WMBO: Snow biking

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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RonnyRonin
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WMBO: Snow biking

Post by RonnyRonin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:33 pm

Wanted to enjoy a bit of winter while it lasted, and wanted to try my hand at bikepacking with my new 2nd tier BOV:

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I'll start a BO bike thread soon with the details, but it is a Surly Ogre 29er with some homemade bikepacking bags.

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The main goal is to strap as much cargo on without racks or panniers, and I could fit a pretty respectable winter kit with some help from a medium sized backpack. With water, a 10/22 and a Gransfors on the fork and bars I was running a little front heavy.

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my tiny EDC keychain multitool proved its worth at the trailhead, tightening screws on ski bindings and further proving to myself that I don't really need a leatherman anymore.

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My comrade brought his bike and a BOB trailer, but he left it at the trailhead in favor of trusty pulk and skis. I was grateful he was willing to haul some of the heavier group gear.

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we found a camp much closer to the trailhead then I care to admit, but you have to get an early start making camp in the winter.

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Once the tent was up I was itching to try my new snow shovel, a Black Diamond Evac 7. Highly recommend, although the hoe mode wasn't as useful as I had imagined.

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wood prep is next on the list, while my comrade got to work assembling our stove:

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The pile of twigs is evidence of our industry. We found a good collection of deadfall without wandering too far.

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Got to finally compare my new saw to a Silky, the one of the left is a 13" fixed Vaughan Bear saw. It has a nice medium tooth japanese made blade, and handily outcut the Silky in rough proportion to its size. I didn't quite pay half the price of the Silky for it, but near enough and for only 1 more oz I am quite happy with it.

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Once the tent is dug and wood is cut we made our beds and fired up the stove.

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we where playing around with a new stove platform that gave us a good bit of room for drying wood and stashing things under the stove.

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First morning was bacon and eggs. Turns out a dozen eggs fits in a nalgene, cold weather makes packing in food much simpler.

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we did get a little snow overnight, just enough to tell which animal tracks where fresh the next day.

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After breakfast we suited up for a minor excursion. Here I am trying the oven-bag-in-trailrunners thing. It worked better then I expected, and kept my feet fairly warm slogging through melty snow in fairly mild temps. You can also see my .22 drying on the tent pole and my mukluk liners drying on trekking poles.

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The oven bags came pretty far up my calves and I didn't miss gaiters, even with a fair bit of postholing. My calves and ankles did get sweaty, but my feet didn't feel too much more swampy then with many boots I own, changing socks frequently would be a requirement to sustain this technique, but with warm camp booties and a wood stove waiting in camp I could be much less careful then I would need to be in a BO. Turns out when I got back to camp I had torn through the toes of both bags, but I think it just held in enough moisture that I could warm it up and hold it next to my skin as opposed to leaving and taking my heat with it.

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Here you can bette see the PVC fork-scabbard I have zip-tied to my fork for my ghetto-UL 10/22. I cut the stock down and removed enough material to get the total weight under 4.5lbs, and I had brought it in the hopes of seeing rabbits. We did see many prints (as well as quite a few canine prints, we assume fox or coyote) but only tiny squirrels in person so the field performance of my new food gun remains unseen.

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with my tall gearing and skinny tires this was all too common a site, but pushing a bike isn't all that bad, and the times I could ride where fun and educational. I could maintain about 3mph on a slight uphill (and will much better once I re-gear the bike) and 5 mph was pretty easy on flats or slight downhills, even when digging in pretty good. I clocked my skiing companion at 2.5-3 mph, so while I could outpace him he could keep a steadier pace and it worked out to be about a wash. On worse snow he certainly would have covered more ground much faster.

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Id forgotten my intended windshirt at the trailhead, so I pressed my tyvek overwhites into service. While slightly grungier now from wood prep they continue to serve as long as I am gentle with them.

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You can see the short/wide altai hoks that I wore on last years WMBO on my comrade, they do split the difference nicely between a snowshoe and ski, I will probably start watching the used market for a pair. but they do have their downsides:

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He kept grousing about his skis as the air temp rose, turns out around 40F on certain snow it starts to stick pretty bad to the permaskin in the kick pocket:

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And and extra 15lbs on snow doesn't make for efficient travel.

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Snow biking off trail presents dangers I hadn't considered before. The snow was ALMOST deep enough to hide this barb wire fence from view.

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We pretty much had the place to ourselves, we where expecting to encounter a good bit of snowmobile activity, but didn't see any until we where back at the trailhead on the way out.

