backpacking on a uni?

has anyone out there done any uni backpacking?
what kind of pack do you use?

I recently read a long thread about this same subject. You ought to look it up.

wow thanks for your help!

look it up under what?

Found it. Here you go:


This is something I’ve gone a bit mental about, here are some hopefully useful tips. I’ve been meaning to write this up anyway.

Note - I’ve gone a bit mad, this is a pretty lightweight and extreme version of unsupported uni touring. I’ve got a bit of expensive gear, and cut some corners in terms of sleeping comfort, hot food, and cleanliness, in order to get the smallest amount of kit for riding. You don’t necessarily have to do this to do unsupported touring on a unicycle. This way is much more fun riding than loading up lots of gear, but even unsupported riding with lots of gear is super fun, I’d recommend that too.

So yeah, I’ve recently done a bit of unsupported camping and touring on my Schlumpf. A fair bit of the riding was proper muni, which makes taking a heavy sack a bad thing. Over the years, I’ve tried various things to get something that works for long distance unsupported riding.

I’ve done some cokering with my proper 80 litre rucksack on, and that is a pain, even just on the road. It’s nice that you can take a full tent, stove and all the junk, but nowadays I’d only do that if I was just riding 3 or 4 miles from a station to a campsite, and leave the tent there for the proper riding.

But assuming you want to ride proper distances, if there is only me, and I have to cover any distance with my gear, I’d not take a tent, I’d use a bivvi bag of some kind. If there are two people, a tent can make more sense, because a lightweight 2 man tent is not much more weight than 2 bivvi bags. Depends on how loud you/they snore though, I know some riders I’d rather be on the other side of the hill in a bivvi bag than share a tent with!

I’ve also got a 35 litre-ish day sack (I think it’s a Vango one) that I use for winter walking sometimes, and as a work bag. For road riding, it’s okay to fill this bag up with junk and ride with it. I can fit a sleeping bag, a bivvi bag, a change of clothes, wash kit etc. in that no problems. It still isn’t as nice as a normal riding bag. With a bag this kind of size, you fill it up and it is quite heavy, so you need to remember to add a bit of pressure to the tyre, as it makes the weight increase.

The last few times I’ve done multi-day rides though, I’ve taken a different approach, as I’ve not wanted to compromise muni riding ability, or speed on the road. So, what I’ve done is start with my normal riding bag, and only pack stuff that will fit in that (previously I’d got out what I needed, and bunged it into the smallest bag it’d fit in).

My normal riding bag is a Camelbak Cloudwalker, sort of like this, although mine is an older model, which has a few more straps and things. I think mine has something like 18 litres of ‘cargo space’.

I have a very small summer sleeping bag, which goes under the straps at the side, which holds it securely. The rest goes inside the rucksack. In colder weather, currently I attach my bigger sleeping bag (weighs about 1.5kg) to the bottom of my seat, using a strap over the seat to pull it up, and a strap around the seatpost to stop it wobbling around. I found this much better for handling than using a rack on the unicycle, really hated riding with the rack.

What I take with me -

  1. Sleeping bag + bivvi bag (more about this below)
  2. Change of clothes - I usually take a pair of UK army lightweight combat trousers, a long sleeved cycling top, underwear, socks.
  3. Warm fleece (two warm fleeces sometimes)
  4. A buff (funny hat thing, very small, lives in the pocket of the fleece)
  5. Gloves - usually I just ride with kh gloves. Sometimes I take thin thermal liner gloves to wear under them.
  6. Toothbrush + toothpaste.
  7. water (in the Camelbak bladder)
  8. Food - lightweight, high energy stuff.
  9. Spare tube (usually, unless the walk out in an emergency isn’t actually that far, tubes are a bit heavy)
  10. Tools - this varies, but usually I take a crank tool, a spanner that does pedals seat bolts and crank tool, set of allen keys, spoke key and the special schlumpf tool.
  11. Money + phone + credit card.
  12. Waterproof. If it’s cold in the day time, I wear a proper walking waterproof, otherwise I’ll just take a minimal wind/water resistant top.
    13)I usually take a tube of savlon antiseptic cream in case I get chafing, or if I cut myself. I don’t take much else in the way of first aid kit, as things like bandages etc. can be improvised (if you have a buff with you it’ll do the job for a lot of things), and much of the stuff in a typical kit is cosmetic / comfort stuff like plasters that you can cope without.
    14)Compass. I very rarely use a compass nowadays, I’ll usually use the sun plus ground features for navigation. But a compass is just so useful in so many potentially bad situations, I have one that lives in my riding bag all the time, no matter where I’m riding. It’s got me safely out of forests in the dark, off mountains in thick fog whilst avoiding going down the cliffs, through unmarked country lanes on an all-night road ride and even got me across various cities when I didn’t have a decent map. Really important, and weighs next to nothing.

