Saturday, July 6, 2019

Bikepacking gear: is it stupid?

Racks and panniers:  old school! ugly!

Image result for rack and panniers

Rackless bikepacking kits: sexy!

Image result for revelate designs

But are they stupid?

In some (most?) situations, yes, they are most definitely stupid.

Let's do math:

Option 1 - Revelate Designs, ~30L target capacity

Terrapin Seat Bag Kit + Harness + Saltyroll


Total Capacity: 29L
Total Cost: $363 CAD
Total Weight: 1,117g

Option 2: MEC, ~30L target capacity

Planet Bike rear rack (fatbike compatible) + Outdoor research durable drysack (35L)

VersaRack Disc Rear Cycling Rack Black   Durable Dry Sack Black   Accessory Strap 20mm Self-Locking Red

Total Capacity: 35L
Total Cost: $75 CAD
Total Weight: 791g

In summary: in this situation a rackless system is five times more expensive, 40% heavier, and holds less.

So - if you are racing the tour divide with an ultralight kit, sleeping under bridges, no cooking equipment, etc - a state of the art bikepacking system probably is your best bet.

But - if you are touring the divide like a normal person, then I am guessing you will have to start using multiple feed bags, strapping bags to your fork legs, strapping loose shit to your seatbag, etc.  In this situation, here are the pros and cons as compared to an old school rack system:

Disadvantages of rackless:
- less aerodynamic
- worse bike handling
- heavier setup
- more expensive (like 5x)
- heavier
- typically longer packing/unpacking times

Advantages of rackless:
- fashionable

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Monarch Icefield: Preparation

Soon enough (too soon, or not soon enough, depending on if I have looked at the to-do list recently), we will head out to the Monarch Icefield. The idea is to fly in to the south end of the icefield and then do a "roving basecamp" style of traverse, where we have a few days in each location to hopefully bag some peaks and do some skiing before moving north to the next camp. It will be about 50km total with full loads, and 1 day of (most likely type 3) fun at the end.

I'll keep updating this blog post as the trip preparation progresses.


3 people x 3,500 cal/day x 14 days ~=140,000 calories...which is a lot of food.  Currently it is in a pile on the kitchen table.


I've talked about our winter stove setup before, but it's awesome.  Based on past trips we are very comfortable with 100 mL PPPD, which is about 30% less than what most people advise.  That is a huge weight savings with this length of trip, and more than pays back the weight of the accessories we use.  Plus, our water boils faster.  Check it out here.


I've spent some (a lot) of hours on Photoshop merging together the relevant NTS maps for the icefield.  One thing I learned: the UTM grid is not one grid, it is many, with different origin points.  The center of the icefield is about where the grid switches, unfortunately, so half of the map is UTM Grid Zone 9, the other half is Zone 10.  I also overlaid John Baldwins routes and peak bagging recommendations from the bible.

Monarch Icefield Composite Map    (downloadable, but note this map is fullsize and 560MB)


Can a person take too many gloves?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Mt Baker Easton Glacier

Spring season is off to a good start.  Mount Baker is a climb that has eluded us twice now - the first time, more than 4 years ago now, we didn't do enough research on road conditions before heading out and effectively ended any chance of a summit before we put on our (very heavy telemark) boots. The second time, the year after, we got much higher before a specific lack of pointy equipment and general lack of HTFU ended the attempt.

2016-03-26 - Baker (9)

So we put it on the backburner.  It's been a few years of getting smarter and faster, and this weekend the conditions looked right, so we just packed up and went.  It's amazing what those years of experience can do - we just cruised right up the mountain, summitted, had an excellent ski down, and went home.  It was delightful.  No discomfort*, no fatigue, no one used the word "epic".

2016-03-26 - Baker (16)

2016-03-26 - Baker (19)

2016-03-26 - Baker (34)

2016-03-26 - Baker (41)

2016-03-26 - Baker (25)

2016-03-26 - Baker (54)

Some beta:

We went up the Easton Glacier route.  At this point in the season the road was melted out up to the "no wheels past this point" sign, which is about 3.5km from the campground.  We skinned up the road and a few extra km towards the base of the Easton glacier, and pitched a tent before it got steep.

We didn't bother getting up too early, since we wanted to ski down on soft snow.  The route up the Easton glacier is well used by snowmobiles, and this weekend was no exception.  Aside from the mosquito-like sense of harassment, this does make for fast travel - we did not ever feel the need to rope up, what with any possible crevasses being thoroughly tested by these winter skidoos.  The last pitch adjacent to the Roman wall is pretty steep, and we ended up bootpacking to the summit - there is a looming crevasse below this, so an earlier arrival and frozen conditions might have required some more caution or protection.  In our case, we had perfect conditions for the climb.  The ski down was firm but nice at the top, amazing in the middle, and mushy/refrozen snowmobile gnar at the bottom, depending on where the shadows were.

