal setups. I love that in the bikepacking world, I can stand on the shoulders of giants who generously share their trade secrets.
Advice #1: Really, do you need to buy all new gear to do this thang? Use what you have and save money for “important things like hotel rooms and ice cream,” says Jill Homer. Her gear for the Tour Divide includes slimed tires, platform pedals with toe cages, and wheels “from a random wheel builder on eBay, for cheap.”
Advice #2: Though I think my Crank Brothers multitool is a brilliant piece of engineering, Matthew Lee, multi-time Tour Divide champion suggests taking a set of allen wrenches and a separate multi-tool. Additional sensible advice can be found in this article from Adventure Cycling.
Advice #3: Carry bear repellent. Click for more from Kurt Refsnider’s 2011 Tour Divide Setup