“I’m in town and we’re camping at Lake Chabot tonight!” That was the last-minute message I received from a friend one afternoon last month.
At last, an impromptu adventure to the Oakland Hills, and the perfect chance to try out a new stock of bike-packing gear from the Blackburn Outpost line.
This equipment lets you add storage to a bike. You can then pack a tent, sleeping bag, small stove, food, and any other gear to hit the road or trail and camp out.
Setting up the Blackburn bags is easy — the Outpost Handlebar Roll ($74.99) is mounted on a quick-release “block” typical of other large handlebar bags. It keeps everything forward of your cables and brake levers.
The included water-resistant and durable stuff sack was large enough to hold my lightweight two-person tent, ground cloth, and a camp towel, with room to spare.
The Handlebar Roll gives 10 liters of capacity and weighs about 600 grams empty. Blackburn gives an 8-pound weight limit, which is more than most riders will want to haul up there.
The harness is big enough to hold larger bags than the one included and I used the extra space to hold my rolled sleeping pad.
The Outpost Seat Pack ($99.99) is one of the most stable large rear bags I’ve tested. It has about 10 liters of volume and weighs 500 grams before loaded. A mix of materials and cam-locking buckles make a secure setup easy.
A stuff sack on back contained my down quilt, down jacket, and a wool sweater with room still left. Other bags could be used in place but Blackburn’s included stuff sack is shaped to fit just right.
I’m used to adjusting straps during a ride as bumps shift things around. That wasn’t needed with this setup — everything stayed secure as I rode.
The ride from a BART station to the lake was a mix of road and off-road climbing. Once I’d made it to the park, I was challenged with a mile-long 12 percent dirt climb to our campsite in the dark.
Large bags loaded with gear can add to the challenge of technical climbing. Blackburn’s gear was stable while seated. While attacking super steeps it required zero stops to stabilize the load and minimal effort to counteract any swaying.
Blackburn’s focus on design of the Outpost line really shines when it’s time to take gear off the bike. Removing the stuff sacks is quick and much less awkward than unpacking gear directly from a bag attached to the bike.
The front red compression strap doubles as an over-the-shoulder strap for the stuff sacks, which have the nice touch of durable metal D-rings. The same convenience goes for packing gear in the morning — quick, easy, and perfect fit with minimal adjustments.
Blackburn’s complete line of Outpost gear is available now. I’ve been impressed with the line and can recommend it for weekend trips and far beyond.
Finally, if you’re looking for some bike-packing inspiration be sure to follow the soon to be announced 2015 Blackburn Rangers as they #getoutthere this summer.
–Randall Dietel is a contributing writer and on-off bike messenger based in San Francisco and Minneapolis.