My Sleep System for the Tour of the Highest Hundred

Update: The Ultimate Direction FK Bivy and FK Tarp are now available on the UD website!

Disclaimer right away: much of the gear I’m showing has been provided by me from the companies that produce them, and many of the links to their product pages to purchase the gear are affiliate links.

To my surprise, people seem curious in the gear I use that comprises my sleep system. I’ll be describing my current setup that I’ll be using for the Tour of the Highest Hundred, a two-month bikepacking and peak bagging adventure. Like everything, it’s a constantly evolving kit, that changes depending on weather, seasons, geographic location/environment, and conditions. There’s no One True Sleep System. My own sleep system is constrained by some pretty crazy requirements:

Season

I’ll be out from ~July 15th to ~September 15th, mostly in the Colorado high country and sleeping at an elevation from around 6,000′ above sea level to well, let’s say 12,000′ if I’m feeling frisky. I’m expecting temperatures at night from around 50 degrees F to well below freezing and foul weather including wind, rain, sleet, snow, grauple, and everything in between. Mostly though, I’ll be hoping for clear, calm nights, and the occasional monster thunderstorm. My sleep system has to protect me 100% from precipitation of all the forms listed. Even one night exposed to a freezing rain could be dangerous.

Environment

For the most part, I’ll be sleeping at trailheads of the Centennials, around 6,000′ – 10,000′, well below treeline in the subalpine forest. I’ll have ample opportunity to find enough flat ground to at least put my sleeping bag down. In rarer circumstances, I’ll be camping above treeline, around 12,000′, so I’ll need a system that doesn’t rely on using something like a tree to set up my shelter.

Vibe

For lack of a better term, my sleep system really just needs to keep me sheltered from any weather and to be warm enough – it’s not going to be a basecamp for weeks on end as I lay siege on a mountain, or a place to whoo a ladyfriend – or even to play an extended game of cards well into the night. I need it to be easy to set up and take down without a lot of fuss, and flexible enough to work in different environments. I don’t want to take a lot of time to find the perfect spot – I want to get there, set things up within minutes, throw some food in my mouth, and pass out underneath it.

The Fundamental Parts: Tarp/Bivy/Bag/Pad

My sleep system is comprised of these four parts that, when put together, can keep me relatively comfortable in all the extreme cases I can think of. What’s even better, is that each one is really optional, so I can make decisions on just what I want to set up, given my current circumstances.

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Dirty 30 2015 Report

dirty30web.jpg

After crossing the finish line, letting out a long slow exhale, a big smile  – and then a little cry to myself in the corner of the parking lot: my 2015 Dirty 30 was in the bag @ 5:50:33. Relief.

The days leading up to the race were a little less than ideal: I caught a cold! Right when the weather relented from the weeks of rain, rain, rain. I missed a few runs I wanted to do, and exchanged them for very easy sessions of spinning on the bike indoors, or doing nothing at all. Better to let the cold pass, than to potentially make things worse.  A bit too sheer of a drop off for tapering for my tastes, but it’s what I was given. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I have years of base building, I’ve been relatively injury free all year – save a small hamstring strain I’ve consciously worked to prevent in the future, and I’ve been PR’ing all over the place. Time to line up!

 

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Dirty 30 Recon – Pace

I was asked by UD to attend the Runners High Fun Run.

 

But. There’s… things about me you don’t understand. I Am A Loner Dottie, (A Rebel!), so getting me to do something in a group of people is tricky. UD do a lot for me – essentially they’re a huge fan of awesome things in the mountains, of which I tend to do a lot of, so going to this fun run is No Big Deal for me to accept. And the running community is accepting to weird people like me, since it’s just full of weird people already.

 

Along with the fun run, which was fun, since my sweetie ran with me, was the Elite Panel afterwards, which included Andrew Skurka.

 

He’s an interested character, with pretty firm opinions on technique and gear, but he also backs up his opinions with research and data. Love it. One of his articles, Pace charts for TNF 50. And how everyone starts too fast, seemed like a good one to put to the test, using my gps data from the recon run.

 

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Adventures in Sensory Deprivation – Anti Epic 160

4/5/13 – 4/6/13, 292 miles

I’m on mile #162 of – on paper at least, a 160 mile race. In other words, pretty near to the end of the ordeal. The clock is ticking off hour number 11 on riding these long forgotten gravel roads south of Denver – and when I say, “South“, I mean, a good 60 miles south. Better sounding then, “20 miles North of Colorado Springs“, I guess – because who knows really where Colorado Springs is, relative to anything, except Pikes Peak?

I’m staring down a small, one-lane slot that makes up the overpass below I-25. Bleary-eyed, a little sunburned. My crotch is something akin to being on fire, as my pair of bibs are very well over their guaranteed freshness date, having seen thousands upon thousands of ill-cared for miles in the (only) 9 months I’ve had them: the stitches in extremely important places are now only memories, stripped out like the fillings in my teeth from today’s ride, the only evidence of both being the holes left behind. My bottles are empty – I’ve been eating roadside snow for the better part of 3 hours. Stomach is full of nothing but rocks.

I’ve picked up quite a bit of speed, as the last few miles have been downhill – the last 75 miles before that have been achingly undulating – but the direction has been mostly up – 7,000 feet of, “up?” Much to my chagrin and complete blubbering of basic chart reading. At present, I’m going about 25 mph, racing directly towards this hole in the wall. On the other side, going a little faster, but a little farther off, is a giant, F-250 red pickup truck. We’re both approaching this slot, not wide enough for both of us – barely wide enough for the truck at a reasonable speed! – and one of us is going to have to give way.

Christ“, I think, “I’m playing a game of Chicken with a local in a 3-ton full-cab.“.

Surely, the truck will give way to the bike. A head-on in the center would render the cyclist (ME), dead and the truck – well, a quick sweep of the wipers and I’m just a little bump in the road. “Perhaps like last week” (I imagine the driver thinking out loud) “when that errant alpaca got loose on S. Spring Valley Road – and, well the speed limit is 50 mph and those undulations of the grade can be gradual – but they can also be pretty abrupt! biff. Unfortunate – and worthy of some ‘plainin’, but certainly the fault of the lesser object in the way.

I do my best impression of this sometimes stubborn, vicugna pacos, opening my eyes just a little more than seems normal and careening my neck to center in with the slot.

I do a cost/benefit analysis.

Squeezing my tiny little brakes weighed in grams with the force of forearms cross-trained at the bouldering crags, little nibblets of rear tire tear off and join in the surface texture, joined by the sound of the skitching tires. The truck continues hauling through. I give them a thumbs up as dust kicks up around me. “Good job!“, I yell.  The driver neglects to give a second glance.

Welcome to the end of the 2013 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. You have just earned 6th place. Now, go home.


Photo by Ben Welnak

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2013 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder Preflight


Photog by Ben @ mountainbikeradio.com

I signed up to do a 150 mile Gravel Grinder months ago (it seemed soooo important to sign up, early!), and it’s going down this Saturday. I’ll be riding my Surly Crosscheck as a Single Speed to the starting line of the race the night before, racing the race, and then riding home – which is excellent training for what I’ll be doing later this month.

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Mile High Urban CX Chaos EXTREME!!!

Denver finally hosted its own CX race, in my old neighborhood, even – I’ve lived on both 36th/Marion and 35/Brighton.

I got to the scene late – even though my race was at 1:20pm or something (1: I can’t count, and 2: I sleep in), and found myself sprinting to the start line still in my jeans, with pockets filled with loose change, my phone and my keys, as well as a fixed-geared bike.

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