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A good view of our accommodations, footwells are a huge perk of snow camping, increasing tent space and making a comfy chair near the fire. You can see the other perk of floorless tents, all the junk we track in on our feet just ends up in the snow and not on our tent floor, along with spilled drinks, dropped food, and excess bacon grease.


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Later, wandering around the general area of camp. I am trying some MYOG bindings for my MSRs, the stock ones pinch my softer mukluks and leave cold spots. Still holding out hope for rabbits, but no dice.

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I also got to answer a question that had been bugging me; my mukluks seemed to work quite well with the universal bindings on the Altai skis. They are likely too soft and flexible for skiing any kind of distance, but for puttering about would likely do the trick.

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the trial of footprints leading off point toward some conveniently still-liquid water that made for less snowmelting work.

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packing up the second morning, the goal is to leave the stove running as long as possible to try and dry off the tent before packing.

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On the way out my comrade decide to move as much weight as possible to his pack as comparison vs. a pulk-heavy load.

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Fairly indicative of the trip, the 9mph was only on one decent if I stayed in a ski track, and the moving average shows how hike-a-bike kills your mobility.
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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by RonnyRonin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:57 pm

Comparing my takeaways from last year, a lot stayed the same and some changed:

-I did switch to a larger pot, and love it.

-I still need to buy a dedicated pillow.

-eyepro is still essential for wood prep.

-We brought a more proper ration of whisky this time, and far more bacon. Both made for great success.


I tried to milk my MYOG 6oz climashield to 10F below its practical temp rating with puffy clothes, but wasn't quite as warm as I'd have liked. A high-end down sleep system is in order at some point.

My clothing remained mostly the same, and I really feel like I've got it tuned where I want it. Main base layer is a surplus ECWCS level 2 grid fleece which I long ago added a hood to and only this week added the huge chest pockets I always wanted (makes sleeping with your phone and batteries easier). I continue to perfect my wool pants, and with a tightly woven 16ozish melton wool there is no need to fuss with baselayer leggings. Gloves remain trusty nomex with puffy overmitts, while I might upgrade the nomex gloves the function will remain the same. I continue to love the cheap and cheerful surplus green puffy liners, but I will need to add some better cuffs and hoods for colder temps. My success with trailrunners gives me more confidence to trust them for at least 2.5 season BOB use, and the Wiggy's booties remain a heavy but welcome help for cold/wet/tired feet and a good nuclear option for fighting cold feet while sleeping.

I find the skillet useful enough I will be looking for a lighter option for when I actually have to carry it on my back, possible a titanium dinner plate might suffice.

My favorite fire starter remains cut up bike inner tube, and the very last one I had in my HPG kit bag got the fire going at 6am on the second morning when I finally decided I was too cold to sleep in. First thing I did when I got home was cut more and restock my kit bag and EDC lighter.

While I will be trying a traditional rack/pannier setup in the future, it wouldn't have worked well for this trip as where I was walking next to the bike so often would have put me in conflict with a rear pannier.

Anker battery packs continue to impress, I bought a small LED from China that plugs straight into the USB that ran for a good 10 hours on 25% of the 10,000 mAh battery, and it was plenty to keep a cold ornery smart phone charged up for photo duty. I will be buying much more from anker in the future, and most of my bug out power infrastructure will likely be anker.

I have come to love the waterproof "expedition" field notes over the standard Rite in the rain pads. A fine tip sharpie is the only thing that writes well on it but that is a small price, the "paper" is similar to that in the Nat Geo trails illustrated maps and the USGS topo maps, nearly impossible to tear by hand and doesn't mind water a bit. I have found a need to make notes so as to not forget the same things on every trip, and to remind myself what works and what doesn't ("add hang loop to nomex gloves" lived in a notebook for 4 or 5 consecutive trips before I finally made it happen).
share your tobacco and your kindling, but never your sauna or your woman.

AK, Glock, Pie.

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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by RonnyRonin » Sun Feb 26, 2017 3:42 pm

Turns out Snow Peak Titanium plates are commonly used as skillets. $16 is a lot to pay for a plate, but a bargain for a <3oz fry pan.

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While the 10oz savings isn't a big deal for my pulk trips, the weight and bulk savings together mean that I might be able to add a skillet to my backpack trips, and importantly my INCH. Certainly a luxury item for backpacking, but I've been mindful lately of the increased food options a skillet gives you, and will have to relook at this in the context of foraged food in an INCH situation.
share your tobacco and your kindling, but never your sauna or your woman.

