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Sorting out a "bikepacking" method for long, light, fast BC skiing...

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Here in Mid-Michigan we have a group that likes to do Epic Ski Days on singletrack trails. These are the same trails we normally mtbike in the summer.

 

We've been breaking trail and skiing such singletrack with a distance range of 20-40 miles.

 

We're not doing many linked turns but a lot of technical descending and scramble-ups.

 

We carry 10-15lb packs and fannypacks. About a gallon of water for a day.

 

Our gear of choice tends to be Rossi Evos or other 55mm midlength nowaxers with NNN-BC Rossi X5 boots. If the terrain is a bit mellower I'll often opt for a full-length tour-ski.

 

Basically, we're enjoying taking kick'n'glide skiing to what seems to us to be the next level.

 

The next level after that seems to maybe be Overnighters.

 

Actually, the "next level" might also be a 50-mile Day. We haven't done that yet -- with trail-breaking in technical terrain. (As it is, 40 miles is easily "dark to dark.")

 

But to overnight it's starting to get tricky weight-wise for packs. I find that my range and fun gets shortened a lot once I go over 15 lbs. But I'll try to not be a wimp. I could go 25 lbs if it'll be half that weight at the finish. Carrying 2 gallons of water seems like a real pain but so does pumping/filtering.

 

See, we want to do self-supported. That might be not possible or convenient really and still have fun -- I'm willing to "break a rule" and get water from a campground or whatever. But we're game to give fully self-supported a try. Actually, campground water isn't breaking any rule, if we could be sure of finding such a thing. If our route went close to a house, say, that's another option for water. Anyway...

 

I'm wondering about sleds. The Arrowhead 135 gang uses sleds -- but then they're not skiing singletrack. They're skating a snowmobile trail. Sheesh.

 

Can a sled work for singletrack? Sure, even a light sled adds its own 5-10 lbs, say. But pulling instead of carrying might be groovy. Maybe we could even skip ALL body carried weight -- just slide the sled up between your legs to grab a water bottle, etc.

 

Well, that's what we're up to. Fun stuff!

post #2 of 12

Where do you do this? Ideal is to position a yurt or cabin with a wood stove along the route. Its been many years since I've done this but "hut to hut" skiing beats carrying a mountain of winter gear.

post #3 of 12

Well, one, don't carry water unless you're planning on drinking it immediately.  Melt snow.  A small pot and stove set-up won't take up a lot of space in your pack and won't weigh as much as water does.  Be sure that whatever stove you're planning on using will work in winter temps… I use a MSR XKG, my husband swears by his JetBoil.  Make sure that there are at least two stoves on the trip in case one of them fails.  That little detail has saved my butt a bunch of times… no matter how nicely they fire up in your driveway before the trip, one of them always seems to konk out when you're miles from home.  Common konker-outer - Pocket Rockets.  Those things don't seem to like the cold much, at least on the trips I've been on.  YMMV.

A lot of your decision-making will depend on your overnight temperatures and if there's enough snow to use it to make a sleeping structure.  A full-on snow cave takes a lot of time to dig for overnight use and you'll be soaked at the end of the exercise, but there are other options for using snow and a tarp for making a pretty reasonable overnight shelter.  Check out Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book for construction beta:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Allen-Really-Backcountry-Revised-Better/dp/0762745851/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y

 

A tarp doesn't weigh much, and AFAIC you should have one in your pack in the winter, anyway, along with a shortie pad and a shovel.

You can be really warm and comfortable in the winter if you plan it right.  I'd rather winter camp than summer camp any day… you won't sleep on a tree root, you won't have to haul water, and you're very likely to have the place to yourself.  Key to success - be sure that you can stay dry.  Don't let yourself stay wet, from sweat or from anything else.

Winter camping isn't a place for weight weenies, but you don't have to be out there with 5000 lbs, either.  

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Your idea is the standard for super great fun in winter. Maybe ski 10 miles then set up camp, boil water, make a hut as needed.

 

We're exploring the Epic Distance plus Overnight concept. Like the Iditaski, Arrowhead 135, and Canada Ski marathons only on ungroomed singletrack.

 

At this point I'm thinking more like minimalist bivvy. We're skiing 30+ miles in 8 hrs. Maybe skiing into the night a few more hours. Not much time for boiling. I don't quite know if it's "breaking the rules" to get water from a house that's near the trail -- might be the kind of thing we'd need.

 

We might just bivvy for 5 hrs then get up and keep skiing in the dark -- focus on the skiing and eating of cold pizza rather than the camping side.

 

We're trying to apply the bikepacking concepts developed for things like the Tour Divide mtbike race to marathon epic XC ski days...

 

We're wondering if any kind of sled rig would work. Sleds are used for flatter groomed snowmobile-trail type terrain as far as I know. Would a sled work for technical singletrack -- skiing on hiking trails?

post #5 of 12

Cool concept! Not sure that people haven't been doing it for centuries (wasn't XC skiing created as a means of transportation), but it definitely sounds like fun. 

 

I agree with melting snow - water is going to be a huge part of your total weight, why not get rid of it. Maybe carry what you need for the first day and then melt snow in the evening? You could turn it into water and boil out impurities at the same time, though I reckon snow is clean enough to drink as long as it's not yellow ;). It would save a lot of weight and not be terribly difficult. 

 

Also don't understand what's so difficult about purifying. If there's non-frozen water available, it seems like the weight savings would be well worth the time spent dropping an iodine tablet into your bottle. 

 

If you can't find a sled that works, jerryrig your own. That's how gear for all those other lightweight sports was created. 

