Unipacking/Backpacking Gear, and should I just jump in?

Hello everybody :slight_smile:

I’m building a new unicycle with Unipacking in mind. I have visions of parking my truck at a trailhead, throwing a pack on, and riding off for the weekend; camping out overnight somewhere trailside. However, even though this is something I’ve been working towards for a while (I say I’m going to do it every year :roll_eyes: ) I’m always a bit aprehensive.

I get pretty wrapped up in gear choice. I have a solid uni, but I’m starting from scratch everywhere else. I’m currently thinking of using a standard 40-50L internal frame pack and then a mummy bag with a Bivy sack. I’m shooting for a 4 season setup. However, I’d love to hear gear recommendations. Tents, sleeping bags, packs, tarps, etc. If any of you guys use something that works, I’d love to hear about it.

Budget is going to be a concern as well though. For some reason I’ll drop some real cash on my unicycles, but I’m a bit of a tightwad when it comes to everything else…

I’m not a stranger to camping. I go deer hunting every year (though I’m staying a trailer) so I’m not ‘new’ to camping. I’ve also camped in a tent before during the summer, so I’m also not necessarily ‘new’ to that either. But I’ve never done the ultra light thing, and I’ve always had access to motor vehicles and that type of thing. This would be a bit more ‘remote’ than I’ve been before. Is this something usually recommended to ease into? Or would I be fine to grab the bull and metaphorically ride off into the sunset?

Tips, info, advice, links, and gear reviews are greatly appreciated! If I’m way off base or missing something please let me know.


You are definitely biting off a big challenge here, Kiefer. I’ve kinda thought about this over the past few months, but am daunted by the uni skills required. I’ve got a long background in backpacking/camping, and I know how heavy and uncomfortable the pack can get even while on foot.

My immediate advice would be to get your system dialed with a couple of trips on foot - even just overnighters. Figure out what you need with you and can do without when weight and mobility are not an issue. Then you can start translating to being on the wheel with your true minimum amount of gear.

My other thought is that you might be better off to plan to be walking, just with the uni along for once you get to camp. Hike in, ditch the gear and then go for an awesome, remote uni ride.

Finally, if you want to borrow some stuff to see what works, drop me a PM. I have a bunch of extra gear that I’m not quite ready to give away, but would be happy to loan out for longer periods of time.

If you haven’t slept in a mummy before, try it at home first.

ubernerd has really good advice–get the lightweight camping down first (figure out your camping style), then try it with a unicycle. A good resource for gear and techniques is www.bikepacking.net

Awesome Will, I’ll be shooting you a PM.

Thanks guys, this is what I was looking for.

Make sure you bring a more intense first aid kit than you normally would for a day-ride (e.g., emergency blanket, QuikClot) and tell multiple people where you are going and how long you will be gone. I’d probably bring a map so that I wouldn’t have to rely on a potentially-dead phone. My uncle does a lot of fast packing (not with a unicycle though) and he has a GPS device on him at all times that either clips to his backpack or is wearable. The device doesn’t tell him where he is at the moment, but it sends out a distress signal if he becomes lost or injured. I don’t know what his particular device is called, but I’m sure there are many types out there and they’re Googleable. Depending on your environment, I’d also bring a water purifier (tabs, UV lights, filters, etc.) and things to protect you from the elements (e.g., pepper spray, bear spray, rifle (just kidding), benadryl). Since you may need to do more hiking than normal, I’d consider shoes that can handle both a lot of mileage of hiking and your particular needs for unicycling.

Just my ideas if I were going to do this.This sounds awesome. If I had more unicycling friends and didn’t currently live in a place with a lot of bears, I’d totally do this. I personally wouldn’t do it alone, but I can see why someone might enjoy the serenity of being alone deep in nature on a unicycle. :slight_smile: Have fun and stay safe!

Thanks for the ideas Bri. Right now my first aid kit consists of about 3 band-aids, so anything extra will be more intense :p.

I’m looking forward to trying it out. I’m excited to be able to take off after work on Saturday afternoons and get lost (figuratively) until I have to return to civilization.

One thing I should mention is that my main focus is actually going to be on double track. There are dirt roads that wind around all over up in the hills around here, and that’s more where I’m planning on touring. Not quite as strenuous as riding single track, but still remote if you know where to go (which is where I’ll be going).

But I think hiking in somewhere a couple times first is a great idea so I can decide what I absolutely need, or if I’m too chicken :roll_eyes: .

I used to ride up to Ben Lomond on my mtn 2 wheels and camp… cool views at night fun ride down in the morning. Did it one year when there was snow on the north side of the peak. We left our bikes at the saddle hiked up to the peak and fastened together some make shift sleds. It was fun. I’ve ridden down both ways (north fork & divide) but I can’t remember which I liked better. :slight_smile:
Where are you thinking of going for you first ride?

