Bikepacking to China Camp in CA

I did it! I finally did it! I went on a small adventure by myself! and it was exciting, vibrant and scary at times!
I wanted to do a quick recap on how things went hence this post

For the longest time I wanted to do a bikepacking trip, but what’s exactly bikepacking?
It comes from mixing two other sports: cycling and backpacking.
You ride your bike loaded with your camping gear to get to a certain spot, camp and so on. Think about it as a different type of bike touring (or perhaps they are the same thing!)

Planning

I ended up removing the orange bag from the frame

Since this was the first time I was going to try bikepacking I decided to start with a manageable distance and a some-what controlled camping experience.

  • The start/end point: San Francisco Ferry Building.
  • The destination: China Camp State Park in San Rafael, CA.
  • Distance:  48 Km on day 1, 46.4 Km on day 2 for a total of 94.4 Km
  • Bike: Marin Gestalt II
  • Tires: 35mm 700x30c
  • Bags: 15L Mission Workshop bag plus a big Saddle bag.
  • Camping Gear: Nemo Hornet 1 person tent,  Nemo 15F sleeping bag, Sea to Summit sleeping pad
  • Extras: food, toiletries and headphones
  • Navigation: Garmin Fenix 5 loaded with a GPX map that I made

The Route

All paved and nice road!

I started riding late (10:45 am) so I could get there just in time to check-in to my campsite (2 pm). I knew I was going to make several stops and generally riding slow just so I could enjoy the route more. This part of the plan was a success. I stopped at Crissy Field, The Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and finally grabbed a byte at Andy’s local market in Marin County.
100% of this route is paved. Most of it is really enjoyable, except a 5km stretch in San Rafael where there’s a highway cross. Be careful over there!

Camping

Home sweet home
My spooky friend

The camping experience wasn’t five stars but that’s on me. I left a banana peal in my backpack and its smell attracted a deer who started to sniff around my head at 2 am. That took me by surprise and really scared me. I managed to snap a picture of her though! 

Regarding the facilities, China Camp is great! camp grounds are marked, clean and there’s also showers and a couple of big restrooms. This is a kid friendly spot so expect to see them, hear them and be around them.

What worked

  • The overall plan was a success. I made it in-n-out safely
  • Navigation was great even though I only used the breadcrumbs the watch was giving me
  • 35mm tires where big enough and rolled fast enough
  • Saddle bag was great! I couldn’t have done the trip without it. Thanks Mike!
  • Packing strategy was good, enough food, clothes and gear for both days

What can be improved

  • I will never ride again with so much weight on my back. I never ride with a backpack so having one (and heavy!) for hours on me definitely took a toll. Seriously, don’t go bikepacking like this. Better to install a pannier on your bike and just ride like that
  • I need to get better at sleeping outside. My nose gets super dry and my body gets super hot. I’m sure I can adjust some variables regarding my equipment so I make this experience more  fun
  • I need a portable pillow
  • No more leaving the trash in my backpack…

What’s next

There were ups and downs in this trip but I’ll definitely stick to it. Even though this wasn’t a big ride I got to meet good people on the road (Rancho Shazam) and the overall positive vibe I got on the road was heartwarming. I’ll welcome that anytime!

I hope to go out there again before the end of the year to get more practice so on 2019 I can do this in South America! or perhaps Europe? who knows! we can pedal the world!

Cheers!

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