I am both an avid biker and backpacker but I never thought to combine the two into one experience until recently. This summer I came into possession of a fuji touring bike and decided to give bike packing a shot, and I thought I would write this post with some suggestions about bikepacking for beginners.
For my first trip I wanted to do a simple one night out and back trip, and after consulting an incredibly helpful Willamette Week article about bikeable campsites in the Portland area, I settled on taking a trip to the gorge and staying at Ainsworth state park. This was ideal as the park provided specific bike camping spaces with bike racks right next to the sites. while hilly, this route is both route scenic and do-able for the semi-experienced rider. I rarely felt unsafe even when on unprotected roads.
As someone who has been avidly backpacking for the last 10 years, the most crucial information I can pass along is that the bulk foods section at WinCo is your friend. For this trip I grabbed some of the bulk falafel mix. The falafel can be a bit dry, so I would recommend grabbing some hummus ( which you can get away with not refrigerating for a couple days if you keep it sealed), and pita bread.
For breakfast I went with the old standby of instant oatmeal with peanut butter; easy and quick but also great for a full day of biking. for lunch I would personally recommend something simple like apples and cliffbars.
If you bike regularly in the city you probably have much of the needed gear already, such as panniers and bungie cords. However, I did have to go grab some gear from REI, Like a 2 L water bag (I used it to refill my small bike water bottle that I out in my down tube cage), and para-cord for hanging up my food bag.
For just a one or two night trip you can get away with a small gas canister for your stove, but if your traveling with more than one person it never hurts to go with something a bit larger. I also found that the REI half dome is great for camping as it comfortably fits 2 and is light weight enough for solo trips as well. For further gear info I would recommend checking out an article one of our staff wrote about packing for touring on our website.
There are several ways to make your way to the town of Troutdale, the start of the historic gorge highway. Personally I recommend making your way down Marine drive as it is the flattest, most scenic, and most protected pathway there. However, East Burnside is also a very viable option.
To be perfectly honest the ride is not easy. There is about a 900 foot elevation gain to vista house, the halfway point, and no bike lane. With that said if you are in decent shape and bike regularly it is certainly doable, the drivers are pretty good about giving you space, and the shoulder of the road for the most part is close to bike lane sized. Also, the view from vista house and the subsequent downhill makes the climb well worth it.
Personally I would recommend turning this into a multi day trip instead of a one night out and back. Starting in Warrendale the historic gorge highway turns into a walk and bike only path, that runs through most of the gorge. Next time I am planning on spending a night at Ainsworth, popping into hood river for a beer and an afternoon on the beach, then continuing on and camping in the Dalles.
While just a short trip, I’d my trial bike packing run a success. I am looking forward to getting back out and I hope to see you on the road!