Bikepacking is a form of adventure cycling that combines the freedom and excitement of backpacking with the speed and efficiency of travelling on a bicycle.
Whether you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, go on a long-distance bike tour, or simply have a fun and challenging weekend getaway, bike packing is an excellent way to experience the world from a different perspective.
How Should You Plan Your Bikepacking Trip
In this beginner’s guide to bike-packing, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started on your own bikepacking adventure, from choosing the right gear to planning your route and navigating on the trail.
Getting Started with Bikepacking
If you’re new to bikepacking, the first step is to start building up your gear. Unlike traditional backpacking, bikepacking requires specific gear that is designed to be lightweight, compact, and durable enough to withstand the rigors of cycling on rough terrain.
Here are some of the essential gear items you’ll need for a bikepacking trip:
A bikepacking bike is a specially designed bike that is optimized for carrying heavy loads over long distances. These bikes typically have wide tires for added stability on rough terrain, sturdy frames to support the weight of your gear, and a comfortable riding position to reduce fatigue on long rides.
Bikepacking bags are specially designed bags that attach directly to your bike, allowing you to carry all of your gear without the need for a traditional backpack. These bags come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including frame bags, handlebar bags, seat bags, and more.
Tent or hammock
A lightweight tent or hammock is essential for bikepacking trips, providing a safe and comfortable place to rest after a long day on the trail. Look for a tent or hammock that is easy to set up and pack away and that provides adequate protection from the elements.
Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Pad
A high-quality sleeping bag and sleeping pad are essential for staying warm and comfortable during cold nights on the trail. Look for a sleeping bag that is rated for the coldest temperature you’re likely to encounter on your trip and a sleeping pad that is comfortable and easy to pack away.
If you plan on cooking your own meals while bikepacking, you’ll need a lightweight camping stove, fuel canisters, and a set of cooking utensils. Look for gear that is compact and easy to pack away and that is durable enough to withstand the rigours of cycling on rough terrain.
Planning Your Bikepacking Route
Once you’ve gathered all of your gear, the next step is to plan your bikepacking route. There are countless bikepacking routes to choose from, ranging from easy overnight trips to multi-week adventures that take you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
When planning your route, consider the following factors:
Distance and Terrain
Choose a route that matches your fitness level and experience. If you’re new to bikepacking, start with shorter routes that are relatively flat and easy to navigate. As you gain experience, you can gradually work your way up to more challenging routes.
Water and Food Availability
Make sure you choose a route that has ample opportunities to refill your water bottles and stock up on food. Depending on where you’re riding, this may mean carrying extra water and food with you or planning your route around towns and rest stops where you can resupply.
Weather and seasonal considerations
Consider the time of year you’ll be bikepacking and plan your route accordingly. In the summer, you may want to avoid routes that are exposed to the sun for long periods of time, while in the winter, you’ll need to be prepared for cold temperatures and potential snow and ice.
Navigation and Safety
Make sure you have a detailed map of your route and familiarise yourself with the terrain and potential hazards along the way. Consider bringing a GPS device or smartphone with GPS capabilities, and make sure you have a backup map and compass in case your electronics fail.
Preparing for Your Bikepacking Trip
Before setting off on your bikepacking trip, there are a few things you’ll need to do to prepare:
Practice Cycling with Gear
Riding with a fully loaded bike can take some getting used to, so it’s a good idea to practise cycling with all of your gear before setting off on your trip. This will give you a chance to get a feel for the added weight and adjust your riding style accordingly.
When packing your bikepacking bags, be sure to distribute the weight evenly to maintain balance and stability on the trail. Pack your heaviest items closer to the bike’s center of gravity, and make sure your gear is secured tightly to prevent shifting during the ride.
Check your bike
Before setting off on your trip, make sure your bike is in good working order. Check your brakes, tires, chain, and other components to ensure they’re all functioning properly. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, take your bike to a professional mechanic for a tune-up.
Plan for emergencies
No matter how well you plan your bikepacking trip, emergencies can still happen. Make sure you have a first-aid kit, an emergency whistle, and other essential safety gear with you at all times, and make a plan for how you’ll handle emergencies if they arise.
On the trail
Once you’re on the trail, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:
Follow the Leave No Trace Principles
As with any outdoor adventure, it’s important to minimise your impact on the environment. Follow Leave No Trace principles, including packing out all trash, respecting wildlife and other trail users, and camping in designated areas whenever possible.
Stay hydrated and fueled
Cycling is hard work, so it’s important to stay hydrated and fueled throughout your trip. Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich sports drinks, and eat frequent, small meals to keep your energy levels up.
Take breaks and enjoy the scenery
Bikepacking is about more than just getting from point A to point B. Take breaks often to rest, stretch, and enjoy the scenery. Take plenty of photos and make time to appreciate the natural beauty around you.
bikepacking is a challenging and rewarding adventure that offers a unique way to experience the world. By following these tips and preparing carefully for your trip, you’ll be well on your way to a safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable bikepacking experience.