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    Weatherized Camping and Cycling  
    by Rox Heath  
    The following is a collection of hard-won wisdom on the subject of weather-related camping that may prove useful to Cycle Oregon first timers and the rain-camping disadvantaged.

Assume that whoever unloads your gear is going to dump it in a mud puddle, and pack accordingly. Put all non-waterproof items either in plastic garbage bags or Ziplocs. Double bag items you really care about. Ziplocs come in all sizes from pint to 2 gallon although right now in my area (Portland) I have only found the 2 gallon bags at WinCo and K-Mart. However, they are available online from Ziploc. I realize our fellow cyclists/truck unloaders won't leave our luggage in a mud puddle on purpose (don't flame me!), but recently watered football fields can wick water up through your clothes almost as fast. Also, there are always unplanned thundershowers to deal with. On CO 11, day 6 our packs sat out in the rain for several hours and the clothes, etc. were dry and comfortable.

Make sure your tent has a rainfly that significantly covers it - not one of those that is 2' square - or bring a sizeable lightweight tarp (3 mil clear plastic found in the paint sections of variety stores works well) and lightweight nylon rope or cord for emergencies. If it is going to rain that night make sure that the plastic ground cloth under your tent does not hang out beyond the edges of the tent or it will funnel water under you and create a small lake for you to sleep in.

Thermarests and similar pads will keep you warmer at night than a standard air mattress since the foam inside limits air (and cold) circulation. Avoid open cell foam mattresses. If it looks like a sponge then it is a sponge - both for cold and wet. Remember, the ground temperature at night is colder than you want to be.

Dress appropriate to the weather and since we can't predict that be prepared! Artificial fibers such as nylon, polyester, spandex, etc. wick moisture away from your body and this keeps you warm (sweat-free layer next to your skin). They dry very quickly. Wool also works well, but a wool sweater may take so long to dry on a multi-day trip that it is useless. Non-down insulators in sleeping bags, coats, and gloves (such as Hollofil, Polarguard, Thinsulate, etc.) even insulate when very wet. Watch out for down sleeping bags and coats unless you can keep them dry. Wet down is a pile of soggy feathers and fairly useless. Don't use cotton in cold or wet weather!

If you are really worried about cold nights use a space blanket under your pad - the heavier-duty kind - and take along a light weight version to wrap around you in an emergency - your bag will get wet with sweat, but you will be warm. Wrapping yourself in a light fleece blanket inside the sleeping bag will also help. Wear loose, heavy socks and a stocking cap to bed.

As far as hot weather goes - light colored, loose cotton shirts are great! Cotton has the ability to wick heat away from your body as it dries. This means that on those 90+ days you just need to get it wet - whether you use a convenient stream, somebody's water bottle, or the hose on the water truck doesn't matter. BTW, sweaty (salty) water doesn't seem to work quite as well for evaporating so wash the sweat off occasionally. We prefer T-shirts, but some prefer buttoned cotton shirts. A couple of long-time CO vets I know prefer brightly colored Hawaiian shirts. UV-blocking shirts are also available.

As for what I pack for riding an upright (diamond frame) bike: polyester/spandex bike shorts; bike jerseys and loose cotton white T-shirts (listen to weather forecast each night and decide which to wear); polyester fleece vest with full zipper front; unlined nylon windbreaker with full zipper front; polyester/spandex leg warmers, arm warmers, and skull cap; unlined nylon pants (similar to windbreaker); cycling rain coat (has a long tail and shorter front); regular padded cycling gloves; cold weather insulated gloves (get something flexible that you can handle your shifters with); polyester socks; cycling shoes; and, of course, a helmet with a visor. By wearing the appropriate pieces of this you can handle below freezing to 90+ weather comfortably and CO will probably give you samples of both. Remember wind chill coming down those long hills!

My recumbent bike clothing is almost identical except I prefer to use nylon long pants whose legs unzip to convert them to shorts and a leg strap instead of the bike shorts and nylon pants. I also use lightweight stretchy gloves instead of cycling gloves since I don't need the padding on the palms.

We have also found the above clothing to be very light weight. CO usually has a gear drop somewhere around lunch where you can bag your excess clothes and they will haul them to camp for you.

For around camp - loose, comfortable clothes and shoes that can handle hot afternoons and cold evenings. Plan on layering. I found that after wearing Spandex all day I did not want any tight clothes or my bike shoes in camp.

Don't worry about this - just be prepared. If a 10 year old Boy Scout can have fun camping in the rain so can you!

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > Lists & Articles > Weatherization  

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