California Basketpackin’

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Here at bikepacking.com, we like to feel we’re an open-minded collective of riders and explorers. Ever fascinated by different modes of carrying cargo on his bike – depending on the length and style of the trip – Cass reports back on his experiences ‘basketpacking’ in Southern California, along with a full a breakdown of his gear list.

I recently returned from an extended bout of dirt road riding in Southern California, squeezing in the excellent Stagecoach 400, an overnighter in beautiful Los Padres, the unexpectedly wild LA Observer, plus several protracted wanderings around Joshua Tree. I also rode from San Diego to Los Angeles, via the abandoned railway line that runs through the Carrizo Gorge, various washes in the Anza Borrego State Park, the wonderfully bizarre Salton Sea and counter-culture capital of Slab City (using the new Stagecoach 500 detour), Joshua Tree National Park, Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, snowy Baldy Notch, and lofty Mount Lowe. I’m planning a full write up of the route for but in the meantime, you can see the last segment here – it makes a great long weekend ride out of LA with public transport connections.

Joshua Tree

  • Hyperlite Ultamid Shelter
  • Sinewave Revolution
  • Monkey Wrench Cycles Bag, Wald 139
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Tumbleweed Prospector, Wald 139, Mr Fusion

Setup-wise, I went all ‘basketpacking’ on this trip, aboard Tumbleweed’s fantastic new Prospector; check back here soonn for the full review. I’ll also be labouring over the minutiae of basketpacking, including comparative weights and stowage options on the market, in a future roundup we’re putting together. But by way of synopsis, the Wald 139/Surly 8-Pack/Monkey Wrench Cycles bag pictured here proved a great combination for the trip, given my need to work en route (thus the requirement for my MacBook Air and DLSR camera) while still keeping ‘relatively light’, to best enjoy the dirt, sandy, and rocky roads I had in mind. The desire not to have panniers rattling around and my dislike of wearing a backpack also played a part in choosing this setup.

Tumbleweed Prospector

  • Monkey Wrench Cycles Bag
  • Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion XL

But what about all that extra weight above the steering axis, I hear you ask? It’s true, a big basket like the Wald 139 isn’t my chosen cargo-carrying solution for a super techy route, like the Colorado Trail. The extra front end weight also makes more involved hike-a-bikes challenging too. But not all routes are created equal. For general dirt road explorations, the venerable wire basket makes a lot of sense. It’s supremely practical, both at home and on tour. It offer multiple lashing points. Such a setup offers quick access to a bulky camera – mine lives on top of my sleeping bag – as well as the means to load up with extra food when required, especially the likes of voluminous bags of corn chips or loaves of bread. As for all that front load, I quickly adapted to the way it impacted the Prospector’s handing for dirt road riding and it felt just fine. Lastly, easily detaching the bag and bringing it into my tent at night or a coffee shop during the day proved to be another advantage.

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Speaking of which, there are various basket/bag solutions available. I chose the Porcelain Rocket-made Monkey Wrench Cycles bag for this trip. It’s deceptively simple but works extremely well. It’s padded too, which helps it keep its shape and provides protection for my camera. At full capacity, the bag is simply cavernous. To those concerned that such indulgent space might encourage you into carrying too much gear, fear not. Overloading the front end definitely effects quick handling antics, which encouraged me to keep to a lean setup for day to day touring. However, having the ability to max the bag out temporarily with extra food and even water on occasions proved extremely useful, given the desert conditions and distance between resupply points. In such situations, the Tetris-like game of loading up a bikepacking rig can sometimes be trying, especially when it comes to carrying light but bulky food without resorting to a backpack. For long distance tours, I value a balance between practicality and minimalism.

  • Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion XL
  • Tumbleweed Prospector

Another new piece of gear that worked out especially well was Porcelain Rocket’s custom Mr Fusion XL. Given my height (6’1″) and the ample space between bag and tire (especially when I’m running 27.5+ tires), I asked Scott Felter to make me a really big seatbag, that would maximise the space I have between my seat and tire for long distance, overseas tours. He came back with an awesome piece of gear expands to fit a whole litter of puppies with room to spare, or compresses relatively small to squeeze in just a few kittens. As with his traditional Mr Fusion, it includes his stabilising system that keeps such a large bag from waggling side to side.

