Gear for Bikepacking the Great Divide

I have been bikepacking for four years, and in that time I have fine-tuned my gear selection. Trial and error is the best teacher. What works for me will not necessarily work for you.

I am not sponsored by any companies. So far, these companies have been great about providing warranty repairs and replacements. I only mention the brand when I am particularly impressed by a product.

I recommend buying good gear and making it last. That is what I have done. I ride all of my bikes (and gear) into the ground. If the frame is not (yet) broken, I keep riding the bike, replacing parts when they need to be replaced. The same goes for gear.

I have good reasons for selecting each of these items. Please feel free to ask me about any of my choices.

Bicycle: Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29-er (Fox Float front shock with Lizard  Skins fork boot, no rear shock), Profile Design century aero bars, Ergon grips, Maxxis Ardent tires (tubeless), Shimano clipless pedals with platform, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, 2×10 gearing and a saddle you can spend all day in

Bags: Revelate saddle, frame & handlebar packs, top tube feed bag and Revelate Mountain Feedbag, REI dry sacks, extra straps (to keep bags in place)

  • Clothes go in the saddle bag. Tent and extra food go in the handlebar pack. Water, sleeping bag and air mattress go in (or on) the hydration backpack. Everything else (the heavy stuff!) goes in the frame pack.

Backpack: Osprey Synchro hydration pack with extra bladder

Clothes: Helmet and helmet cover, cycling cap, buff, 45Nrth balaclava, bib shorts and synthetic T-Shirt, sunglasses, cycling tights, base layer, rain pants, rain jacket, waterproof socks, compression socks, thick and thin socks, long-fingered cycling gloves, winter gloves, waterproof glove liners, booties, primaloft jacket, multi-sport clipless cycling shoes, sun sleeves/arm warmers

Electronics: AA and AAA lithium-ion batteries, USB charger (battery powered), rear blinking lights, NiteRider Maco handlebar and helmet lights (battery powered), Garmin 800 touring GPS (USB powered), Garmin eTrex 30 GPS (battery powered), mini MP3 player, camera, SPOT tracker

Personal: House key, passport, driver’s license, debit card, cash, health insurance card, sunscreen, lip balm, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Adventure Cycling maps, Aquamira water purification solution, travel soap, travel toothbrush & toothpaste, disposable razor, comb and hair bands, Sea to Summit DryLite antibacterial towel, ziplock baggies, field booklets (for journaling), a bear bell (fixed to the handlebar), knife, lighter, rope, baby wipes, a whistle

First Aid: Triple antibiotic ointment, Duoderm bandages, Eucerin and tea tree oil, bandages and bandaids, antiseptic towelettes, clothes pins, mole skin, tweezers, prescription z-pack (antibiotics), prescription allergy meds and allergy eye drops

Sleeping system: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 tent, Thermarest Fast & Light air mattress, primaloft 30 degree backpacking sleeping bag

Tools/Parts: Pump, patch kit, multi-tool (with chain breaker), quick link, tire levers, tire boot, CO2 inflator and cartridge, tube, spoke wrench, derailleur hanger, shoe cleat, duct tape, brake pads (two sets), chain lube, zip ties, cable, water nozzle, GPS mounts, Specialized crank tightening tool, wheel valve stem


Riding the Great Divide, starting Saturday

Staring Saturday, I am bicycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, from Silver City, New Mexico to (at least!) Whitefish, Montana. You can follow me here, at my SPOT tracker page. (I recorded this evening’s ride, just to make sure it is working. It is.)

I plan to be on the Divide 3-4 weeks (2,000+ miles!), camping, hosteling and writing as I go. I have another book in the works about riding the Great Divide. 🙂


The rig is just about ready!

I will try to post photographs, wherever there are libraries.

Happy riding,


Flagstaff Live covers my book in their podcast, “The Word”

Great Flagstaff Live interview about my book, “Pedaling Home: One Woman’s Race Across the Arizona Trail“. Thank you Gabriel Granillo for covering my book and my experience!

A Simple Path: Needs, Nonconformity and Non-Distraction

Image Source

As I embark on a more simple and less technological way of life, I have been thinking about a tangle of tangentially related concepts: ‘distraction’, ‘habit’, ‘nonconformity’ and — of all things! — Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. While I will not be able to tie them all together here and now, I hope to thread some ideas together. After all, I am after better patterns.

Contrary to what I have written, I do find some psychology interesting. If we leave the rungs of Maslow’s pyramid suitably vague and allow for some fluidity between the levels (so as to account for situational and cultural differences), it is hard to disagree! By incorporating self-transcendence into self-actualization, Maslow addressed some fair criticisms; in particular, that his story about human development is too narrowly focused on the evolution of the individual self, cutoff from her communities.

