“Bikepacking 101” clinic with Middle Coast WTF Bikepacking Collective
Petunia Mafia and Boulder Cycle Sport recently co-hosted a bikepacking clinic featuring the insanely cool and experienced Middle Coast WTF Bikepacking Collective. While you may wonder, “yes, WTF is bikepacking?!” the acronym in Middle Coast’s name actually refers to women/trans/femme. The outfit offers bikepacking clinics and trips for WTFers. If you want to have a slam dunk intro to adventure these are your people. The clinic was so informative we wanted to blast out all the points, tips, and suggestions for those who couldn’t make it to the event. If you’re thinking about embarking on your first trip, get in touch with Middle Coast and use them to help make your journey a success.
First, back to the definition of bikepacking. It’s a fine line between bikepacking and touring, but essentially the difference is taking a road less traveled via gravel and singletrack versus pavement. That distinction carries over to the gear; touring typically uses panniers while bikepacking distributes cargo weight differently.
Ready to travel on two wheels in Wyoming, Middle Coast’s Jillian Betterly brought her fully loaded bike to demonstrate what she brings and how she packs for a trip. Visual learning was powerful when it comes to all the moving parts on this setup. Mary Taylor (accomplished bikepacker) and Angela Paterna (Canada-Mexico Tour Divide racer) both chimed in when their experience lent depth to the conversation. Thanks to Cassie Aurich for her extensive clinic notes. Following are the highlight points in a barely edited format.
Front end contents:
- Roll and cradle: Jillian uses a Salsa Simplicity Cradle. Mary mentioned that style too small for her Niner handlebar. Regardless, get a bag that’s waterproof, quick drying and able to be cinched. Front load weight on the bike as you want to push the weight instead of pull. The front roll pack stays packed until you gets to camp, as you don’t want to be going in and out of the big bags
- For quick access, have a little top-loading bag (looks like a climber’s chalk bag) mounted to your bars for snacks, plus a small top tube bag for easy reach of sunscreen, lip balm, first aid, phone, and non-snacks.
- 2 pairs of shorts – rotate so you can clean one and let sit out in sun to dry
- Dr Bronners soap, diluted
- Clean clothes for camp: undies or not, sandals, tanks, bra or not, a cotton dress is easy
- Camp pillow is a luxury but worth it
- Tent poles on front roll
- Fly fishing pole
- Sleeping bag
Rear packs and strap-ons:
- Tent canvas
- One burner stove and wind shield, pot, fuel, and lighter. Recommended: Snow Peak Giga. Prefers canister fuel versus white fuel
- Metal spork
- Sleeping pad, Klymit is great and lightweight
- Get an ultralight tent and divide weight with a ride mate if possible. Or only use rainfly and poles with footprint tarp. Or simply just a tarp, or a bicycle tent. It’s your comfort level (consider bugs), but less is better. Or get a hammock!
- TP and feminine products, baby wipes, poop trowel with plastic baggies. Leave No Trace may be in effect depending on area.
- A metal camp cup vey versatile for coffee, oatmeal, soup, and wine. And you can heat it on a stove.
- Carry 2 liters of water in a hip bag and a 2 liter bottle under the down tube.
- Gravity water filter systems are a fav (try Platypus and Katadyn). They filter about 1 liter a minute. Have one dirty and one clean reservoir. Also have emergency iodine drops as a backup, with an anti-diarrheal backup to the backup.
- When building route figure out water, food and camping locations to assign daily mileage.
- Know where re-supply points are for water; it can be a store or natural water source.
- Use apps (see Tech below) to research where others have gone.
- Jillian has an unbranded solar charger block from Amazon to charge her phone – it’s a 1200V for about $25.
- The Spot geo locator device allows people to track/locate you by GPS. It runs on AAA batteries. Some models allow you to send messages out.
- Apps to load: Ride with GPS, Gaia, Strava Heat Map (to see where others ride heavily = safety in numbers) and you can download to Google Maps as well. Ride With GPS is a great site for experience-based routes. Garmin Touring or Gaia are also good to upload directions. MTB Project or Trailforks are good for off-road/singletrack routes.
- Use GPS apps in airplane mode to save battery.
- Plan to resupply often instead of carrying all food in beginning. Don’t overpack.
- You’ll eat shitty. You may have the best intentions to eat healthy, but when you burn so many calories in a day you’ll crave crap junk food. Watch out for gas station food and the havoc that can wreck havoc on your system, even though you just want to shove food in your mouth.