Talking of my ‘relatively light’ setup (and I use the term loosely), here’s a full list what I carried. It’s one that tides me through everything bar extremes of temperatures, whether it be a weekend away or a multi-month undertaking. Temperatures were of the T-shirt-weather-in-the-day variety, with chilly starts and a couple of extremely cold, frozen-solid-waterbottle nights. I also experienced a few bouts of heavy rain, given the deluge the West Coast has been experiencing this winter. For trips where I’m expecting regular precipitation, I’d add some rain paints and a heavier weight waterproof jacket. Altitudes over the month ranged from -300ft to 7500ft (-100m to 2300m).

Monkey Wrench Cycles Bag

(Simple yet secure, padded and capacious)

  • Cut down Thermarest seat mat (extra padding for the camera + nice for the campsite)
  • Ultralight ti grill (for heating tortillas on a fire, made by Tenkara master Dave at Dab Cycles)
  • North Face 32f (0c) sleeping bag (doubles up to provide padding for camera)
  • Nau down vest
  • Canon 5Dm3 plus 35mm Canon f2 lens
  • 50mm Canon f1.8 lens
  • Waterproof wallet (passport, money, card, fits iPhone 5 if needed)
  • Sea to Summit eVak 20l drybag (rolled up most of the time)
  • Room for corn chips, some fruit, extra food and even water as required.

Porcelain Rocket Orbiter Frame Bag

(Super tough, no zippers to destroy)

  • Clikstand Potset (Trangia, Evernew .9l pot, Clikstand) + lighter
  • Pole for Hyperlite Ultamid tarp
  • Food (Mainly quinoa, miso soup, cheese, salami, rice noodles, almond butter, coconut oil, porridge oats, vegetables. I try and eat relatively healthily on tour, so space for sustenance space is important).
  • Lighter + 12oz bottle of denatured alcohol
  • Stack of corn tortillas
  • Bag of electronic gizmos (Samsung 500GB T3 hard drive and cable, card reader and cable, 5000mA Anker battery and cable, iPhone 5 cable, Canon spare battery and charger, lens wipe, spare 128GB CF card, Macbook Air charger, double USB charger)

Custom Carsick Designs Lens Bag

(quick access to a second camera lens)

  • 70-200mm f4 Canon lens + ultralight Sea to Summit dry bag
  • Trash in side mesh pocket

Ojeva Negra Lunchbox Handlebar Bag

(attaches neatly between basket and handlebars)

  • Duece UL backpacking trowel, super light and tough. Leave no trace.
  • Fleece gloves
  • Steripen, not required but good to have. I sift out sediment with a buff, when required.
  • Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp
  • Washbag with toothbrush and toothpaste, suncream, various natural remedies to keep coughs at bay, tea tree oil, Dr Bronner soap.
  • Extra food; good spot for keeping avocados relatively bruise-free.
  • Buff

Bedrock Dakota Top Tube Bag

(wide enough to fit tonnes of goodies)

  • Blackburn Wayside multitool
  • Lezyne Macro Drive Duo and rear blinkie, given the short winter days, I packed a 400-lumen rechargeable light for late evening rides to camp.
  • Snowpeak ti spork
  • Opinel knife

Bedrock Honaker

(attached to downtube above 64oz Klean Kanteen Widemouth)

  • Spares, extra sealant, oil, tyre levers, tubeless repair kit, brake pads, cables etc…

Bedrock Tapeats

(for speedy, one-handed access)

  • iPhone for navigation.
  • Larabars and Cliff bars.

Custom Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion XL

(Huge, stable and waterproof)

  • Western Mountaineering vapour barrier (for cold nights)
  • Silk liner
  • Warm wool alpaca socks
  • Thin wool leggings for early mornings and sleeping.
  • Surly thin Merino layer for sleeping.
  • REI windproof fleece
  • Hyperlite Ultamid + Six Moon Designs Serenity Net for desert critter peace of mind + Gossamer Gear Groundsheet
  • 10 lightweight stakes, 6 heavier duty, 4 super minimal and ti. /li>
  • Macbook Air 11in, sometimes packed in basket for convenience around town.
  • Outdoor Research Helium 2 jacket
  • Turtle Fur fleece neck gaiter
  • 1l + 2l foldable bladders
  • 1 x spare inner tube taped to underside
  • Big Agnes Q-Core SLX air mattress attached to top side of seatbag when tight on space.