Variously developed and interpreted, Maslow’s basic idea is this: once we achieve shelter, clothing, sleep and nutrients; safety (including financial security, a measure of health and freedom from harm); social belonging and, finally, esteem or respect, then and only then can we finally achieve “self-actualization” and “self-transcendence” – the very marrow of life at the top of the pyramid. (There are obvious counterexamples, like the self-transcendence Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl experienced in Nazi concentration camps. Many cases of extreme deprivation provide counterexamples; so, perhaps, both basic fulfillment and extreme deprivation prompt self-transcendence?)

What is so interesting about this pyramid of needs (ordered from more fundamental to more refined) is how few people ever achieve the more foundational needs in their lifetime. Even in “developed” countries like the US, we bounce around in the two bottom levels, surviving instead of living.

I wonder why more of us are not focused on meeting our basic needs — those fundamental needs that are so essential to our well-being, both individually and as a society. Are we afraid of our own company, so much so that we pursue distraction? As Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées“When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town” (139).

I suppose I am a nonconformist; however, I am not a nonconformist just to be a nonconformist! I would gladly conform, if I were surrounded by flourishing people. And yet, it is so rare that I meet an authentically flourishing human being. (When is the last time you met one?)

My well constructed financial plan is now becoming unconscious financial habit; I spend very little, and I do not think about it. I do not view it is as deprivation. Rather, I am happy that I consume less and buy items used, saving them from a landfill. For me, it is a solid source of self-respect, not to mention respect for the Earth, including her nonhuman and human inhabitants.

It is unlikely that I will continue to blog about financial matters, as the entire point of (relative) financial independence is to forget about money and the business of consumption – and to ultimately free myself from a consumer or transactional mindset. Because only then can we focus on better things. 🙂

‘Till next time,




On the Eve of Financial Independence: How Losing my Job was a Blessing

Approximately two years ago my employer informed me that my tenure-track contract would not be renewed. Needless to say, I was shocked. I cried. A lot. I suspected foul play (though I will never know for sure; was it me or was it them?). I was genuinely heartbroken, as the small college felt like a second family to me. Per the advice of my colleagues, I talked to an employment attorney (who said he would gladly take my case pro bono). However, ultimately I decided, “their loss”. And I walked away. Because it really was their loss.

All the while, I ruminated on what I had learned about higher education. Through the appeals process, I learned more about institutional “governance” (or rather, lack thereof) than I ever would have learned had I won tenure. As a young junior faculty member, I got to see what happens “behind closed doors”, so to speak. (I have no interest in rehashing it; at this point, that knowledge will go to my grave.) I was afforded the opportunity to explore the nature of my former institutional home, eyes wide open. At the same time, I investigated the interior of myself, and I owned my own mistakes. I am still owning my mistakes, which are many.

At the time I had a mortgage, a car loan, a small student loan and a credit card or two that I needed to pay off. I did not have the other most common form of American debt: medical debt. (The average American dies $60,000+ in debt!) Though I needed the money, I was definitely not eager to apply for and accept another tenure-track job in philosophy, since I still remain skeptical that other institutions are any different or that the philosophy profession is female-friendly.

I do not believe that I should have to struggle against sexism.  After all, this is 2018. I grew up believing I could do whatever I set my mind to (and had that belief confirmed, time and time again), but then the reality of this weird cultural moment slapped me in the face. I signed my severance agreement the day after the 2016 election. Not worth the fight, I figured. America needs to do some soul searching, and so do I. I do not regret that decision. It was not worth my time or my energy, the twin currencies of my life.

In any case, I never really had the plan of achieving financial independence. Rather, I was extremely fortunate. I negotiated a good severance package, sold my house at a 33% profit (after four short years of owning a house that was ridiculously too big for me) and used the funds to pay off all debts. (Like the majority of Americans, I did not grow up rich. I have had to work for everything, including my education.) Instead of prioritizing academic publications (which make me little or no money), I self-published my own book about bikepacking the Arizona Trail. I practiced frugality like a madwoman, ridding myself of almost every monthly bill. My profits went toward a small condo, which I purchased for cash. Between savings, my 401k and my book royalties, I have arranged my finances so that I only need to work 2.5 minimum wage shifts a week to live securely and comfortably. I am pretty much retired, at age 33. Yes, my job loss was a very good thing, though it did not seem like it at the time. Lemonade out of lemons!

