Whether you are an avid backpacker who has done a lot of trekking through the forests or an outdoor adventurer who likes to travel long distances and see new regions, adding in a bicycle is a great way to explore the natural wonders of the countryside while pushing yourself mentally and physically. Bikepacking is a lot like backpacking it out in the wilderness, but instead of your own two feet and a great big pack, you have a mountain bike and a series of small frame bags to carry your equipment. Basically, you can think of a bikepacking trip like a regular backpacking adventure but combined with a mountain bike and the multi-day long-distance skills needed to survive. If you are planning on heading out for a bikepacking trip, you’re going to need to know what type of gear you will need, what type of bike you will require, and what type of skills you will need to have a successful trip.
The First Step Is To Factor in Considerations!
The first thing you will need to do is consider which factors come into play while you are selecting your equipment and route of choice. If you are a beginner, you are going to want to travel a more well-known biking route that has more accessibility to mainstream amenities in case there is an emergency. It is best to start out with just a weekend trip on a gravel trail or roadway that isn’t super strenuous. Otherwise, if you’ve done this before and are an avid bikepacker, you can select the difficulty based on your acquired skill sets. Long, multi-day trips are great for those who want to challenge themselves, but for newer individuals, the isolation and rougher terrain conditions aren’t what you want to start out with.
When it comes to gear selection, you pack in a similar manner to backpacking. For those who are unaware of how this is done, you essentially select gear based on the functionality of it and what the weight of each piece is. You only want to select gear that is of a necessity, think cookware, clothing, bike tools, and sleeping bags, and cut out the rest. You want gear that will help you get through challenges and inclement weather if it pops up. With weather in mind, don’t forget about it! Too many of us dream about glorious rides through the forest trails, never thinking about how realistically a storm can cause immediate chaos and dangerous conditions.
What Type of Mountain Bike Do I Need?
Unlike traditional bicycle touring, which are self-contained trips that take you from one point of interest to another with checkpoints along the way, bikepacking allows you to use any type of bike. Most commonly used are mountain bikes as they can take on a variety of terrains and have a heavier frame, perfect for all of the saddle packs you will need. In addition to this, mountain bikes have wider tubeless tires which will self-patch and are lightweight. If you do not have a mountain bike already, choose a bikepacking bike that has extra eyelets on the frame so that you can add in extra racks, cages, and accessory bags. You may also want to look into a suspension system that can be “locked out” so that you can access it only when you need it for the uphill rocky terrain. Keep in mind that a bike with a cheaper suspension system will cause you more trouble than good.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are ready to get started, here are some bikepacking resources from around the web to get you off and pedaling.
- US Bikepacking Routes – from bikepacking.com, here are some US routes to help you plan your trip.
- More Bikepacking Routes from the Travel Channel
- 10 Bikepacking Routes from Singletrack
- Bikepacking routes east of the Rockies from Adventure Cycling
- Apidura Bike Bags on Amazon.com (Affiliate Link)
- Reviews of Bikepacking Bags on bikepacking.com
- A list of bikepacking bags and manufacturers from CyclingAbout.com