First Solo Overnight with Devin Cowens

I’ve been wanting to do a solo bike overnight since 2018 when I started bikepacking but fear has kept me from that. This past May, I had the opportunity to bikepack through a remote area of Spain with 50 other women, leapfrogging each other over the 8 days and camping in various spots. During this trip, I spent a lot of time riding alone and felt safe. Shortly after, I decided I would attempt a solo trip on a route that I’d done many times with various friends and with Radical Adventure Riders ATL (RAR ATL).

The route is approximately 30 miles each way, and is an area just outside of Atlanta that has some great gravel sections that are fun to ride on for both new and experienced riders alike. The roads are quiet and the cars are a bit nicer because they are used to cyclists. I waited until later in the day to leave for the trip, as I was trying to avoid the heat, but I think that only saved me about 3 degrees! The route itself provided lots of scenery – one of the reasons I love this route – it’s so close to the city but you head out and are quickly in verdant oasis and on quiet gravel roads. 

Menu wise, I wanted something hearty but simple and that wouldn’t get extremely hot while I was riding in 90 degree weather. For dinner, I made maple baked beans and basmati rice with a maple vinaigrette side salad. The side salad included tomatoes from my garden, plus carrots, cucumber and a mix of lettuces. Because of the heat, I pre made most items to keep things easy. 

The day before, I whisked together the items below, minus the salt and pepper, in a mason jar. I added the salt and pepper at the end to taste as needed. I put the vinaigrette in my camp kitchen jar and let it sit in the fridge overnight. In addition, I put water in my frame shaped bladder and popped it in the freezer. I put the salad into a reusable sandwich bag. I pre cooked the rice and let it cool before adding it to my pack. For the beans, I sauteed some onions and put them in a reusable Ziplock that I packed in my frame bag. Before leaving the house, I stored the salad with the iced frame bag to keep the veggies cool while I rode.

Untapped Maple Vinaigrette
¼ cup – extra virgin olive oil 
2 packets – Untapped Maple Syrup Gel
2 tablespoons – apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons – lemon juice
½ teaspoon – Kosher salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon –  black pepper,  to taste

When I got to camp, I heated up the rice and then set it aside. I reheated the onions a bit, added the beans and one full packet of maple syrup to the pan. I poured the beans over the rice. Next, I plated the salad and mixed in some cranberries and almonds, shook up the dressing a bit then drizzled it all over the salad. The maple in the dressing combined with the maple of the beans was a nice flavor and not overly sweet. I love this meal because it’s hearty but didn’t feel over the top,especially with the high temperatures. I made all of this right before nightfall, and was rewarded with slightly cooler temperatures when it was time to get into my tent.  

The next morning, I was up with the sun at 6 am making my coffee, with an added kick of an UnTapped Maple Salted Cocoa Gel. My plans for breakfast were an experiment so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time. The trickiest part about making more complex camp recipes is controlling the stove fire levels so things don’t burn. 

Maple toasted apples with quinoa
½ of a small-medium apple 
½ cup – quinoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 packed UnTapped Maple Syrup
Small amount of extra virgin olive oil
Sliced almonds

The day before, I portioned out the quinoa and added the nutmeg and cinnamon and threw it all in a sandwich bag to keep it simple once I got to camp. First, I cooked the quinoa as directed, then set aside for five minutes. I added a bit of olive oil to the pan, then lightly heated the apples, adding the maple syrup packet after a couple of minutes to coat the apples. Depending on what pot you have, you may need to heat the apples a bit then just keep them covered with the fire off to let the heat soften them slowly. Keeping the fire low here keeps them from burning or from overcooking the maple syrup. I used my spork to check the apples, and turned the burner off when they felt soft. I added the quinoa to the pot and mixed everything together. From there, I added the almonds and cranberries. I love this meal because the quinoa mixes it up a bit from your traditional oatmeal but is still really filling for that morning ride boost. If you want to make the meal even heartier, you can add some peanut butter. This is my most delicious breakfast to date!

After I packed up, it was a smooth ride home with minimal traffic and I even managed to grab an iced coffee before getting back to the house.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience a solo overnight and continue to build my confidence as a bikepacker and a woman of color in the outdoors. For my next trip, I’m hoping to do a multi day solo overnight along a dedicated trail system with walk-in tent campsites, during the cooler months!

All Photos Courtesy of Dessa Lohrey