Photos and Text by Natalie & Dustin Randall
With endless vistas, varied terrain, and a spaghetti bowl of backroads – southeast Utah was arguably made for bikepacking. At 7,000 feet our high desert country allows for trips to go throughout the summer months, when neighboring areas are reaching temperatures much too hot to explore. Paired with roads from the mining and cattle industries, there is no shortage of riding surfaces including paved, dirt/gravel, single track, and jeep/two-track roads.
We’re minimalists at heart, and the name of the game for us with bikepacking is to get as much off our backs and onto our bikes as possible. Living in the desert, we have had to find ways to go with less to offset the need to carry much of our water supply. Here are a few things we’re not willing to skimp on:
1. The ride
When it comes to picking your bike, our rule of thumb is to use what you have. We particularly enjoy mixing some shredding into our mileage so stick to our full suspension when riding single track and old jeep roads. We fully acknowledge this limits our carrying capacity, particularly with the precious frame real estate a rear shock can take. Albeit a sacrifice we’re willing to make to explore varied terrain.
2. Layer strategically
The desert is unpredictable. You can experience high temps during the early afternoon, then have temps drop during the evening and early morning. The summer also is our monsoonal season, with unpredictable rain storms. Layering is key. For early/late summer we like to start with a light baselayer like the fjørå Equaliser Lightweight T-Shirt paired with the fjørå flex1 lightweight Shorts. Both allow for a looser fit and quick dry either from a hot summer afternoon, to a wet storm. Additional layers include a jacket for both rain and wind, such as the lightweight bitihorn dri1 Jacket. Summers are normally warm, but if it looks like temperatures will be dropping in the evenings we will normally throw in some type of mid-layer insulation in our kit such as the falketind warmwool2 stretch Zip Hood.
3. Sweet Dreams
While we may skimp on extra clothes or gadgets, our sleeping kit has always been critical. There’s nothing worse than a subpar night on repeat. From sleeping under the stars, to tarps, to a bivy, or a tent – choosing your shelter depends on; distance, terrain, weather, and trip goals. Regardless of the shelter itself, our pad and bag choices are where we become picky. The pad ensures both warmth and padding from bothersome objects or unforgiving ground surfaces. While the sleeping bag allows for body temperature regulation. The falketinddown800 bag has allowed for comfortable nights, both keeping us warm and also allowing us to dump the excess heat. A luxury, should space permit, is a blow up pillow.
4. Extra, extra
Weight is critical, but there are a few things we never skimp on. A bar of chocolate – or your equivalent of a delectable treat. With high temps in the summer we opt for gummy bears or a chick-o-stick to avoid a melted Cadbury bar. Juicy apple for the first afternoon snack. Sleeping socks – a luxury to have a clean pair of socks, particularly with the desert sand that sneaks into every crevice.
Dustin and Natalie Randall spend their time in the Utah frontier with their son Roman. They explore the region by rope, skis, and bikes; in no particular order and often in combination. Together they own and operate Roam Industry, a guide and outfitter out of Monticello Utah. They enjoy small town living and all things human powered adventure.