“What do I pack?”
This is a question that occurs pretty frequently in my life currently, but if you think packing a carry-on is hard, try fitting all you need for a 7 day mountain bike trip from high mountains to the desert into a hydration backpack. Yep, the struggle is real.
Initially, as I plotted out my travel, I had set aside my Helix bib shorts to be worn under my Escade mountain bike shorts (the MTB shorts I figured could double as hang-out clothes off the bike minus the chamois), an additional pair of chamois, 2 pairs of Handlebar Mustache apparel socks with a backup pair of Smartwool if the weather turned, my Helix jersey, my lavender henley MTB jersey, an Airespan T shirt for off the bike, a pair of Primal leggings, some running shorts to sleep in, plus thermal tights and a second layer jacket. Then I added a rain coat, a sleeping bag liner, head lamp, solar battery backup, spare tube and HeroKit, trucker cap, Skratch Labs cycling cap, sunglasses, helmet, shoes, gloves, etc…
I had planned on purchasing a hydration pack with 3 liter bladder while in Denver, but my dad vetoed that idea as he had “just the right pack” for the trip. I stocked up on Skratch exercise & rescue hydration mixes, plus some fruit chews, added some Untapped Maple packets, and called it good.
Travel kept me busy till 4 days before my departure date, and life kept me busy up till the day prior to departure. So on Wednesday morning, I ran by the bike shop for a final once-over (thanks Andy & Nate for taking the time out of a crazy day for me!), grabbed the backpack from my parents and began to pack.
I filled up my hydration bladder and began to pack in the remaining space. It quickly became clear that I had about half the anticipated space. Out went the spare chamois an the leggings. After some very creative folding and maneuvering, I got everything into the pack and small bike bag I had attached to my top tube. It was then I realized I have never ridden with anything heavier than my small Camelbak, and had a big moment of “what the hell did I sign myself up for?” paranoia. This feeling did not go away as I hopped onto my bike the next morning and began the downhill trail, feeling top heavy and hunchbacked, and was definitely not assuaged when I heard a ripping-zipping sound and stopped just in time to see my shorts fly out of my pack onto the road as the main zipper gave way. After a stop at the gas station, an apologetic text from my dad stating he was sorry he forgot that it had been “fucked up since ski season” and stocking up on safety pins and duct tape as a backup plan, the pack was “MacGyver-ed”. As we began our first big climb of the day up Deep Creek, I began to finally think things would be ok, or if things failed and worst came to worst, I had a good stock of duct tape to make it all right.
As far as food goes on the trip, I had little concerns. San Juan Huts are full stocked with canned foods, dry goods, plus a cooler of bacon, eggs, butter, cheese, tortillas, and some fresh goods such as oranges, apples, potatoes, garlic, carrots, and cabbage. Oh, and you can add on the beer and wine option and enjoy Ska, New Belgium, Modelo plus my fav, Infinite Monkey Theorem rose. They also give you everything you need for daytime riding fuel with sandwich fixings, Kind bars, candy bars, trail mixes, etc….I did bring along my own stock of Skratch hydration mixes, as they are superior to all others, and a multi day trip is not the time or place to cut corners. Of course I had Skratch fruit drops along as well, which were the perfect quick boost during some big climbing days! I also packed some Untapped Maple packets, as a fun alternative to traditional gels and was very pleased with the results. It’s a simple but slightly brilliant concept, as maple truly does provide the sugar, carbs and vitamins of a gel without anything artificial added..I am officially now a convert.
As the days went by, we began to perfect our gear, figuring out what worked, what was unnecessary, working as a team so we weren’t carrying duplicate items. We all were huge fans of the Almond Joy bars, forgot how good those things are! And Kristin and I were stoked to find peanut M&Ms at Days 4,5 &6 huts. We had both read Ted King’s hut trip blog lamenting the lack of M&M’s past Day 1, so we felt like we had hit the jackpot.
Day 7, as we headed from the LaSal hut into Moab, we saw the end of the Skratch mix (perfectly timed out) as well as realized we could not handle another PB&J sandwich. We loaded up with trail mix, fruit and of course, M&Ms and Almond Joys, and headed into town for the perfect end of ride fuel: IPAs at Moab Brewery and a big cheeseburger at Atomic Burger (if you’re in Moab, check this spot out, it crushes Milt’s by far).
Overall, I couldn’t have been happier (and luckier) with the results of my haphazard packing (although a new pack is on the top of my Chanukah list), but I am very aware that I could have left myself in a pretty bad spot, and I resolve to do better next year, as I definitely plan on making the a repeat adventure.