 

Here's a company that launched last year for "sea trekking," basically backpacking in coastal waters, sometimes in conjunction with hiking trails. There was nothing available to meet their needs, so they designed their own waterproof/floating backpacks: http://www.aetem.de

post #6 of 12
I've thought about doing this in my area as well. I have a complete AT set-up with regular waxed mid-fat skis and was thinking of picking up some Black Diamond kicker skins to deal with the undulating terrain. Anyone use these and have any opinions?
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeUT View Post
 

Cool concept! Not sure that people haven't been doing it for centuries (wasn't XC skiing created as a means of transportation), but it definitely sounds like fun. 

 

I agree with melting snow - water is going to be a huge part of your total weight, why not get rid of it. Maybe carry what you need for the first day and then melt snow in the evening? You could turn it into water and boil out impurities at the same time, though I reckon snow is clean enough to drink as long as it's not yellow ;). It would save a lot of weight and not be terribly difficult. 

 

Also don't understand what's so difficult about purifying. If there's non-frozen water available, it seems like the weight savings would be well worth the time spent dropping an iodine tablet into your bottle. 

 

If you can't find a sled that works, jerryrig your own. That's how gear for all those other lightweight sports was created. 

 

Here's a company that launched last year for "sea trekking," basically backpacking in coastal waters, sometimes in conjunction with hiking trails. There was nothing available to meet their needs, so they designed their own waterproof/floating backpacks: http://www.aetem.de

 

Yeah, maybe just purify stream water. I'm game. ...Or just poach from a house that is close to the trail.  : )

 

Yeah, we'll likely have to jerryrig our own sled if we go that route. I was just wondering if anyone had done such a thing yet for sleds and singletrack. No need to reinvent the wheel if there's maybe a link to a "singletrack sled" online somewhere that I'm missing.

 

We'll probably just opt for 20-lb packs and cold bivvy, cold pizza...

 

(The new scenes building around mixed trail/water fun are amazing!)

post #8 of 12

I think you will find that pulling a sled is going to be a big drain physically, especially if you are used to fast and light 40 mile days. A narrow sled will "fit" in your track, but it will likely be a few inches wider in practice as it will jounce around a bit. If you think you can really get by with a 25 pound pack, well, that is pretty light. I would prefer to pull something than carry it, but I'm not doing the sort of mileage you are.

 

Not carrying 16 pounds of water in favor of a pot and stove would make sense weight wise, but melting snow seems to take forever, and if you are already dawn to dusk skiing, stopping every hour or two for a half hour is really going to add time. I've been looking at the new stoves which run strictly on twigs -- i.e., no gas -- but still they take 7 minutes to boil water, and you still have to set up, collect snow, let it cool down, etc. etc.

 

I've been using a Chariot with the ski attachment to drag my baby around. It's not nearly as heavy as I thought it would feel, even though the contraption itself is 25 pounds and my baby is a bit of a porker. However, I will say that it works best on trails that are widish and groomed -- like a skate track or a snowmobile road. When just following a track which was ski tracks and pole plants, one ski seemed to fall into the rut and one stayed up on top. The end result was that it was sort of awkward.

 

If you want to try a pulk, I can say that they are cheap and easy enough to make on your own -- all you need is a kid's sled, some rope, some PVC pipe, an old hip belt from a disused backpack, and some cord. For you, I think you'd want the narrowest one you can find.

post #9 of 12

"my baby is a bit of a porker."

 

My favorite line ever uttered on Epic :)Thumbs Up

post #10 of 12

Yeah, porker. On the upside, I bike every day with him in the Chariot too, and on our snowpacked roads I actually think pulling him stabilizes the Chariot -- sort of like having sand bags in the back of your pickup. Which is about what my baby weighs.

 

Sorry, off topic.

post #11 of 12
If your willing to use snow that hasn't been boiled, which is normally safe to drink but there is risk, then another option is to take quart/gallon bags of water fill them with snow and place them inside your jacket. Teh snow melts and you can drink it.

If your really going to get into ultra distances it's important to start taking nutrition serious. At these distances it becomes as important if not more important than your actual physical conidition. I have done two Ironmans (2.1 mi swim 112 mi bike 26.2 mi run) and have numerous friends that do +50 mi foot races. I have seen more people fall out of their nutrition than any other reason. Cold pizza is not going to cut it you'd be better off taking a whole bunch of choclate bars and eating them constantly.

Most importantly is on a multi day trip where you are really pushing pace drinking just water can be plain dangerous. Salt deficiency can be significantly more dangerous than dehydration and a lot of people don't know about it. Salt pills should be taken if your not drinking stuff with electrolytes in it. I went salt deficient after my first Ironman and it was not fun. Funnily enough I kept trying to drink water and the med staff would take it from me and make drink soda or chicken broth instead.
post #12 of 12

I would recommend against a sled on any kind of twisty trail. They're great when the trail is relatively mellow, but on twisty and steep stuff, they tend to veer off to the sides, tip over, etc. 25 lbs is possible if you're willing to sacrifice some sleeping comfort. I would definitely also recommend not trying to carry 2 days worth of water. That gallon a day that you're carrying now likely does not include the water you're consuming at home before/after the outing. Plan on carrying enough to get you through your ski time, then bivying and melting snow while in your sleeping bag. If there's open water nearby, just scoop it up and purify it. If it would be easy enough to get water from a house or store, that makes sense, too. If there is frequent access to liquid water along the route, you'll save a bunch of comfort by carrying less water and drinking a bunch when you get to a source. If you live in a cold part of the country, campgrounds have probably turned off their water for the winter so the pipes don't freeze. Backpacking on xc skis is a blast. 

 

 

Base pack weight (before water/food): under 20 lbs. 

Spring overnighter in AK with temps around 20-30F

 

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