Bikepacking, the harmonious fusion of mountain biking and minimalist camping, has exploded in popularity. With the promise of adventure, solace, and unchartered territories, more enthusiasts are transitioning from traditional backpacking to its two-wheeled counterpart. If you’re keen on embarking on your own bikepacking journey, being adequately prepared is paramount. This guide dives deep into the bikepacking essentials required for a successful trip.
The Bike: More Than Just a Ride
Before embarking on a bikepacking journey, understanding your bike and its necessities is fundamental. Whether you’re setting out for a grueling gravel race or a short overnighter, the condition of your bike can make or break your adventure. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the maintenance essentials and tools for your journey:
Bike Maintenance Pre-Ride
- General Check-up: This involves examining the bike’s frame for cracks or damages that may worsen during the trip.
- Tires: Check the tread depth, look for signs of wear, splits, or punctures. Ensure the tires are adequately inflated and the rims aren’t bent.
- Brakes: Calibrate and inspect brake pads for wear. Make sure they engage fully and release properly.
- Gears: Ensure smooth shifting through all gears, checking for any skips or jumps.
- Lubrication: A well-lubricated chain prevents wear and tear and ensures a smooth ride. Use bike-specific lube and not just any oil.
- Bearings: Check hubs, bottom brackets, and headset. They should turn smoothly without grinding.
Essential On-Ride Tools and Gear
- Multi-tool: A compact tool that provides a range of functions, essential for minor adjustments and fixes.
- Chain Lock and Chain Riveter: Essential for fixing a broken chain. A riveter can help remove damaged links.
- Spare Tube and Puncture Kit: Flat tires are common, so always have a backup. For tubeless tires, a sealant is a must-have to instantly seal punctures.
- Tire Irons: Helps in removing and fitting the tire, especially when you have a puncture.
- Hand Pump: Compact and lightweight, necessary for inflating tires after repairs.
- Loading Device for Electronic Shifting: If your bike uses electronic shifting, you’d need a charger or loading device to ensure smooth gear changes.
- Battery Pack for Bike Computer: Extended trips require extra power. Ensure your tracking and navigation systems remain charged.
- Bike-specific Lubricant: Helps in lubricating the chain during long trips, especially after riding through water or mud.
Bikepacking Bags: Packing Smart for the Journey
Properly packing for a bikepacking trip not only ensures you have everything you need, but also that your journey remains smooth, balanced, and efficient. The art of bikepacking is maximizing storage while minimizing bulk. Here’s a guide to help you strategically use your bags and distribute weight for optimal performance:
Core Luggage Compartments
- Frame Bags: Located within the triangle of your bike’s frame, these are ideal for heavier items, as they maintain a central weight distribution. They’re perfect for items like tools, spare parts, and even food. A hydration bladder can also be placed here if there’s space, keeping the weight centralized and ensuring easy access to water.
- Saddle Bags: Positioned behind the saddle, they should hold lighter but bulky items. Sleeping systems, such as lightweight sleeping bags or liners, are often stowed here.
- Handlebar Bags: This is your go-to spot for items that are bulky and lightweight. Your tent, particularly those with flexible poles or hiking-style tents, would fit well here. Ensure the load doesn’t interfere with brake cables or gear shifters.
Additional Storage Options
- Fork Bags: These are small bags that can be mounted directly onto the forks of your bike. They’re suitable for distributing weight and are excellent spots for storing camp stoves, fuel, or additional food. Given their position, they’re also a good place for items you won’t need to access until you camp.
- Top Tube Bags: Situated on the top tube, they provide easy access and are great for items you’ll need frequently, like snacks, sunblock, or your camera.
- Bottle Cages: Though traditionally for water bottles, many bikepackers use oversized cages to hold other gear, such as larger water containers, fuel bottles, or even compact cookware.
