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Bikepackers Foundry backstory

May 5, 2021 Episode 57 of the MyBack40Podcast. Sara and Guy chat with Steve O’Shaughnessy about Sara’s first year in the bag making business.

Here’s a link to a podcast about how products and DIY ideas emerge from the Bikepackers Foundry.  Grateful that Sarah Hornby of Bikepack Canada and Steve O’Shaughnessy of MyBack40podast found this topic of interest to the community.

As one of the most requested guests for the Podcast, many of you already know who this man is. For those of you who don’t, say hello to Guy Stuart. Guy has been in the Bikepacking scene for the last handful of years and has made his presence known by participating in any event he can get his wheels into. Guy is also a passionate DIY sempster (tailor, sewer) and has manufactured most of his own luggage. In this episode, Guy discusses his passion for cycling and his analytical approach to the design and fabrication of his pieces.

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Lightweight DIY meals – only boil water to cook

Four-cheese instant mashed potatoes

This suggested meal is based on packaged Idahoan mashed potatoes available in many grocery stores. The packaged potatoes are supplemented with freeze-dried Lite House veggie mix, unsalted butter, and powdered ginger (not shown) all combined in a zip lock bag. Alternately the ingredients can be carried separately and combined at meal time. Typically yields about 700 calories (the Idahoan mix is 440 calories/bag). Pour two cups, (500 ml) of boiling water into zip-lock bag, stir completely, let stand one minute prior to eating. This meal can also be cold-soaked….not so much for the butter. 🙂

Ramen and “stuff”

Here’s a favorite bikepacking meal.  Ingredients can usually be found in most grocery stores.  Super easy to prepare in advance and loaded with about 750 calories.  Typically costs less than $3/meal.

2 – blocks Organic millet & brown rice ramen = 480 calories (Costco product) This is sold as a gluten free product.

1 pouch of Lipton Chicken Noodle Supreme Cup-a-soup = 60 calories

1 teaspoon Litehouse freeze-dried ginger

1 tablespoon Litehouse freeze-dried poultry herb blend (both Litehouse products are usually in the refrigerated salad dressings area of grocery stores)

1 can solid light tuna packed in olive oil ˜200 calories (weight 85 grams) or substitute nuts, jerky, Hot Rods, etc.

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Preparation: Break up the ramen in a bowl and then add to a 1 litre  “medium” zip-lock freezer bag …. not a sandwich bag.

Combine rest of ingredients, except tuna, in bag, and seal.

When ready to “cook” add a can of tuna with the oil and then add 450 ml of boiling water, and seal bag.  Wrap bag in something to keep it warm.  Wait 5-15 minutes* while stirring bag occasionally to mix contents. Enjoy. *altitude dependent

Breakfast Hash

A friend highlighted Golden Griddle hashbrowns as a staple bikepacking food. Thanks Bob! These containers of dehydrated potatoes are widely available in North America. Marketed as gluten-free, the spuds are an excellent base for adding your favorite ingredients. The sodium levels of ~1,800 Mg/container are worth considering relative to your daily activities and needs. “Cooking” is as simple as adding 500 ml of boiling water to the container, stirring, and enjoying a hot beverage while the mixture rehydrates. At 1,800 metres it takes about 15 minutes for rehydration.

1/4 teaspoon Litehouse freeze-dried ginger

1 tablespoon Litehouse freeze-dried poultry herb blend (both Litehouse products are usually in the refrigerated salad dressings area of grocery stores)

1-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.

Mixed nuts and/or shelf stable bacon bits, etc. Note: Cheeses make the mixture VERY difficult to stir and rehydrate completely.

Ingredients for breakfast hash
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Integrated tent vestibule footprint

This DIY concept is a simple cutting and sewing project to extend the functionality of a tent.  A vestibule footprint can block mud and debris from entering the tent and also provides a larger barrier for moisture migrating from the ground and condensing on the inside of the tent fly.  Any piece of coated fabric will work.  In this example a piece of coated ripstop nylon was used.  The total weight addition is 30 grams.

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Completed vestibule footprint set up on a recent bikepacking trip. 

Design considerations: a. Size the vestibule footprint smaller than the fly to prevent water from pooling on the footprint. b. Fold and sew edges to minimize water and debris accumulations. c. Add a length of elastic cord to hold the footprint in tension.

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8. Breaking camp after a stormy night. Everything stayed dry under the tent fly

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7. Completed tent and vestibule footprint sewn together

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4. Inside corner and edge folding detail prior to sewing onto tent footprint

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2. Preparing to check the drip-line with the fly installed

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3. Laying out the fabric

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1. Original MSR universal footprint

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6. Five mm webbing sewn into corner and a length of elastic cord attached to keep footprint in tension

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5. Detail of the vestibule footprint sewn under the tent footprint to an edge to repel water and debris from migrating between tent footprint and body. The perimeter edge is folded under to provide a smooth top edge.

