Monday, May 21, 2012

Bike Camping to Illinois Beach

I recently decided that I wanted to start getting more use out of my bike. I've been commuting to and from work every day for several months now, which has allowed me to not only get used to putting in significant miles, but also to get to know my bike a little better. I decided it was time to take the next step -- longer distance overnight trips.


Illinois Beach State Park seemed a decent place to start; about 40 miles north of home, and the route is largely on designated bike paths. The nice thing about this trip was that it didn't take a whole lot pf preparation, as it was only one night, less than 24 hours total, and only required that we planned for two meals. I got a lot of tips talking to a few people I know who have done this before, as well as some knowledgeable people at REI, as well as the article I reference at the end of this post.
Here's the packing list:
  • Tent: 3 person ultralight from Alps Mountaineering (6 lbs.)
  • 6 x 8 ft. tarp, for tent footprint
  • Sleeping bag (2.5 lbs)
  • Stove: MSR pocket rocket + 8oz isopro canister
  • Cooking/Eating: MSR portable 1.6L lightweight pot, aluminum bowl, aluminum mug, collapsable knife/fork/spoon.
  • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant... the bare minimum. Also, packed some toilet paper, unrolled in a plastic sandwich bag. Turned out to be essential!
  • Clothes: again, not much. clean tshirt, something with long sleeves for the evening.
  • Tools: whatever I needed to change and a tire tube, plus hex key multitool, patch kit, duct tape, matches.
  • Water: 1 bike bottle plus a 32 oz nalgene.
  • Food: 1 dinner (tortellini, sauce, packaged salmon), 1 breakfast (oatmeal, dried fruit, mangos, tea), one spare light meal, just in case (dry chicken soup mix, can of chicken), snacks for riding (cliff bars, trail mix, etc.). 

Once all packed up, everything fit nicely into my two Ortleib Backroller panniers, with room to spare (except the tent, which I strapped on top of my rack with a bungee cord). Total weight on my rack was about 35 lbs.

The Trip

We got off to a rough start on Saturday morning. We left two hours late and had to make several stops for extra tubes as my friend got 3 flats in the first 10 miles. Once we finally worked out the kinks, the second half of the trip was very smooth, making the second 20 miles in less than 2 hours. We rolled onto our site around 5 pm, set up camp and made dinner. The food we brought could have actually fed three people comfortably, so we got to sleep extra full. After dinner we explored the park a bit. Illinois Beach is not the most scenic state park, adjacent to an out of commission nuclear reactor of some kind, but the area near our site was very nice and wooded.

The ride back was BRUTAL. It was 90 degrees with a hefty breeze in our faces. However, we had far fewer incidents, only having to stop once to swap a tube. Despite the conditions, we ended up making it back home sub 4.5 hours.

Lessons Learned

  • Normally I would have brought an inflatable sleeping pad on a trip like this, but my pad had been punchured beyond repair. I opted not to replace it immediately, as the one I wanted wasn't going to be able to be shipped in time and it was "just one night". Just so that I can look back at this and remind myself, I WILL NOT MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN. I woke up with terrible back nad neck aches, which made the first half of the ride home very uncomfortable. Before my next trip, I will be purchasing this Big Agnes Inflatable Air Core pad. I think I will also invest in an inflatable pillow, but haven't done my research yet.
  • I will be making a few upgrades to the bike before my next long ride. The first is more hearty tires. My current ones, while new, are not terribly high quality and really only built for smooth roads. Many of the area bike paths include stretches of cruched limestone (about 15 miles of our route) and those that are paved are not in the best shape. I lost a chunk of my back tire on the ride home, which also meant a tube change. Luckily it wasn't so large that it prevented me from getting home. I will also be upgrading to a sturdier back rack than the no name used one I purchased several months ago.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like it was a fun trip! I have one of those MSR pocket rockets and it is great for backpacking!