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Lessons Learned on a First Dogpacking Overnighter

Dave Schlabowske recently took his dog cowboy on his first dogpacking overnighter in Northern Wisconsin. Using an Omnium Cargo V3 and a newly made dog sleeping bag, Dave shares some photos, a video, a route, and some lessons learned while out dogpacking.

Words by Dave Schlabowske from Life Above Eight.

As promised in the last Northwoods Ramble in which Greg Smith from Everyday Cycles and I reviewed my Omnium Cargo V3 and an E Mini-Max V3, I have a short video to share about Cowboy’s first dogpacking overnighter. The trip was short, a little over 20 miles riding each day and one night camping, but I wanted to make sure the trip was successful so Cowboy wants to do it again.

Cowboy used to ride in a plastic tub in the front of our Yuba Supermarche when we went to the dogpark in Milwaukee.

When we lived in Milwaukee, Cowboy used ride in cargo bikes all the time to get to the dog park, visit friends, etc. And he has gone bike camping with me, but we drove to a campground, set up and did day rides from camp. It was not really dogpacking. We have also gone on a lot of test rides in the Omnium with to try different dog baskets from home in Seeley, mostly on gravel, but some on CAMBA single track mountain bike trails. So I was pretty confident about putting it all together, but still thought a short overnighter would be best way to make sure.

The last camping trip Cowboy went on it was 27 degrees below zero, and he was not happy. And he kept sliding off his air mattress in the big 0° bag he was using.
For warmer camping, I recently made Cowboy a sleeping bag out of an old 40° Big Agnes bag I no longer use.

For this first dogpacking overnighter, I decided to park in an ATV lot north of Clam Lake, ride up to Beaver Lake Campground and explore a possible new route south on FR 388 from Mineral Lake Rd by the campground down to Namekagon Rd that parallels the Brunsweiler River. I had never turned down the old two-track on previous rides in the area because it looked overgrown, but a couple map layers showed the road crossing the river so I thought it was worth a look.

I also picked this route because if things didn’t go well, I could skip the northern sections and it would be a short ride back to the truck in the ATV parking lot. That turned out to be a good plan, because although this first dogpacking trip was successful, I cut the trip short anyway for a couple reasons I’ll explain below.

Lessons Learned While Out Dogpacking

The new sleeping bag I made for Cowboy out of an old 40° Big Agnes bag that I never use worked out well when combined with the 10mm yoga matt I cut up for inside his basket. He has a small inflatable air mattress, but the yoga matt is comfy enough and not slippery, so the sleeping bag doesn’t slide off it.

Cowboy seemed to feel secure and comfortable in the 28″ long wicker under-bed storage basket I secured to the deck of the Omnium with zip ties. Although he has room to lie down, Cowboy has not yet felt like doing so while riding. He has been lying down when I’ve left him in the basket on errands to the library in Cable.

I found Cowboy lying down in the basket after I came out of the Cable Library on a recent ride there from home to drop off a book.But he has yet to lie down in the basket while we are riding.

The most significant thing I learned this trip is that Cowboy doesn’t enjoy hanging around in camp surrounded by a cloud of gnats and mosquitoes. He was inhaling them and sneezing and shaking his head. Bugs don’t bother him when he is moving on walks or bike rides, but sitting still while I fish in camp is a different thing. He ended up spending a lot of time sitting in the tent while I could be out in camp thanks to Deet, Picaridan, and Permethrin.

I tried the dog-friendly natural bug spray, and perhaps they were not biting him, but he still didn’t like sitting in a cloud of bugs flying around him. I’ve since learned that some people put bug nets over their dogs’ heads and tuck them under the collar. I’m going to wait for the next dogpacking trip and if it is buggy again (likely!) I’ll see how he likes wearing a head net in camp. But I did buy him an inexpensive Insect Shield shirt to wear in camp. I thought it might help if we are plagued by biting black flies which can pace a bike while riding.

I wear long a long sleeve summer fishing hoodie, long summer-weight pants and sometimes light full-finger gloves when bikepacking in an area where the flies are bad. I also bring a head net along for me to use in camp if the gnats are bad. I’ll try both the shirt and bug net on Cowboy on the next overnighter and report back soon.

Because he was not digging the bugs, I decided to skip the ride and hikes in to Morgan Falls and Spring Brook Falls and just visit Pine Stump Corner and explore Fire Road 388. You can see in the video below that FR 388 was a challenge with the Omnium. I had to lift it over a lot of deadfall, push around swampy sections and eventually decided to come back and explore it on a fat bike to see if it does cross the Brunsweiler River and go through.

So while we ended up cutting the trip a little short, Cowboy seemed to have a good time. He has still wanted to come with me whenever I got out the Omnium for day rides since we got back. And I even have a new and improved basket set-up I am excited to share with you soon. Until then, I hope you enjoy this short video I made of our first dogpacking trip. Thanks to Cowboy for being such a great companion, Viva Vaquero El Perro!

Northwoods Ramble Show 12

After an injury that kept Seeley Dave off the bike for a few months, he is back rambling with a new co host and new direction for the show. In the intro to this episode, Dave is joined by his dog Cowboy. Later in the show Dave visits Greg Smith at Everyday Cycles in Milwaukee, where they look over Dave’s new Omnium Cargo V3, which is set up specifically for dogpacking. Greg also shows off a new Omnium E Mini-Max V3 and some cool Omnium accessories.

Thanks as always to my buddy from Butternut, Hugh Robert Masterson for allowing me to use the Northwoods song by ⁠Hugh Bob and the Hustle⁠. And thanks again to my brother Dean Schlabowske and my other Waco Brothers for the use of their songs Northwoods and DIYBYOB.




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