We recently spoke with Sea to Summit brand ambassador Rebecca Rusch about her involvement in the world of bikepacking. She offers some insight into this rapidly growing segment of the sport.
Rebecca, you are quite the accomplished athlete when it comes to competitive cycling, what do you love about bikepacking that is different than racing?
What I love about backpacking is the sense of adventure and not knowing what’s around the next corner. I also love the mental challenge, the planning, the navigation, the strategy that is all rolled into the bikepacking experience. You have to be a great athlete on the bike, just like traditional racing, but it requires so much more in the way of knowledge, experience and backcountry smarts. It feels like going into more bikepacking is the perfect combination of my adventure racing experience with my cycling experience.
You have had the opportunity to bikepack in many locations around the globe, what was your favorite trip?
So far, the best place I’ve explored on a bike has been Laos. I did a month-long trip there and it was incredible. The bike is truly the best way to travel and really immerse yourself in a place and a culture.
What is your dream bikepacking trip?
I’m not sure yet…really the biggest problem is there are too many great places to go. I look at maps all the time and have a few things on my list right now.
Tell us about some of the most useful Sea to Summit gear you take on your trips?
Spark SPI Sleeping Bag: so light, so essential, and so cozy!
Thermolite® Reactor liner: for colder races where more warmth is needed
Travelling Light™ products: for all sorts of organization from toiletries to batteries to food to maps. Organization is the key to keeping your gear accessible and compartmentalized. There are so many great Travelling Light™ products that there is no excuse not to have your gear organized perfectly. It saves time and energy. You can organize things by the color bags you put them in.
Do you have any good gear tips for beginner bikepackers?
The gear you take is essential to your success. Take too little and you’ll be miserable, cold, and unprepared. Take too much and you’ll be bogged down by weight, which could keep you from reaching your goal. I think many people overestimate how much they need to have to be comfortable. My best advice is to test run the gear and how you will carry it on a bike. I usually lay out everything I want to take and then pack and unpack multiple times until I get it right. Since you are taking so little, it’s important that every single item is 100% reliable and serves a purpose.
Start small with a short bikepacking adventure near home and build from there.
Always take a cell phone, credit card, and cash!
What type of backcountry cuisine do you prefer? Are you the one cooking or do you bring a chef along?
A chef? Well, that would be sweet, but usually, it’s a combination of GU products, food bought at convenience stores along the way, or sampling the local cuisine. It’s hard to carry all the food you need for a long excursion, so successful fueling relies on strategically planning what you can carry and what you might find along the way.
Do you listen to tunes while you ride? Current favorite songs and artists?
I go back and forth with tunes vs no tunes. Sometimes I just really love to hear the sound of my tires, the crickets chirping, the rivers raging and the sound of my breathing. It keeps me in tune with the environment, my bike, and my body. On really long rides though, music can be a great motivator. I usually have my husband make a surprise playlist for me on longer rides. I like being surprised.
What is your next big adventure?
My next bikepacking adventure is a new race in Idaho called Smoke N Fire, a 400-mile self- support race through Idaho this September. I love that it is in my home state, goes right near my house and through many of the trails I love to ride.