You’ve scoured the internet, read a couple of magazine articles, asked numerous questions and seen Ray Mears ont’ telly. The reality is staring you in the face, you’ve put it off far too many times … I’m too busy, it’s too cold, bit windy or a bit too wet, it’s too muddy and too dark. There’ll always be an excuse if you want one but sooner or later you’re going to have to venture out on your first bikepacking trip.
Keep it simple.
Don’t go planning a major epic, start small and build up. While riding C2C or LEJOG off road might seem like a great idea from the comfort of your favourite chair, the reality might be somewhat different. Generally, the further you go the more you’ll need to take and riding even a lightly loaded bike takes more effort than pedalling, pushing and carrying one that isn’t. On your first night out, I’d suggest that you aim to remain within a 20 mile radius of ‘home’ on terrain you know reasonably well. The more complex your plans and the greater your expectations, the more chance you have of not achieving them, you become disheartened, spit your dummy and vow never to go out again … anyone can survive a single night.
|Don’t forget to wave at the dog walkers as they wander past.|
Forget ‘just in case’.
‘Just in case’ is the same as ‘rainy day’ and we all know that we never use what we put aside for a ‘rainy day’ because we never realise that it is in fact a rainy day … we just moan a little and carry on regardless. The only items you should be packing ‘just in case’ are those required to deal with an emergency – first aid supplies, tools and bike spares. Taking an extra pair of gloves or carrying three different jackets, is just weight and bulk you don’t need … if you’re a serial ‘over-packer’ then ask yourself ‘What do I NEED?’ the answer will be very different and a whole lot lighter than ‘What do I WANT?’. Once you get into the right mindset you’ll start to look for items that are multi-purpose … laminated map becomes a groundsheet, waterproof jacket doubles as a hood for your bivvy and your framebag transforms into the bottom 1/3 of your sleeping mat … Don’t pack for your fears.
|Arrive late – leave early if you don’t want to see anyone.|
Invest in knowledge.
A £200 tarp is no use to you if you can’t get it to stay up in anything stronger than a limp breeze. Even the highest quality down will look like a cotton wool ball down a toilet if you allow it to and your superawesomeultralite stove is landfill if you don’t know how to use it properly. If you buy a new piece of kit don’t just stash it away, try it out. Get your tarp up in the garden, do it in the dark, do it in the rain. Practice packing, see what fits where and actually ride the bike packed … is the bottom of your seatpack really the best place for your tools? Lightweight kit is wonderful stuff but remember, it’s usually a little more fragile, often requires a higher level of skill to use and doesn’t generally offer the same margins for error as heavier equivalents … knowledge weighs nothing.
|Use a cuben tarp and entertain yourself with a shadow puppet display.|
If you’ve remembered to follow point 1, then you shouldn’t still be riding your bike at 11.00pm. You’ll have picked an overnight spot that you can easily reach before dark even if the world conspires against you. Don’t waste time when you get there but don’t rush either. Work out your priorities and have a system in place so you achieve them … shelter is likely to be your prime concern, so get that sorted first. Next is water, if you need to find some, go and do it now while you can still be bothered. Sort your ‘bed’ out, the more time your sleeping bag has to regain its loft the warmer it’ll keep you. With everything in place you’ll start to feel much more relaxed … now put a brew on.
|I had to evict 3 slugs from my boots but not a single vampire or howling wolf man.|