Extras

  • Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV pump attached to the frame, good for Plus tires.
  • Lezyne Macro GPS to record routes and save valuable iPhone battery.
  • Sinewave Revolution USB dynamo charger.
  • 2 x 700ml water bottles on the fork blades; total water capacity on my bike is 6l+.
  • Kleen Kanteen 64oz Widemouth under the downtube. A plastic bottle is lighter but the Kleen Kanteen lasts longer and is more rugged – I’ve had plastic bottles puncture in the past, potentially disastrous in the desert… I keep mine securely in place using a superlight but stout King Cage Many Things Cage and Revelate’s excellent Washboard Straps.
  • The clothes I ride in: Nau shorts, thrift store cotton T-shirt, riding mitts, cycling cap or helmet, thin wool socks, 5.10 Freerider flat pedal shoes
  • Plus my all important tunes, courtesy of the awesome Outdoor Tech Buckshot that sits on my handlebars.

Other Notes

I ran my trusty Rohloff and a Son 28 dynamo hub, built up with WTB Scraper rims, teamed with 29+ Ranger Tough tires. A superb wheelset! Given the muddy conditions in Los Padres National Fores – after such heavy rainfall along the West Coast – the Rohloff really came into its own.

  • Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Basketpacking Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Muddy Rohloff
  • Tumbleweed Prospector
  • Muddy chain

Anza Borrego and Tumbleweed Prospector

  • Andrew Stock

    Damn. This looks dreamy! Great pics!

  • http://kentfackenthall.com Kent Fackenthall

    Great read Cass! I always enjoy your well-thought out posts. Question – how did/do you attach your Wald basket to the Surly 8 Pack Rack?

  • Smithhammer

    Wald baskets are not the typical flimsy wire cages you find at a cheap sporting goods store. I have a Wald ‘pizza rack’ on my townie beater, and that thing is impressively solid – it’s just too big to run on a tour with my ECR.

    I’m curious, Cass – have you experimented with other ‘mini-porteur’ style racks with this setup? I have no doubt the Surly 8-pack is seriously stout (and I know it will fit perfectly on my ECR without having to monkey around), but it’s also pretty heavy. However, I’d go with it if there isn’t anything better and lighter.

    I’ve got an 8-day trip coming up next month that will largely be on dirt roads and two-tracks, and the ease of packing with this kind of setup is really tempting…

  • Harry Major

    Cass, Id love to see a photo of that TI Grill you mention in your kit list *nudge nudge* :)

  • Harry Major

    Also, I notice you using one of the new Lezyne computers, could you share any thoughts, or is this part of some future write up?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Writing up that review right now! And will post a pic of the super cool ti grill when I can (-:

  • Cass Gilbert

    The humble zip tie! Lots of them and the tough ones.

  • Cass Gilbert

    The Surly 8-pack is, as you say, on the heavy side. But I like really the wide platform – it makes for a very stable platform with the 139.

    Rivendell’s Mark’s Rack works really nicely with the Wald 137 for a more ‘lean’ basketpacking setup. I’m also trying out a 137 with a Swift Sugarloaf, which looks to be a great option too.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks! It was a great ride.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Man that seat pack is huge!!

  • Smithhammer

    Yeah, I’ve been eyeing the Sugarloaf for a while now. It’s a really sweet looking bag.

    VO also makes a simple Porteur Bag, which is not quite as wide as the 137, but I think would still work, and leave a little room for packing around it.

    I think I’m going to take the leap and get the 8-pack. Too useful not to have one on hand…

  • http://kentfackenthall.com Kent Fackenthall

    Thanks! And did you cut down that Wald rack? The ones I’m seeing online look twice as deep.

  • Jake Kruse

    at 6’6″, i would be majorly stoked on a XL mr fusion. is there much of a difference between your custom version and the standard besides size of the stuff sack?

