The Swift Industries Sightglass

To prepare you for your next bike-camping trip, we’ve teamed up with the folks at Therm-a-Rest and MSR to provide the tips and gear you need to explore by bike.


Be sure to sign up for our Seekers & Makers: PNW Bike Camping Sweepstakes to win gear for your next cycling adventure.


The Adventure Eco-System

Five things that connect Swift Industries, MSR and Therm-A-Rest 

1. Founded in Seattle, WA
2. Were started by folks who would way rather be outside
3. Are dedicated to making gear that enhances adventure
4. All actively diversify our urban economy: we all make products in Seattle
5.  You: Customers who invest in the great outdoors and exploring wilderness

Dialing in your Bike-camping Sleep System

There’s something about riding a bike that takes you back to simpler times. As a kid, a bicycle was the ultimate symbol of freedom. The entire world, or neighborhood, was within your reach. It provided transportation to your friend’s place, a high-speed vehicle for homemade ramps or just an escape from the indoors. It was a means to explore.


As you grow older, those same feelings and emotions remain everytime you mount a bike. I dare you not to smile while ripping down singletrack or carving down a riveting, albeit hairy, descent. Even just a ride to grab a quiet coffee or a few pints with friends can leave you grinning from ear to ear.


Years later, a bicycle is still a symbol of exploration.

But that exploration is limited to day objectives until you load up your pack and panniers with camping equipment. Bike-camping allows you to cover distances in a day that could take close to a week on foot, while reaching speeds and traversing landscapes guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Ready to sign up?

Before you do, it’s important to consider your gear. Not just your bike and apparel, but your camping gear and, perhaps most importantly, your sleep system.

Long Days on The Saddle Demand Better Rest

Cycling is a high-output activity. Even if you take a casual pace, you’re still burning loads of calories. Turning over the pedals of a bike loaded with camping gear takes its toll after hours in the saddle. When you arrive at camp, the recovery begins as you prepare for another possible day in the saddle. Obviously getting the right amount of sleep is a priority, but sometimes a good night’s rest is a question of quality, not of quantity.


Quality sleep means waking up feeling energized and ready to tackle the days objective. During the night, the goal of your sleep system is to allow to your body to rest and minimize energy output. If your sleep system is too cold, your body will kick into high-gear to keep itself warm by shivering and generating heat, burning calories that you’ll need for tomorrow’s ride. Having a sleep system that causes you to overheat can be equally detrimental, causing you to sweat and once again forcing your body to work when it should be resting.


Products like the Corus quilt or Space Cowboy sleeping bag use thermally-efficient fill to keep this from happening. The Nikwax Hydrophobic Down™ or eraLoft™ synthetic fill regulate heat and ensures you wake up adventure-ready. Therm-a-Rest is so confident in the performance of their bags and quilts that they offer a Sleep Better Guarantee, ensuring your equipment provides you with a better night at camp.

Getting Your Sleep System Off The Ground

The literal foundation of your sleep system is your sleeping pad. They have one singular purpose: to protect you from the cold, hard ground. This sounds pretty simple, but there’s a lot that goes into crafting a pad that gives you the protection you need with the packability and comfort you desire.


The first thing to consider is the type of pad you will be using. There are three different types of pads that all bike packers will want to consider before the rubber meets the road/gravel/dirt.


  1. Closed Cell Foam: Virtually indestructible and extremely affordable, you can kneel on these guys while changing a flat or take a seat while eating dinner. Unfortunately, they don’t pack down and only offer a little bit of cushion. Since they are so lightweight, pads like the Z Lite are easily lashed outside of a bike bag or pack.


  1. Self-Inflating: Compressible and reliable, self-inflating pads are a favorite amongst bikepackers for their ruggedness, packability and warmth. Some bikepackers even double  extra-small ProLites on top of a closed-cell mattress.


  1. Air: Air pads are not only the most compressible, but also some of the thickest and warmest pads available. Therm-a-Rest’s XLite weighs in at a mere 12 oz, while the XTherm provides an unrivaled 5.7 R. Value. They are a bit more expensive and can be punctured. (Pro Tip: Your tube patch kit can fix a puncture in your tube and your pad!)


After choosing the type of pad you want, you’ll want to factor in the pads R-Value and packed size before heading out on your adventure.

Layer On The Road and At Camp

Choosing the correct layers is so important when you’re on the road, trail or mountain. It’s equally important when you’re at camp. When it’s time to crawl onto your pad, you’ll want to make sure you’re layering helps you maximize rest.


Using wicking base layers and sheets will make sure that your body doesn’t chill from sweat during cold nights. You’ll also want to ensure you keep your extremities warm in colder weather with a hat and a dry pair of socks. If the forecast calls for serious cold, consider using a quilt or blanket with a sleeping bag.


