24 March, 2009
Big 'Ol Backpack on a day I didn't need it
Allow me to introduce you to Ergon's BC3; a great way to carry a lot of shit. I mean, A LOT. I have a BD1 as well, and it suffices for most long days out in Pisgah when weather is questionable, and you actually want to carry enough to get your under prepared friends out of a tough spot. It held all of Eric’s required gear for The Most Horrible Thing Ever in 2008. Never resting on its laurels, Ergon took the same great harness system and put a 25L, waterproof from both sides, simple, clean and well thought out pack on it. I had 120oz of H20, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, first aid, map, a banana, all the bike stuff except the tube taped to my seat post, handful of gas station food (pop tarts and fudge stripes), arm and knee warmers, Endura shell, my blue NUE shower jacket, long sleeve wool baselayer, a fleece top, and eventually the Endura knickers I started the ride in. I’m by no means suggesting that cornucopic list of goods as a well though out “gear list” nor did the weather require any of that shit, but I wanted to fill the bag to capacity. In doing so, some thoughtful planning was required, put the sleeping stuff on the bottom, the bike stuff went in Ergon’s detachable gear organizer on the inside, and the clothes layered in on top. Some food could go in the outer compression compartment with the map or easy access by a friend, and I shoved a knife in the slim little pocket that is on the compression pocket. Didn’t really have an idea of what else would go in there…maybe a map that isn’t as big as the Pisgah map? It could certainly hold other stuff that people could get for you. One thing Ergon could to is make some suggestions as to what they expect you to put where, at least as a foundation on which to improve. I’m sure SOMEONE there had a plan in putting specifically shaped pockets everywhere.
I’m 5’10”, weigh 160 and have the roughly the same upper body I did in 8th grade gym class. All those facts led Jeff to fit me to a small chest harness and a medium waist belt. The pack fits great, maybe even better than my BD1. The shoulder straps are kind of small and fit so that it feels like they just grasp my shoulder and the straps disappear neatly and tightly under my arms. The result it that it doesn’t really feel like a “chest” system, and more of a “shoulder” system, and really made my upper body feel unencumbered moving around on the technical descents. I did today’s ride rigid, and I think this harness set up contributes a great deal to the pack not jostling around and feeling like you need to readjust it at every breathing point on the trail. I have the BD3 set up in the “short” of the two positions on the torso height adjustment. This put the waist band a little high, so I may go test it at the other position, but even as so, it felt like the weight was in two places during the ride; on my hips, or nowhere. The harness systems keeps the bag, even loaded down and stuffed like I had it, completely off your back. The only points of contact are the minimal strap points over your shoulder blades and along your hips. I had on a synthetic base shirt and a wool jersey (that was probably a bit much later in the day), but ended the day with a sweat free back. And because the thing feels so solid on your back, I never had that extra gravity weight added as the bag slopped around from side to side, or up and down during steep descents. It was literally not there for half the ride. From lots of experience with mountaineering and alpine packs, I’d have to say that the goofy shape holding plastic supports that surround the waist, and the equally odd looking ball joint connector of the shoulder harness are the novel design ideas that allow Ergon to keep this thing from resting flat against your back. They make it a little difficult to load in the back seat of your car or into an overhead compartment on a plane, but I think I can live with that. Without them you’re left with just another small alpine pack trying to serve the bike community. Ergon started over and designed something for bikers moving at high speeds, in different body positions, where the subtle shifting of OUR weight means cleaning a line or stacking it a pile of tombstone rocks, and the last thing I want to worry about is my summit pack-cum-biking pack sliding around or drowning me from behind.
I have a frame bag coming too, as I know I can’t put everything necessary on my back for an extended trip. But if you’d rather keep the bike light for hike-a-biking and lifting over blowdown, you could easily do multi day trips with this pack and the addition of a something like the Mountain Feed Bag up front for essentials, or a small saddle bag for bike stuff and dedicate the backpack to clothing and sleeping. Ulitmately this pack isn’t for everyone. I think Ergon suggests this bag for doing events like the Transrockies?? If the transrockies is anything like the BC Bike race (which it is, exactly, with less single track), this bag would be over kill. In the hot as hell and predictable weather of those seven days, my BD1 was almost overkill, allowing me to carry our TEAMS required gear, and Chip got off easy with a 80 oz camelback. Maybe the german translation of CTR is Das Trans Rockies and that’s what they meant.
There’s two schools of thought, and thus two types of people out there. Those that wear a backpack, and those that load everything on the bike. For me, as a single speeder (not for CTR but for most everything else) I’m in favor of keeping the bike light, easy to carry/push, and handling like I know it to handle. If the gear can fit as securely and comfortably as it does in the BD3, why ride any other way? No seriously is there? I’m still open to suggestions and finalizing the gear lists and bike setup over the spring, but think I have a pretty trusty traveling partner in the BD3.