The Power of the Overnighter

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In “The Power of the Overnighter,” Cass explores how a Little Trip can be just as rewarding as The Big Trip. After all, there’s no better way to recharge our own batteries than reconnecting with the outdoors for a night. Plus, find ideas and tips on how to plan your own overnight escape…

Updated December, 2019; originally published December, 2015

We all dream about the Big Trip. And dream we should—or better still, turn dreams into reality. But the truth of the matter is, the Little Trip can be just as rewarding, in its own small but perfectly formed way. A meditative solo outing. A local adventure with friends. A chance to spend undiluted time with family.

In fact, I’d say that we owe it to ourselves to get away. We need it, even. Life in the 21st century is so crammed with commitments, diaries filled weeks or months in advance, that it’s all too easy to let the days wash by in a blur. In our downtime, we’re tethered to electronic devices; umbilical cords feeding us a ceaseless supply of social updates and distraction.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve fractured our connection with the great outdoors.

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Micro Adventures or S24Os (Sub 24-hour Overnighters), call them what you will. Extricating ourselves even briefly from our day-to-day, urban existence is sure to bring a disproportionate measure of happiness to our lives. A week off grid may be a wonderful experience, but one night is a whole lot better than none.

After all, there’s no better way to recharge our simian batteries than reconnecting with the Simple Life. Finding a place to camp. Crouching around the heat of a fire. Sleeping on dirt, under the stars.

It’s grounding and restorative. It resets our body clock. Dare I say it, it’s soul food…

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Tips for making it happen

  • Keep your adventures close to home, or within range of a short train journey or drive out of the city. Journey time eats into riding time.
  • Pack light and don’t overthink things. You don’t need much – it’s just a night out.
  • Keep your core gear in a ‘grab box’. That way it’s ready, whenever you are. Stash a few treats/incentives in there too, like a nice slab of dark chocolate with almond and sea salt (my personal favourite).
  • Call upon the experiences of others. Take full advantage of the proliferation of ready-to-roll bikepacking routes. We have countless in our database now, including weekend trips and a separate map of overnighters.
  • Or maybe you want to go it alone? Some of the most satisfying rides are those conjured up amongst a spread of maps around your own kitchen table. Planning is a fun part of the process.
  • Keep it simple and easy to organize. Think of places you know and love. That remote meadow you always want to linger in. The hilltop you thought would make for a great sunrise. Forget distance, think experience. After all, bikepacking’s not just about racing; it’s also about slowing down and appreciating what’s around you.
  • Long day rides often make great overnighters. Check out IMBA’s Epic Rides and see if there’s a good place to camp midway. Or dig into the Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Overnights for ideas.
  • Keen to experience your local area in a new light? Try linking up all your favourite trails, and riding them in one fell swoop, without the need to rush home.
  • Or use your overnighter to dig deeper into your area’s past. Make your it an insightful historical adventure. Retrace an old camino, check out a monument, or investigate a geological feature.
  • Google Earth is your friend. Get familiar with this incredible program and dig around for backcountry roads close to your doorstep. Have a smart phone? Gaia’s Topo Map App turns it into a powerful GPS, with all the maps you could possibly want at your fingertips.
  • Want to save on cooking? Treat yourself to a take out – burritos are packable and perfect!
  • Use overnighters as a chance to hone your setup; they’re great stepping stones for taking on bigger challenges.
  • Worried you don’t have the gear? Don’t let that get in the way. Check out our Hobo Kit in Bikepacking 101 and our hack kit in the Complete Guide to Bikepacking Bags.
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Local OvernighterEarlier in 2019, we created the Local Overnighter Project to expand our growing list of worldwide bikepacking routes—the first and largest of its kind—and create an independent map and catalog of great bikepacking overnighters, curated by you, from your own backyard. Our goal is to have accessible routes from every town and city in the world. Find the map of routes, and learn how to contribute here

In case you were wondering, the shots in this post were taken during an overnighter in northern New Mexico, between Abiquiu and Española.

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