By Ross Seyfried
It began as a simple fishing trip into a relatively remote stream. Only a few necessary things went into the pack: a light mountain tent, an MSR stove to heat water for the freeze-dried food, a fishing pole, a sleeping bag, a candle lantern and then the skillet; one does not boil a wild mountain trout! Of course, one could only crawl into the two-person tent. It was an OK trip, sort of roughing it. But even with the lack of luxury, the pack was a weary thing after 15 miles; it weighed 50 pounds!
Sometimes there is a better way. Another time there was the nice ice chest with ice and even cold drinks, a big cast-iron skillet and the roomy, stand-up three-season tent that was mostly mesh and felt like a luxury hotel. The mesh let in the cool breeze, kept the mosquitoes at bay and gave a fine view of the stars at night. The large sleeping bag went on the thick foam pad. Lots of fresh water came in handy, while the big kerosene-fueled lantern made fine light for dining. A real luxury is a strange device, a special “tea kettle” from Ireland that boils two quarts of water when fueled by a mere handful of small twigs. It is oh so handy at teatime! An axe was no longer an unreasonable weight to carry and was priceless for getting dead fall out of the trail, cutting light poles to enhance the camp and making firewood. The camp stove cooked the steaks and ribs, until the brook trout were in hand. Even the bag of cornmeal for coating the pink trout was not a burden. This time the pack load was well over 100 pounds, but it was easy and luxurious because the backpack said “Honda” on the side. Yes, the friendly all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is a marvelous way to “pack in” to semi-remote country.
Like the packhorse, the ATV needs some form of saddlebag to help carry the load. Gear-carrying accessories come in a plethora of styles and shapes, something that will be the subject of another installation. However, my personal favorite, because of their extreme versatility, are the metal baskets, made by Moose. I use them for everything, from 50-pound blocks of salt to quarters of deer or elk. My dog thinks the back one is his personal seat, and when camping, the combination of the front and rear baskets can haul a tremendous amount of gear without a hassle.
Once again, like packing a horse, one needs to secure the load on the ATV. Lengths of quarter-inch rope or parachute cord work fine. However, I absolutely prefer bungee cords. They come in a variety of lengths and diameters and are fitted with hooks on either end that fit perfectly around the basket frame or hook into the wire mesh itself. Their stretchy, adjustable nature makes them a one-size-fits-all proposition. Mine are a permanent part of the machine, kept hooked under light tension on the outside of the baskets, ready and waiting for any task. Two bungees make a special “lash rope” for the front basket. Essentially two cords form an “X”, either by being tied together with a square knot in their centers or by being passed through a ring. Either way, they form a crisscross lash that holds anything and everything securely and easily in the front carrier.
The actual pack begins by organizing the material into two balanced sections. Obviously the greatest bulk goes on the back, while the weight should be approximately equal on the front and rear of the machine. Heavy and hard things go on the bottom, forming the foundation, while light, bulky things like tents and sleeping bags can be piled on top. One should always be aware of the center of gravity, keeping the weight as close as possible to the machine’s center for stability. Also, when the ATV is packed one should always consider safety. Any form of transport, fully loaded, will behave differently than it will when empty. Think and ride carefully.
While the ATV cannot and should not go everywhere, it is the perfect way to carry a camp into semi-remote areas. Even minimal roads or wide trails allow our four-wheeled friends to bring home with us. Of course it is always important to be considerate. There are simply some quiet and wild places where internal-combustion engines should not go. There are times when you should put on your backpack and walk. When you do ride into wonderful, natural places always think of the image and future of ATV access. Ride as quietly and gently as possible. Humans, in every form, should always strive to be invisible in the wild world.