The poet Basil Bunting, while poring over an antiquated German-Italian dictionary, found the German verb dichten (to write poetry) translated as condensare (to condense/shorten). This became one of the guiding principles of Modernist poetry; which would state; “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning
Every trip requires slight changes to one’s pack. When racing, for instance, I forego a stove and cook set, relying instead upon nutrition bars and junk food picked up along the way rather than the comfort of a warm meal and hot coffee. Weather, trail conditions, water availability, and distance/time between resupply also play a large roll in what gear and capacity are needed for the journey ahead.
With a majority of this particular trip seeing us above 10,000′, the possibility of storms bringing snow, as they had the week prior, was quite real despite a promising weather forecast. Additionally, we would see no resupply from the onset until the completion of our route at El Farolito, where hot New Mexican fare awaited us. Being that we intended this as a fun, relaxed few days on the CDT my intentions were to pack everything required to remain (reasonably) comfortable without sacrificing the enjoyment of what I consider some of New Mexico’s best singletrack.
What follows is a complete list of items I deemed necessary for a three day and two-night traverse of the Continental Divide Trail, from Cumbres Pass to the small town of El Rito, NM in early autumn.
My trusty and capable custom hardtail from Moné Bikes was the choice for this excursion; outfitted with a mix of bags from JPaks, Revelate Designs, and Oveja Negra.
The handlebar bag is a Revelate Designs Pronghorn, size small, with their older style pocket attached to the front. The Pronghorn contained an Enlightened Equipment Enigma (30 degree 850 fill) inside a Black Diamond Twilight bivy, Thermarest NeoAir (small), and a Patagonia down sweater jacket. The attached pocket held two dehydrated dinners (2 servings each), a bag of cashews, salami, Spot Tracker, an emergency medical kit, an 8oz container of denatured alcohol, and my cook set. The cook set, packed in the manner of Matryoshka dolls, was an Optimus Terra solo containing a single-wall titanium coffee mug, folding spork, windscreen, small rag, Vargo Triad stove, pocket knife, and a few instant coffee packets.
My top tube bag was the JPaks Footlong Farva. This has quickly become my favorite bag for big day rides and bike packing trips, as it’s large capacity and unobtrusive design keeps everything I need at hand and easily accessible. For this trip, it’s sole purpose was snack storage. A near zipper bursting supply of Larabars, Clif Bars, and Kind Bars would be my on-the-move nutrition.
Behind that was my rear top tube bag, an Oveja Negra Snack Pack, in which I stored my phone, wallet, keys, Ti Cobb, and spare batteries for my ETrex 30. Oh, wait. I forgot to bring the batteries and had to rely on John for navigation after day one (thanks buddy).
Hanging off my saddle rails was the Revelate Designs Shrew. This perfect little bag held all my extra clothing without inhibiting the dropper post. My layers were a Patagonia Houdini, Patagonia Storm Racer rain jacket, DeFeet knee and arm warmers, and Mountain Laurel Designs E-Vent rain mitts. Additionally, I stuffed an MSR Trailshot water filter in the Shrew.
The last bag I took along was a Spurcycle Dyneema hip bag for my camera, two lenses, and a bag of gummy worms.
With this kit, I could fully enjoy the trail without ever feeling my bike was too heavy or cumbersome. Never was I uncomfortable or wishing for extra gear. As a note of caution; this list is what works for me. Experience is of the utmost importance when deciding to carry a lighter pack. Years of experimenting with different gear setups which, inevitably, have included some less than pleasant days out, are what allow me to get away with a leaner pack. Before you head out mimicking my or any other pack list you may come across, test them on a short, local overnight trip. Always be aware of your surroundings and the possibility of changing weather. And pack out whatever you bring in. Keep it simple, keep it safe, keep it fun!