For those of you who still don’t know, S24O means “sub-24-hour overnight”. It’s bike camping. Dig out your old hiking gear, lash it to your bike, ride a couple hours, camp, come home. Do it in less than 24 hours. It’s a nice substitute for touring if you have kids. Or bills. Or a job. Or kids and bills and a job.
Quite a bit has been written about S24O within the last few years. Here are a few links if you’d like to read a bit more.
The Adventure Cycling interview with GP.
Rivendell’s articles about traveling by bike.
Bikepacking is the MTB crowd’s way of doing it. There’s some good info about creative ways to attach things to your bike.
Plug it into Google. You’ll find lots more.
Right now I’d like to lay out what I typically bring along and how well it has worked so far. The most recent trip’s kit, over Running Gap, looked like this when packed on the bike.
I’ll move from left to right.
I use two Lone Peak P-099 Sundance panniers. They’re about the same size as an Ortlieb Front Roller, but not waterproof. Lone Peak bags are made in the US of, what appears to be, heavy duty Cordura nylon and tough-as-nails zippers. The locking system is damn near fool-proof and super easy to use. The hooks come in 2 sizes. Blackburn racks and copies need the smaller hooks and modern racks, like Surly’s Nice Rack or anything from Tubus, take the larger hooks. Be sure to tell your retailer which ones you need. I like these bags a lot and won’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone.
Moving on to the stuff in the panniers.
My cook kit consists of a grease pot with lid, homemade windscreen, aluminum pot gripper and Esbit stove The grease pot is light, holds the rest of the kit and is cheap. It holds about a quart of water, which is more than I ever need to boil. I made the windscreen out of a turkey basting pan from the grocery store. The pot gripper is the standard cheap one that can be found in Wally-Mart’s camping aisle.
The Esbit stove is the heart of the system. It’s about the same size as a deck of cards and can hold 4 fuel tablets when folded. One tablet will bring 2 cups of water to a boil faster than any alcohol stove I’ve ever seen, and burns long enough to make a cup of coffee and a pack of Ramen if you’re quick with the pouring. For an overnight or long weekends the Esbit is superb. The fuel is easy to light and burns in any weather. It can even be used as a fire starter if your fire building skills are as bad as mine. But perhaps it’s not the best solution for extended travel, as the fuel is rarely available at Bubba’s Gas ‘n Git. Fortunately, this is my S24O kit.
I also keep my sleeping bag up front. It’s a Lafuma Warm ‘n Lite 600 down bag, rated to 40F, which packs down to the size of a small canteloupe. So far, in the 4 or 5 times I’ve used it, the overnight temperature has invariably dropped below 40F. It’s not warm enough to sleep in shorts and t-shirt at 40F. The last trip’s low of 24F was a bit too cold. I ended up sleeping in every piece of clothing I had with me. Two layers top and bottom, two pair of socks, a fleece pull-over wrapped around my feet and a fleece stocking cap on my head. I stayed warm enough, but the bag felt cramped. It’s not particularly roomy to begin with, but my large frame covered in multiple layers left very little wiggle room. This isn’t a bad bag, but it’s definitely for warm weather. I’m currently considering a Big Agnes system for every season except summer.
The remainder of the front pannier space was taken by spare clothing, food, toiletries, wallet and keys, and a few random small bits.
Moving right. There are 3 water bottles in the cages. These are 16oz Kleen Kanteens. They’re water bottles. Not much to say, other than I do prefer the stainless steel to plastic.
On to the rear rack. Perched atop the rear-mounted front rack is a Minnehaha Medium saddle bag. It’s just big enough for a tool kit, patch kit, spare tube and my Thermarest Prolite 4. I got the saddle bag on sale. It’s not a bad bag, but it’s also not worth the current retail price, ATMO. A big online retailer blew these out last year for $25. I wouldn’t pay more than that for one today. Pros – it’s durable, looks pretty good, and has some steel d-ring lash points on the flap. Cons – the buckles are in an awkward spot unless you routinely stand on your head, there are no provisions for attaching a light, and it’s medium-ness is either too big or too small and never just right. For the purposes of S24O, it’s too small.
The Prolite 4 was Thermarest’s top of the line self-inflating mattress for a long time. It’s discontinued, but they replaced it with a similar product that is supposed to have even better insulation. Pros – it’s durable, easy to inflate and provides excellent ground insulation. 24F on mud was no match for it. The Prolite does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Cons – it’s not thick enough for my fat butt. This is more my fault than the pad’s. I can’t sleep on my back. Drunk, drugged and exhausted, I’d lay there wide awake if I couldn’t roll onto my side. This does not complement a thin, firm pad. My arm and shoulder will go to sleep, which wakes me up. Then I have to roll over. I’ll do that a dozen or so times over the course of the night. I simply need more cushioning. If I could sleep on my back the Prolite would be perfect.
Lashed to the back of the saddle bag are my tent, pillow and rain jacket. The tent is a Eureka! Spitfire. I purchased the tent mostly because it was on sale and met my needs (on paper). This tent is frustrating. It’s not difficult to set up, but I have to make about 4 circles around the damn thing in the process. The included stakes are those crappy aluminum rods that bend if you look at them harshly. The vestibules are tiny and the right side is not accessible from inside the tent. I have just enough room for my shoes on the left. On the plus side, it’s well made and waterproof. The ventilation system works well. My Prolite pad fits perfectly on the bathtub floor and is slightly wedged at the corners, which means the pad doesn’t move around. It’s also light – about 3 pounds. I’ll keep it for now, but when the time comes for a new one I’ll probably shop around.
I also can’t sleep without a pillow, so I brought a small throw wrapped in an ancient pillow case. Cramming my clothing into a stuff sack is never very comfortable, and on the last trip would have been impossible since I was wearing all of it.
My rain shell is an O2 Rainshield. It’s a slight step up from Tyvek and costs about $25. My first one lasted two and half years, including daily use as a wind shell for two winters. It’s light, packs small and adds to the visibility factor. On the other hand, the front zipper is the only means of ventilation. I’ve not found this to be a problem, but I know some folks prefer pit and back vents. For the money it can’t be beat.
I think that just about covers it, though I’ve probably forgotten something important. Feel free to ask questions.
Next time, I’ll detail the new rSogn and discuss why I sold the Trucker.