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Sleep setups for bikepacking race

Old 01-15-21, 08:19 PM
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Sleep setups for bikepacking race

I'm contemplating a sleep setup for the Trans Am Bike Race. My options seem to be:
  • Sleeping bag and bivvy
  • Down jacket + pants and bivvy (this seems to be the preferred option among some hardcore racers)
  • Just a bivvy; use hotels for the cold nights.
All three options seem technically feasible. There are people who have slept only in hotels when racing the TABR and finished pretty well, but that seems a bit limiting to me. Nights will be pretty warm for the later part of the race, but the first ~5 nights will be cold.

I'm wondering if anyone has experience with these options and can pass along their wisdom.
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Old 01-15-21, 09:15 PM
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The only person I know that has done it is anything but hard core and he does the "lots of clothes and a bivvy" technique. He says he goes to sleep without a lot of clothes and puts some on if he wakes up cold.

I feel like a sleeping bag is going to be a pain and will limit your progress. And it's going to be too warm when you go to sleep so it will always be wet.
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Old 01-15-21, 09:20 PM
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Wish I could offer advice but I'll be watching this to see what others say. My wife and I like to pack light for long distance but that still means she has her sleeping bag and the air mattress while I have my sleeping bag and the tent. I can set up the tent and air mattress while she does a quick cook job so time to eat and sleep isn't bad but we're not racing. Though she is pushing for the continental divide ride/race for next year.
I'd guess your number 2 option would be best for speed and ease.
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Old 01-16-21, 02:31 AM
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If you go for the sleeping bag option, consider a sleeping bag liner too.

I have never tried anything remotely like you are about to try but I can say that on a really warm night I like a sleeping bag liner to start out and then more and more of me gets into the sleeping bag as the night gets colder.

I have a silk one and a microfiber one, the silk is lighter and packs down smaller.

Some people say that a sleeping bag liner adds more to a sleeping bag temperature rating, maybe it does a little but I do not notice the liner adding much for warmth.

I mostly use the liner to keep my sleeping bag clean where you would be in a race, your priorities would be completely different than mine.

Good luck.
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Old 01-20-21, 03:49 AM
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I raced in 2019 and used motels for all but one night. Probably the only useful help I can give you is to share the struggle I had (have) with selecting the correct approach. Motel or camp? Motels pros: 1) quality of sleep 2)Heat/AC 3) Shower 4)can easily wash kit 5)lightens pack weight by anywhere from 1/2 to 5 lbs. And reduces volume of pack. 6) Ability to recharge electronics. I might add that with the climate control and shower, it is much easier to stay away from infections. Sleeping naked helps to "air" things out. I couple guys I raced alongside for a spell had to quit due to infected saddle sores and another due to a spider bite. Of course, the veterans are pretty good about addressing those problems with the appropriate products. Motel cons: 1) time suck. Checking in seems to take more time than it should. 2)motel location will usually dictate your mileage, depending upon location. 3) Cost

I'm looking to race again in 2022 if able and again am looking at sleeping options. I go back and forth. Motels will be used whenever possible, but on the days the choice is between a 130 mile day and a 210 mile day, I need another option. I have an emergency bivy. Useless in my opinion, but I'm not a good camper. Having a half-ways comfortable sleep system for me would require a big add to the pack in both volume and weight. The one option I am exploring however is to pack an ultralight sleeping bag with the idea I find any structure, restroom, post office etc to get a couple hours of sleep. There were a couple times during the race where a concrete slab seemed really comfortable for a 30 minute nap, so if I'm not freezing, I can see that working for a 1 to 3 hour recharge. Then, of course, motel the next night.

Bottom line, it is what will get you across the country and finish, in the least amount of time. I'm no spring chicken (63), and know that I can abuse my body only so much. I'm not a threat to the leaders, as it took me 28 days. But I did finish. Your mileage may vary.
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Old 01-20-21, 09:56 AM
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I slept behind an ice machine one time. Nice and warm from the heat pump.
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Old 01-20-21, 10:20 AM
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gif4445, you've identified the factors that I've been thinking about myself. I think I can keep the combined weight for pad, bag, and bivvy below 1 kg (Klymit makes a couple of inflatable pads that are ludicrously light; I got one on sale through REI). I know I'll resent every gram of that as I drag it up the hills, but it seems like a reasonable insurance policy even if I decide to sleep mostly in hotels. My plan is to split hotels and camping roughly 50/50, allowing that I may change my mind.

