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Old 06-18-2018, 08:09 AM   #256
glatt
 
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Location: Arlington, VA
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I went bicycle camping over the weekend.

The Scout troop was having a "wilderness survival" merit badge camping trip nearby, and it was the perfect opportunity to do something my son and I have always wanted to do, which is carry all your crap on your bike to go camping.

The site is Marsden Tract group campsite, and it's right next to an old canal tow path in Great Falls National Historic Park. The canal is level, with occasional small hills where there are locks, so that part of the ride promised to be easy. It's 12 miles from our house.

One of my son's best friends is a neighbor and also in the troop, so he agreed to join us on the ride.

Since it was wilderness survival themed, the boys planned to build shelters and sleep in them. Each boy packed a hammock though as backup. They each travelled very lightly.

I travelled more heavily. Two water bottles in holders on my frame. I have a rear rack on my bike that I bought specifically for this little trip, and I had a couple small bags lashed to that: A small tent. A dry bag containing my sleeping bag, pad, and some clothes. And my backpacking folding chair. Small improvised panniers had things like a mess kit, flashlights, toiletries, and a tiny camp stove and pot that I never used. I also had a daypack on my back containing basically just a huge expedition crew sized first aid kit. And the pack gave me a place to lash my trekking poles that I need to set up my tent.

Here's the thing. I don't ride bikes much at all. A handful of times a year. You use different muscles when you ride, and those muscles were not in shape. Getting from my house to the canal tow path was all on maybe 5 miles of surface streets in Arlington. Lots of steep hills to traverse before the easy towpath. But I did it. Only had to force the boys to stop and rest at the top of one hill. I had to catch my breath. Google maps thought it should take 1:15 for an average cyclist to do that 12 mile ride. It took us with all our extra weight and my out of shape condition 1:25 to get there. Pretty good, I thought.

The ride back was worse, because I had taken a 2 hour midnight to 2am shift to sit by the fire. The idea was that any of the 20 or so boys who were "sleeping" in the shelters they built might get scared or need help and want to come huddle by the fire for a bit. Took a while for me to fall asleep again after being up for so long in the middle of the night. So I was pretty tired. Plus it was more uphill to get home. Sea level to 300 feet elevation, plus all the ups and downs in between. Anyway it took 1:35 getting home instead of the 1:15 Google predicted.

I really enjoyed it though. Bike camping is cool. I rode from my house to this beautiful location that felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. It helped a lot that I met up with the full troop that had purchased food so I didn't have to carry that.

Couple pictures from the trip:
The canal, about 50 yards away from our site, which was tucked back in the woods. You get a lot of people on this path on a weekend afternoon, but I can tell you there is not a soul there at 2am except me peeing into the canal and a million fireflies.
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A deer in the canal.
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One of the wilderness survival things we were trying to teach the boys was signaling. This is them practicing with mirrors. Some were really good at it, and some terrible.
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We made each boy try until they got the hang of it.
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Last edited by glatt; 06-18-2018 at 08:14 AM.
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Old 06-18-2018, 08:18 AM   #257
glatt
 
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And my gear.

This is my bike. Unfortunately I had already unpacked so you can't see it loaded. The panniers improvised out of a couple fanny packs are still on there though.
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And my tent and chair.
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:49 AM   #258
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Very cool glatt! I don't know that I've ever heard of bike camping. I still think that you did well in the bike time - especially if you don't bike often. You were only 10-20 minutes longer. It would be worse if you were like an hour longer. Plus, all the weight on the bike.

Was there a smooth path like that the whole way? I would expect it to be a bit harder if it was a rocky hiking trail to get to the site, right?

Also, aren't you supposed to be 200 feet AWAY from water when going to the bathroom? And definitely not peeing right into it? Leave no trace and all.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:03 AM   #259
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Ha ha ha, when I was reading that I thought bbro had written it and the peeing in the canal stopped me cold.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:01 AM   #260
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbro View Post
Very cool glatt! I don't know that I've ever heard of bike camping. I still think that you did well in the bike time - especially if you don't bike often. You were only 10-20 minutes longer. It would be worse if you were like an hour longer. Plus, all the weight on the bike.

