Bikepacking test run
I’ve always been a big fan of combining mountain biking and overnight trips. At first I would suffer an uncomfortable time carrying a pack, then I graduated to panniers. Panniers are great when you’re moving, but they make the bike extremely unwieldy when pushing uphill, through bog or across rivers. I became aware of bikepacking – strapping all your gear to the frame of the bike – a few years back through US bloggers like Jill Homer and Grizzly Adam. The idea has been ticking over at the back of my mind ever since, but I’ve always managed to resist purchasing yet more gear.
This year the stars aligned. An excellent short film from Al Humphries illustrated the potential of the bikepacking approach, and a series of mechanical difficulties left me without my hardtail MTB for a prolonged period. What better excuse did I need to splash out on bikepacking kit that would enable me to undertake overnight trips on my full suss bike?
The difference between panniers and backpacking kit is incredible. The handling of the bike is unaffected, pushing is much easier and it’s possible to lift the bike over fences without removing gear. A 13 L bag behind the saddle and a 20 L bag on the handlebars give ample room for overnight kit, but there is no room for beer or coal so the hardtail / pannier combination is still the best option for bothy trips.
Overnight Munro Bagging
I always like to take advantage of the long daylight hours at this time of year by turning a day walk into an overnight trip. This allows me to bag some hills without taking a whole day away from the kids. My objectives were Meall nan Ceapraichean and Eididh nan Clach Geala, the westerly peaks of the Beinn Dearg group near Ullapool.
From previous visits I was prepared for a long approach up Gleann na Squaib, the first 3 km or so of which passed through oppressive conifer plantation. To my relief the trees had been felled, improving this approach no end. A bike is advantageous for the return. I camped below the cliffs of Beinn Dearg in drizzly conditions, and awoke to a lovely bright morning. There were a few snow flurries up on the tops, and a thin skin of ice coated the smaller lochans.
Despite the cold night I was toasty inside my new sleeping bag. They say that a down sleeping bag will last 10 years. My old one was 12 or 13 years old and I should have replaced it three years ago if not before.