Pete, Ian and I headed out for an extended winter outing last weekend, the idea to ride 160km in two days and camp along the way. We were game for exploring some of eastern Manitoba and trying our hand at winter camping. I also wanted to see what a possible “Winter Challenge” course might look like, more on that later. Here are some pictures and thoughts from the weekend.
We continued on the route that Pete had mapped out until we hit the 25km connector trail/road at kilometer 86, that road had not been maintained or traveled on and was under 20cm of snow. It was just before 5:00 and we did not feel like pushing our bike for that distance, we talked about options one of which was to head up to the Snowman snowmobile trail and ride that through to make our way along the route. We talked about this for a bit and we came to the conclusion that we were uncomfortable with riding on the Snoman trial without first getting permission, we decided to head back the way we came. As the light was beginning to fade we decided to ride back 10km and try and find a good place to camp beside the road.
The trip was a lot of fun and we all learned a little more about winter bikepacking, here are some observations from the weekend.
- Variety of road and trail types – not just all gravel or all trail.
- Riding with 3 or 4 people seems to be a pretty great social situation for me, personally. I think I like it better than 2 for long rides (more variety, maybe?) and decisions are easier to make when you’re tired than having 6 or 7 people.
- Ground sheets sure are nice in powdery snow.
- Wolvhammer boots – yep they are great (with gaiters was good call)
- GPS. This was my first ride ever following a track on a GPS. It’s pretty cool, although I’m not entirely sure I like the level of hand-holding. Maybe over time I’ll revert to maps and only use the GPS for backup/confirmation. Time will tell.
- Sleeping in wet clothes. Well, maybe didn’t work great, but wasn’t bad, either. I usually make a priority of changing into dry stuff. But for various reasons I didn’t and was actually surprised that (a) I didn’t freeze and (b) I was dry by morning.
- Bring more real food and a wider variety of food. I feel like I always say this after medium/long rides. Nutrition continues to be one of my primary challenges for consistently turning out good rides over 6-7 hours.
- We talked about this one — keeping boots warm. Bring them in sleeping bag? Sleep on them as a pillow? Sleep in them?
- Possibly… put more effort into finding dry firewood (or how to differentiate between dry and wet wood when everything is frozen).
- Sharing a new area with you guys
- Having the flexibility to stop riding and camp when we felt like it
- Riding roads and trails I hadn’t seen before.
- Being ok with changing the route on the fly.
- My sleep system (bag,ground sheet and pad) is more than adequate for the conditions.
- Clothing, dressed a bit lighter then I have been to make sure I stayed dry. It was a bit light in the open stretches but fine when out of the wind.
- On top I wore a light wool hoody and the Revilate hoody legs wool tights and a light soft-shell pant, feet light running socks, vapor barrier , fleece socks and Wolvhammers.
- Do we need a fire?
- Keep boots warm over night, in sleeping bag or put a hand warmer in and tie the tops shut.
- I need to find a way to stop for a meal/break on long days when there are no checkpoints or towns. This a problem on the summer rides as well. Ties into Ian’s real food as well. Don’t know if I would bother cooking something but to take time to sit down off the bike and eat is important.
- Camp booties or something to get the bike boots off when stopped.
- Getting out on the bike and having an adventure with friends
- Seeing new areas of the Province
- Winter camping, it requires thought, patience, and making good decisions
- A lot covered above but…
- Brooks saddle, they are fantastic
- Using bar ends (mounted as close to the stem as possible and facing down) to keep the sleeping bag in a good position on the front of your bike
- Finding out that cold hands and feet do warmup when you get back on the bike the next day
- More food varieties (I should have figured this out by now but gummi bears need to come with me on all of these trips)
- Bring less stuff, really, 2 sleeping pads??? Like they say you pack your insecurities and I guess I was insecure
- Stopping for lunch as Pete suggested would be good. Someone said eat energy foods for about 2 – 3 hours but then take a break and eat real food
- Setting up your stove beside your sleeping bag so you can start melting snow for water from the comfort and warmth of your sleeping bag
- And what everyone else said…BOOTS IN THE BAG WITH YOU
The trip was great, good times with good friends. What this trip also convinced me of is the need to have Winter Challenges, starting next year look for winter MUERTO challenges to come your way.