- You’ll burn about 4000 calories a day.
- Calorie-dense foods like meat, cheese and bread are always a plus. Cheese is a big thing – buy hard cheese as it melts less.
- Hydration and nutrition are key – make sure you know what works for you – keep a journal so you know how your body is doing and what you’re eating to plan better for next time. There’s lots of trial and error here.
- Pack your food in gallon ziplock bags, which then can be re-used as garbage bags.
- See First Aid below for suggestions on dealing with bad food outcomes. Before you buy a case of energy and hydration fuel, test and know how the mix or bars affect you. Skratch and Nuun are examples of natural food hydration mix options.
HYGIENE – this was Mary’s forte
- Yeast infections are common. Key is keeping up on hydration and nutrition.
- Bring a Diva cup or other essentials for when/if you get your period – exercise can alter your normal cycle.
- Keep clean in neither region with baby wipes. Wipe front to back and pack out as they’re not biodegradable. Burt’s Bees baby wipes (the chemical free kind) are a great thing to have PLENTY on hand, you’ll use about 10/day
- Bring diluted unscented Bronner’s soap for washing body and clothes
- Keep you and your chamois (if you use one) clean and dry, daily. Mary doesn’t use a chamois while backpacking and neither does Jillian. That means you must have a great saddle!
- Mary wears a cotton dress around camp, leaving her undercarriage to get air, and sleeps naked.
- Chances are you’ll have to pack out tampons, baby wipes, and possibly even feces if there’s no garbage around. Gallon size plastic bags are handy for these. Leave No Trace!
- Skratch Rescue or powdered Pedialyte for salt and diarrhea. Alka Selter has salt and aspirin.
- Carry a probiotic that doesn’t have to be refrigerated such as Ultimate Flora. Prilosec is good to carry (again…gas station food…)
- Lidocaine packets for emergency and saddle sores. It’s a numbing cream, get it at pharmacies and REI
- Immodium or other anti-diarrhea med for emergency
- Buy CBD/THC patches to put on the top of your feet for allover soreness and pain as long as you don’t have job conflicts. Buy caffeine pills if you can’t take THC.
TIPS, REVIEWS, SUGGESTIONS
- Buy a fishing license – to fish and it doubles as emergency insurance in the state, and it entitles you to a search/rescue helicopter ride out in an emergency. Confirm this when you buy it, in case statutes have changed. You may only need to purchase a backcountry pass.
- A bandanna is versatile as it can pre-filter water, be a cargo tie down, serve as a face mask, sweat or potty wipe.
- Consider the weather when considering shoes: wear lighter, cooler clip sandals for summer and closed toes for fall/winter.
- Where’s the open real estate on your bike? Put bottles, pump, more water, anything else where’s there’s space such as the fork, rear triangle, under saddle.
- Jillian loves wool clothing items, especially Icebreaker brand.
- Jillian’s sleeping bag is a Marmot 650 fill from Backcountry.com for about $180.
- Buy simple plastic refillable tubes for squeezable items like nut butters, Nutella, sunscreen, lotions – found at Army Navy stores for about $5 for 2.
- Have a mini toolkit – lighter, knife, multitool, sponges, flat kit, fiber spoke (super cool – definitely pick one up), mirror (reflect for safety), extra valve stem.
- The REI toothbrush has a toothpaste cavity in the handle that you can refill.
- Mary has a Klymit brand sleeping pad. It’s super small, comfy and found it cheap on Amazon.
- You’ll need a headlamp and lights for the bike.
- Get titanium items when you can – they are lightweight and don’t melt – especially for cooking tools/spork.
- Saddle: as pointed out by Boulder Cycle Sport co-owner Justin Hoese, good bike shops will allow a trial period on saddles. If your bike seat isn’t working out – good God test it out well in advance of a bikepacking trip – they will take it back and put that price toward another model.
- Ziplock baggies are your bff: once done carrying food it becomes a trash bag.
- Small (cut in half) sponges are ideal for dishes or chains.
- Stop and experience the area instead of rushing through. Fish, have a beer, take a swim.
Try to buy from your local bike/Army/camps shop when possible to support local employers and tax base, even if it costs just a wee bit more or needs special ordering. But when you need a random item Amazon is the go-to for titanium tidbits and random whatnot. There are a LOT of points above that will save you time, discomfort, and shorten the learning curve. You should probably send a thank-you email to Jillian right now. Because when it comes to bikepacking, you don’t want to be in the middle of the adventure asking yourself “WTF did I get myself into?!”