Sitting here at my computer in late June, I’m sweating despite not exerting myself in any way beyond moving my fingers. I’m longing for some ice cubes to drop in my tea or for a slightly cool breeze to blow past me. But alas, thinking back to winter adventures a few months ago will have to suffice for now.

Living in Arizona, my winter riding typically involves plenty of dry trails, chunky singletrack and cool temperatures. So before racing Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Invitational this past March and then continuing on along the trail in tour mode, I had a few things to learn about bikepacking in legitimate winter conditions—snowy trails, frigid nights, windy days and camping. It was an intimidating order, but I, fortunately, was able to spend some time in Idaho in January to test systems out, gain some experience camping in the snow and gain enough confidence that riding across Alaska in winter didn’t seem too foolhardy.

With some help from more experienced winter adventure enthusiasts, I quickly learned quite a few effective and efficient winter systems, gained insight from some beginner mistakes, and discovered that it’s pretty dang easy to legitimately enjoy riding and camping for days in the cold. In this installment of Fully Loaded, I’ll share some of what I learned. For experienced winter cyclists, some of this may not be new, but for me being new to winter adventuring, these were some of the most important elements of what I learned.

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