It’s a well known that a few of us at the Back of the Pack were ready for the End of the World on Dec 21st. (Ok, many ONE of us.) So The Morale Chairman and I decided to make it a party at Chaco Canyon and then log some snowbikepacking miles.
Anyway, the party didn’t really happen. I sent out 200+ invitations and no one showed. (Imagine that.) So The Morale Chairman and I tried to make The Party a party. But the ‘pillow’ called at 6:30pm, right around when the fire burned out and water bottles froze over.
Not much went as planned on the 1st snowbikepacking trip of the 2012 / 2013 season. But we learned some lessons – as usual – figured some things out for the upcoming Arrowhead 135.
Yep. This is a pretty dry posting, not much humor – cuz I don’t feel the humor today. So… dig the lessons learned, dig the list of gear, dig the pictures…. dig it all… or don’t
- If you roll into the local Mexican restaurant in CUBA NM and ask what type of beer they have the waiter will reply… “for IMPORTS we have Bud BudLight Coors CoorsLight“. I guess domestics are IMPORTS in CUBA New Mexico.
- Modus Hoperandi doesn’t freeze in near subzero temperatures. (Seriously, it doesn’t.) BUT a 40 of Mickey’s will be a solid block of ice.
- Not brushing your teeth for 36+ hours brings you back to caveman status.
- If you roll out with a camera – you may want to charge the battery.
- If your ‘nutrition’ is based on Subway, pick your vegetables wisely – as your subway ft long will freeze, as expected. BUT lettuce, onions and tomatoes turn to vege-ice-crystals. And an ice crystal that looks like a tomato ain’t that tasty. (But the reservation dog didn’t have a problem with it – see below.)
- A -20F bag can be almost miserable in 0 deg night. Seriously, you’ll sweat your A$$ off and you can’t exactly stick your leg out when it’s near subzero.
- If you are rolling a 32×21 you may achieve a 9.5mph max avg – on flat ground.
- 6L of water on back is too much, even if you are rolling on a fatbike. Especially when you have 40+ oz on the cages. But hey, it’s a drag to be thirsty in the very very dry New Mexican desert.
Lessons Learned, snowbikepacking… cold weather bikepacking:
- The Bivy: I hate bivy sacks. But the Integral Designs Bugaboo is pretty sweet.
- I like tarp tents. I like space to organize my gear and protect a few things from the elements. BUT I’m rolling with a bivy for the 2012 / 2013 snowbikepacking adventures. (Tarp tents won’t work.) So, after years of trying out many different bivy sacks I’ve finally found one that works for snowbikepacking. The Integral Designs Bugaboo is the bivy for me. It’s a killer design. The other bivy sacks that we’ve tried are: Sierra Designs, Outdoor Research, MSR, REI.
- The footwear / footgear. Big Lesson Learned. Changing boots.
- My plan was to roll out with my Garmont Momentum Snow GTX snowboots. These boots worked well when I was in Antarctica and ran around the South Pole. But these boots didn’t do so well at Chaco Canyon. Frozen feet, dude. The Morale Chairman rolled out with the Vasque Snowburban Winter Boots and had no issues. So, since I traveled many bikepacking miles on standard Vasque boots, I’ve decided to make the switch.
- The wool pants. The big game time decision.
- That’s right, we roll with either 100% cotton or wool. No spandex on us dudes at the Back of the Pack. Our options are either the Woolrich Big Horn pants or the L.L. Bean wool bibs. We’ll pack them both and let the weather forecast be the deciding factor. The Woolrich pants work great. So it’ll need to be super super cold to break out the massive wool bibs.
- The Nalgeen – Keep the water from freezing, keep the water from spilling in your sleeping setup.
- I learned this lesson in Antarctica but it skipped my mind for the Chaco Canyon trip. Gotta have a Nalgeen bottle or something with a screw on cap IF you’re gonna snuggle up with your water at night. Seriously.
- And if you roll with the title ‘The Lt Col’ then you better roll with two – one to drink out of and one to fill…. if you know what I mean.
- The insulated Platypus. That’s right, at Chaco Canyon water would freeze within a few minutes exposure to the morning chill. But the water didn’t freeze in the platypus insulated reservoir, and I left the insulated Platypus out in the cold ALL NIGHT. Wild. But not as wild as the Modus surviving the night.
Below is a list of gear that basically covers my setup for the Arrowhead 135. Not that you care, but The Lt Col may. And I always find the data helpful. I mean SHOCKING. The data helps me work on strategies to cut more gear and thus weight.
So, the crazy stuff about snowbikepacking (or extreme cold weather bikepacking) is the amount of gear required for simple survival and the weight of this gear.
The Crazy Stuff, a summary: and most of this gear is ‘required’ for the Arrowhead 135.
- Water weight + containers. 10.1 lbs: I’m rolling with a 3L insulated platypus and two water bottles. I think. I gonna carry as much as I can / or need because I ain’t gonna be sitting on the trail melting snow every couple of hours. (64oz, ~2L, in insulated container is required.)
- The Stove stuff. 3.6 lbs: This is a white gas stove and TWO 11oz fuel bottles, filled. (stove, 8oz of fuel and 1 pint pot required at all times.)
- The Food stuff / 4140 calories. 2.7 lbs: Amazing. I figured all this food would weigh more. It’s takes up lots of space. But doesn’t weigh that much. (3000 calories required.)
- The winter camping / survival gear. 8.3 lbs: This weight includes a sleeping bag, ground pad with R value of 5.7, bivy sack and a puffy jacket. (-20F bad, insulated pad, bivy are required.)
Issues to ponder:
So, we’re not going to roll with the tubeless setup. There is not enough time to investigate tubeless options prior to the Arrowhead 135. So, will we care a spare tube or two? Will we put Stan’s in the tubes? Does Stan’s freeze? Can we (or you) easily repair a puncture in sub zero temps – or just better to Cary a 1lbs tube?