…ps I want to ride your 29er again… :slight_smile:

I’m not 100% sure where my first ride would be. Something like the trip up to Ephraims Grave (near Logan) or Peter Sinks would be cool from Monte Cristo. Since it’s a Fatty, the ride I really wanna do is Monte Cristo road after they close it for winter and there’s snow on it. Riding up and camping out on the top sounds sweet to me.

I’ve always wanted to do both the Skylines in one ride, camping out on Ben Lomond or Lewis, but that’d be a pretty ambitious trip.

You can ride that 29er as much as you want (for $650 :p) Seriously though, if you wanna go for a ride, you’re more than welcome to take it out on trail.

Just don’t go twisting an ankle on your Uni and wind up like this guy: :astonished:

I agree.

I slept in a mummy bag inside of a sleeping bag inside of a snow cave on Monte Cristo once and I still froze :smiley:

It was ‘that’ cold? :astonished: We’ll see how the snow thing pans out. Normally I despise winter, but having a Fatty will hopefully help me see the light. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

As far as mummy’s go, I’ve been in a hybrid before, but nothing as confining as a mummy. I’ll be sure to try it out at home first. I’m not claustrophobic or anything like that.

I am afraid that as with many other things it is a bit that you get what you pay for also with camping. So you might consider not going for the cheapest options.

When it comes to sleeping bags, the sleeping bag that is comfortable in the summer, might not be very comfortable in the winter and the other way around. To my experience it is smart to have a light small one for the warm months, and then a thicker one for the cold months. Should it be really cold you can always bring both. Goose down has good weight to insulation ratio, but also costs a bit and gets cold if soaked. Consider getting a thin inner silk bag. It insulates when wet, protects a bit from mosquitoes if it is warm and you sleep with the zipper open and it is easier to clean than the complete sleeping bag.

your sleeping mat should be light, but thick enough to also keep you warm if you plan to go camping in the winter. The inflatable ones work well. For ultralight there are 2/3 sleeping mats that are supposed to be large enough for your body and head, but not your legs. I’m not sure if it is worth it. Place your empty backpack under your feet to keep them off the ground. If it is warm you can get away with using a hammock, but figuring out how to sleep comfortable in one can take some getting used to. Sleeping diagonally helps.

Get some light waterproof rollup bags to pack your stuff inside your backpack. One or two for clothes, one for sleeping bag. It helps keeping your stuff organized when you empty your backpack.

For tents, there are small lightweight one person tents, but just using a tarp might be more comfortable if you can get away with it.

Your backpack should fit your back well and it should be possible to compress it so that it sits as close to your back as possible. Choosing a slightly larger one than you need gives you room to also carry stuff comfortably if you need to bring a bit more than normal. An overstuffed backpack can be uncomfortable. On the other hand, a small backpack forces you to consider every item you bring as space is an issue. Make sure to try it out in the shop with some weight in it. All backpacks are comfortable when filled with bubble wrap.

I like the idea. I’ve done lots of hike backpacking, as well as cycle touring and mountain bike camping. I think the primary thing to figure out is which minimalist class can you get down to (to limit weight):

The lightest gear is the gear you don’t even take with you.

Do you need a tent? or just a biwak sack? or can you even forgo a sleeping bag and sleep in a hammock (summer and good weather only) or just with a sleeping bag and thermorest pad?

Do you need to cook? i.e. can you go without a stove and fuel?

Are there water sources? (i.e. how much water do you have to pack in?)

How much food do you need? or can you get provisions easily?

And of course how long? as for an overnighter you won’t need much in supplies or repair stuff, but if you do a 5-day trip where you’re maybe far away, then you need waaay more.

I think I’d figure out how much weight you can comfortably carry by doing a short unicylce tour with some weight – and then take 2-5 pounds LESS than what you found bearable. I think 30 pounds is more than I would think about and 20 pounds more like the ideal (I used to do 7-10 mult-day mountain bike trips in the Alp hut system and 11kg (24 lbs) became uncomfortable after a few days, so I set 10kg as my max basic (+ extra food/water for longer sections). So may be try limiting to 25 lbs.? and see if you can do a day tour with that weight?

I you’re doing short 1-2 overnight trip in the summer and the weather is stable, then I think you could feasibly do it with a light sleeping bad (maybe a biwak, but if there’s a high pressure system I think you could risk it) and a lightweight thermorest pad.

I personally can’t see being able to handle the weight with a stove, food and more substantial cold weather gear (on my cycle trips I always something else for carrying, be it a one-wheel trailer (BOB) or saddle bags).