Resting better won’t just have you sleeping soundly through the night, it will also provide you with more energy for tomorrow’s hills and descents while maximizing your fun-hogging.



Keith Erps

Therm-a-Rest copywriter Keith Erps was born in the south with dreams of the west. He spends most days drinking cheap coffee and complaining about wet rock.

Looking for more hands-on learning? Join Swift Industries for Intro To Bike-camping on April 14th, 2018. Register HERE.

To prepare you for your next bike-camping trip, we’ve teamed up with the folks at Therm-a-Rest and MSR to provide the tips and gear you need to explore by bike.

Be sure to sign up for our Seekers & Makers: PNW Bike Camping Sweepstakes to win gear for your next cycling adventure.


There are few ways of travelling that have brought us closer to our environments and connected us more with the communities we’ve had the privilege of travelling through than bike-camping. Adventuring by bicycle harnesses the self-sufficient nature of backpacking at a clip that covers a mesmerizing diversity in terrain and landscape. A bike tour doesn’t need to be an expedition from pole-to-pole to be immersive. The magic is accessing adventure-travel right from your doorstep.


We’ll guide you through the essentials of bike-camping, from selecting your adventure wagon to the art of route-finding in order to prime you for your next adventure.


Let’s jump right in.


Ride your ride

The pace and distance of your bike camping trip is wholeheartedly up to you. It’s a retreat, a time to relish the open road, and we all do that a little differently. The allure of bike-camping is that there’s no prescribed way to do it. We recommend you start with low mileage to get a sense for riding with a loaded bicycle. The most common set-up for bicycle touring is a rack attached to the bicycle to carry your Swift Panniers full of food, camping supplies and shelter, along with a Paloma handlebar bag and Zeitgeist Saddle Bag to organize your travel essentials. If you’re loaded up, 50 miles a day is a stellar distance and allows for a laid back pace for the day. Fifty miles sounds ridiculous and you’d rather tool around and smell the roses? Great! So long as you are living the dream, it’s all good. Always ride your ride.

Home Sweet Home

We love that when we pair down our belongings, we amplify the magical experiences that we overlook in the daily hustle. Take waking up as the light dances on your tent, or peacefully watching a glowing fire after a good day’s travel, as examples. Bike camping doesn’t have to mean you’ve signed up for sufferfest. Bring an inflatable pillow along, and grind fresh coffee beans fresh each morning. The minimalism of bike camping should enhance the simple pleasures that make life soul-satisfying.


Ribbon of Highway

The adventure starts way before you leave the house. We pour over paper maps and check them against satellite images to plan our route. Whether you’re riding country byways, stringing together forest service roads, or connecting single track from the northern to southern borders of the state of Oregon, pull out a good-old-fashioned paper atlas and get really curious. Switching Google maps to “bicycle” mode is a great start when you’re exploring online, but doesn’t always reveal the killer routes that make your heart soar. Zoom all the way in to find obscure paths, and remember that roads with “old” in the name usually run parallel to modern highways and string together towns with breathtaking scenery.


Swift Tip:

When en route, always pack a complete set of paper maps incase your batteries die. Here at Swift, we’ve converted our front wheels to generator hubs so that the power of our travel charges our electronics and lights as we cover territory.


Get in a fix

If you’re heading out of town you should know how to fix a flat and have the tools along to make the repair on the side of the road. You’ll feel tough and capable knowing that you’re self-sufficient and can maintain your bicycle on your own. As for other tools–bring only what you know how to use, and, unless you’re going into the deep wilds, a patch kit, extra tube, tire irons, a multi-tool, and some additional bolts will do the trick.


Swift Tip: Zip ties are a gift from the gods.


In our experience, bike touring has reminded us of the goodness of strangers and the peace and quiet that we long for in the hum of urban life. It’s a powerful reminder that the most inspiring things in life can be found on a bicycle under the power of your own strength. The cadence of the open road is captivating, and travelling by bicycle is a liberating catalyst to self-discovery and heightened sense of place.


Bike Camping’s Packing Principles

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Maximize space by filling the dead space in your panniers. Pack your fuel bottle, some food, and even a pair of socks into rigid gear like your cooking pot.

Mini is mighty.

Take pasta out of the box and put it into a ziplock and put seasoning in a container the size of a film canister. Take a 1L pot and cook in cycles instead of lugging three pots along.

Keep an even keel.

Make sure the weight in your panniers is even so that your bicycle is well balanced.


In wet weather, keep your clothes and bedding safe inside your bags until your tent is pitched. If you don’t let your gear get wet from the start, your adventure will be much more fun come hell or high water. You’ll thank us later.


Be sure to sign up for our Seekers & Makers: PNW Bike Camping Sweepstakes to win gear for your next cycling adventure.

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