Once back in the forest, the ski out proved to be the hardest part of the day.  It seems grooming season is over, so the snowmobile tracks were wall-to-wall, and a spectacular demonstration of how bad these pump tracks can get.  The road is also a little too shallow to glide down, so in addition to the quad workout you get a lot of poling practice.

Overall an excellent day and a recommended route (snowmobiles not required).

*sunburned nose excluded

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ken Jones Classic: Canadian Championships

The Canadian circuit this year saw, on the whole, amazing weather conditions for almost the entire circuit - warm, clean, usually some fresh snow.  The Canadian Championships kept up that trend and sent us off in style.  A new course this year included a 300m bootpack as well as some steeper skiing, both improvements on an already spectacular course.

The field was a little stacked this race, with almost the entire Canadian team, a first-show for Rob Krar, and quite a few fast American racers.  For me, and from what I understand for most people, there wasn't too much race-drama:  the order after the first 5 minutes went relatively unchanged the whole race.






Thanks to everybody - the ACC, SMCC, racers, photographers, organizers, track setters... it was a great season.

Monday, February 22, 2016

ROAM Coldsmoke Rando Race: Holeshot again!

Last year the ROAM Coldsmoke rando race was one of the events that suffered the worst from an extremely dry and warm season in BC. This year more than made up for it.

2016-02-19 Coldsmoke (5)

A very pleasant start temperature for the early start, and WHAM - holeshot again! It didn't last as long this time, with Eric and Peter quickly pulling by as soon as we got into the less tracked cat track above the warm up area.  Ben and Travis passed soon after, which left me fighting for 5th with Scott.  This, it turns out, was a really good place to be as Whitewater had received tons of snow the night before and no one had pre-skiied the course.  As I was heading up the last of the cat track, I could see Peter starting up the bootpack, and the word that came to mind was "wallowing".  By the end of the bootpack the chasers had caught up and there was a lead pack of 7 of us - the leader killing himself breaking trail, and the rest having a nice break.

2016-02-19 Coldsmoke (3)

The downhill was fantastic, as you would expect.  A bit of misdirection with the leaders let me get by, and I entered and exited the 2nd transition once again in first place.  Again, this didn't last long, and as soon as Eric looked like he wanted a chance to do some trail breaking I stepped aside and got back into the peloton rotation.  This pattern would continue the rest of the race, with the leader breaking trail until they blew a skin, at which point the next guy would take over.  Scott overegged a corner on the 2nd descent and destroyed a binding, and the third climb spaced out the group a little, with Eric and Ben doing the majority of the hard work.

Final results had me in 5th overall / 3rd Canadian.  What an awesome race.

2016-02-19 Coldsmoke (2)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Alpental Vertfest: Holeshot!

This weekend I traveled to Snoqualmie pass to take part in Alpental's VertFest.  With the forecast calling for 145mm of rain in the two days leading up to the race, with the heaviest rain during the race itself, I fully expected to build some character.

The forecast was, as is usually the case when the PNW calls for unending rain, correct.  The race organizers put on a good show though and the race went off without a hitch.  The lineup at the start was over 130 racers deep, and with a wobbly single-width creek crossing 200m into the race, I decided to go out hard.

2016-02-13 Alpental

2016-02-13 Alpental (6)

alpental matt

I was able to get to the bridge first, and along with two followers started building a gap on the field.  Patrick, Todd and I made our introductions and switched places as we went up the first climb, staying in touch to the top transition.  The descent was what you would expect with 145mm of rain, and we all took it conservatively.

The skintrack on the second lap was, in a word, heinous.  The order between Patrick, Todd, and I did not change, but the gaps grew - by the end, a charging and single-poled Patrick had a 1 minute gap on Todd, and 4 minutes on me, all of us finishing in under an hour and a half.   Third place prize was quickly spent on gas money as I escaped the rainforest and headed back to the Okanagan.


Waterproof review of skimo gear:  none of it is remotely waterproof.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Stiff Kootenay Pass

With the avalanche forecast jacked almost everywhere this Family Day weekend, we headed down to the abnormally safe looking Kootenay Pass.  This meant fairly "stiff" conditions, but skiing is better than not.

2016-02-06 Koots (4)

We also used the opportunity to check out some future routes (my eye is on the Muffin) and boost our general knowledge of the area.  Plus, we found some good snow in sheltered areas and managed to put in a few short but fun runs.

2016-02-06 Koots (10)