Was there a smooth path like that the whole way? I would expect it to be a bit harder if it was a rocky hiking trail to get to the site, right?
Pretty smooth the whole way. Yeah. Although my street tires didn't like the gravel. I was glad I didn't get a flat because once we were halfway there, I asked my son if he had brought a patch kit and pump and he had not, so that would have been a big pain. But the tires held. They were slightly underinflated, and I think that helped.

Quote:
Also, aren't you supposed to be 200 feet AWAY from water when going to the bathroom? And definitely not peeing right into it? Leave no trace and all.

It's bad form to pee in a canal, but it didn't harm anyone or anything. There's actually a municipal water spigot about a hundred feet away, so nobody is gathering this water to drink when they have readily available tap water.

In the backcountry where people are gathering stream water to drink, I would never do that. Besides, pee isn't going to get you sick. It's just gross. It's poop that's the real danger.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:06 AM   #261
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This was just as we were heading out from my front yard.

You can see the gear I brought. My wife just forwarded this picture she took when we departed home.

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Old 06-18-2018, 12:10 PM   #262
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You can find the 200 foot rule for both #1 and #2.
I think it was written by someone who maybe didn't know the difference.

If you search "camp pee" or such, 98% of the advice is for females.
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Old 06-18-2018, 04:09 PM   #263
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post
...I thought bbro had written it and the peeing in the canal stopped me cold.
Bullshit, that just got you warmed up!
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:10 PM   #264
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glatt View Post

It's bad form to pee in a canal, but it didn't harm anyone or anything. There's actually a municipal water spigot about a hundred feet away, so nobody is gathering this water to drink when they have readily available tap water.

In the backcountry where people are gathering stream water to drink, I would never do that. Besides, pee isn't going to get you sick. It's just gross. It's poop that's the real danger.
I'll forgive you this one time.

Not as much stuff on the bike as I would have expected. Very cool. Are you going to do it again?
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Old 06-19-2018, 06:24 AM   #265
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Very cool glatt!!

Bike touring runs the full spectrum from supported tours to hardcore back country bike packing. You can do anything from nice road based stuff to brutal bike carries deep in the wilderness. I've never done anything heavier than week long bed to bed road tours. If you start searching youtube you'll see how wildly variable the adventure and equipment can be. Fun for many different levels of rider.
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Old 06-19-2018, 05:15 PM   #266
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Bike camping sort of brings to mind the brutal trek that thousands of North Vietnamese made down the Ho Chi Minh trail, using bicycles to carry hundreds of pounds of food, weapons, ammunition and other supplies.
American artillery, mines, B 52's and such added some challenges.
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Old 06-20-2018, 10:08 AM   #267
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Sort of.
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Old 06-20-2018, 12:40 PM   #268
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Heh, I was gonna say 'Kinda'.

Boy, that Ho Chi fella musta been one helluva hiker to have a trail named after him and all.
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Old 06-25-2018, 10:01 AM   #269
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Another failure under the belt. I stayed a total of 4ish hours before leaving. In that time, I got 11 bug bites. Through the bug spray. That was applied multiple times. And clothes

I didn't bring my tent because I didn't want to pack it and I don't have a bug net for my hammock or I may have toughed it out. Bug nets are EXPENSIVE!

There was also torrential down pour - which my rain fly did a good job of keeping off the hammock. If what I drove through heading home was on it's way to the campsite, I may have made the right decision.

One of these days, I'll get it right. Next one is in July in the mountains. So, I have a couple weeks to either make a net or buy one just in case.
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Last edited by bbro; 06-25-2018 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 06-25-2018, 12:58 PM   #270
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You did get it right, first rule of camping, if it sucks leave.
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