Ultimate Hiker, Around the World and Bikepacking

I am still recovering from having the rotator cuff on my left shoulder repaired and in a sling but I am getting excited about doing a few endurance events. For the past several years my energy and attitude towards exercise has been pretty low but I have changed my diet and I feeling a bit more energized. Especially after presentations by Andrew Skurka, Jason Lewis and a bikepacking presentation sponsored by Medicine Wheel.

The first presentation was Andrew at The American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO and focused on lightweight hiking.  If you want to go lightweight and he is the yoda and what he says is gospel. 

The big takeaway from his talk was what are your goals?

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Climbing
  • Photography
  • Distance
  • Etc.
Anything except getting from A to B in the fastest amount of time possible will entail extra ‘stuff’ and slow you down.  More time on the trail = more food and weight. That awesome DSL and 6 lenses or trad rack will weigh twice your total pack weight for a fast and light Colorado Trail hike. 
According to the Colorado Trail website you should plan of 4 – 6 weeks to cover the 483 miles.  When planning trips Andrew uses 3mph and using his conservative daily mileage of 25 miles it should take ~20 days to complete.  You might think that 3mph is slow because it equates to 20min/mi pace but when you have 20 – 30 pound pack on your back it is a different story.

What do you really need?
  • Big camp stove
  • Sleeping bag rated for lowest temp on trip
  • Full sized tent?
  • Several changes of clothes
  • Reinforced hiking boots
You really need to look at the weight of your gear, especially your pack. Andrew has a base pack that is ~25lbs (depending on season and trail), without water and food; including shelter.  His big weight savings come from planning.  Look at your route and identify water sources.  No need to carry a days worth of water when you will be crossing sources regularly.  You are not clubbing every night so you are not going to need 3 changes of clothes.  Granted, if you are traveling with some romantic intentions you may need to change out a bit more but my view is that nothing says ‘come and get it’ like the funk earned after a few days on the trail without a shower. 

There are some ultralight canister stoves out there but you have to have access to the canisters or you could make one out of a cat food or beer can and use denatured alcohol or HEET, both easily found, to fuel the stove. This is just a start but think. If you are only humping around ~30 pounds do you need those big heavy boot and 8 pound pack?  Get the book, read the forums and websites, and evaluate what you really need.

I went with the cat food one, for now.

Unfortunately the talk was only 2 hours long and was very general but informative.  The answer to many questions was “it’s in the book“, which I bought and he signed.  It is no knock on him and it would take hours to answer every gear related question when you have a room filled with hikers, known gear geeks. He is very approachable and when I asked a question after the presentation he asked me to email it to him. I did and he responded that day! His big thing was that he is a planner; weather, distance, food, water, etc.  No need to carry big down jacket or 3 layer rain gear if the weather is not calling for it. Granted you may be uncomfortable but if you only have 2 weeks of vacation you can accomplish the life goal of hiking Colorado Trail, with some training! And evaluate the weight of everything you have.

The second presentation I attended was by Jason Lewis at Colorado College.  This was sponsored by a local veterinary clinic and wasn’t very well publicized.  While sitting there his route was projected on the screen and out of all the cities in the world Pueblo, CO was one highlighted. Hmm..

Jason did not come up with the idea to circumnavigate the world via human powered transportation, it was his friend Steve Smith’s creation and they set out in 1993.  They planned on 3 years and when they had only made it to Hawaii in 2 years Steve called it quits. Jason did detail near death experience on the initial ‘pedal’ across the Atlantic by Steve and how this experience changed Steve.  
Jason admitted to this endeavor being selfish and just doing it because no one else had. It was not until he was roller blading across the US, Steve was biking because they needed some alone time after several weeks pedalling a tiny vessel across the Atlantic, when he was hit by a car in… That is right. Pueblo.  
It was during his 9 month recovery where he came to the realization that this trip was about sustainability and “the world in space is like a boat in the ocean.”   On the surface this statement is simple but powerful when put into the context of human powered exploration.  When you are pedaling across the ocean, biking across the desert or roller blading across America you will only carry what you need. 

The other hurdle that he recounted was mental toughness.  He had a breakdown crossing from Hawaii to Australia and realized that he would die if he did not keep moving against the ocean currents.  He continued on and did not use a PLB (personal locator beacon) for rescue, some hikers could learn from his fortitude. 

It took 13 years to complete the circumnavigation. Once completed he returned to Pueblo, CO.  Why? Because he found the Americans to be the most giving and open of all the people he came across and once home in England he did not feel at home. He also has a book to purchase.. 

Ok.. Now the last presentation, bike packing. If you are still reading this think of   combining both. Think light, plan, and only bring what you need.  There were several bikes on display from a fat bike (still don’t understand these things but I have not ridden one) to a Moots Ti bike.  With the growing number of people participating in the various long distance races like Colorado Trail and Continental Trail races, bikepacking seems to be taking off. Especially around here with access to so many trails around Pikes Peak and Colorado Trail.  

I would recommend watching “Ride the Divide” and if you would like a video overview of Jason Petervary’s set-up for packing and gear ideas.

There is a common thread in all these presentations. Think about what you need to really survive and only use or take the minimum in your life.
It is hard to sit here and read books or maps. I can not wait to heal up and getting outside. Stay tuned. 

I know, my picutures really sucked.


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