About sleeping and bivvi bags - I have two bivvi bags, 1st is a ‘rab survival zone’, which is good in combination with a sleeping bag, to keep the sleeping bag dry, and add a bit of warmth and windproofing. The other is a Blizzard Protection Systems survival bag, this is a strong foil bag designed to be used on its own, it is warmer than a space blanket, but not super warm. Personally, having tested it in a blizzard in Snowdonia, I’d only use this in an emergency at any time other than mid-summer. In summer, it’s bearable, but has two slight downsides, which is that it gets a bit condensationy, and that when you roll over it makes a noise like tin foil. It is super-duper light though.

Pics of both the bivvi bags here -

I also have what is totally the bomb as far as lightweight sleeping goes, a macpac lightweight waterproof sleeping bag. This is so magic, you just unpack it, get into it, and sleep. Wherever you are. It weighs like 540g, and packs down to a tiny little pack that sticks on the side of my bag no problems. I currently have the summer one, which is just the best thing ever, but is summer only, high up on a ridge with no shelter in summer it was warm enough, but I wouldn’t want to use it in winter. The downside is that it is very very expensive. I’m kind of saving up for the warmer version now darn it, the summer one is such a good thing, that I really want the super duper duper expensive winter one.

It is totally unbelievable quite how silly light that sleeping bag is, there is nothing more cool than being 80km from where you started the day before, knowing you have a whole day worth of off road in front of you before you next hit civilisation, yet still being able to ride hard, because you’re not burdened with heavy sleeping gear.

Here are a couple of pictures from a ride I did recently.

Oh yeah, things I don’t take

  1. Stove. Any time I’m somewhere where I can get a cheap hot meal, I’ll buy one. Even lightweight stoves + pans take up a fair bit of space in the bag.
  2. Washing gear. Any washkit other than toothbrush is a waste of weight, any time you’re in civilisation, you can wash okay with the soap provided most places. Any time you’re not in civilisation, it doesn’t matter.
  3. Cycling shorts. I wear combats or normal shorts for riding, and same for spare clothes. That way you can have two lots of clothes in total, both of which are okay town clothes to wear if you are somewhere where you can wash the other change. Some people are hot on cycling shorts though, I don’t usually bother with them anyway.
    4)Tent. The extra evening comfort isn’t worth the riding discomfort.
    5)Sleeping mat. I usually don’t bother with one of these. If it’s looking a bit marginal for your sleeping bag I guess a cut down karrimat might make sense (cut it down so it is only just wide enough and not quite long enough).
    6)First aid kit. Like I said, most things can be improvised.


Joe’s approach is great, and is typical of the trend towards ultra-lightweight backpacking. Some differences:

  1. A Ti pot, lexan spoon, and a beer-can alcohol stove are really, really light and developing the use of that system can save you a lot of food weight for multi-day trips.

  2. A tarp made of silicon-impregnated ripstop can be much more comfortable than a bivy, and even weigh less. It’s much nicer to have some freedom to cook or change or whatever when it’s raining. In dry, cold weather, wrapping up in the tarp will, like the bivy, increase your bag warmth too. Ti tent stakes are great things, because for basically the same weight as aluminum, they are much stronger and won’t do that annoying bend-in-half trick. There may be a way to use your uni as a tent pole to get a nice internal shape; I haven’t tried that yet.

