Here at bikepacking.com, we like to feel we’re an open-minded collective of riders and explorers. Ever fascinated by different modes of carrying cargo on his bike – depending on the length and style of the trip – Cass reports back on his experiences ‘basketpacking’ in Southern California, along with a full a breakdown of his gear list.
I recently returned from an extended bout of dirt road riding in Southern California, squeezing in the excellent Stagecoach 400, an overnighter in beautiful Los Padres, the unexpectedly wild LA Observer, plus several protracted wanderings around Joshua Tree. I also rode from San Diego to Los Angeles, via the abandoned railway line that runs through the Carrizo Gorge, various washes in the Anza Borrego State Park, the wonderfully bizarre Salton Sea and counter-culture capital of Slab City (using the new Stagecoach 500 detour), Joshua Tree National Park, Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, snowy Baldy Notch, and lofty Mount Lowe. A part of the ride became a route we dubbed the SoCal Desert Ramble, whilst we named the last segment the Baldy Bruiser – it makes a great long weekend ride out of LA with public transport connections.
Setup-wise, I went all ‘basketpacking’ on this trip, aboard Tumbleweed’s Prospector. Setup wise, a modified Wald 139 (trimmed to save weight), a Surly 8-Pack, and a Monkey Wrench Cycles proved a great combination for the trip, given my need to work en route (thus the requirement for my MacBook Air and DLSR camera) while still keeping ‘relatively light’, to best enjoy the dirt, sandy, and rocky roads I had in mind. The desire not to have panniers rattling around and my dislike of wearing a backpack also played a part in choosing this setup, as it’s both relatively streamlined and rooomy.
But what about all that extra weight above the steering axis, I hear you ask? It’s true, a big basket like the Wald 139 isn’t my chosen cargo-carrying solution for a super techy route, like the Colorado Trail. The extra front end weight also makes more involved hike-a-bikes challenging too. But not all routes are created equal. For general dirt road explorations, the venerable wire basket makes a lot of sense. It’s supremely practical, both at home and on tour. It offer multiple lashing points. Such a setup offers quick access to a DLSR camera – mine lives on top of my sleeping bag – as well as the means to load up with extra food when required, especially the likes of voluminous bags of corn chips or loaves of bread. As for all that front load, I quickly adapted to the way it impacted the Prospector’s handing for dirt road riding and it felt just fine. Lastly, easily detaching the bag and bringing it into my tent at night or a coffee shop during the day proved to be another advantage.
Speaking of which, there are various basket/bag solutions available. I chose the Porcelain Rocket-made Monkey Wrench Cycles bag for this trip. It’s deceptively simple but works extremely well. It’s padded too, which helps it keep its shape and provides protection for my camera. At full capacity, the bag is simply cavernous. To those concerned that such indulgent space might encourage you into carrying too much gear, fear not. Overloading the front end definitely effects quick handling antics, which encouraged me to keep to a lean setup for day to day touring. However, having the ability to max the bag out temporarily with extra food and even water on occasions proved extremely useful, given the desert conditions and the distance between resupply points. In such situations, the Tetris-like game of loading up a bikepacking rig can sometimes be trying, especially when it comes to carrying light but bulky food without resorting to a backpack. For long distance tours, I value a balance between practicality and minimalism.
Another new piece of gear that worked out especially well was Porcelain Rocket’s custom Mr Fusion XL. Given my height (6’1″) and the ample space between bag and tire (especially when I’m running 27.5+ tires), I asked Scott Felter to make me a really big seatbag, that would maximise the space I have between my seat and tire for long distance, overseas tours. He came back with an awesome piece of gear expands to fit a whole litter of puppies with room to spare, or compresses relatively small to squeeze in just a few kittens. As with his traditional Mr Fusion, it includes his stabilising system that keeps such a large bag from waggling side to side. This has since made it into production and can be seen on his site, as have various other waterproof basketbags.
Talking of my ‘relatively light’ setup (and I use the term loosely), here’s a full list what I carried. It’s one that tides me through almost everything, bar real extremes of temperatures, whether it be a weekend away or a multi-month undertaking. Temperatures were of the T-shirt-weather-in-the-day variety, with chilly starts and a couple of extremely cold, frozen-solid-waterbottle nights. I also experienced a few bouts of heavy rain, given the deluge the West Coast has been experiencing this winter. For trips where I’m expecting regular precipitation, I’d add some rain pants and a heavier weight waterproof jacket. Altitudes over the month ranged from -300ft to 7500ft (-100m to 2300m).