P.S. I bought a superlight 1 man tent a few years ago, which if I remember right is under 2 lbs. I’ve done a lot of trips with the thermorest, tent and summer sleeping bag at pretty light weight. But again, I think on the unicycle it’s even harder to deal with the weight than on a bike (and of course way worse than hiking where I can carry a lot of weight).

Nokon, sadly I think you’re right. As I’ve found with my other hobbies, skimping doesn’t always pay off. Still, I opted for a $150 bag over a $300 bag because reviews were good and it was on sale.

MUC, that’s exactly how I’m trying to break down how much gear I’ll need.

Since I’m only weekending, food shouldn’t be an issue. I’ll take stuff that doesn’t require cooking (I.E. sammiches).

there are springs in the area, so I may be able to get away without packing all of my water (though in late summer, that may be more difficult). I’ll be carrying iodine tablets for purification.

I like the idea of a tarp, but many people pair them with a bivy. Do you think that is required?

Thanks guys!

Depends on 2 things: Weather and bugs.

If no rain or only light rain is expected, you can go with just a tarp. If heavy, you need something under you. Unless, of course, you are remarkably lucky and find a campsite that has perfect drainage on all sides of you. Yeah, riiiiight…

Depending on the place/time of year/your tolerance, the mosquito problem can be the limiting factor in tarp use. Me, I went with the bivy sack option and skipped the tarp when weight was really an issue. If serious rain is predicted, then you need a pack cover as well. But, that is light and cheap.

Sounds good. I’ve had good luck with the iodine tablets. There are tons of expensive filters you can buy, but I don’t think the iodine tastes that bad, so I’ve never bought one.

As Ubernerd said, it’s mostly weather but also bugs. If you’re out for a short trip and got pretty stable weather then your concern without a bivy is condensation on your sleeping bag during the night (this can be more than you think). But it’s usually not too much of a problem and then if you’re in a low humidity area where the following day is sunny (I see you’re in Utah, so probably the case), then it should dry quickly the next morning. On the other hand if the next day is cloudy and humid then you can’t dry your bag.

As far a bugs: the emergency bivy (translation= ultralight and not so expensive) that I have is pretty useless against bugs as there’s no head space (I think I have this one which only weighs 250g and costs around $60: http://www.ortovox.com/accessories/gemini-single-4). I haven’t looked in a while, but some of the really nice ones have like a cage of mosquito netting with some kind of mechanism to make some space around your head, but if I’m reading you right, I think that’s out of your budget and not really necessary (they’re typically more designed for sleeping in the cold, and some are heavy-duty and not so light). For some backpacking trips in warm and humid places (US Northwest and Asia) I used mosquito netting instead. You can buy a roll or a small piece for not much at the outdoor store and it weighs almost nothing. Then you can wrap it around your head and/or tie it off to something to make a little “mosquito tent” around your head. In really warm places I also tried the hammock and mosquito netting but I had problems with mosquitos on the underside of the hammock as during the night I would move and press against the mosquito netting in a few places and then of course get bitten through the netting and the hammock wherever my skin pushed through :frowning:

Bivy: remember that then your sleeping bag will probably still get wet from sweating inside the bivy!! in a lightweight bivy your sleeping bag will get soaked from sweating. The expensive ones are Gore-Tex or whatever, but I still think you sweat too much for them (haven’t tried this myself). I’ve never tried it but the hard-code guys go naked in a plastic sack called a vapor barrier liner inside the sleeping bag inside the bivy, so that the perspiration doesn’t get out into the sleeping bag, but I don’t imagine waking up in sweat and getting out of the bag all wet is the greatest experience: see http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/the-bivy-condensation-conundrum/). I’ve always wanted to try it but never have.

I personally would try with a sleeping bag, sleeping bag and small tarp (not some huge thing, but a light one), just in case it does rain unexpectedly. You can set the tarp over you so you’re shielded from the heavy condensation and still get some airflow to allow your perspiration to evaporate. Although if you’re only out for 2 nights and the weather forecast looks good and it’s summer time so you’re not going to freeze to death anyway (i.e. in the desert around Moab), you could probably even do without the tarp.

MUCFreerider has some good points about condensation… except not around here. If it’s going to be raining when you decide to go, condensation and vapor from you to your sleeping bag might be a problem. The other 99% of the time in Utah, if you get up in the morning and lay your sleeping bag out on a rock while you do breakfast/morning lounging, it’ll be dry by the time you pack up. I used to worry about condensation when I lived in Oregon. No more.

So, don’t sweat those details yet, Kiefer.

^ These two rode the great divide on uni’s

Carried their kit in backpacking rigs. They don’t go into gear really in depth, but there are some pictures that you can check out.