  3. A pair of cheap nylon pants, like track suit pants, will give you leg warmth when not riding and weigh a lot less than army stuff. You’re not crawling through brush on your stomach, you’re just keeping your legs warm.

  4. A pair of nylon overmitts can make a big difference for hand warmth and weigh practically nothing.

  5. If you make your own sleeping bag (not that bad, really), you can omit the bottom side of the bag, making a sort of contoured blanket with a pocket for your feet. With this system, the sleeping mat becomes the bottom half of your bag, which is good since that insulation gets squashed anyway, and because the mat is waterproof. In warm or hot weather, this system is more flexible than the typical summer bag. It is also a very inexpensive system to make.

  6. Change of clothes – mostly optional. If you’re out in the wilderness, modesty is an expensive luxury, so you can usually wash your body and stuff without having to cover up that much. Since you’re not bringing cotton (“Cotton kills”), then your clothes will dry fastest on your body.

Just a few comments from the backpacking side of things.

These comments are very very useful. They add a lot of motivation to an idea I have to ride across Slovakia. It will probably take a month and I was thinking about how it would be possible to take the necessary equipment with me, unassisted. I would be running into a lot of little villages and towns where I could stay overnight, but it would get expensive so sleeping outdoors is preferable. I don’t think I’ll be in shape to do this by this summer, but perhaps in the early fall, if I can take the time. I like the idea of having of tent to keep a barrier between me and the evening critters, but I suppose my snoring will do that alone. Slovakia is known for its bears and I figure I’ll hang any food I have in a tree fairly far away from where I sleep. That is one encounter I don’t want to have. But really, all of this advice for light-weight packing is motivating. I think I can do this and perhaps I’d be the first person in the world to cross Slovakia on a unicycle.

Another option for camping if there’s trees wherever you’re going is a hammock. These things are the most comfortable shelter ever, even better than tents - the wind will rock you to sleep at night. I’ve got a hammock made of parachute nylon(??) which weighs about nothing. I then use a (cheaper than down) lightweight summer sleeping bag, and I’m trying to find some free tyvek homewrap to use as a tarp to cover the whole thing so I don’t get wet when it rains.

You can also get hammocks which have that built in for 880 grams total weight, super light stuff and you’ll sleep about a million times better than on the ground.

I think also that you can mitigate a certain amount of weight by carrying it on your unicycle. It’s easy to go to extremes here and kill the handling, but for pure road riding (my preferred distance travel option), something like a T7 or even a small rack bag is great for holding bulky lightweight things like your sleeping bag or sleep system or cooking system while you travel, especially if you can balance out the weight front-to-back.

Damn guys you’re giving me ideas haha, who wants to go backpacking on 36ers in 2008 :smiley:

oooh me! I do! Sounds like it’d be a blast as a group :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s something pretty awesome about solo riding too though…

There’s some sort of unicycling convention in Norway or somewhere up there in summer 2008…a few friends and I are going, and we were thinking of doing a backpacking trip on our unis afterwards.

Remember the food and water bits…if you’re going backpacking for more than just a day or so, you’ll need to bring either a) a TON of water or b) a handheld filter if there’s fresh water nearby. And food is VERY important. Bring lots of food.

I can’t edit my post for some reason…but it’s in Denmark, not Norway. Sorry for the confusion.

Unicon 14? It’s in Denmark lol, sounds cool I will have my 36" then, let me hear something if the plan gets more real!

I’ve got a hammock. It’s very comfy.

The problem I’ve had with it, is that it can get very cold, with the air going all round you. Okay if you’re somewhere where you can predict the weather and know it’ll be 15C all night, but not so good for people in places like UK and New Zealand, where even in summer you can’t predict whether the temperature is going to be 20C or 5C, or whether it will randomly start snowing on you or whatever.