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vvp for bikepacking 🤔 Mega to Mini panniers – development notes

Spring 2020 – The purpose of this post is to give folks ideas about an approach to develop DIY gear for bikepacking and possibly bikerafting. Looking critically at all possible storage areas of my bikes led me to seriously examine the role that panniers could play in extending distances and multi-sport travel,*aka bikerafting. What problems might be solved by panniers that can be adjusted during the journey? Thinking ahead to possible outcomes when Covid-19 controls are reduced results in evaluating the prospect of needing to carry all or most supplies over bikepacking trips of several weeks. Ideally this could be achieved without using a backpack. Can on-bike storage be reconfigured to meet changing needs of food and bikerafting realities? These were some of the disparate thoughts rattling around as I considered prototyping more storage options for extended completely unsupported bikepacking trips.

From these ideas emerged some usage criteria: no unnecessary weight, quickly flexible, integrated with existing gear and systems, durable and without dangles, hikeabikeable, complementary to packrafting, function over form.

I then moved on to considering what gear and food might fit into different storage locations on the bike and packraft. While thinking about how this might work on a trip, the idea of significant volume flexibility emerged.

The main integration items are drybags, compression drybags, and food packaged in ziplock bags, ultralight backpack. For bikerafting the items are PFD, cold water immersion gear, inflation and repair supplies, miscellaneous packraft components.  For a fairly minimalist bikepacker the list got long very quickly …

Typical 20 litre drybags* seemed like a good organizational size to start working from. This resulted in rough bag dimensions of 4 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and about 24 inches tall when open. Other integration checks included 5 and 8 litre compression drybags, ziplocks full of food, PFD, full packraft kit (raft and 4-piece paddle are carried on the handlebars). * The Sea to Summit Ultralight Drybag Backpack (a favorite of mine) is also approximately this size.

The combination of usage criteria and volume flexibility results in the Mega to Mini panniers prototype. A maximum closed volume, 4 folds, of about 18 litres with a minimum volume of <5 litres when fully compressed. When empty, each pannier is flat with no protrusions.

Left pannier at close to minimum size, right pannier fully expanded with heavier gear in the bottom section.
Fatbike with variable volume panniers still attached ready to launch. Even with the raft and safety gear no backpack is required.
Set up for hike-a-bike while bikerafting with the contents of the left pannier moved to the right. Alternately a ultra-light backpack can be removed from a pannier and gear transferred completely off the bike.

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Cooking with gas

These are a couple of simple ways to get more efficiency out of your cooking system. The water bath also works very well for using a conventional propane/iso-butane gas stove at extremely low temperatures (below -30). Water bath – The sensible and latent heat in liquid water is used to vapourize the liquid fuel in the gas canister. It’s helpful to tip the bowl enough that air does not get trapped in the concave bottom of the fuel canister. Don’t be alarmed if you hear the fuel boiling inside the canister. As the water starts to show signs of freezing dump it out and add warmer water. The fuel will continue to consistently vapourize as you cook or melt snow. We’ve also set the stove in puddles and streams to achieve the same result. Windscreen – buy a thin flexible cutting sheet from your local shop, punch two holes near the corners of one side, cut and bend a piece of thin wire of a length to bend the cutting sheet. Lean the cutting sheet against the side of your pot to block the wind. This setup also works well with alcohol stoves.

The cutting sheet/windscreen can also be used as a stiffener inside the handlebar roll, and for serving Bikepacker’s Charcuterie.

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Waterproof hip and handlebar pack

This is a very simple method of securing a hip pack to a Jones H Loop handlebar. The attachment method works with many styles of bags simply by attaching a loop near the bottom to hold the bag in place within the H-Loop. At 240 grams this 4 litre rolltop drybag is not ultra light, however it is extremely durable. Newer models are available that weigh 180 grams. The only modification required is to push a knotted loop of paracord through the drain hole of the zippered pocket, a bead or ring to prevent the cord from sliding out is optional. The mounted bag pictured below contains a down jacket and vest, cache battery and cables, and an InReach. The bag also works well as a deckbag when bikerafting.

Length of paracord knotted and ready to be inserted through the drain hole.

Valhalla Pure Outfitters carries these Seal-Line Hip Pack bags for less than $65 Cdn. The weight can be reduced by replacing the heavy 25mm (1 inch) waist belt with a lighter grade of webbing and buckle set. This change dropped the weight of the red bag to 180 grams.

Adding an accessory pocket

Left to right: DeLorme InReach, Handy Andy 5 with Loop Velcro patch and belt loops modifications, Handy Andy 6 open, 44.4 Whr cache battery with Hook Velcro patches on the back. These modifications were made with a simple light-duty sewing machine.

The red bag has a patch of industrial Hook Velcro attached to the outside of the pocket. It was placed and clamped overnight for the adhesive backing to fully adhere. This patch becomes the platform to attach other items such as an electronics case. The image above has a couple of examples of utilizing different Handy Andy cases for holding devices and securing a cache battery to the Loop Velcro inside the case.