Monkey Wrench Cycles Bag
(Simple yet secure, padded and capacious)
- Cut down Thermarest seat mat (extra padding for the camera + nice for the campsite)
- Ultralight ti grill (for heating tortillas on a fire, made by Tenkara master Dave at Dab Cycles)
- North Face 32f (0c) sleeping bag (doubles up to provide padding for camera)
- Nau down vest
- Canon 5Dm3 plus 35mm Canon f2 lens
- 50mm Canon f1.8 lens
- Waterproof wallet (passport, money, card, fits iPhone 5 if needed)
- Sea to Summit eVak 20l drybag (rolled up most of the time)
- Room for corn chips, some fruit, extra food and even water as required.
Porcelain Rocket Orbiter Frame Bag
(Super tough, no zippers to destroy)
- Clikstand Potset (Trangia, Evernew .9l pot, Clikstand) + lighter
- Pole for Hyperlite Ultamid tarp
- Food (Mainly quinoa, miso soup, cheese, salami, rice noodles, almond butter, coconut oil, porridge oats, vegetables. I try and eat relatively healthily on tour, so space for sustenance space is important).
- Lighter + 12oz bottle of denatured alcohol
- Stack of corn tortillas
- Bag of electronic gizmos (Samsung 500GB T3 hard drive and cable, card reader and cable, 5000mA Anker battery and cable, iPhone 5 cable, Canon spare battery and charger, lens wipe, spare 128GB CF card, Macbook Air charger, double USB charger)
Custom Carsick Designs Lens Bag
(quick access to a second camera lens)
- 70-200mm f4 Canon lens + ultralight Sea to Summit dry bag
- Trash in side mesh pocket
Ojeva Negra Lunchbox Handlebar Bag
(attaches neatly between basket and handlebars)
- Duece UL backpacking trowel, super light and tough. Leave no trace.
- Fleece gloves
- Steripen, not required but good to have. I sift out sediment with a buff, when required.
- Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp
- Washbag with toothbrush and toothpaste, suncream, various natural remedies to keep coughs at bay, tea tree oil, Dr Bronner soap.
- Extra food; good spot for keeping avocados relatively bruise-free.
Bedrock Dakota Top Tube Bag
(wide enough to fit tonnes of goodies)
- Blackburn Wayside multitool
- Lezyne Macro Drive Duo and rear blinkie, given the short winter days, I packed a 400-lumen rechargeable light for late evening rides to camp.
- Snowpeak ti spork
- Opinel knife
(attached to downtube above 64oz Klean Kanteen Widemouth)
- Spares, extra sealant, oil, tyre levers, tubeless repair kit, brake pads, cables etc…
(for speedy, one-handed access)
- iPhone for navigation.
- Larabars and Cliff bars.
Custom Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion XL
(Huge, stable and waterproof)
- Western Mountaineering vapour barrier (for cold nights)
- Silk liner
- Warm wool alpaca socks
- Thin wool leggings for early mornings and sleeping.
- Surly thin Merino layer for sleeping.
- REI windproof fleece
- Hyperlite Ultamid + Six Moon Designs Serenity Net for desert critter peace of mind + Gossamer Gear Groundsheet
- 10 lightweight stakes, 6 heavier duty, 4 super minimal and ti. /li>
- Macbook Air 11in, sometimes packed in basket for convenience around town.
- Outdoor Research Helium 2 jacket
- Turtle Fur fleece neck gaiter
- 1l + 2l foldable bladders
- 1 x spare inner tube taped to underside
- Big Agnes Q-Core SLX air mattress attached to top side of seatbag when tight on space.
- Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV pump attached to the frame, good for Plus tires.
- Lezyne Macro GPS to record routes and save valuable iPhone battery.
- Sinewave Revolution USB dynamo charger.
- 2 x 700ml water bottles on the fork blades; total water capacity on my bike is 6l+.
- Kleen Kanteen 64oz Widemouth under the downtube. A plastic bottle is lighter but the Kleen Kanteen lasts longer and is more rugged – I’ve had plastic bottles puncture in the past, potentially disastrous in the desert… I keep mine securely in place using a superlight but stout King Cage Many Things Cage and Revelate’s excellent Washboard Straps.
- The clothes I ride in: Nau shorts, thrift store cotton T-shirt, riding mitts, cycling cap or helmet, thin wool socks, 5.10 Freerider flat pedal shoes
- Plus my all important tunes, courtesy of the awesome Outdoor Tech Buckshot that sits on my handlebars.
I ran my trusty Rohloff and a Son 28 dynamo hub, built up with WTB Scraper rims, teamed with 29+ Ranger Tough tires. A superb wheelset! Given the muddy conditions in Los Padres National Fores – after such heavy rainfall along the West Coast – the Rohloff really came into its own.