I won't be a contender in the GC unless I ride beyond my abilities and everyone else has bad luck, but I do want to make a good accounting for myself.
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Old 01-21-21, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by adamrice View Post
gif4445, you've identified the factors that I've been thinking about myself. I think I can keep the combined weight for pad, bag, and bivvy below 1 kg (Klymit makes a couple of inflatable pads that are ludicrously light; I got one on sale through REI). I know I'll resent every gram of that as I drag it up the hills, but it seems like a reasonable insurance policy even if I decide to sleep mostly in hotels. My plan is to split hotels and camping roughly 50/50, allowing that I may change my mind.

I won't be a contender in the GC unless I ride beyond my abilities and everyone else has bad luck, but I do want to make a good accounting for myself.
I don't see anything wrong with your approach Adam. I'm sure you will do some shake-down rides to see what works for you and what doesn't. A little over 2 pounds for a decent sleep system is about as light as I've seen. I have a Klymit pad, as do others I've ridden with. Sorry to say, the chance of them developing a leak is pretty great. John, who has done the race a couple times, the last on a tandem, carried 2 pads, due to the likelihood of a leaking pad. But he reasoned they were light enough that it wouldn't increase his pack weight substantially and he figured to camp most nights. How about pillow and neck? Most just have a stuff sack with clothes inside or an inflatable pillow. This was another deal-breaker for me, as I have a crappy neck (finally had cervical fusion surgery about a year ago). I like the 50/50 split of hotel and camp from the regroup standpoint. Breaking camp with a wet bivy and such that can be dried out on the hotel stay. I would assume on a back-to-back camping stretch, during the day a break would include pulling the gear out and letting it dry. What are you planning to do about charging electronics? While many go with a dynamo, an external battery (GoPuck was my choice) worked great for me. If I had to go 2-3 days between a 110 outlet, there are more powerful(and heavier) choices.

I think your outlook is similar to what mine was. I wanted to do the best I could. It was me against me basically and didn't look at Trackleaders until I was in Kentucky.
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Old 01-21-21, 08:33 AM
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I have found that self adhesive inner tube patches work well on holes in air mattresses, but that assumes you could find the hole.

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Old 01-21-21, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by gif4445 View Post
What are you planning to do about charging electronics?
I've got a wheel with a dyno hub. I do not have a dyno light/USB converter yet; Igaro (which makes a USB converter) will be releasing a combo light/converter soon, and I'm holding out for that. I'll have a battery headlight as backup, and I'll carry a power bank with at least 10,000 mAh capacity.
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Old 01-25-21, 05:07 AM
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You could pack a couple body sized toe warmers as a back up incase you get wet and hypothermic with no hotel in sight.

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Old 01-29-21, 07:16 PM
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Sounds like you need to find a homeless person or a post office around day 5.
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Old 01-31-21, 06:09 PM
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Hotel timing — arriving at a convenient time window before hotels fill up without a reservation — can be very tricky. I tried planning on hotels during PBP and barely made it to my first hotel reservation after 525 Km of non-stop riding. By the time I arrived to the next hotel reservation it was almost noon so I just continued riding. The following night as I was falling asleep at 3 AM while riding, so I pulled over and slept off the side of the road next to a farm fence. There was some light rain but with several layers of clothes, it wasn’t too bad. A bivy sack, a balaclava (to cover face) and a small pillow would have been super nice and this would be my recommendation for sleeping/napping on the go. Plan on hotel stays as they come and as a nice plus somewhere only if the stars align and you happen to hit one at the right time. In 2021 with hordes of people vacationing again States-side, I imagine finding little hotels available in the middle of nowhere won’t be too easy.
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Old 01-31-21, 10:20 PM
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East of the Mississippi, it's difficult to find a place to sleep by the side of the road. People that otherwise wouldn't give a second thought to buzzing you will stop to wake you up and see if you're okay
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Old 01-31-21, 10:42 PM
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For big wall climbing, I've used Mountain hardware Lamina 45˚ and 35˚ bags. Not sure if they are made currently,

but the lighter one is 26 oz. and packs small. With clothes on it will get you some sleep if it's above freezing.

Bivy sacks are relatively heavy and keep you fairly dry but not so much warm.

I'd go more for the sleeping bag and look for some kind of shelter from rain, if needed, and an emergency bivy backup, at 4 oz.

