It finally feels like spring, and after a winter of sticking close to home and mostly riding around town, spring means it’s time for bike camping! Like a lot of folks, I’m pretty busy, especially working in a bike shop in the spring, and it’s hard to string together two or three days with no commitments so I can take off on even a weekend tour. As a result, I’ve become really fond of what Rivendell’s Grant Petersen refers to as “S24Os” or “Sub-24-Hour Overnights,” which we at Rev tend to shorten even further to “Sub-24s.” What that means is, well, exactly what it sounds like, a short bike camping trip that takes you out for less than 24 hours.
Practically speaking, this usually means leaving after work, riding somewhere an hour or two away, setting up camp and riding home in the morning. Often I’ll try to schedule mine so the return day is my day off, so I can take my time (and give my legs a break after I get back) but sometimes I’ll find myself cruising home in the early morning hours so I can get cleaned up before the shop opens.
Aside from being a way to squeeze a quick adventure into a busy schedule, a Sub-24 can be a bit gentler on your gear budget than an extended tour, especially if you’re camping close to home. You don’t need to pack for every eventuality, just to get through the night. And if you’re not going far, expensive, ultralight camping gear is less of a priority and you certainly don’t need a purpose-built touring bike.
For our first outing this year, a couple friends and I chose to ride down the Glacial Drumlin Trail to Sandhill Station Campground near Lake Mills, about 25 miles each way. It turned out to be perfect weather for sleeping under the stars, warm and dry enough I didn’t miss my tent, and cool enough that mosquitoes weren’t out yet, and the moon was so bright I didn’t even need my headlamp to find my way around camp! It was a very auspicious start to what I hope to be a season full of such trips.
And, of course, I plan to open up a number of those trips to anyone who’d like to come along, including one or two that will take us less than ten miles from the shop, making it easy for just about anybody to join in. And we’re always happy to offer advice on what to bring and how to carry it on your bike.
SO, WHAT DID I RIDE AND PACK?
For those who are wondering about my own set-up for carrying camping gear I’ll lay it out below. All of the on-bike gear I’m using is stuff that we sell at Revolution Cycles, but of course if you have bags, baskets or racks of your own, you can make them work!
The Bike: Surly Ogre, a custom build with Shimano Deore 2x10 drivetrain, Schwalbe Big Ben tires, Planet Bike Cascadia fenders and a Velo Orange leather saddle
Front Bag: Surly Porteur House Bag mounted to a Soma Porteur Rack.
Frame Bag: Revelate Tangle Bag
Seat Bag: Revelate Vischacha
Tool Kit: Topeak Road Morph pump, Topeak Alien multitool, Boeshield T9 2 oz. bottle, Rema Tour patch kit
Camping Gear: Self-inflating mattress, sleeping bag, iso-butane camp stove and fuel bottle, backpacking kettle, mug, bowl and spork, camp knife, extra layer of clothing, water bottles and headlamp. (I didn’t bring a tent for this trip)
Entertainment: Big Muddy MM-8 mandolin