So, the next salaried job I take (if any!) will be on my terms. From hereon out, I contribute to society in ways that I define. 🙂 Because, fundamentally, financial freedom is not about money. It is about having control over your time and your energy, such that you do not have to pursue an institutional agenda you fundamentally disagree with. (Another influential book I highly recommend: Your Money or Your Life.)

I still have a lot of hope in our institutions; but I also believe they will not change until we demand it — and that requires being no longer bound to them through financial (or medical!) necessity. Why wait until you are 65 to achieve financial independence? Why spend an entire lifetime paying off your basic shelter? (This is crazy; and yet, we Americans have accepted it, thanks to successful advertising.)

Is achieving financial freedom easy? Of course not (especially given our consumer culture)! But it is worth more than a giant house or a nice car or all the cool vacations in the world. Because you own your own time. 😉 It is a beautiful thing.



Minimalism and The Good Life: How and Why I Keep it Simple

Diogenes Sitting in his Tub by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860); Image Source

In recent years “minimalism” has been on the rise, especially among millennials. The philosophy is not a new one. For example, influenced by Socrates, the ancient Greek Cynics practiced extreme minimalism, rejecting private property, money, status, power and the myriad social conventions predicated on these. Like modern minimalists, Cynics lived in regular society, in full public view. Like their forefather Socrates, they went without many possessions, but not without people. Despite its name, “Cynicism” was a friendly and social philosophy. The word “Cynic” actually derives from the Greek word for “dog-like” (κυνικός), which highlights the cynics’ dog-like way of life. In any case, from the very beginning of civilization people have been challenging the very values upon which civilization as we know it was built.

MINIMALISM AND MORALITY [It takes two to create inequality!]

Unfortunately, minimalism has come under fire for being a “privilege”; only the well-off have the “privilege” of choosing simplicity and simple living. To some extent, this is true. However, social and environmental justice are not achievable unless those with the means to live lavishly choose to live modestly and simply instead — until this becomes a social norm. The fact remains that we live in a country that constitutes less than 5 percent of earth’s human population and yet consumes 1/4-1/3 of earth’s resources!

But I did not intend to write a post about all the compelling moral reasons for practicing minimalism. I actually want to write about the wonderful practical reasons for practicing minimalism.


Minimalism is a lot of things. In general, it requires “decluttering” your life in a multitude of ways. So, for example, minimalist bloggers write about letting go of inauthentic or exhausting friendships, in addition to excess material possessions and big houses. They also strategize ways to remove “mental clutter” — by, for example, imbibing less media, meditating and leaving their crazy careers. Minimalists reduce demands on their time, cultivating the ability to not overcommit themselves. They are under-scheduled, not over-scheduled. They avoid the ‘busy trap’. They also tend to eschew debt in all its forms, since debt causes people to take on more than they need and to commit to more than they want.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS OF MINIMALISM? [Being present for one’s own life]

Basically, minimalists want to be present for their own lives. They tend to value reflection, creativity and meaningful connections and projects above all else — all of which require free time, rather than conventional status and stuff. Anything that does not directly contribute to these ends gets “minimized”, sometimes ruthlessly. (For example, many minimalists do without a vehicle, more than one outfit, a smart phone or even Internet at home!) However, the payoff is huge. The payoff is inner peacefulness, joy, real (rather than “fake”) friends and “true freedom” — i.e., the freedom to spend one’s time actively pursuing one’s own agenda rather than playing one’s part in the “American Dream”.


  • All of my worldly belongings fit in or on my vehicle.
  • I do not own a smart phone or a TV. (I watch films on my laptop.)
  • I read the news once or twice a week (long-form journalism, not soundbites).
  • I check out books from my public library. I donate many of the books I purchase.
  • I have one social media account at a time, and I sometimes deactivate it.
  • I live in a very small house, and I am moving into a studio condo/housing co-op in the city (in close proximity to everywhere I need to go).
  • I currently work part-time but save/invest more than I earn. (Check out this blog.)
  • I cook vegan fare, using basic spices and oils. I buy local produce or grow my own.
  • I plan to eventually use walking, bicycles and buses as my primary means of transportation.
  • I try to minimize drama; I have time and energy for healthy relationships.
  • I meditate and journal regularly.
  • I cut my own hair and make my own lotions. I buy used, especially clothing, cookware, appliances and furniture.
  • I have no credit cards and no debt, including a mortgage, car loan or student loan. (I do keep one credit card for emergencies.)
  • For long trips I have used Greyhound buses (and plan to do this more!).

How do you practice minimalism? Comment here or write me at!