By: Evan Wishloff 

 

I awoke to the sound of rain, groggily turning over to check the time. It was 4:57 am. No time to go back to sleep - my phone alarm was set for 5:00.

I started what was becoming routine during this trek - opening up the air valve on my Nemo Tensor sleeping pad so that lazing around and procrastinating wouldn’t be comfortable.

The psssstttt of air whooshing out of the pad drowned out the sound of rain pelting the tent. My legs protested as I got up, the 360 km of pedaling over the last 2 days had definitely taken a toll on me.

Another big day was on tap, as I planned to cover well over 100 km again. By now you’re probably wondering why, and it all goes back to finding a way to combine my love of bike racing with my love of adventure.

Bikepacking wasn’t on my radar until quite recently, when I started to hear more and more rumblings about an event called the BC Epic. It was a bikepacking race that started in Merritt and finished in Fernie, with most of the route taking place on the now-defunct Kettle Valley Rail Trail.

The views along the route are stunning, especially when the weather cooperates!

Past riders talked of stunning mountain lakes, epic vistas, amazing tunnels, pristine forests, and more. I was hooked on the idea. I loved backpacking trips, and I loved cycling, so why wouldn’t the two go together like peanut butter and jelly?

I’ve written in the past how I think stepping outside of your comfort zone can be incredibly rewarding, and that was doubly-true here, and a big reason behind why I found myself going from having never bike-packed before to tackling a long, arduous route solo and self-supported.

Anxiously, I started putting together a list of what I would need to bring. It was the epitome of ultra-light: bikepacking makes most ultralight thru-hikers look over-geared! There aren’t many places to put things on a bike, and even with some bags borrowed from good friends at Pedalhead Bicycle Works, I nervously removed item after item from my list, knowing it wouldn’t fit.

As things got tossed out of the to-pack pile, there were a few spaces where I wouldn’t (and really couldn’t) forego the right gear. Those things included a tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag from Nemo, an MSR TrailShot water filter, MSR Pocket Rocket canister stove, and of course, coffee. No room for camp sandals, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have fresh ground coffee in the morning!

Bikepacking the Kettle Valley Rail TrailA fully loaded bike - not much room to work with. 

So with bags packed, I was ready to tackle my first ever bikepacking ride. What was in the bags you ask? In no particular order:

  • Cycling Shorts x2
  • Base layers x2
  • Cycling Jerseys x2
  • Cycling Cap
  • Helmet
  • Shoes
  • Merino Socks
  • Windproof socks
  • Summer gloves
  • Warm gloves
  • Arm warmers
  • Arm coolers
  • Leg warmers
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain shorts
  • Sunglasses
  • Chamois Creme
  • Multi-Tool
  • Spare Tubes
  • Tire Plugs
  • Tire Pump
  • Cycling Computer
  • Buff

Was that enough gear? Too much? Not enough? That’s a topic for another post - stay tuned!