Where to start required some debate but I narrowed it down to my choice of pack. More times than not I over-pack for a trip. The down side of this is that it can be tougher to get to the gear you need or keep up with what you have in your pack. It also makes the bike heavier and carrying your gear a pain in the ass if you are going to be camping off the beaten path and away from your bike. The plus is that preparedness means you will rarely be without something you need and may be more comfortable. Once laughing at a friend who packed a thermarest matress, I understood his choice better after a night on the ground when a lack of trees rendered a hammock useless. If you have back or other physical problems, something like this may be a priority on your list while it wouldn't even be on mine.
On my first cross-country bike trip (9 days to California and back) I traveled with a Kelty Redcloud 5000. The 5000 indicates 5000 cu in. of storage. Looking back now, it seems nuts that I tought I would need that much space. As bad as I still am now, back then I went way overboard on packing. I took twice the amount of clothing that I needed, a huge dopp kit with items I never used and random items (like a shovel for burying feces) that I somehow envisioned I would need. When you plan to camp at a site you have never seen other than on a map, thinking ahead is wise but my imagination ran a little crazy.
|Colorado with the Redcloud 5000|
Preparing for my next trip (9 days to Canada and back) I knew I would be taking less with me. I wanted a bag that was smaller and had a narrower profile. Thoroughly impressed with the Kelty gear I had used so far, I really dug the way their packs were compartmentalized and loaded with exterior pockets. With stringent organization methods and needs, I had my system down to a science and wanted a smaller version of what I had: less capacity, less bells and whistles.
I looked at the clearance section of several popular camping websites and found the Kelty Redwing 3100 at a great price. I really dig this bag. 1900 less cubic inches, no detachable top pack, exterior side pockets fitting my existing packing method, easy access front pocket, side mesh pockets with retention loops, compression straps...this is exactly what I needed. Great for long trips or winter trips where you need extra clothing or blankets, it would be a bit much for day or even weekend trips in warm weather.
A rough breakdown of how I pack:
left pocket: cooking gear
right pocket: hammock and straps
interior: clothes, sleeping bag, dop kit
front pocket: food+drink, emergency supplies
exterior front pocket: fire starter, essentials, more emergency supplies
mesh pockets: water bottle, waterproof bag for electronics
Map or atlas bungeed on the back
I have a small travel bag and a backpack for short trips but I am in the market for a "day bag" that will allow for just the necessities and some type of organization.