We asked some of our most trusted bike-camping allies what they’re riding, what they’re bringing with them, and how they’re packing it. This is the second installment of “What’s In Your Kit?” featuring Karla Robles!
Karla Robles is one-half of the duo making up the Bikepacking Mexico team, along with her partner Daniel Díaz. We’ve been super impressed with their ambitious bike travel itinerary over the last year, including parts of Mexico we’ve never thought to ride in. You can expect lots more amazing adventure coverage from Karla and Daniel as their project continues to gain momentum. We checked in with Karla for her perspective and preferences when it comes to packing for a long distance bike-camping trip!
Which bike are you riding & why? I ride a Surly ECR, size small. My first off-road bike was a medium Surly Krampus that I was able to buy at a good price in México. It’s hard to get this kind of bike here. It was too big for me, but then the staff at Surly offered me to be one of their Humanoids and gave me a frame that fit me, which changed completely the handling and performance of my ride.
What’s your preferred bag setup? Racks? No racks? I prefer racks for two reasons. First, because I feel that the bags are more stable and protected, especially on the roads I usually take, which have a lot of rocks and rattling; this can damage my gear and my bike from constantly bouncing around. And second, my height doesn’t leave much room between my seat and my tire, which prevents me from using a seat bag.
What’s your cockpit look like & what do you keep up there? On my last trip I used a Kona Handplant handlebar with a Fabio’s Chest, where I keep my sleeping bag and liner, an inflatable sleeping pad, rain jacket, and solar lamp in the big pocket. In the right pocket I keep my winter gloves, headlamp, and a Ziploc with my electronics. In the left pocket I have my cup, coffee and sometimes limes. I also have a top-tube bag where I keep my phone, charger, extra battery, and my glasses.
What’s your packing strategy for weight distribution & ease of access? I try to keep the bulky and not-so-heavy stuff up front along with what I need to have easy access to, like a rain jacket for those sunny days with unexpected rain. I also try to organize my stuff in the order I’ll be using it at night, although, being honest, Daniel is much more organized than I am, which has been a topic of jokes between us during our trips!
How about on-route nutrition? Are you a camp gourmet, or a Keep-It-Simple-Stupid type? Got any secret tips for us? I’ve tried to keep a healthy diet with the (sometimes limited) resources that we have and the lack of access to healthy food in the towns and small communities we ride through. The last invention we came up with was to empty canned veggies into a Ziploc, which helps you to get rid of the water weight and dispose of the can. At the end of the day we pour several bags of veggies into our cups, add avocado, lime and salt, and mix it with salted cookies or corn tostadas. We’ve also done bonfire chilaquiles by mixing a pack of corn tortillas, tomato salsa, onion, cilantro, and hard cheese (which stays good for 2-3 days). This is probably the most elaborate meal we’ve ever done. We often make bean burritos with avocado. Our friends Laura and Alex taught us the “Frito Pie”, a bag of Fritos opened on its side, and then you add beans, cucumber, onion, tomato, avocado, and cheese. It’s a delicious meal, and easy to prepare and carry on the bike!
What’s the one absolutely essential piece of gear in your bike-camping kit, & why? I think my inflatable sleeping pad has been a great resource for resting after an intense day on the bike, and it’s an element that I’d definitely bring on all my bike trips.
What’s one surprising or unexpected luxury item that you like to bring on overnighters? Last year a friend gave me a solar lamp for my birthday that I charge with the sun during the day and then hang inside the tent at night. It’s something that I don’t really need but I like how my tent looks with its light. I like that the lighting is warm and that it charges via a natural resource, the sun!
What is your favorite Swift piece & why? Well, I’ve been using the Fabio’s Chest for a year and I definitely think it’s the best bag I’ve tried for long-distance bike travel. The quality, the capacity, and the design are incredible. It’s practical and saves you time when bringing out, or putting your stuff in, and it’s great for organization of your gear. I’ve also been using the Elwha Pack constantly for 2 years and it’s amazing how much stuff I can get inside it. I’ve seen other Swift products on store shelves and they all keep those same elements that are essential to me for bike-camping trips.