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Multi-Sport Adventure: 8 Tips for Beginners

Bike/Pack/Raft/Climb: Steve “Doom” Fassbinder’s Recommendations for Aspiring Multi-Sport Adventurers

“You’re almost always making it up as you go”, says Steve Fassbinder of his multi-sport exploits. “Doom” embarks on long-distance, backcountry adventures that typically include two to four of the following sports: packrafting, thru hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking.

“I’m figuring it out as I go,” he says. Fassbinder started racing mountain bikes, but eventually, the constant riding took a toll on his knees. When he discovered packrafting he realized he could take his bike and do these routes that were never possible before.

“So I got a boat, planned a mega trip in the desert, and I was going down the rabbit hole,” he says. And so began his obsession with multi-dimensional trips. Fassbinder put ascending desert towers on the activity list, which also added ropes and gear to what he had to carry.

“It totally gets heavy,” he says of the sometimes 100-pound total package. “You would never want to carry a pack with that much weight. But, depending on how you do the trip, your bike carries a lot of it.” On his Brooks Range trip, he put about 20 lbs. of lightweight stuff in the pack—stuff that takes up a lot of room on the bike, but that isn’t heavy. “Your legs still have to work, and for some of the nasty hike-a-bikes you have to wear the weight,” he adds. But you learn fast how to avoid those.

Plus, he adds, the necessary gear has become increasingly better and lighter each year. Early adventurers took huge loads, made the gear they needed and often failed on their adventures for these reasons, Fassbinder explains. “I’ve made all my own rain gear now for well over a decade, along with frame bags and other bike-related soft goods,” Fassbinder says. “It took a special breed—the Roman Dials of the world could suffer through it. But now any motivated person can get into this type of adventuring.”

Still, he adds, there’s a lot you need to know. Here are some tips that might help you survive your first multi-sport adventure.

8 Tips To Help You Succeed on Your Big Adventure

  1. Be proficient: “If you’re doing multi-sport things it’s helpful to be super proficient in at least one of those activities that you’re doing. And that should be the bulk of your first trips. Make the other sports a smaller part. You need to be confident that you’re going to get the most out of your trip.”
  2. Get some experience in the other sports: “Be capable in all of them before you combine them together.”
  3. Be prepared: “You need to know how to repair your gear if and when it fails; you should have a lot of experience before you go into the backcountry. Your best bet is to have a solid set of backcountry skills.”
  4. Keep learning: “Again backcountry camping skills are a work in progress. I learn and make mental notes every time I go out.
  5. Know the terrain: “Read the terrain and be prepared to change your course to follow natural weaknesses in the landscapes. And find and follow game trails.”
  6. Use the terrain to your advantage. “Use natural shelter as much as possible, and set your shelter in an appropriate place for the conditions.”
  7. Navigation: “Study maps carefully before and during your mission. Packraft around them!”
  8. And finally… “Don’t go on a trip with me!”