Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Milltown's Bikepacking Event - a recap

Owen and I have done some bike packing of the "credit card travel" variety where we slept in hotels instead of camping. We like credit card travel but want to branch out and actually go bike packing for "real" where we carry tents and sleeping bags and all. But, since our camping experience are mostly limited to camping with our families when we were children, and our most recent tent camping experience was, let's just say, rather stressful, we know we have plenty to learn.

We have many questions about bike packing from "What's a bivvy sack?" to "How do we carry all of our equipment on our bikes?" So we were super excited to learn that Milltown Cycles was offering a bike packing "how-to" event for beginners.

The event sounded perfect for us so I signed Owen and I up right away. I also decided to bring our kids, Rose and Ryan, because they've been wanting to go camping for some time and actually have more recent camping experience than Owen and I do.

We were not disappointed! The bike packing event was great fun and we learned a ton.

Here's what happened....

Last Friday, we packed up all of our camping gear (some on loan to us from one of my Northfield Women's Gravel Crushers friends, Katy) and drove to River Bend Nature Center where the event was to be held. We arrived a few minutes late but found our way to the outdoor amphitheater where a nice bonfire and the event's speakers waiting to teach us all about bike packing.
Awesome bonfire
The evening started with a great talk by bike packing guru, Dave. Dave works for Quality Bike Products and has an extensive knowledge of what kinds of gear to use and how to pack it on your bike.  Dave's talk was informative and fun. He had his fully packed Salsa Fargo on hand so we could see what a bike all set up for bike packing looks like. Dave answered all of our questions and was super helpful. Dave keeps a blog where he shares information about bike packing. Find it at: www.bikepackingdave.wordpress.com.

Bikepacking Dave and his fully loaded Salsa Fargo
A shot of Dave's Salsa Fargo
After Dave's talk, we gathered around the campfire while local coffee roaster, Cody of Stoke Coffee, brewed up a cup of coffee for us and taught us all sorts of things about making great coffee while we're out bike packing. We all got to try the coffee Cody made and asked some questions - Cody knows his coffee! Cody's coffee roasting business, Stoke Coffee, is local and he sells his beans online, at farmer's markets and at our local co-op, Just Foods.
Ryan is taking in all that Cody from Stoke Coffee has to tell us
about making coffee (Ryan likes coffee)
Then we started roasting hot dogs over the bonfire and Curtis from Milltown made up three different kinds of camp food from Mountain House for us to try. He made it all on a little MSR camp stove. I've never had dehydrated camp food - actually, I haven't had much of any kind of camp food - and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted!

Well fed and full of information, we were all getting tired so we trekked back to the camping area and set up our tents with aid of headlamps and flashlights. Bikepacking Dave stuck around until we were set to call it a night. I think he might have been amused at how uncoordinated my family was at setting up a tent but we managed much better than the last time our family went camping! Rose, who backpacked for a week in Montana, is our most experienced tent-setter-upper so she directed Owen on how to set up the tent. I mostly observed because I think that "too many cooks spoil the broth" saying must apply to setting up tents, too, so I figured I'd do the most good out of the way. Once the tent was up, Ryan and I got our sleeping bags set up and things arranged inside the tent.
Our camp
Dave headed for home, we said our "good-nights" to the other campers (four others stayed the night) and soon it was time to go to sleep. It got down to the mid-30s that night but we stayed pretty warm and slept well.
Rose and Ryan - all tuckered out
In the morning, we all gathered for a breakfast of donuts, juice and meat sticks and I broke out my little Esbit pocket stove and made some coffee. Milltown had great giveaways of bike packing equipment for those who attended the event and we were lucky to win two travel pillows, a first aid kit, and a super cool Nemo sleeping pad that I think Owen will take with him on the Tour Divide next summer.
Rose is delighted with the handy packable first aid kit
Ryan shows us that the Nemo sleeping pad is so small and lightweight
he can easily carry it over his shoulder.
After breakfast, we packed up our tents, chatted a bit, loaded up our vehicles and talked some more. All too soon, it was time to head on home.

Thanks, Milltown, for hosting such a wonderful event. We learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and now feel better prepared to go on bike packing adventures and on car camping trips with the family. Good thing because Rose and Ryan are already asking when we can go camping again!

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