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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by TacAir » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:14 pm

Awesome report and photos. Thank you!

Skis take wax. Several kinds, actually. Changing wax (yeah, it is a PITA) will prevent the snow mass buildup you photographed - nasty stuff that.

Snow trenching also keeps the tent warmer, yes?

Wanna bike - you need bigger tires. Here what works in Alaskan snow.
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OK, this ^^one^^ is a Hollywood shot, still, fat tires means really fat tires.

I've noted that the price on these has come down - a bit - as their popularity grows.

Folks add hippo hands, racks or pull a pulk, and follow the Iditarod trail once the mushers have passed.
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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by bacpacjac » Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:24 pm

Great trip report, and findings, Ronny! Loved it!

I have a SS plate that looks to be of similar design to that titanium one, and it works great as a frying pan - as long as you don't mind scrubbing up afterwards. I've never used titanium, so can't share any experience with it, but I do love my SS plate plan!
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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by Coal-Cracker » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:06 pm

What width tires are you running?
Are they Maxxis Ikons?

I've tried running 2.2 and 2.3" Ikons in the snow and it 'knifes' too much to be controllable.

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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by .milFox » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:28 pm

Alternative thought might be something like the Radrover.

https://www.radpowerbikes.com/products/ ... 1121017965

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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by RonnyRonin » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:03 am

TacAir wrote: Wanna bike - you need bigger tires.
I specifically chose not to rent a fat bike for this trip; I really don't think I will ever own one, so I thought it more useful to test the limits on my own bike. My comrade left a mid-fat at the trailhead (27.5x3) and riding it around briefly told me that it wouldn't have done any better, it's additional float seemed to be equally counteracted by increased resistance. I can theoretically fit a 27.5x3 wheelset in my 29er, and even a 29x3 in the front, but my rims wouldn't fit much more then a 2.5. I almost bought some cheap and cheerful 2.4s for the trip but decided to just roll with what I got.

Since I'm set up tubeless in the front and have an IGH in the back swapping tires is more of a headache and I needed the bike both the night before and the morning after the trip to ride pavement to work so until a can get a second wheelset I'm fairly well stuck with a compromise tire. I aired them down as far as I dared and was really more limited by my gearing then floatation with the snow we had, I wasn't sinking far most of the time because of how consolidated the snow was, but when I did sink I SANK and while an aired down 5" tire might not of, it very well could have as well.

Having talked at length with fat bikers I'm convinced the window of conditions where a fat bike is efficient transport and a normal bike is not is very narrow, and the window between a normal bike not working and skis working better then a fat bike is even smaller. You won't find many fatbikers off of groomed trails like what we where on, and really with lower gears I could have ridden a majority of the trip. I'd still like to try one but I'm fairly certain that a fatbikes decreased performance in all but their tiny niche make them a poor choice for a bike unless you live far north or go on very specific trips.

This will be a good topic for the forthcoming BO Bike thread, as tire size is a contentious issue all around.
Coal-Cracker wrote:What width tires are you running?
Are they Maxxis Ikons?

I've tried running 2.2 and 2.3" Ikons in the snow and it 'knifes' too much to be controllable.

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2.1 maxxis crossmarks. (*EDITED* I totally missrememberated my tire size, thought it was 2.25.)

I'll probably get some 2.5 maxxis minions as a counterpoint and either some big apples or hookworms as a commuting/road trip tire.

Likely a tough, road-centric higher volume tire will be my daily driver/BO tire, with spare knobbies rolled up for backup. Since tire swaps are harder on my bike finding a good compromise will be high priority.

bacpacjac wrote:Great trip report, and findings, Ronny! Loved it!

I have a SS plate that looks to be of similar design to that titanium one, and it works great as a frying pan - as long as you don't mind scrubbing up afterwards. I've never used titanium, so can't share any experience with it, but I do love my SS plate plan!
I know what you mean, fingers crossed the ti is a little more forgiving for scrambled eggs. Scrubbing burnt egg bits isn't my most favorite thing ever.
share your tobacco and your kindling, but never your sauna or your woman.

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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by Woods Walker » Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:47 am

I really really like the looks of that tent! Thanks for posting.
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Re: WMBO: Snow biking

Post by teotwaki » Sun May 07, 2017 9:52 am

Good thing the OP reminded me of this great thread. I forgot to post that I had good results with "vapor barrier" socks in Alaska at altitude. I wore mine over a very thin polypro liner sock but underneath all the other layers of socks.
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