A down jacket is going to be almost as big as the sleeping bag, not much good in the wet, and you're pretty much riding or sleeping, right?

I imagine there are huge stretches where you would like to sleep for an hour or two, and there is no hotel.
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Old 02-01-21, 09:06 AM
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I wound up pulling the trigger on an ultralight sleeping bag from Sea to Summit. It weighs 13 oz on my kitchen scale, and in the "lofting case" it comes with, it is smaller than my old sleeping bag in its stuff sack. I've got an emergency bivvy (basically a giant potato-chip bag). I think that if I put on all my clothes, I'll probably be warm enough through the coldest temperatures I'm likely to encounter. Probably. An interesting option I saw was a down jacket + half sleeping bag that just covers the legs, and laces into the hem of the jacket. This would be pretty cool if I thought I would be wearing a down jacket at any other time, but my existing cold-weather kit should be sufficient.

For the TABR, I am not worried about hotels filling up—at least not with other racers. I'd be surprised if 400 people enter the TABR, and the field is extremely spread out. Although if I'll be checking in late (and I will be), it's only polite to make arrangements in advance.

My next problem to solve is figuring out how I want to carry everything. I did a test pack in stuff sacks and my load displaces about 13 liters. There are a lot of ways I could divide that up.

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Old 02-01-21, 02:29 PM
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I would love to see your setup if you do a trial run.
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Old 02-01-21, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by adamrice View Post
...
My next problem to solve is figuring out how I want to carry everything. I did a test pack in stuff sacks and my load displaces about 13 liters. There are a lot of ways I could divide that up.

Registration opens in two days.
When you get it figured out, we need photos.
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Old 02-08-21, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
Hotel timing — arriving at a convenient time window before hotels fill up without a reservation — can be very tricky. I tried planning on hotels during PBP and barely made it to my first hotel reservation after 525 Km of non-stop riding. By the time I arrived to the next hotel reservation it was almost noon so I just continued riding. The following night as I was falling asleep at 3 AM while riding, so I pulled over and slept off the side of the road next to a farm fence. There was some light rain but with several layers of clothes, it wasn’t too bad. A bivy sack, a balaclava (to cover face) and a small pillow would have been super nice and this would be my recommendation for sleeping/napping on the go. Plan on hotel stays as they come and as a nice plus somewhere only if the stars align and you happen to hit one at the right time. In 2021 with hordes of people vacationing again States-side, I imagine finding little hotels available in the middle of nowhere won’t be too easy.
The race (ride) doesn't start until your plans fall apart. At least that is what I'm told by my experience and others. I had good luck calling the little motels along the way and reserving a room on the afternoon of. Most times I never saw any motel personal. Just left the room open or the key in the door. It's going through places like West Yellowstone on into the park that are problem areas for me. Expensive and/or booked-up lodging. Tourist traps.
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Old 02-08-21, 01:05 PM
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A lot of small family run motels do not have a reception area open all night. Several years ago I called a motel I had a reservation for and told them Amtrak was late, I would arrive around 3am. They said no problem, they would leave the key be in an envelope taped to the front door. It was a good thing that I called.

Originally Posted by adamrice View Post
...
My next problem to solve is figuring out how I want to carry everything. I did a test pack in stuff sacks and my load displaces about 13 liters. There are a lot of ways I could divide that up.
...
I assume you used a compression stuff sack.

I usually use one like this for my sleeping bag and down vest.
https://www.rei.com/rei-garage/produ...sack-13-liters

Compression sacks like that that use cords to compress, if you are energetic you can pull the cords off. I always sit on the stuff sack to compress contents, then pull the cord to take up the slack. I never yank on the cord to try to make it smaller.

But they do not change shape easily once compressed, you would need to choose your bag for the bike luggage you use.
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Old 06-25-21, 04:27 PM
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Hi there,
New to the forum. I'm getting into long distance cycling (would like to do some ultra events after some training) and was looking about the sleep setups.

I'm not sure to understand why a lot of people seem to think that a sleeping bag is not a good idea compared to down clothing. Aren't they about the same weight for an equivalent insulation warmth?

Also, for those how actually did some races, what where/are the total weight and volume of your sleep setup, and what setup was it? I would like to get an idea of how low I can aim.

Thanks in advance
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Old 06-26-21, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Orion96 View Post
Hi there,
New to the forum. I'm getting into long distance cycling (would like to do some ultra events after some training) and was looking about the sleep setups.