  • Roman

    Hey Cass, great article. How did the Tough Rangers fare on your rides? Would you recommend them longer (international) trips?

  • Harry Major

    Awesome, looking forward to it. :) Where it is the review and also the picture.

  • Arbor Dahlin

    So sweet! How do you like that Lezyne pump? Trying to find a good frame pump, or possibly one each for my road bike and my hauling and mt. bikes.

  • Jon Schultz

    The R.E.Load basket bag is a good value. Larger than a swift sugarloaf, costs less, and multiple color options. Simple opening and no zipper to leak or break. I like using ball bungees to keep it secure and closed, and I just have two bungees attached front to back. Just stretch them around the edge of the basket when loading, and then over the top when riding. If you bag/basket gets really full, you can string two together for more length. I don’t bother with the bag buckles. Tip: put a small, sliding zip tie on the bungee to keep the ball from coming out. https://www.reloadbags.com/category-s/2047.htm https://www.flickr.com/photos/jon_baler/30979844813/
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/jon_baler/30947747264/

  • Kevin

    Any info / links to a spot that sells the Monkey Wrench bag? Can’t seem to find them for order anywhere on the MW Site or elsewhere online and they seem SO practical

    Great write up btw – gotta love the basket life!

  • Carl Gauger

    Feel free to just call the shop, Kevin, and we will get you set up! 402-477-4104

  • Scott Felter

    All the components are different, except for the rack and seatpost clamp. Stay tuned for these to become a standard offering in the coming months…

  • Tom

    Cass – have you managed to get the Lezyne to export .gpx files?

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    I’ve been running a basket after reading your reports o it over the last year, Cass. It’s been awesome. Thanks for the tip!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/97b5437171ffb4e77d6c69164e2770fd08d73e494b446973b1ccf9732a0a0e76.png

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    Oh, my front bag is pretty similar to the PR bag, but unpadded. A bagmaker that goes by Troutmoose (@bikeundbier on Instagram) put it together. Daisy chain on the back for rack attachment, and roll-top closure. It’s been similarly awesome. I, too, am using a thermarest sit pad and my sleeping bag up there to cradle a camera – funny that we’re on exactly the same page.

    The advantages for that system seem to really be outweighing any drawbacks. The handling is mostly fine, and the convenience is off the charts. Being able to toss in a baguette, YES!

  • Julian Bender

    Is that a different model of Wald Basket? I ask because I was looking into a Wald 139 for commuter-bike purposes, but it looks like it’s around twice as high/deep (vertically) as the one pictured here – the ones I’m finding for sale look more like this: http://image.rakuten.co.jp/hakkle/cabinet/basket/139-cmn-2.jpg

    I’d be interested in a shallower model if it exists, so I thought I’d inquire into yours. Thanks!

  • http://kentfackenthall.com Kent Fackenthall

    Julian, I was wondering same. I’m thinking he may have cut off the top ‘layer’ of the basket to allow for more handlebar/bag clearance. I’m just guessing. I think if you’re using the thing with a bag like the Monkey Wrench/PR one, you probably don’t need it to be as high on the sides.

  • Julian Bender

    Definitely a possibility – although that’d be a big enough alteration that I’d imagine he would mention it. I was thinking maybe he just got the model number mixed up.

  • http://kentfackenthall.com Kent Fackenthall

    Yeah. I thought that too. But I haven’t seen any other Walds that look the same.

    I have a 139 coming for my Pugsley and I’m not sure yet, but I think I might have to cut mine – at least on the handlebar side – to get clearances to work out. Won’t know till it gets here.

  • http://blog.alexwebb.com alexwebb4

    Definitely curious about this as well. My 139 is primarily for holding my monkey wrench bag, would love to know how well the trimmed down version works… if it is trimmed down.

  • Cale Wenthur

    Its cut down with an angle grinder, we did it in about 5 minutes at my house. drops nearly 350gm off the basket weight.

  • http://kentfackenthall.com Kent Fackenthall

    I will try to remember to snap some photos and/or do a write up when my mine arrives and post back up here.

