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Wearing a Backpack on Tour

Old 06-08-12, 10:07 AM
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Wearing a Backpack on Tour

I know this suggestion is usually met with a near unanimous "don't do it", and I have been among those who strongly advised against it in the past, but I am reconsidering.

Looking at my latest changes to the gear list it looks like I can be pretty comfortable cooking and camping with less than 11 pounds of gear and if I forgo the camera and use the phone camera it would be less than 10 pounds. I figure 4-5 pounds of that can go in the handlebar bag and tarp, bivy, pillow, and sleeping pad can go on the rear rack all rolled up in the bivy.

So I could go with 7 pounds of stuff in the backpack and skip the rack or put the tarp, bivy, pillow, and sleeping pad on the rack and have only about 4.5 pounds in the backpack. Things can be split any number of other ways as well.

I could also just strap the backpack on top of the rack, but I rode with my REI Flash 18 backpack for a number of days on the Southern Tier and found it fine when lightly loaded. I started out using it to carry extra water on the two days that were the longest distances without services, but found I didn't mind it and kept wearing it with a small amount of stuff in it for easy access and the ability to easily take it with me when off of the bike. So I continued to wear it for the rest of the tour. At that point there wasn't much more in it than a couple tubes a jacket and some other small items, but I barely noticed it was there.

Does anyone else here wear a lightly loaded backpack on tour? How much weight do you find acceptable in a backpack while riding?
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Old 06-08-12, 11:12 AM
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I just spent a week or so riding around Ohio. For a short leg I was carrying more junk then could fit in my panniers, so I supplemented with a backpack. Not bad for 20 miles. I kept the backpack with me the rest of the time and kept all the stuff in it that I didn't want to leave on the parked bike, but unless it was a short jaunt, I always shoved that backpack into a pannier. It probably only had three pounds or so in it, but still I'd rather ride without it than with it.

I agree that a light enough pack doesn't make a huge difference, but I would still prefer the option of not wearing it.
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Old 06-08-12, 12:40 PM
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If your backpack is compact enough and the gear within it can be safely mashed, you could just bungee your backpack on top of your other gear on your rack. I've done this a few times and it works no problem, see pic...


It's a good idea to cross the bungee chords through the straps to secure it a little better.

On the other hand I've tried to carry a laptop and other equipment in a larger backpack loaded to about 15 lbs on a 25 mile commute and it just about killed my neck.

Riding is better without a backpack of course, but if it's your only option, under 10 lbs on your back isn't bad at all, but any more than that over a decent distance and you will be in misery.
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Old 06-08-12, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by dantolen View Post
If your backpack is compact enough and the gear within it can be safely mashed, you could just bungee your backpack on top of your other gear on your rack. I've done this a few times and it works no problem, see pic...


It's a good idea to cross the bungee chords through the straps to secure it a little better.

On the other hand I've tried to carry a laptop and other equipment in a larger backpack loaded to about 15 lbs on a 25 mile commute and it just about killed my neck.

Riding is better without a backpack of course, but if it's your only option, under 10 lbs on your back isn't bad at all, but any more than that over a decent distance and you will be in misery.
Can you repost or fix the link? It does not seem to work.

I did some more tinkering with the list and it looks like the numbers might be pretty close to:
Bar bag - 4 lb 7.75 oz.
Backpack - 4 lb. 7.2 oz.
Rack top bundle - 3 lb. 13 oz.
I would have the option to have it all on the bike or wear the backpack.

If I decided to lose the rack, I could go with a something more like:
Backpack - 8 lb. 4.2 oz.
Handlebar bag - 4 lb. 7.75 oz.
If I did that I would be committed to wearing the backpack.

I think that is probably +/- 1 pound unless I rethink things. Of course there is probably on average 1-2 pounds of food and stove fuel to add in. At times there may also be some extra water, but I do not have a good handle on how often that will be necessary on my next trip.
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Old 06-08-12, 01:22 PM
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I only use a backpack briefly for supplemental items as you mentioned like water or food. My main objection to extended use has been the heat trapped by many packs. Pack updates from Deuter and others now offer improved ventilation and cooling. This improvement could cause a rethinking of my pack use for longer periods.
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Old 06-08-12, 01:50 PM
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I did a week with a small 1L Camelbak, which I'd guess weighs 4 pounds with a little stuff in it. It worked out OK, but I don't think I would want to tour with a larger, heavier, bulkier backpack.

