Road trip tips from the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew

Tricks on how to pack your car for a two-year (or shorter) MTB adventure

Gear How To
Our trusty Subaru Outback has taken us many places, allowed us to meet many great people, and ride some of the best trails in the country.

Our trusty Subaru Outback has taken us many places, allowed us to meet many great people, and ride some of the best trails in the country (click to enlarge).

Editor’s Note: Jordan Carr and co-author and photographer Leilani Bruntz are currently traveling the country spreading the gospel of mountain biking as the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew. Along the way they’ve learned a thing or two about packing a car. They’ve also gotten to explore some of the country’s best riding locales, which they’ve been sharing in a reoccurring Mtbr Trail Report series. Follow Carr and Bruntz’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to check out their riding write-ups on Salida, Colorado, Oakridge, Oregon, Phoenix, Arizona, Marquette, Michigan, Brown County, Indiana, Cable, Wisconsin, and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Sometimes your gear load looks overwhelming, but it’s always worth it to be prepared.

Sometimes your gear load looks overwhelming, but it’s always worth it to be prepared (click to enlarge).

As the two-person Subaru-IMBA Trail Care crew, my girlfriend Leilani and I have been traveling the country, working with local mountain bike organizations with the goal of improving local trail development. When not working with local land managers, bike clubs, and/or community officials, we have filled our time with as much adventure, sightseeing, and food as possible. In other words, we’re professionally homeless, living and working out of a Subaru Outback station wagon. That’s meant fitting all the necessary gear for riding, hiking, cooking, camping, and working into one brightly colored car.

To spend two years living out of a four-wheeled home, you have to do more than just stuff it with gear. Establishing a system that’s allowed us to spontaneously embark on rides in the middle of a 10-hour drive without fully unpacking the car has been imperative. Now, after more than a year on the road, we’ve learned a lot about being efficient road warriors. Here are eight tips and tricks to help you prepare for your next mountain bike excursion.

A quality rack system will help keep your bike safe and secure. We use a Yakima HoldUp 2 hitch rack. If you plan to spend a significant amount of time traveling with your mountain bikes exposed to the elements invest in some type of bike cover.

A quality rack system will help keep your bike safe and secure. We use a Yakima HoldUp 2 hitch rack. If you plan to spend a significant amount of time traveling with your mountain bikes exposed to the elements invest in some type of bike cover (click to enlarge).

1. Get a Rack

Keeping bikes and gear accessible is far easier if you have a good rack system. We’ve been using the Yakima HoldUp 2 hitch rack paired with a Yakima Skybox on the roof. This combo allows us to keep non-essentials up top, while our bikes are always accessible. No matter what you choose, having good rack system will make organization much easier.

It’s hard to beat pulling over and just enjoying the scenery. A well-organized adventure vehicle allows you to be ready for any great camp spot you may stumble upon.

It’s hard to beat pulling over and just enjoying the scenery. A well-organized adventure vehicle allows you to be ready for any great camp spot you may stumble upon (click to enlarge).

2. Pack Light

This might seem obvious, but as you visualize every possible scenario you may encounter it becomes challenging to keep gear to a minimum. But the longer we’ve been on the road, the more we’ve weeded out from our initial set up, figuring what we really need and what’s expendable. Keep this in mind as you start packing, and ask yourself will I really need this extra pair of jeans or a fourth T-shirt?

Being prepared for a variety of adventures can be challenging. Do you carry only lightweight camp gear so you can be ready for that last minute bikepack or backpack trip? Should we carry the heavier, more comfortable sleeping pads and bags for those cold nights car camping? These are all decisions that are factored in depending on where you are headed and what your adventure goals are.

Being prepared for a variety of adventures can be challenging. Do you carry only lightweight camp gear so you can be ready for that last minute bikepack or backpack trip? Should we carry the heavier, more comfortable sleeping pads and bags for those cold nights car camping? These are all decisions that are factored in depending on where you are headed and what your adventure goals are (click to enlarge).

3. Compartmentalize

When packing, think bins and bags. Having a specific place for all your gear is the key to tracking it down at the vital time when you need it. Organize things by uses. For us that’s meant having individual bags for riding gear, shoes, coffee, and kitchen items. This reduces frustration (and soak time) when it’s pouring rain and you are feverously searching for your raincoat and headlamp to get camp setup.

Choose clothing that works well on and off the bike.

Choose clothing that works well on and off the bike (click to enlarge).

4. Choose Multipurpose Gear

This may seem obvious, but in a time when many of us have numerous similar items with highly specific purposes, it’s easy to get attached to a favorite pair of riding shorts or rain jacket. That’s fine. But when heading out on the road, make sure those items can serve as your riding gear — and work for hiking, grocery shopping, and just hanging out at camp. One great item we’ve discovered are mason jars. We each have one that’s used for coffee, water, beer, and all our other drinks. They don’t retain flavor and are a great drinking vessel that’s far better than wasteful plastic cups.

Continue to page 2 for more road trip tips from the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew »

About the author: Jordan Carr

When not spreading his passion for singletrack as one half of the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew along with his girlfriend Leilani Bruntz, Jordan Carr can be found pedaling, hiking, skiing, or posted up at a local brew pub enjoying a beverage. Having spent more than half his life riding all types of bikes at almost every type of cycling event, Carr loves the freedom two wheeled travel has brought to his life. Having spent many years behind the stand at a bike shop, he’s tested mountain bike products for a number of publications. Follow Carr and Bruntz's adventures as they travel the country promoting trails and mountain biking on Facebook and Instagram.


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