Bikepacking: All The Basics To Get You Started
You love camping and you love riding a bike. Why not combine the two disciplines and go bikepacking instead?
It is becoming a great way to travel as you have your transportation and accommodations all sorted out in one compact spot.
You don’t have to worry about hotels or trains or even hitchhiking. Just load your bicycle up and hit the road. Explore some places that wouldn’t have been accessible if you were just camping and likewise if you were just out backpacking.
It’s a very economical way to see the world.
Read on to learn about the basics and what you need to get started on your next bikepacking adventure.
You don’t need to run out and buy a new bike just for bikepacking if you already have one. Though some are better than others, the bicycle you have should do just fine. Especially if it is a mountain bike since you may be going off road at some point.
If you don’t already have a bike, then look for one with good tires to handle gravel or dirt roads. Panniers are not required, but are good to have since you can use that space.
A good saddle is very important since you will be spending day after day on it. Look for one that is padded to give you some extra comfort. Everything should be built for comfort in fact. The grips should be easy on your hands and not cause any cramps. The handlebars should have some extra sweep to them.
Storing Your Gear
The less stuff you carry on your back the better. Your backpack should have a few of the essentials and your bicycle should be like your mule doing the heavy lifting.
If you have panniers then some saddle bags will hold the bulk of your camping gear. A frame bag that fits inside the frame can carry other things like your tools and flatter stuff. Then a top tube bag and handlebar roll can fit some extras like bike gear and personal effects.
Buying the Camping Gear
Traveling light is very important obviously. But, one of you will be taking one for the team and carrying the tent that several of you will be staying in. The best 4 person camping tent for the money for bikepacking is one that takes up as little space as possible.
Your backpack should be small and ideally a hydration pack with at least two gallons of water to drink as you ride. You should also have things like some rain gear and a dry bag with an extra set of riding clothes.
A small camping stove is also essential as you will likely be cooking many meals as you ride. Especially if you are mountain biking in remote areas. Small aluminum pans and collapsible pots are great to have.
A multitool for camping will come in very handy both for when you are setting up camp and when dealing with your bike.
Going camping with your bike does add a level of complication to your camping trip, however. In addition to worrying about your camping gear, you also have to contend with doing repairs to your bike.
Make sure you have spare sets of tubes, tires and chains along with the tools you need to change these parts when, not if, they get broken.
A first aid kit is also very important. You should have one when camping anyway, but adding the dangers of riding a bike both in the city and on trails makes it even more necessary.
Research Your Route
Your route can make or break your trip. It is tempting to take the most challenging route or the most scenic, but that might not be your best option. You’ll need to reprovision at some point and you don’t want to be out of food and far from an area to restock.
Make sure you have an idea of how many miles you’ll cover per day and which route will be easiest to get what you need when you need it.
Be spontaneous if that is your style. You don’t need every minute of the trip planned. But make sure you don’t go too far off the beaten path.
Your ability also comes into play. A bike trip through the Dolomites in Italy may sound incredible. And it is. But, those mountains are very steep and the air is thin. If you are not used to that then that may not be the best trip for you.
Go offroad if you like and get into some woods but try to keep the trail level if you are not experienced.
Understand the area you plan to ride when it comes to terrain and weather. Pay attention to weather reports before you go and also plan for the worst. If it rains a lot in a particular place you want to visit then expect rain and prepare for it even if the forecast is all clear.
Types of Bikepacking
Before bikepacking became a thing there was cycle touring. In fact it is what many people will call bikepacking these days. You would use racks on your bike to take your gear with you either for camping or for city travel.
Purists now call bikepacking anything that involves travel on your bike, usually overnight, without using any racks. Some think you are disqualified from calling yourself a bikepacker if you use panniers, for instance.
Really, though it’s all just bikepacking.
You can travel through Europe as a bikepacker, for instance and stay in hostels along the way with all of your clothes and other gear in your panniers. In this case you would be riding a touring bike that isn’t suited for gravel or dirt.
You can use a backpack and keep things basic and camp in the woods where you are also biking if you use a mountain bike. It all depends on who you ask as to what bikepacking actually is.