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A note about camping while touring

On this past weekend’s test run we encountered an unexpected problem. It took us nearly two hours to break camp each morning which left us no time to relax, or have a nibble, between waking and hitting the road. On my last big trip it wasn’t like this at all. Yes, it took me nearly two hours between when I woke and when I hit the road, but that included a shower, a nibble, and lounging around reading a book. So what went wrong?

I wasn’t sure at first, but eventually it hit me. On my last big trip I was spending my nights in a one person tent. Because the number of people a tent is rated for is the number of bodies you can fit in it, barely, there was no additional space inside for much of anything. Essentially everything had to stay in the saddlebags on the bike. At the end of the tent I’d fit one one boot in each corner. Along my side i’d lay my one piece suit in one bunched up line (assuming it wasn’t wet). My camelback would go by my head for drinks in the night, and my rolled up clothes would be my pillow. My helmet would sit on a waterproof bag (to keep moisture from coming up from the ground and into the inner padding) underneath the tent’s rain flap. And, that was it.

What I didn’t realize was that because I didn’t have space for anything in the tent everything I’d used the night before had to be put away as soon as I finished with it, lest it blow away. In the mornings I’d throw on my pants, take off the fly cover, shake it out and set it in the sun to let it dry (there was always moisture on the inside of it from my breathing if not dew), grab the handful of things from inside the tent and put them by the bike, and then enjoy a leisurely read for an hour or so before throwing on my suit and heading out. It was a great start to the day.

But on this last test ride we spent two hours picking things up and packing them away. Part of the problem was that the soft luggage i was using seemed to hold slightly less every day. Even though I was packing the same items it never seemed to want to hold as many of them as the previous day. As a result, each morning some time was spent putting things in, and taking things out, trying to figure out how to make it fit again. But part of it was just time spent picking up and packing things away that didn’t need to be left unpacked the night before, and the fact that I’m not the most efficient creature on the planet just after waking.

The morning’s weren’t enjoyable at all. They were two hours of grabbing, packing, and reattaching the bags to the bike, so that, we could ride off immediately, because we were already running so late.

So, here’s my tip. Pack everything away as soon as you’re done with it. In the case of pots and bowls*, bring a small towel just for them so you can wash, dry, and immediately pack them away as soon as you’re done with dinner. If you’ll be using them again for breakfast you’ll still want to immediately address them because you don’t want them lying about to get blown around, and they take up too much space when out and about.

In the morning it’ll take you less than 10 minutes to break camp, leaving you plenty of time to sit around and enjoy the morning while your fly sheet dries in the sun, and another 5 at the end to roll up the fly sheet and the rest of the tent fabric and stick it on your bike before gearing up and taking off. * I highly recommend the GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset. They’ve also got a single person version.