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Living Off the Slab Blog
One Bag Camping and a Comfortable Sleeping Solution
7/30/2021

Over the years I have tried many different methods to pack my bikes. It is actually interesting to look back at all the videos I have done about packing and see just how I have evolved. I now take less and pack a lot lighter than I did on my original cross-country trip in 2011.

Below is a link to my "Packing Playlist." As I mentioned it is interesting to see how I evolved in terms of packing but also, video style and beard length...

Check Out the Packing Playlist

This change is most evident in the way that I pack for camping trips. When I first returned to camping (after a 10-year absence) on the run up to my Alaska trip, I started by putting all my camping equipment in the panniers or in separate bags strapped to the top of the bike. While this was great for weight distribution, it created a situation where I had to get in and out of every bag to set up camp. This was a pain in butt, and I knew right away I had to make a change.

DrySpec Bag Setup

For the Alaska trip, I decided to put all my camping equipment in dry bags that included a 38-litter bag strapped to my rear rack and separate 28 litter bags secured to the top of both the left and right panniers. This solution made a big difference when I pulled into camp. I know did not need to get in and out of the panniers, I simply pulled the dry bags off the bike and started setting up.

Even though this solution was a big improvement over my original solution, I still had to deal with three dry bags, so after returning home I decided to try a single bag solution.

I went out and purchased an SW Motech Drybag 600. This is a 60-liter waterproof roll top bag. I now easily fit most of my camping gear in this single bag. This effectively creates a camping “go bag,” that I quickly pull off the bike so I can start setting up my tent and sleeping equipment.

SW Motech Drybag 600

The equipment I carry in this large bag includes, my tent, tent footprint, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp chair, pillow, and hatchet (I use that to pound in steaks). All the items in this kit weight in collectively at around 20 pounds, which is pretty light for strapping high on my bike.

Not only does this single large bag make is easy to set up camp, but it also serves as a place where I can store bulky items like my riding jacket and pants outside of the tent. This makes sleeping and moving around inside the tent much easier. When I am done setting up, and have changed into my clothes for the evening, I put my riding equipment into the dry-bag and then place it under one of the vestibules of the tent. All the separate bags for my tent and sleeping equipment also go into the 60-liter bag for safe keeping.

Exped Mega Mat 10

In addition, because I use such as spacious bag, I can carry larger, more comfortable options for sleeping while in camp. During the Alaska trip I had a horrible time sleeping. I tried a cot and sleeping pad, but just was not able to get comfortable, my shoulders hurt, and my hands went numb every night that we camped.

To remedy this situation, I decided to try a wider (non-mummy) sleeping bag. The one I chose is the Front Country Bed from Sierra Designs. This bag is square, wide and zipper less. Rather than zippered sides, it uses a tongue-like quilt that can be wrapped around you to keep warm. This design allows me to easily move from side to side during the night. I am a side sleeper.

The draw back to the Front Country be is its size and its cold weather rating. This bag weighs in about 5 pounds and I use a compression sack to reduce the packs size as much as possible. We now have two of these bags, one for me and one for my wife. My original Front Country is rated at 40 degrees, and I use a quilt inside the big if I need to be warmer. The newer version is now rated at 20 degrees. Since most of my camping is done in the summer months, I use the 40-degree bag more often.

Front Country Bed

Along with this larger bag, I have also tried various sleeping pads. Recently, I purchased an Exped Mega Mat for my wife, and in trying it out, found it to be extremely comfortable. It is a very large mat, but when inflated properly, it is almost as supportive as my mattress at home.

Combining the Front Country Bed and the Mega Mat, I have been able to get some of the best nights rest I have ever had while on a camping trip. Say what you will about roughing it and trying to save space and weight; for me the trade-off is well worth it. And being that I have such a large bag to work with, I can easily accommodate the larger size without making the bike heavy or cumbersome. This combination is now my go to solution for camping trips.

Dry Bags:
Please note that by purchasing from the links below, we will make a small commission on the sale. These funds go toward maintaining this website and keeping the content coming.

Sleeping Bag and Pad:

Ride safe my friends!
--Craig Ripley

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