Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Packin' It

On the bike.....
I was thinking yesterday about packs, racks, and bags. It seems to be a diverse landscape out there when it comes to how to carry your schtuff, with tons of ways to do it, but which is right?

I know when I used to go "touring", in the old school sense of the term, we would use racks and panniers. Our bikes were probably overstuffed. We likely took way more than we needed to, but ya know what? It worked. Actually- it worked pretty darn well! 

Using that way to haul things, you didn't have anything on your body for a load. A backpack? Wasn't even a thought. So, while the bikes were heavy and cumbersome, we were free to work the load up, over, down, and through on our way to wherever it was we were going. And we got there, for the most part, without much trouble with everything intact. It wasn't very easy to get at stuff sometimes, but we figured it out.

Then along came hydration packs. Mountain bikers weren't going in for panniers, so another way had to be figured out. Smaller rucksacks and hiking gear was used, then purpose built backpacks, like the ubiquitous Osprey Talon 22, which has been the darling of bikepackers, was pressed into service for the big, outback type rides.

.....or on yer back!
Now it seems things have flipped over to being packed on the bike again, albeit with frame bags. Everyone is getting these custom fitted bags that strap into the middle of your frame, or on your top tube, or these ginormous seat bags. It's as if the panniers have engulfed the frame, and the racks went bye-bye.

Meanwhile, backpacks have gotten amazingly good these days. I have been trying out some Osprey stuff, and it is really quite nice. Sits back there without moving around, and feels pretty good, actually. I mean- I don't really feel beat down per se', but my issue is with heat when it gets hot more than anything. But then again- I am built like a pack mule more so than some!

At any rate, I like to use a combination of both a backpack and frame bags myself, and I think many "bikepackers" do things that way as well. What it all boils down to is where you put things: Heavy stuff goes on the bike, lighter gear on your back. I think that would be the general rule of thumb, but it isn't a hard and fast rule. Everyone seems to have their own agenda there.

I know I will be investing in some more stuff like frame bags, and maybe a couple of those big seat packs. I already have a few things, (as seen above on the titanium Mukluk), and my hope is to get out there yet this year to try out some kind of overnighter.  And what about those old panniers? I still have them. They get used a lot too on my "townie" bike. Sometimes I look at that and think, "I could pack these up and go anywhere tomorrow if I wanted to." Yep- nothing wrong with a nice set of panniers either, as long as it works for you.

However you choose to do things, "packin' it" on-board with you and taking off on an adventure with your bicycle is a good thing to do. I highly recommend it.


Steve said...

I've used both backpacks (before my spinal injuries,obviously),as well as panniers,and now I use the Xtracycle for bikepacking...I prefer the longtail (especially as I'm rarely concerned with weight ;) ),but even loving it,I admit that it has it's pros and cons,like each of the other two systems. I guess it all boils down to what works best for the individual.

I'm like you though,my friend,I always find it interesting to watch trends and new innovations,and I often dabble just to see for myself.

The DC

mw said...

i used to commute with a back pack or fanny pack. now i commute with panniers. i like it much better, but don't mind stuff on my back for long or short non-commute actual bike rides.

Andy Tetmeyer said...

I saw a lot of Germans with backpacky things at PBP. A lot of them seemed to be carrying their entire load (save a saddle tool bag) on their backs.

Hook said...

I am aspiring to try some bikepacking next year. My plan is to invest in some good quality UL backpacking gear (pack, tent, stove, etc), and a cetma rack for my fixed gear rambler. Load the pack, strap it on the front of the bike, and pedal! If I need to hike-a-bike, the pack goes on my back and the bike gets light and easy to handle. Same gear can then be used for a canoe trip, etc, and the rack makes my bike more useful. Does this sound workable, or am I missing something?

Guitar Ted said...

@Hook: Well, I encourage you to go and do what you have planned first off. Adventuring by bicycle is a ton of fun. But to your point- I think that it is more the way you pack the bike and body than it is doing things one way or the other. In other words- Pack with bags on the bike and on your body, especially off road. On road is a bit different, since you will likely never not ride through any situation, but off road- it makes sense from a weight/maneuverability stand point

Pack your bags with heavier stuff on the bike, lighter stuff on you, which is the general rule of thumb here.