Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The packing puzzle

Now that I have sent my 2 litre support station refresher boxes off attention turns to what I carry on my back.

I opted for a 30 litre adventure racing back pack as it is lightweight and has a pouch to take a hydration bladder. Carrying bottles is fine but the sub-zero temperatures we will be experiencing will turn bottles into solid ice. My hope is that the bladder neatly tucked up inside the pack will be spared! I will be packing a 1.5 litre bladder as well as two 750ml bottles in the pack. I carry two other bottles on the bike frame giving me just over 4.25 litres of hydration fully loaded.

My aim is to get my back pack weight down to below 8kg. The pack weighs 1 kg (ripped the steel frame support out – uncomfortable and extra weight I don’t need!) and the water will add an additional 3 kg. This leaves me 4kg to pack clothes, nutrition, spares, toiletries, maps and my gas cooker and accessories (pot, gas cylinder, cups – 2 in case I have company, teaspoons etc.), emergency rations, space blankets, medical kit, cell phones, batteries, battery chargers, etc.

The most important aspect is clothing. We will potentially have to deal with temperatures ranging from the mid 20’s down to -10 Celsius. Given those conditions, clothing choice becomes critical. Critical issues are volume (can’t carry a massive pack around), weight (I am not a Sherpa) and suitability. There is obviously such a thing as being too cold, but the opposite is also true. Careful layering seems to be the key. I have selected the following key clothing items – wick dry vest, short sleeve riding jersey, long sleeve riding jersey, long sleeve fleecy riding jersey, wind shell and a warm rain proof outer shell. For the legs I have opted to carry knee warmers, leg warmers and full tights. I will be carrying 2 pairs of riding shorts. Add 3 pairs of socks (1 set thermal), 5 pairs of gloves (short finger, long finger, thermal, wool and latex), balaclava and beanie. Had a long think about taking my goose down jacket but it takes up a lot of space and weight - a hefty 700 grams!

Riders who have competed in the ABSA Cape Epic will know the challenge of squeezing 8 days of riding gear into one of their generously proportioned bags. Well an Epic bag comfortably swallows at least 2 of my packs and I will be on the road for about 3 weeks. What’s more is that on the Epic you don’t carry your bag, it is sent ahead for you.

Once the clothes are shoe-horned into the pack I then take a 15lb hammer and pound away until all the other stuff fits snugly in my little pack.

I will be taking a spare tyre, but unlike Earle – “Man of Steel” Wakeford, a fellow competitor, I will not be carrying it on my back but rather taping it to my bike frame (pictures of the transformed race horse, now resembling a pack mule, to follow)

The good news is that not all the stuff needs to fit into my pack unless I choose to ride naked – apart from being impractical, at my advanced age it wouldn’t be pretty either.
So at least some of the weight is off my shoulders and is evenly dispersed over the rest of my frame. Shoes are a good example. I downgraded from my normal racing shoes to shoes that will do both on and off the bike.

The result is within my goal. Wearing kit suited to moderate weather conditions and a full load of water, my pack weighs in at just under 8kg! Sure this will creep up as I discover new essential items!


Andre said...

What about waterproof rain pants?

My name is Earle said...

I agree with Andre',i am taking the Cape Storm Monsoon rain pants along as well as the Monsoon Rain jacket.