I have one of those Deuter backpacks. The pack is kept off your back about an inch or so by an internal frame. However, it also uses a big mesh panel that maintains the separation. So far I haven't found it to be much cooler on a bike than a small channeled Camelbak.

I also think it's a tad silly to fuss over 1 pound, especially in a touring context. If you were climbing Alpe d'Huze (8 miles of a consistent 8% grade) @ 200 watts (i.e. climbing at 6mph), adding 1 pound would add less than a minute out of 1 hour and 20 minutes of climbing. I don't see why dropping a pound will be worth the additional discomfort.

Using a backpack certainly won't kill you. I'm thinking that you won't want to do it twice.
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Old 06-08-12, 01:55 PM
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That flash backpack can be turned inside out to look like a stuff sack, right? I say go for it, and if it gets to annoy you, turn it inside out, put the stuff back in and strap it on top of the other stuff already on your rack. For some reason getting rid of the rack just makes me a little nervous. I'd like to have it there, just in case I needed it, but then I know you're all about ultra-light so maybe you'd prefer to get rid of those extra 3 pounds or whatever. I'd say give it a try for a short one and see how you like it.
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Old 06-08-12, 02:43 PM
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Pete,
It sounds like the only weight saving is the weight of the rack. For me the flexibility the rack provides is not worth the inconvenience and discomfort of wearing a backpack, especially in hot weather just to reduce my load by a pound or so. But then again, our touring styles are different and what may work well for you would not be my preferred option.

Last edited by Doug64; 06-08-12 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 06-08-12, 02:43 PM
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If you really want to lose the rack, maybe look at a saddle bag of some sort to take some/all of the weight off of your back.
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Old 06-08-12, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Can you repost or fix the link? It does not seem to work.
Sorry about that, this should work...


I just crossed two bungee chords through the straps and it held great.

Here's another example, though I tucked the loose straps in once I rode...
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
backpack.jpg (105.1 KB, 52 views)
File Type: jpg
backpack2.jpg (98.2 KB, 41 views)

Last edited by dantolen; 06-08-12 at 03:56 PM. Reason: added another pic
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Old 06-08-12, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dantolen View Post
Sorry about that, this should work...


I just crossed two bungee chords through the straps and it held great.

Here's another example, though I tucked the loose straps in once I rode...
Thanks.
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Old 06-08-12, 04:06 PM
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Due to the enormous amount of sweat and the possibility of tearing your tendons in your shoulders if you fall, I wouldn't carry a backpack.
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Old 06-08-12, 04:07 PM
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I so totally would not do that. Of course, that applies to many of your other light weight choices as well.

How much does your rack weigh? I have a tubus fly you could borrow if you want, with a QR adaptor. very light rack.
https://thetouringstore.com/TUBUS/Fly/FLY%20PAGE.htm

attaches to brake bolt and QR.
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Old 06-08-12, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by himespau View Post
That flash backpack can be turned inside out to look like a stuff sack, right? I say go for it, and if it gets to annoy you, turn it inside out, put the stuff back in and strap it on top of the other stuff already on your rack. For some reason getting rid of the rack just makes me a little nervous. I'd like to have it there, just in case I needed it, but then I know you're all about ultra-light so maybe you'd prefer to get rid of those extra 3 pounds or whatever. I'd say give it a try for a short one and see how you like it.
I am likely to take that route. The rack isn't much over a pound (1.18 according to Axiom), so yeah, not a huge deal.

The thing is that as the gear gets lighter the methods for carrying it can too. I have already gone a lot farther down the ultralight road than I had ever planned, but have not found it to have been even slightly uncomfortable, except for the bivy being a bit uncomfortable when it was hot and buggy. For my upcoming trip I don't expect too much heat of bugs. Perhaps, famous last words

Then again I have time to change my mind a couple more times.
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Old 06-08-12, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
I did a week with a small 1L Camelbak, which I'd guess weighs 4 pounds with a little stuff in it. It worked out OK, but I don't think I would want to tour with a larger, heavier, bulkier backpack.

