I’ve been doing some sweet Powergirl MTB adventures lately from our back doorstep including the Denniston – Mackley – Old Ghost Road Loop, and the Heaphy track, round trip. Both missions got me thinking about packing because when I rode the Old Ghost Road loop, I was with a friend who was a beginner, and was seriously over-loaded. They did not understand their physical ability of what they could carry, and under-estimated the difficulty of the trip. This affected our ability to move quickly and comfortably. The whole trip was about 150 km and we did it over 3 days and 2 nights.
When we did the Heaphy, we rode it over 2 days each way, starting and finishing from Kohaihai at the Karamea end. The experience was stellar, with perfect sunny clear winter conditions, mint track, and birdlife galore including whio, takahe, kea, weka and a kiwi! On this trip I packed everything into my tramping pack because I’d lent my lighter gear to a girlfriend. I knew this would not be ideal, but I was prepared and able to handle the bulky and awkward load. Of course anyone we encountered on the track was quick to point it out, “my, what a big pack you have!”. To which I would reply, “Good thing I am Powergirl!”
image by Richard-Rossiter courtsey old ghost trail
Normally I would not carry everything on my back while mountain bike touring. It is best to use front and back carriers to spread out the load, and minimise what you have to put on your back with a smaller 20L pack.
The first rule for adventure packing is to only take what you’re prepared and physically able to carry. This is where a healthy dose of self-awareness is key to understand your limits, realistic speed you can travel, and balancing this with comfort, enjoyment and saving weight. It is risky to go ultra-light in case something goes wrong and you get caught out and don’t have enough warm clothes or food. This can put you in a dangerous situation for example, if a river crossing is too high or weather packs in and you have to wait out a storm. Do you have enough gear and food if you get stuck? Of course, always check the weather to mitigate the risk of dealing with encountering a storm, but in NZ the weather is variable and can change quickly, so pack accordingly and know your limits.
images by HagePhoto courtsey old ghost trail
One of the biggest factors that can get over-looked is fitness level. The fitter you are, the safer you will be because you can 1) move faster 2) have less overall fatigue which can cause bad decision making 3) be more mindful of surroundings which makes the experience more enjoyable 4) ability to carry more gear which can minimise the risk of being under-prepared, and 5) be strong enough to help someone else who might be in trouble.
image by HagePhoto courtesy Old Ghost Trail
This is what I carry as a minimum for a 3-day/2-night trip:
- Separate set of clothes for riding/tramping, you may not wear this all at once but keep this aside from hut-clothes for when you’re on the move:
- short and long sleeve thermal/merino tops
- shorts and tights
- buff/light beanie and long-fingered winter gloves
- thermal/merino socks
- Warm stuff for the hut, and only for the hut:
- 1 long sleeve thermal/merino top
- 1 long sleeve fleece top
- 1 pair of warm thermal tights or fleece pants
- Warm, long socks
- Dry beanie
- Down jacket
- Sleeping bag
- Other stuff you need:
- Water bottle
- Rain jacket
- First-aid kit containing band-aids, tape, gauze, triangular bandage, scissors, alcohol wipes, painkillers, survival bag
- Head torch
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Small wash cloth, eco-soap and 6-8 paper towels in Zip-lock bag
- Rubbish bag
- Candles (optional)
- 9 Em’s Power Cookies 80g (2 per day + 1 back up per day)
- 2 evening meals (I either just go with 2 packets of instant noodles, Absolute Wilderness freeze-dry meals, or a pouch of ready-to-eat Indian and rice)
- Small tube tomato paste and 2 sachets olives to doctor-up your dinners
- 2 breakfast meals (personally I just eat Em’s for brekkie or take oats/muesli)
- Scroggin, crackers and cheese, and/or mixed salted nuts for snack-stops
- Coffee and/or tea
- Lightweight cup and bowl, spork, folding knife
- Lightweight stove, gas and pot if staying in facility without cookers
If you’re going for 3-4 nights, you can get away with the same amount of clothes as long as you’re happy recycling what you wear. If you hang your riding/tramping clothes to dry overnight, and have a little birdbath each morning (as cold as it is!) you can stay surprisingly fresh for a few days! For food simply increase each daily ration accordingly. Remember the longer you go, the more you will need to eat.
- Keep your riding/tramping clothes separate from your set of dry hut clothes
- Use a rubbish bag to line packs for wet weather, and/or keep everything in dry bags. Personally I find the bag liner to work really well and it’s lightweight
- If you like to have a drink at the huts, I recommend Garage Project beer in cans, they do a really good IPA that is 8% so you only need to carry 1 or 2. You can also buy wine in cans and it is surprisingly good! A girlfriend who is a chef put me onto this, as well as espresso martinis! Whisky is always a good option in a little flask
- Always carry all your rubbish out with you. Tins and plastic do not belong in hut fires
Happy safe adventuring!