  • Andrew Wade

    Take a look at Ruta Locura. He makes a small Ti grill that works great for small fires. I tie mine to the outside edge of my basket, works perfectly.

  • http://kentfackenthall.com Kent Fackenthall

    Thanks for clearing that up! The weight thing makes sense. I thought it might be an access clearance thing with bars/accessories/bags too.

  • Smithhammer

    If you are looking for a shallower (and smaller all-around) model than the #139, look at the #137:
    #139: 18″ x 13″ & 6″ deep.
    #137: 15″ x 10″ x 4-3/4″ deep

    Bags like the Swift Sugarloaf & Monkey Wrench are designed around the dimensions of the #137. The #137 is also about a 1/3lb lighter.

  • Harry Major

    Great, thank you!

  • Cass Gilbert

    As Cale has pointed out, it’s a cut down version of the original. Saves some heft, not that I’m really counting (-;

  • Cass Gilbert

    The trimmed down version works well. It’s possible that the MWB is just a little less secure when packed to the gills, but there’s really not much in it. The modified 139 acts as a great lipped ‘tray’ to keep things in place and provide lashing points.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Apologies for the confusion! Some images have it cut down, others don’t, as it was a modification made en route. I have a full ‘basketpacking’ roundup in the works and plan to delve more into details/weights/bags there.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great to hear and see!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, both via my laptop and bluetooth. Bluetooth is a little on the slow side but works fine. I have yet to import a file into the unit though.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, using a dremmel and a file to take of the burrs.

  • http://www.AllTogetherOutThere.com Jim Willis

    I’ve been using the Wald 139 for a while and love it! When you pair the basket with a (cheap!) Mountainsmith Cube bag and a net you can really store a lot of stuff there. I wrote about it a bit over here: http://www.alltogetheroutthere.com/bike-camping-on-co-canal/

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3a5f831e231936759c4901c46f0c70aebe84f038472afbbe7cbd9fb8519abd21.jpg

  • http://blog.alexwebb.com alexwebb4

    Interesting… I may have to try this. Thanks Cass!

  • http://www.brianmcgloin.com/ Brian McGloin

    I’ve been running a Wald basket on an 8_pack rack for some time now. On an L-bracket on the front of that rack, I have a blinding K-Lite portable sunburn … I mean headlight.

    I found the larger 139 is a bit cumbersome with my bike setup [Riser bars, cut to shoulder with for me (20-something years of this) and a lack of headset spacers place the brake levers oddly close to the corners of the basket] but it works very well commuting to class at two different campuses (through trails when possible) as it holds a Timbuk2 bag flat. In that T2 I have this 13″ Macbook Pro in a bomb-proof Chrome case, varying books and often a Nikon d750 + 24-70 f2.8.

    It also works very well to hold drybags of snoring system, tent, food.

    I also have a Wald 137, which is less cumbersome, still holds the DSLR, but doesn’t hold the bag/computer as neatly. It works, but it’s goofy.

    I’m thinking of returning to the short-lived time of swoopy handlebars, which may offset the wonky handling of the 139.

    I have an elastic cargo net held down with small caribiners [the brand escapes me] and in the front — I’m proud of this — S hooks from a hardware store, bent around the net on one end, and left open on the other. I have hooks on the sides and a few in the front. It makes a fast and stable way to bring Too Much Shit with me.

    I was thinking of trying out a Revelate Harness with drybags for my next adventure, but I found it can give me tire clearance problems. I thought I could use the 8-Pack to support the drybags, leaving some space in front of it for emergency water or a big bag of snacks or something (and keep the headlight out of the way).

    I wish the 8-Pack (and 24?) had more M5 barrel braze-ons so one could use metal straps and M5 bolts to quickly secure/remove the basket.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m a bit fan of Lezyne’s pumps, they’re really well made and you can get replacement seal kits. The mini floor pump version is great for large volume plus and fat tires especially.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve been very happy with them. Like all mountain bike tires (compared to dedicated touring tires) they wear relatively quickly. But the sidewalls are super tough, they roll well, and there’s no self steer at all. I’ll likely take a set on my next trip overseas. Oh, and the price is very reasonable too, for a plus tire.

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