Using a backpack certainly won't kill you. I'm thinking that you won't want to do it twice.
I agree that weight will be a factor here. When riding around Australia I carried a Camelbak. Typically in the outback I'd have 8L of water including 3L in a Camelbak. Very occasionally on most remote stretches I would carry up to 18L - and this meant have two 3L bladders in the Camelbak pack. So I've carried ~6-12lbs for some extended times and agree if things are light enough that a backpack can be an alternative.

When I've seen this topic come up in this group, it sometimes has been with much bulkier or heavier sized backpacks. For a while, when I didn't have a washer/dryer in my residence I tried the alternative of cycling to laundromat with full frame backpack filled with laundry. The times I did that convinced me that it would be much more comfortable if I moved laundry using a bike trailer than a frame pack - and this was a case where laundromat was only a few miles away. It was also case where full-frame backpack added extra fun...
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Old 06-08-12, 05:03 PM
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I have used a backpack for an all day city wanderabout because I forgot to put my trunk bag in the car. I don't like backpacks. The one I had was lightly loaded but by the end of the day it was aggravating to me. But other people have different tolerance levels.

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Old 06-08-12, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
I so totally would not do that. Of course, that applies to many of your other light weight choices as well.
Yeah, it isn't for everyone. If I keep cutting I will sooner or later hit a point where I will not want to do it again. I am surprised that I have not yet hit that point, before I started experimenting I figured that going below 20 pounds might be too extreme.

Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
How much does your rack weigh? I have a tubus fly you could borrow if you want, with a QR adaptor. very light rack.
My rack is pretty light at 1.18 pounds, so while the Fly is lighter it probably is not worth swapping. Thanks much for the offer though.
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Old 06-08-12, 05:17 PM
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I've used backpacks for short riding, I think about 100km has been the limit. They have been lightweight, with no stiffener.

There were three issues -- any hard object in the backpack always found a way of boring its way into my back muscles or spine. The sweat. And on longer rides, I inevitably had lower back ache.

Personally, I wouldn't ride with a backpack for any long tour distance. On a 1200 randonnee, Machka used a Camelback. After about 900km, she was unable to use her arms properly and was in great pain, even though it was empty at the time I removed it from her. I know it's an extreme case, but the cumulative effects are something you might need to consider.

Personally, I would just invest in a Carradice Nelson Longflap. You can put most of you load in there, and strap the remainder on the outside. You will probably need the Bagman support to attach to the seat to stop the Longflap flopping down on the the wheel and into your thighs as you pedal. It keeps everything together in one, manageable package which is handy for security, is waterproof, and if you take into account the combined weight of your current rack and drysacks, the Longflap and Bagman support probably come in about par.

Incidentally, there is an alternative to the Bagman support that would make the combination much lighter, although a little less stable. It involves suitable-sized plastic electrical or water conduit cut to length to act as a spacer to keep the bottom of the bag away from the seatpost. The conduit can be ziptied through two holes to the seatpost, and similarly to the loop normally used to attach the bag to the seatpost. It needs a little fiddling to get the length and security of attachment right, and the seatpost end of the conduit could do with a little shaping, but it worked very well for me with a Brooks bag I have.
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Old 06-08-12, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
I've used backpacks for short riding, I think about 100km has been the limit. They have been lightweight, with no stiffener.

There were three issues -- any hard object in the backpack always found a way of boring its way into my back muscles or spine. The sweat. And on longer rides, I inevitably had lower back ache.

Personally, I wouldn't ride with a backpack for any long tour distance. On a 1200 randonnee, Machka used a Camelback. After about 900km, she was unable to use her arms properly and was in great pain, even though it was empty at the time I removed it from her. I know it's an extreme case, but the cumulative effects are something you might need to consider.
I will keep all of that in mind. If I decide to wear the pack, I'll keep the rack on as a fall back.

Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
Personally, I would just invest in a Carradice Nelson Longflap. You can put most of you load in there, and strap the remainder on the outside. You will probably need the Bagman support to attach to the seat to stop the Longflap flopping down on the the wheel and into your thighs as you pedal. It keeps everything together in one, manageable package which is handy for security, is waterproof, and if you take into account the combined weight of your current rack and drysacks, the Longflap and Bagman support probably come in about par.
I looked into them, but they were heavier and more expensive than my rack and dry bags. One made of lighter materials might be tempting.

Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
Incidentally, there is an alternative to the Bagman support that would make the combination much lighter, although a little less stable. It involves suitable-sized plastic electrical or water conduit cut to length to act as a spacer to keep the bottom of the bag away from the seatpost. The conduit can be ziptied through two holes to the seatpost, and similarly to the loop normally used to attach the bag to the seatpost. It needs a little fiddling to get the length and security of attachment right, and the seatpost end of the conduit could do with a little shaping, but it worked very well for me with a Brooks bag I have.
Any pictures of that?
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Old 06-08-12, 05:58 PM
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When I do light touring its without any rack. and since my bags are pretty full, a camelback is really usefull. tube, tools, water, chapstick, bug spray, wet wipes, pocket knife, map, some food, phone. I take a couple light straps to lash something onto it if needed, like a gocery sack with food for the night. About sixty to eighty mile days, with one day of one hundred twenty eight miles. Two liter bladder, along with several bottles and I have still almost run out without anywhere to refill, so its nice.
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Old 06-08-12, 06:18 PM
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An ultralite approach to touring makes perfect sense, but putting something on your back does not to me. I assume we are talking the ordinary touring world. Not some kind of specialized super hero role where the pack has to be there. I think this is where we loose track. Consider two thought experiments.

1) Imagine this thread is about clothing. Can we imagine a great round of applause for the new item of clothing under consideration that adds 5 pounds to your back and makes it impossible for your back to breath? Round of applause, who wants to pre-order?

2) Imagine we are talking about normal loaded touring, 4 packs two racks. Now I come up with an idea where you have the same basic capabilities but you don't have to carry anything in the bags, your total load is just the bags. Sound like a sufficient step forward? With my gear that would be about what you would have if you had 5 pounds of stores in one rack and pack. So prior to this a lot of people would have been willing to carry the 4 pack, and 40-60 pounds of gear. But we have now saved the 40-60 pounds, but it still isn't enough. I gotta cut out that extra five pounds, even if it means I have to wear the piece of clothing in 1) above. Doesn't make any sense to me. I think the ergonomics speak to being able to carry the extra weight but in a better way.
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Old 06-08-12, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I will keep all of that in mind. If I decide to wear the pack, I'll keep the rack on as a fall back.


I looked into them, but they were heavier and more expensive than my rack and dry bags. One made of lighter materials might be tempting.


Any pictures of that?
Wiggle is a good source at a price that is cheaper (if you factor in postage) than even Carradice itself. Don't forget to include the bungee cords and string in your weight analysis.

And no, sorry, no pictures. It was way back, about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, everything is in or on its way into storage right now so I can't even do a quick mock-up of it. However, the idea did, IIRC come either from a friend, but also the internet. A search might turn up something.

Check also Velo Orange for Carradice alternatives.
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Old 06-08-12, 06:27 PM
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Real world, I have implemented ultralite backpacking approach since 05. But I kept the 4 pack so I could carry bulky food water. I also tour in fall where it can be hot or cold, and so I carried more gear for that, and still got caught out. I have tried alternative shelter, so one time I took a tarp vs small tent, and another a tarp vs hammock. So the point is I actually was on average carrying more gear that ultralite, but it didn't bother me. When I got it that light, on a bike, pretty close to sea level, not in the mountains though the daily gain was similar, it was easy anyway, and I want to take full advantage of the bike as a load carrier. I would take a backpack instead probably only if I was planing a trip that combined hiking and riding.
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Old 06-08-12, 06:31 PM
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Old 06-08-12, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
It sounds like the only weight saving is the weight of the rack. For me the the flexibility the rack provides is not worth the inconvenience and discomfort of wearing a backpack, especially in hot weather just to reduce my load by a pound or so.
This is my feeling as well. My rack weighs under one pound and in exchange gives me the option of carrying a wide range of loads when desired. I consider it well worth its small extra weight even if it were only used on some occasions for carrying some bulkier food items from a nearby town to camp, some wood for a campfire, extra water for crossing a barren stretch, etc. And once I have the rack on the bike I may as well use it to carry as much of my gear as possible instead of having any weight on my back.
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