I'm not sure to understand why a lot of people seem to think that a sleeping bag is not a good idea compared to down clothing. Aren't they about the same weight for an equivalent insulation warmth?

Also, for those how actually did some races, what where/are the total weight and volume of your sleep setup, and what setup was it? I would like to get an idea of how low I can aim.

Thanks in advance
I have done some of these races.

I prefer a motel over sleeping outside but motels are spread apart and often booked, and you are not permitted to book before the start of the race. In the Western mountains, it will be below freezing some nights if you pick your camp spot poorly and maybe only down to 40-45F if you chose/plan wisely. Motels can be a time suck as mentioned.

My sleep setup was 20 oz for a down bag and a stupid, lousy air pad with holes for light weight. Thermal insulation value of zero. NFG. I would do it a little different. I would use down bag again but with a cut down Thermarest Uberlite with a SOL emergency bivvy.....14 + 8 + 4 = 26 oz. I'd put the pad inside the SOL and bag over the relatively delicate pad and take the risk of puncture. I also carried a very light puffy jacket of 4.5 oz, one of my more important pieces of gear for early mornings in the mountains. Once out of the more remote, higher mountains, I shipped the bag and pad home. Keeping the SOL and jacket.

My backpacking sleep setup takes me down to 17F. A Katabatic Palisades with 2 oz overfill, Thermarest Neoair xlite, and a Tarptent Notch Li. I have a 7 oz 950 fill down anorak that I would wear on cold nights plus every other piece of clothing that I have. Similarly, one will gravitate towards wearing everything while sleeping during bikepacking night in the high mountains. A Yak neck gaitor is one of my favorite pieces of gear that now finds a place in my cycling bag in cold weather.

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Old 06-26-21, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Orion96 View Post
Hi there,
New to the forum. I'm getting into long distance cycling (would like to do some ultra events after some training) and was looking about the sleep setups.

I'm not sure to understand why a lot of people seem to think that a sleeping bag is not a good idea compared to down clothing. Aren't they about the same weight for an equivalent insulation warmth?

Also, for those how actually did some races, what where/are the total weight and volume of your sleep setup, and what setup was it? I would like to get an idea of how low I can aim.

Thanks in advance
A down sleeping bag offers a thicker layer of insulation than most down clothing. Keep in mind that a sleeping bag is designed for someone to stay warm at rest. And down clothing is usually designed for someone that will be active and burning calories at a faster rate.

If you are new to cold weather sleeping outdoors, you may want to add a couple things to your list, (1) a neck gaiter and (2) a stocking cap for sleeping that fits well and is not oversize as if it fits loosely it can fall off while you are sleeping.
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Old 06-26-21, 05:14 PM
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I think you have to ask yourself if you intend on going race pace or tourist pace. If you pack for tourist pace, you are going to go tourist pace. Otoh, if you pack for race pace and end up riding it at a tourist pace, you may have regrets. The winner of TABR raised his fully loaded bike over his head at the finish, if that answers any questions.
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Old 06-26-21, 07:07 PM
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Thomas Camero set the record, his total gear was 152 pounds.

People like Michael Wacker are at the other extreme, perhaps 23-25 pounds total.

Gear is rarely why people scratch from races like this or even grand randonnees. I was with a racer who broke his handlebars, he lost a couple days getting a replacement but he finished. It is interesting how so much focus is on gear, though. I was reading a blogpost about one of this year's riders kit. I linked it below. Very interesting choices. Super aero. Three skinsuits. I think Lael wore a skirt but it was over 100F almost every day.

Those trying to win will not be carrying much weight on their bike and surprisingly, they seem to book hotels/motels easy. Getting the logistics down to get your place to stay in the shortest time is a big time saver and a critical skill. Most motels were under $100, some as cheap as $40 and a couple close to $200. There really are only a few who enter who can win, so, everyone else is racing their own race. A 60 or 70 year old has no chance against a 30 or 40 year old, for instance. A very light sleeping "system" might make sense for some, especially in the West at elevation. It would be interesting to know what percentage of sleeping nights were spent in a bed. Most country motels do not have a 24h front desk and it isn't unusual for them to shut down at 8 or 9 pm. The point being.....the logistics and planning should not be underestimated for someone wanting to place high. You really need to know the resupply locations and all the potential sleeping spots/motels on the whole route.

https://wheelsmfg.com/blog/wheels-mf...s-am-race.html
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