Oh yeah, it occurs to me, that I did take tracksuit bottoms last time rather than combats. I don’t think it makes much difference in weight (lightweight combats are pretty lightweight), but they pack smaller.

Yeah. When I ride, the change of clothes is also the warm clothes for evening + sleeping in. I think it depends a lot on climate & time of year whether you need that (UK all year round you do).


I was doing a bit of this last month, with the added limitation that my MUni has to fit into my (35l) bag, minus the wheel. So I’ll add a couple of things that I found:

I get cold quite easily, (especially when lying on the ground in winter), so I’ve never enjoyed myself when I’ve tried the cheaper bivi bags (although my sister just bought a decent Goretex one, so hopefully I can give that a go soon), however the £15 Argos tent weighs not much more (see uk.rec.walking for rave reviews).

Sleeping bags often come up cheap on Ebay. I got a new 3-season Snugpak for about a third of the price everywhere else. Just did a quick search for Macpac and nothing came up, I don’t know if they’re better, but I’m quite happy with my Snugpak, it goes pretty small.

Also, 661s and an empty backpack make a fairly effective sleeping mat. Better than nothing anyway. As I said I’m not that good with the cold, but with my Argos tent, Snugpak sleeping bag and assorted bodyarmour arranged as a mat and a jar or two of Nutella to snack on I wasn’t too cold camping even in snow.

I do take plasters, and I had some other ‘luxury’ items too, including spare clothes and shampoo and the like, but that’s because it had to be two months supply of stuff, I was only long-distance MUniing at the start of my trip. I want to try a lighter-weight version though when I get back to England.

When I was doing a trail with my coker in NZ I packed a backpack with too much. It was quite heavy and annoying to ride with. Even with a tent and lightweight sleeping bag, I was freezing at night because I didn’t have a sleeping mat.

In hindsight I should have brought a cheap lightweight foam pad so I didn’t lose heat through my back. I also shouldn’t have brought food or a stove because there was one store that I could have got a meal from (I wasn’t sure of their hours or if they would even be there). I also am sure that there are a lot better light weight tents out there that are like a bivvy but a bit larger that would have been better.

I’ve fantasized about doing this, super light. I thought Muning the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail in a couple of sessions would be a blast (about 120 miles of it is mtb leagal, most of it but the west side). Something to think about when I get good enough, maybee the end of Summer '08.

Edit: here’s an arial photo

You can’t edit more than 10 minutes past your post.

If you mean the Queen Charlotte Way, I risked the food shop on that one, and the food I bought was minging, so you probably did well to have a stove there. If I’m not sure about food stops, I tend to bring tons of energy dense food. If it comes to it, whilst it’s nice to have proper food you can ride a day on a bag of choc chip cookies and pasties or whatever. Now U-turn has pointed me towards the world of pimping your own super-lightweight stove out of beer cans, I might look at stoves again, for trips with more than 1 night away from food, it’d probably make sense.

I have a lightweight tent, although currently it’s on the wrong side of the world. But, it does add another 1.6kg to the weight. Having said that, it’s a pretty comfy 2 man size, so if there are two people, splitting it between you isn’t much at all. In winter I’d probably just give in and take the tent even if it was just me.

The super nice thing about the waterproof sleeping bag is that you can go completely without a bivvi, thus instantly saving yourself tons of weight.

It’s awesome to hear of other people doing this too. I’m meaning to organise a weekend of bivvying in the UK this summer, as I know a couple of people stupid enough to think it’s a good idea, although I seem to be getting roped into various stupidities already. Hmmm.

Remember the food and water bits…if you’re going backpacking for more than just a day or so, you’ll need to bring either a) a TON of water or b) a handheld filter if there’s fresh water nearby. And food is VERY important. Bring lots of food.

I tend to drink straight from streams. I know it’s bad and naughty not to filter, but if you’re careful about what you drink from it’s usually fine. In Scotland, people pay a fortune for water allegedly from mountain streams!