Photos and words by Caleb Kerr
The more in need of a shower I am, the more slowly time moves. I want to enjoy every moment of life to the fullest, so finding ways to slow down time through adventures is a worthy pursuit. I grew up both cycling and camping, and bikepacking has always had a striking appeal of merging the two. Up until now, however, I’d never actually tried it. Plus, it checks the critical “in need of a shower” box.
I admire the perseverance of those who cover thousands of miles unsupported over brutal terrain on epic journeys. I’m not sure I have the time or desire to tackle something of such epic proportions, but I firmly believe that fitting adventure into my everyday life is both very doable and endlessly rewarding. And so a new frame bag and a few borrowed bags later, I was ready to roll on my first bikepacking trip. If you're also diving into bikepacking for the first time, you may appreciate some of what I learned along the way.
Bring a friend.
Riding with friends is better than riding alone anyway, but for your first time out, not having to face challenges alone can make everything more fun (If you sense some foreshadowing here, you are right). I figured I should recruit someone who has done it before, so I brought experienced bikepacker Josh. There’s also the obvious safety benefits of not being off-grid totally alone. Your mom would also tell you to bring a friend. Riding with someone more familiar with the area is also helpful in working out the route. As my first trip, I was more focused on finding a fun and scenic place to ride and camp, and less concerned with covering lots of miles.
Don't sweat packing the right stuff.
When packing gear on your bike, I’ll save you some trouble: You’re not going to pack the right stuff, so don’t sweat it. Make sure to not forget the essentials—tent, food, etc.—but there's a razor-thin line between being overpacked and being underprepared, and you’re going to be one or the other, so just accept that it’s not a perfect system. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a gear junkie, and love to scrutinize every gear decision, so overthinking this was an easy trap for me to fall into. Don’t stress about getting it perfect on the first try, but take notes for the future on what worked well for you.
Bear in mind that packing for a single night ends up demanding almost as much gear as a multi-night trip because you still need the same core set of gear, so don’t expect to run super light just because the trip is short. If your legs can take it, it’s better to start off a little bit overpacked, and as you gain experience, remove items you don’t need. I’d rather have a jacket and not need it than be cold and wet on the mountain. A few creature comforts are worth the weight too—a deck of playing cards, a flask of mezcal, perhaps. Don’t deprive yourself of some entertainment; your bike is already heavy.
Emails can wait 'til tomorrow.
In the morning, after filtering water and making coffee, the ride back down was fast and easy. The rain only rolled in for the last few flat miles before getting back to our cars. A piping hot cup of coffee and breakfast burrito in Nederland made up for the terrible night of sleep, followed by a short drive back to Boulder.
Time can slip through your fingers if you don’t keep track of it, weeks and months blending together as we enact our daily routines over and over. But I find that life doesn’t fly by when I shake things up, even just for a day. Each sip of instant coffee and bite of a dehydrated beef stroganoff tastes better than a five-star meal when you are on top of a mountain and got there under your own power. Emails can wait 'til tomorrow.