I’d better fatten up before the real winter hits…
I sold the tires on my fatbike, and bought new ones, but they’re still somewhere in the air over the Midwest. I wasn’t desperate; despite the brutal forecast facing most of the Mid-Atlantic, we were only expecting a couple of inches over in Western Massachusetts. Since my Pugsley was out of the running, I loaded up the bikepacking machine herself, the Soma Juice, single-speed gears and all. Yes, 32×18 was pretty steep for loaded touring.
We didn’t even get two inches— I didn’t even see a snowflake! The wind howled, the ice stayed slick, and the trees creaked menacingly, but the storm-to-be never came. My lack of fat footprints was redeemed, sort of… the inch-thick sheet of ice over most of the roads up at the Eve-Cowles Tree Farm made traveling a little interesting, but I made it mostly unscathed.
Tim’s land is the best place for a S24O, or Sub-24 Hour Overnight. The cabin is there for two reasons:
- People who don’t usually camp out in the winter can enjoy a woodstove and cozy beds, letting us bring more people into the woods.
- People who are too lazy to pitch a tent can wuss out.
I was the latter this round. I had all my gear ready to go, and fell asleep on a chain-suspended bunk in the cabin, for the first time in years. It was cozy, but we still woke up to the outside air temperature of ~20ºF, since Jimmy forgot to feed the stove.
That’s okay. At least I carried my stuff, even if I didn’t end up using it all. Maybe the S24O’s are the testing ground for my bikepacking setup, or maybe this is what the setup is really for. At any rate, I did one of these last winter, so I’ll share the packing layout:
- Backpack: Not shown here is a small Osprey hydration pack, which only held my camera and down jacket. I probably could have compressed the down jacket into somewhere else, but I wanted the camera on my body anyways to protect from vibration, so I let the coat breathe in a big, empty pack.
- Seat Pack: My Revelate Designs Pika (traded the Viscacha to someone in AK) holds clothing and spare gloves, and a sleeping pad, all within a Sea to Summit drybag. Strapped on top using the bungee cord is a stuff sack with my rain pants and raincoat, which I didn’t end up needing. I won’t leave home without them. A blinky and reflective triangle adorned the back of the bike. Safety first!
- Top Tube Bag #1: I mounted my Oveja Negra stem bag vertically along the seat tube. This is really Kelley’s top tube bag, but I’m gonna get her a new one so I can steal this one back. It fits so well!
- Downtube Pack: The Rogue Panda Designs Oracle downtube bag is a sweet place to mount heavy, annoying 29er tubes. I carried one, plus some basic bike stuff.
- Framebag, Lower Tier: My Rogue Panda custom framebag is two-tiered. In the bottom, I have the heaviest piece of my kit, my Inside Line Equipment tool roll with cone wrenches, multitool, cassette lockring tool, tire levers, patches, spare bolts, 9mm wrench, zip ties, and other bits and bobs. I’ll do a “Tool Post” later this week.
- Framebag, Upper Tier: This is where I kept my toiletries and most of my food. Well, to be honest, I packed lazy and had two pairs of socks in here that should have been in my seatbag, but if I needed food, it would have gone here. This is also where I kept my sewing kit, spare gear bits (shock cord, buckles, etc.), an emergency blanket, some handwarmers I’ll never use, and my GPS.
- Top Tube Bag #2: This Rogue Panda Designs top tube bag held trail mix and three CLIF bars.
- Bottle Bags: Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks made these two bright yellow Silo stem bags, which are currently insulating water bottles. I’ll have a review on these soon. They’re stiffened by closed-cell foam and kept my water liquid all day. I should go and get a pair of Outdoor Research bottle insulators and a pair of Nalgenes to put in Slasa Anything Cages along the fork, but I have been lazy. Sue me!
- Handebar Harness: The huge Sea to Summit eVent Compression Sack holds my bivy bag and my 15º Mountain Hardwear synthetic sleeping bag. The clearance is not quite as close as I’d like, so I may try to slip a piece of hard plastic or Tyvek around the bag to protect it from abrasion when things get muddy and slushy.
First Look: Seagull Bags Trail Buddy Hip Pack
The Trail Buddy is a sweet new gadget from the guys over at Seagull Bags. Long famous for some of the most breathtaking custom messenger bags in the business, Seagull has branched out over the last few months with some new gear, and I am lucky to get a chance to test the Trail Buddy.
It’s a hip pack, but two velcro loops on the top allow you to hook it right on as a handlebar bag, too. They tuck away when not in use. That’s how I used it on this trip, and it housed all my electronics and a small bottle of Fireball Whiskey.
I’ve been a “fanny pack” guy for years. Years. Not enough years that they were ever cool when I wore them, but enough that they’ve become a significant part of my travel kit. A hip pack puts a lot of your most-used items at reach, and gives you the freedom to hop on your bike and ride without worrying about where to keep your tube, pump, and patch kit if you switch bikes a lot, like me.
The Trail Buddy is unique- aside from those wicked handlebar loops, it also holds a U-Lock in the strap along the inside, has compression straps along the hip-pads, and uses a MOLLE strip across the front for keys, mittens, and blinky lights. My U-Lock weighs six pounds, but the super-wide strap on the Trail Buddy manages that heft pretty well. Is it super comfortable to bike with a 6lb. U-lock on your hip? No, but it’s damned convenient and perfectly manageable!
I’ll beat it up over the next few weeks/months and let you know how it holds up. The reputation behind it has me pretty confident.
What a time to be alive! Jones bars are now engineered to hold Turkey Kielbasa in the center loop. Talk to Jeff Jones about upgrading to these new Kielbasa Bars, and tell him Max sent you!
After about 30 miles of ripping around and generally having a good time, I settled in with Tim and we built a fire. A huge tree fell down across the creek leading away from Ice Pond, so Tim set to it with his axe and we harvested enough firewood for most of the evening. We’re still working our way through two pallets of slabwood, so the fire grew well beyond the confines of the concrete pit. I think we burned through about a tree and a half last night.
Like most visits to the Eve-Cowles Tree Farm, once the sun went down my camera was tucked away, and I spent the night laughing with friends and enjoying the cold. We never saw that storm; morning brought with it a beautiful sunrise and absolutely perfect riding weather, with a bluebird sky.
All the ice on these trails was still super sketchy, but I only slid out and crashed twice the whole trip! I’m getting good at putting a bike down.
We may not have seen the promised superstorm, but it’s a long winter in the Northeast. My fingers are firmly crossed. In any case, these constant weekend camping trips are keeping me healthy, mentally and physically. Getting out at every opportunity has made 2016 one of my best riding years yet, and I haven’t even put any big days under my belt yet. This weekend, like last weekend and the previous week and the first week of the year, was as fulfilling as I could possibly want.
I missed my riding buddy, Kelley. Don’t make plans in two weeks, Kell, we’re going to Camel’s Hump!
Keep Riding All Winter!