Bikepacking to Chapman Reservoir

A Gravel Bikepacking adventure just down the road from Steamboat Springs

Route Write-up: Kirsten Alder

In recent weeks I’ve watched Tour Divide riders cruising by and it has really made me want to hop on my bike and follow them. But… reality check. My life’s responsibilities require me save that for a future day.

The good news though is that you don’t need quit your job or abandon your daily routine to bikepack. On a free evening recently I packed up my gear, convinced Hannah from Bingham Built to join me, and headed up the road after work for a quick overnight adventure starting in Oak Creek, CO.

4 tips to make your first trip fun

Slow down and enjoy the ride. Look up. Take in the scenery. Breathe the fresh air.

Don’t panic if (when) things wrong. Bags will fall off. You may forget your pillow or tent poles. Your creativity to carry on will prevail and you are outside on your bike having an adventure. 

Eat a lot. You will need the energy.

Consider hiring support or doing a hut trip to ease some of the pressure (and make your bike lighter!)

Planning The Route

The key to a successful (and more relaxed) overnighter is to keep it short and simple. Pick a familiar road or trail to a campground, lake, or park. We decided that Chapman Reservoir would be our our destination. The ride would be about an hour and a half and the area has both a campground and remote camping options. For safety, I loaded the route into my phone via Ride With GPS and also into my Wahoo bike computer. I also carry a paper map as a backup.

Gear Prep

First I tackled outfitting the bike with bags; seat, frame, front roll, front roll pocket, feed, top tube, and fork. Next I packed all the key items; tent, pad, pillow, sleeping bag, stove/fuel, map, headlamp, clothes, food, water/filter, tool kit, GPS tracker, battery, bike computer, toiletries, and first aid kit. It’s always a game of tetris because every trip is different. Terrain, water accessibility, trail or road, and weather will determine what you pack and where. Water is fairly plentiful on the Chapman route, but not on a ride such as White Rim in Utah where I have packed up to 8 liters at a time.

En route

Finally my bike is packed and we are ready to hit the road. We set out in the evening at a nice, easy pace enjoying the beautiful scenery. We had a little extra time so we made a couple detours to make things exciting. We explored some singletrack in an aspen forest (which became overgrown pretty quickly) and a side road with an old abandoned gas well. There were lots of picture stops. Eventually, we arrived at the reservoir and decided on an open spot at the campground.

Camp set up and dinner

We set up our tents and sleeping gear, donned some DEET to deter some pesky mosquitoes, and it was time for dinner. I like instant potatoes or ramen. And there are plenty of things you can take along to dress up your meal, like dehydrated veggies or powdered cheese… yes, it’s a thing! (and surprisingly good.) Also, there are lots of premade dehydrated meal options at your local outdoor store. *Side note for other meals: Tortillas are the best for lunch because they don’t squish like bread. Think PBJ or with a tuna packet with that. And a bagel with peanut butter or instant oatmeal makes a great breakfast. Don’t forget instant coffee!

Want to learn more about the Chapman route or need help with your next overnight ride?
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What to expect in the wild: Storing your stuff at night

Expect WILDLIFE! Here in Colorado we have birds, marmots, snakes, deer, moose, and bears. Plan your food storage accordingly. Bear canisters and Ursack bags to store food, trash, and toiletries are a must. 

Pleasant dreams and the next day

After dinner there was some stargazing and chatting and then it was early to bed. It was a beautifully quiet night with no rain or wind. In the morning the sun burst through the trees as a wake up call and it was time for coffee and breakfast. We packed up camp, headed out to ride in the crisp morning air, and made it home in time for work.