New and experienced bikerafters alike can glean loads of wisdom from Lizzy Scully and Steve Fassbinder, the duo that runs Four Corners Guides and brought us The Bikeraft Guide, published in 2021.
Here, they give us a look into what you should include in your bikeraft kit. The following information is an excerpt from their book, The Bikeraft Guide:
Weather, Season, Climate—How Do I Know What to Bring Bikerafting?
Really, what you bring on your bikerafting adventures can vary widely depending on the weather, season, climate and other factors.
If you run cold, bring a warmer sleeping bag and clothing. If you run warm, you might be able to get away with less clothing. If it’s the desert in the fall and the forecast includes no rain, you probably don’t need a tent or rain jacket. Winter travel means carrying significantly more weight.
Thoughts on Wool vs. Synthetic Apparel
For Revelate Designs owner and OG bikerafter, Eric Parsons, the long-distance Alaskan adventures he has done for decades require really different thinking than the desert adventures Steve “Doom” Fassbinder embarks on.
Eric stays away from thin mid-weight layers, wool and Capilene® [a type of polyester trademarked by Patagonia] because “They are made to wick moisture, and they just get you wet in wet environments.” He uses non-wicking fabrics, the lightest-weight Capilene® layer he can get, and fleece.
Fleece can get wet, but it doesn’t move water up in a direction, and you can wring it out and dry it really easily, he adds. And, of course, for wet environments he brings synthetic puffy jackets and sleeping bags.
On the other hand, Doom loves wool for long and short desert adventures because it holds heat extremely well, and thin wool can also keep you cool in the hot desert sun. It absorbs moisture from skin and helps to dissipate heat more rapidly. And it’s less stinky. Wool helps keep the skin drier and prevent the build-up of sweat, bacteria and unpleasant smells (from www.woolmark.com).
However, Doom (and fishermen everywhere) also know you can’t go wrong with a lightweight, UPF sun-protective, quick-drying synthetic hoody. We use them on and off the water spring, summer and fall. They protect us from sunburn, but can also be an added layer of warmth when it cools off at night.
Your Kit Will Develop Over Time
Andy Toop, owner of the store and guide service, Backcountry Scot in Scotland, adds to just remember that it takes time and plenty of experience in the backcountry to figure out “just the right amount of kit” for you.
Don’t shortcut your kit, because you’ll leave yourself open to having some kind of epic. But neither should you bring too much, which is what people typically do.
Just remember, your kit already runs heavy with the rafting gear. And it’s absolutely brutal to carry a heavy pack on a heavy bicycle. Sage advice from Andy: “As you progress through doing more and more trips, rely on your experience rather than the cushion of the kit.”
Of course, you need all the basics: packraft, paddle (our absolute favorite is the Whiskey 4-piece!), a PFD, drysuit (weather permitting), helmet (if you’re doing whitewater), plus all your standard bike gear and camping gear, food and personal items.
We go into more specifics on each specific item that you need on the Four Corners Guides blog and in the book:
- Bikerafting Pack This Tip! What’s In Your 2-Day Bikeraft Kit?
- Pack This! A Tajikistan Bikerafting Kit (Month-Long Trip)
Q&A: Doom Answers All Your Questions (well, some of them anyway…)
Q: What do I absolutely need to carry in my bikeraft kit?
Patch kit for your boat (with zipper lube, a toothbrush for getting sand out of your zipper and Tyvek tape), a bike kit, and a first aid kit (that you should understand and know how to use).
Q: What are some techniques for lightening my load?
Share gear as much as possible. When you have two to three people in a group, share a shelter, the repair kit for your boat, a first aid kit, tools for your bike, the cookware kit (someone can carry fuel, while others carry the stove and/or pots).
If you have a four, five or even six-person party, bring two of everything. However, every trip is unique in regards to what you’re going to want to bring and leave behind.
Q: Should all my gear serve a dual purpose while bikerafting?
As much as possible. I always use my toothbrush as a chain cleaner. [Just kidding, do not use your toothbrush as a chain cleaner—or your toothpaste as chain lube for that matter.]
You can use your paddle as the center pole for your pyramid tent (aka “mid”), your PFD and drysuit as added warmth, your backpack as a seat for your packraft, your boat as a sleeping pad (not that comfortable), etc. Be creative.
Q: What might I leave behind for a shorter trip?
I almost never carry a water filter. They're heavy and prone to breaking. I usually bring Aquamira water purification drops. The bottles are small, they work well, are relatively cheap and take up no space. I also might leave the stove behind if it’s a short trip or if I can make a fire.
If I’m in the Southwest desert I often will just bring my sleeping bag and no shelter. If the weather calls for clear skies for six days and 0% chance of rain, I won’t need a tent.
Q: What kind of things might I leave behind on a more remote trip?
People always bring too much stuff on trips and that stuff becomes a burden. Extra gear is a burden, unless you absolutely need it. I leave as many heavy things as possible. I might bring a smaller camera or camera case. It just depends on the trip.
Every trip is different. I might not bring that second pair of socks if I’m in a drier climate during the late spring or summer because they’ll dry out pretty quickly. I may just bring one pair of pants.
On the other hand, you can also skimp on things, but if you end up in inclement weather that is beyond the scope of the gear you have, you could end up being quite cold, wet or unprepared for the elements.
It’s a dance. You don’t want to bring too much stuff, but it’s easy to bring too much stuff, but it’s really hard to carry too much stuff. You may think you need it, but then it sucks while you’re carrying it because you’re all of a sudden the slow person in the group because you have 20 pounds more than everyone else. Find that balance.
Aqua Bound here, again. If you’re new to multi-day bikeraft trips, it’s a good idea to start with shorter excursions. They’re more forgiving when it comes to choosing your kit. Do enough of them and you’ll get a great feel for what you like to have along and what you don’t mind leaving behind.
Or, of course, take your first trip or two with an experienced bikeraft guide, like the good folks at Four Corners Guides. You’ll learn from their expertise.
A big thanks to Lizzy and Steve for sharing their content with us. To learn more about them visit the Four Corners Guides website. For details about The Bikeraft Guide, click here.
All photos courtesy of Steve Fassbinder.
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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