Anytime I’m gonna be doing a new outdoor activity its a good idea to take a short, easy, low commitment trip to test things out. You want to get a feel for what works and what doesnt, what you need and what you don’t.
I’ve bike camped before and I kinda loathe the term “bikepacking”. Its just touring and camping, but on non-paved surfaces. From what I can see thus far, the specialized gear looks pretty damn cool, but doesn’t seem much more functional than a traditional pannier setup. However on this trip I started to see some of the benefits of a non-traditional setup, if you’ll be using trails as opposed to roads or wide paths.
Last year I hit a limit with my trusty road bike insofar as it relates to bikepacking. Basically, I can’t put wide enough tires on it to make gravel and dirt riding comfortable and efficient. You’d be surprised what you can get away with on 28’s though. Those slick skinny tires fail in sand and on roads with big rocks sticking out, but do just fine on regular gravel roads. I wanted to push it and do more bike camping so I decided to get a bike better suited for it.
As much as I talk shit about buying new gear and wasting money, last year I specifically bought a bike (on 50% “corporate” discount) made for dirt/gravel capabilities. Its the Diamondback Haanjo Comp, the mid-range option with 105 components. I went backpacking all the time last year and as embarrassing as it is to say, it kinda sat there since I got it. That changes this year.
Once I made it about 13 miles into the canyon, my fender and rack were coming loose. Turns out when I was installing them, I stripped the shit out of the braze-ons and the bolt was falling out. I managed a quick fix with another bolt that happened to hold in the most badly stripped braze-on. This kind of failure would’ve really sucked had I been in a more remote location. Best to test everything out to prepare for more involved trips.
If you’re local, this is a great trip for either backpacking or bike camping. The canyon is stunning and dry while Portland is wet and miserable. There’s even several caves and Native rock art. Camping at the abandoned ranch is pretty rad too. There’s plenty of camping at BLM sites along the way with pit toilets (built for white water rafters).