When you encounter a storm of cottonwood fluff, it can feel like you’re in the middle of an exploding down-pillow fight. Cottonwoods, native to the west, need full sunlight to grow. They release their seeds—that’s what the fluff is—earlier than most trees, beating their competition to the best spots, and making sure they don’t just land in the shade of the parent tree.
Unlike classic bike touring, bikepacking is all about off-road riding, which means packing “light and tight” to make sure you, your bike and your gear make it over chunky roads and down thrilling descents, says Donnie Kolb, a Portland attorney and experienced bikepacker. Kolb is also the founder of Velodirt, which chronicles off-road cycling adventures online and organizes group rides.
The best setup? “We all use different bikes and gear, and we all think what we use is the best,” he says. There’s only one way to discover your own preferred way to roll—by getting out there—but here are the basics for doing a bikepacking trip this weekend.