Brandon Camarda - Getting Started with Bikepacking
The term “bikepacking” can be interpreted in many different ways, but the gist of it is: backpacking on a bike. According to bikepacking.com (an amazing resource for beginner and experienced bikepackers alike), the term is “the synthesis of all-terrain cycling and self-supported backpacking. It’s about venturing further into places less traveled, both near and far, via singletrack trails, gravel, and forgotten dirt roads, carrying the essential gear, and not much more.” Brandon Camarda has experienced this type of adventuring for over 7 years and knows a thing or two on how to make your trip the most rewarding.
Brandon started riding bikes during his college years and after obtaining his graduate degree and accepting a job across the country, he decided to bike his way to his new home, rather than drive. At the start of this voyage he didn’t know how to change a flat and had never bike toured, but over the course of 38 days he picked his way across the country and learned a ton about himself and cycling in the process. “When I arrived in Seattle, I thought, I suppose I’m a cyclist now. It became my passion. Since then, it’s been the biggest part of my life, driving my relationships, career and life choices.” Although this was a multi-day ride, today it would be considered “bike touring” while “bikepacking” would be an off-road tour.
Brandon’s first proper bikepacking trip was an ultradistance race in Kyrgyzstan called Silk Road Mountain Race. He competed in the first edition of the race in 2018, and then returned for a second helping in 2019. Here Brandon fell in love with the sport — riding into remote lands fully unsupported for multiple days. Another top adventure for Brandon has been the Colorado trail, which he has bikepacked twice. Both routes are extremely wild, remote, and at high altitude.
Packing for a multi-day trip takes a lot of preparation, similar to through-hiking — you need everything to survive and ride for however many days your trip will take. Each trip's amenities in the number of services like gas stations, restaurants and hotels. Sleep/shelter gear is a necessity if not staying in hotels, and quality food to fuel for the entire duration is a must. It's also important to have a robust tool kit and be able to fix most issues on the bike (more on what is in this, later). Brandon’s goal on these trips is to pack as light as possible with a total bike/gear weight of no more than 50 pounds (23kgs).
So what else does "gear" include? Brandon's set-up includes a 14L bar bag roll, a full frame pack, and a small 5L dropper seat pack (since he runs a dropper post for his mountain bike), a running 12L hydration pack (2L of water) and a small feed bag on the bar for one bottle. The handlebar roll stores a full sleep setup, consisting of an REI superlight bivvy, Thermarest 15 degree vesper quilt, Thermarest inflatable air mattress and Sea to Summit inflatable pillow. This is also where Brandon’s charging system (Anker power bank and charging cables) and toiletries are stored. The frame pack (frame bag, the triangle shaped bag located in the frame) is filled with tools and food. His tools include a full size multitool with chain breaker, 2 spare brake pads, one spare shoe cleat, zip ties, chain lube, and a master chain link. The seat pack is used to store all clothing items that are simple yet cover a wide range of temperatures. Brandon uses mainly Rapha brand clothing along with a few merino items for sleeping.
When it comes to food and hydration, storage space is very limited. Easy food items consist of one ziplock bag for breakfast and one for dinner, both using the cold soak methods. Additional food items are tortillas, peanut butter and Spring gels. Brandon also eats hot meals at certain stops along the way and drinks high caloric Spring hydration mixes. His bladder carries 2 liters and Brandon brings with him a 1 liter filter bottle and 20 oz bottle for his electrolytes.
Bikepacking is all about adventure. Brandon has done both solo rides and group rides with friends. Although he enjoys both, his preference is solo trips or just with one other person.
The winter months are Brandon's favorite time to bikepack. His body does the best in the cold weather and the roads are quieter. His last big task this year will be riding the Rapha Festive 500, a challenge to ride 500km between December 24-31. “I’ve been doing this since 2015, and love finding fresh and interesting ways to get it done. I haven’t yet set my angle for this year, but I’m leaning towards completing the whole thing on a mountain bike. A unique challenge given winter conditions!”
For those looking to get into bikepacking Brandon encourages people to just get out there. It’s ok to borrow gear and pedal out to sleep somewhere overnight. Get comfortable with small trips first, learn the logistics of preparation, then move on to bigger trips. “Once you just put yourself out there and get into it, it’s all quite simple and you can start to layer in playing with gear and packing over time.”
Rapid Fire Questions:
Current go-to shoe: Shimano MT7 for big bikepacking trips with ample hike-a-bikes.
Favorite distance to run, hike, or bike: Running - the 5 mile loop up Mt Sanitas in Boulder, CO. Biking - any 6 hour ride.
Favorite place to explore: My backyard - Boulder, CO.
Race or adventure you haven’t done that you really want to race: The Colorado Trail Race, Badlands, and Tour De Los Padres.
Favorite non-biking thing to do: Love cooking!
Favorite Spring Flavors: Awesome Sauce, Wolf Packs, and Pina Colada drink mix.
Big thanks to Brandon for introducing Spring Energy to the world of bikepacking! Hope to see you out there on the road/trail! You can follow Brandon's adventures on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carmararda/
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