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The Swift Campout
May 29th, 2018
Words by Mark Finster - Latigo Founder

We were about halfway through with our 3,000' climb on some unnamed forest road in Sequoia National Forest yesterday when things started getting interesting. The "road" itself had clearly not been maintained in years - the joy of dismounting our bikes and hauling them over felled trees dissipated pretty quickly. We were miles up this road, running low on food and water, getting deeper and deeper into a thick manzanita grove. What the hell were we doing? Bikepacking, of course.

Without this curious marriage between two worlds (camping + cycling), I'm not entirely certain that Latigo would even exist today. It all started exactly two years ago when we decided to stop making excuses and finally join some friends from Topanga Creek Outpost on a local overnight'er in the LA mountains. I didn't have any of the proper gear (frame bags, lightweight stuff, etc) - but still managed to rig the essentials to my frame and stuff a backpack. I was shocked at how easy it was to make it all work.

Above: from a slightly less painful experience in July 2017, full photo essay on Field Mag.

No more than 48 hours after my first DIY bikepacking experience, I was back at the Topanga shop plotting an impromptu 7 day tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles along PCH. Did I suddenly own a bunch of fancy weather-proof gear and other expensive bells and whistles? Nope. I rented a touring bike and borrowed most of the gear from friends, who were overjoyed at the possibility of having another companion to get lost with. The "spark" which eventually led to creating Latigo Coffee occurred around 6:30am during a steep climb out of Big Sur. I was listening to Ryan Adams ("Live at Carnegie Hall"). It was cold and misty.

In the two years since that decision was made, much has changed for me. My life is richer with new friends, experiences and skill sets (some of which I never knew I had). Latigo serves as a "creative outlet" that's allowed me to connect with some of my favorite people and brands, that I otherwise would have continued admiring from afar. I'm insanely grateful for all of it.

Above: it me, pic at China Camp SP in 2017 by @havebikewilltravel

So it's with two of these new friends that I found myself stuck on that dreaded mountain yesterday. Using every available ounce of energy in our bodies, we hauled the fully-loaded bikes up some of the steepest, loosest and meanest dirt I've ever known. At one point, I was a mere 8 feet away from the road we had been dreaming about reaching for hours - literally face down in the dirt, crawling and cramping and bleeding everywhere, laughing and crying at the same time. We were all in it together - and collectively made it through. At the top, we kissed the road and shared a hug - knowing deep down how bad it could have turned out. Grown men!

We become stronger through these experiences - more aware of our own capabilities. There's also an immediate kinship that forms between new friends on bike trips unlike any other scenario I've found. If you've been looking for a "way in" to bikepacking for a while but haven't quite found the right time, I highly encourage you to get on board with the Swift Campout next month.

Above: the Latigo Coffee bike-in summer movie series.

Cycling + coffee + adventure are very much the "core DNA" of this company, so partnering with Swift was a natural fit. Their annual Solstice Campout goes down on Saturday June 23rd, and is happening just about everywhere. Check out the handy-dandy map feature to find one nearest to your hometown. I'll personally be heading up to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho for a multi-day excursion with some other rad sponsors (which I'm over the moon about) - but you certainly don't have to travel far & wide to get involved.

Many of the local hosts are independent bike shops that I'm sure would be pumped on getting you hooked up with the right gear. The "single night" bikepacking trip is really the perfect intro as I discovered just a few years back. You really, truly, seriously don't need much to get started. Just a bike and some camping essentials - and who knows, maybe it could change your life in a very serious way like it changed mine.

Above: from a recent coffee-reconnaissance mission to Oak Flat Tower

 With any luck, your unique Swift route won't include running out of food and water in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. But I do hope that some things go wrong, and you're forced to problem solve with new people. That's how new bonds are formed - in the moment when faced with a problem - that will make your life the adventure that it should be.

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