Nov 6, 2017

Back in spring, we got a call from our friends at Hydro Flask with an opportunity to help them document a first-time adventure for the brand: bikepacking more than 365 miles across their home state of Oregon. To which we said, "Sounds great! But what the heck is bikepacking?!"

Turns out, bikepacking is the new glamping, but with absolutely none of the glamour. A mashup of bicyle touring and backpacking, "bikepacking delivers the miles of speed of cycling but with the views and serenity of backpacking." That's what their communications manager, Lucas Alberg, told us before the trip, anyway.  Always on-board for a new adventure, GoPro outfitted Alberg and a small crew of journalists and ambassadors to capture footage from their bikepacking adventure with a promise that they'd give us the REAL scoop on this new outdoor trend upon return.

We caught up with Alberg to see if the promise of bikepacking lived up to the reality of living on your bike and in a tent for a few days. Here's what he had to say:

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Photo: Nate Wyeth

GoPro: Why did Hydro Flask choose this trip?

Hydro Flask: The Oregon Outback route, which we rode, traverses the state of Oregon for over 365 miles from Klamath Falls in the south to The Dalles on the northern border. We chose this route for a number of reasons  for its scenery, serenity and proximity as three of the four of us lived in Oregon. An homage to our home state!

GP: What kind of bikes were you riding?

HF: Our friends at Diamondback hooked us up with two stellar gravel models: The Haanjo Carbon Trail and the Haanjo Carbon EXP. The Trail is a tried and true gravel ride and is perfect for the dirt and jeep roads we bombed down. The EXP, which features a similar frame as the Trail but with beefy 2.1” tires and drop shifters, was perfect for the slightly gnarlier terrain like the single track and river crossings. Both bikes worked exceptionally well for the Oregon Outback route. 

What was in your pack?

We carried everything in Ortleib frame packs, seat packs, handlebar packs and accessory packs. We encountered a lot of pretty dicey weather so having all these bags as waterproof was key. We buddied up in MSR Mutha Hubba NX tents and stayed nice and toasty in sub-freezing nights in the Big Agnes Skeeter SL20 bags. The route travels through a number of small towns with restaurants and gas stations so we usually ate dinner on the fly, but were stocked with Clif bars and HoneyStinger waffles for the in-between moments. We stayed hydrated with water from our Hydro Flasks mounted on the bikes and refilled along the route whenever we could. Of course, each of our bikes and helmets were outfitted with a GoPro to ensure we captured the moments throughout! 

What were some of the highlights along the way?

The route is filled with scenic highlights and those kind of sleepy small towns that just make you want to stop and take pictures of everything. Even with sub-optimal weather most of the route, we filled a lot of memory cards. On the food side, the Cowboy Dinner Tree, a legit restaurant outpost outside of the small town of Silver Lake, was a savior after a 65-mile day in torrential rain and near-freezing conditions. Your dinner options there consist of two items: a whole roasted chicken or a perfectly cooked 30oz steak. None of us came even close to finishing. 

On the camping front, our favorite spot was in the middle of nowhere tucked a quarter mile off the dirt road atop a knoll made of volcanic tuff. We just happened upon this place and It was like a sandy oasis on top with rough slopes around us forming a fortress-like area. It was also the first night of camping we had where we actually had a bit of time to recount stories, sip some whiskey around the campfire and enjoy the night. And yep, we also roasted our leftover Cowboy Dinner Tree steaks over the fire for dinner. 

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Photo: Nate Wyeth

How did you use your GoPro cameras on the trip?

We were armed to the teeth with GoPros. We each had a helmet mount and each bike had varying degrees of mounts depending on the rider – some over the racks, others from the handlebars or seat posts. These were all great for when we were moving and needed to get some prime action shorts. 

What was the best shot of the trip? Possible to choose just one?

One of our favorite shots was when we happened upon some errant cows hanging out in the middle of the road. We whipped around a corner on a downhill and all of the sudden we found ourselves racing these cows full steam down the road. It was like we were in the middle of a full-on cattle drive at max speed. Although the footage was shakey due to road gutters and ruts, it as one of the best captured memories of the trip regardless. We had a few views of this from the helmet cams and front rack cams.

What was the funniest moment of the trip? The hardest? Any surprises along the way?

This trip was a surprising one for us in that we expected to connect with the land and beautiful scenery around us, with each other, and reconnect with ourselves through the introspection that remote nature can provide. What we didn’t anticipate was that in one of the least populated areas in the lower 48, connection with the locals would be the strongest of all. We were offered beers multiple times, places to set up our tents and were invited with open arms into one tiny town’s annual BBQ fundraiser. We were head to toe in spandex and brightly colored rain jackets and stuck out like sore thumbs against Carharts and overalls, but every single person made us feel welcome and part of the family. After looking us up and down, they even gave us the “family rate” because we were dressed similarly, ha! 

On another day, we were stopped by a local rancher and his trusty shepherd mix while taking a break on the side of the road. After making sure we didn’t need anything, he looked over at his dog and then us, and joked: “She thinks you’re crazy. I think you’re just plain stupid.” Not more than a couple hours later we were sharing cheap domestic beer with him after stopping at the one house we saw in hopes of filling up our Hydro Flasks. Of course, it just happened to be his. 

What was the thing you were most excited to do when the trip was over: A) shower, B) eat delicious food, C) drink a beer, or D) sleep in a real bed?

To be completely honest, I think nearly all of us would have kept going if we didn’t have real life waiting for us. 

What’s next on the agenda for Hydro Flask?

Hydro Flask has a few really cool content initiatives coming down the pipeline. We just released one on a trio of our ambassadors, the Gudauskas Brothers (Dane, Patrick and Tanner), who are arguably the happiest people on the planet. These three guys look to share their positive vibes everywhere they go, and you can’t help but smile when you’re around them. Genuinely some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. We’ve also got a more local-Central Oregon focused piece coming out in another month that we’re excited about and then a spotlight on one of our Australian ambassadors that will be before the end of the year. All our content pieces can be seen at https://live.hydroflask.com/.