It’s paramount to distribute weight effectively for stability. A rule of thumb: keep heavy items low and towards the center. This offers better bike handling, especially on challenging terrains. Frame bags are best for the heaviest gear, while handlebar and saddle bags, being further from the bike’s center, are better for lighter, bulkier items.
On long rides, certain items must be within arm’s reach:
- Water: Hydration bladders in frame bags or water bottles in side cages ensure you stay hydrated without stopping.
- Snacks and Energy Bars: Stash these in top tube bags or handlebar pouches for easy access on the go.
- Navigation Tools: Whether it’s a map, compass, or GPS device, having these in a quickly accessible spot, like a handlebar bag or top tube pocket, is crucial.
Storing Tent and Sleeping Bag
Tent: Handlebar bags are often the preferred spot for tents. Ensure it’s packed compactly, with poles (if they aren’t flexible) secured alongside the frame or below the top tube.
Sleeping Bag: Given its volume but light weight, a saddle bag is ideal. Compress it into a waterproof stuff sack to minimize space and protect it from the elements.
The Importance of Straps
Straps are bikepacking’s unsung heroes. Whether it’s securing extra gear, cinching bags to reduce bulk, or attaching items externally, durable and adjustable straps are essential. They offer flexibility in packing, allow for quick adjustments on the go, and ensure your gear remains stable and rattle-free. The classical and probably best rubber strap are the Voile Straps.
In conclusion, while bikepacking can often feel like a game of Tetris, with practice and attention to detail, you’ll master the art of packing. Proper weight distribution, combined with the strategic placement of items, will not only make your journey more enjoyable but will also ensure that everything you need is always right where you need it. Safe and efficient travels await!
Shelter and Sleeping: Ensuring Restful Nights on the Trail
In bikepacking, after a long day of pedaling through terrains, nothing feels better than a cozy, comfortable spot to rest. Your choice in shelter and sleeping gear can have a significant impact on your trip’s success, influencing your comfort, protection from the elements, and overall sleep quality. Let’s delve into the essentials:
Sleeping Bags: Your Cocoon of Warmth
Types & Temperature Ratings: There are primarily two types: down and synthetic. Down bags are lightweight, compact, and warm, but they tend to lose insulation when wet. Synthetic bags, though slightly bulkier, retain warmth even when damp. Always check the temperature rating to ensure it aligns with the expected weather conditions.
Shape & Fit: Mummy-style bags are tapered at the feet, providing better insulation. However, for those wanting more space, rectangular bags are an option, though they’re a bit bulkier.
Weight & Packability: For bikepacking, it’s vital to consider the weight and how compactly a sleeping bag can be packed. Generally, down bags win in the compactness category.
Tents: Your Personal Sanctuary
Size & Weight: Consider the number of occupants and storage for gear. For solo trips, one-person tents or ultralight two-person tents are ideal.
Setup: Free-standing tents can be set up without stakes, giving flexibility in choosing camp spots. Non-free-standing tents are generally lighter but require stakes or guylines for setup.
Ventilation: Mesh panels are essential for airflow, reducing condensation inside the tent.
Durability & Weather Resistance: Ensure the tent can handle potential weather conditions. A tent with a good rainfly and a footprint can make a difference in wet conditions.
Tarp: The Minimalist’s Shelter
Lightweight & Versatile: Tarps are extremely lightweight and can be set up in various configurations, depending on the environment and protection needed.
Setup: Unlike tents, tarps require a bit more skill to set up. Using trekking poles, trees, or even the bike itself can aid in the setup. Always practice before your trip.
Weather Protection: While tarps provide adequate shelter from rain and wind, they’re open and might not offer the same protection or insulation as a tent. They’re perfect for drier climates or when bugs aren’t an issue.
Pillow: The Underestimated Essential
Inflatable Pillows: Compact and lightweight, these can be inflated to your desired firmness. They take minimal space in your pack and offer neck and head support.
Stuff Sack Pillows: Some bikepackers prefer using a stuff sack filled with clothes as a makeshift pillow. It’s a dual-purpose approach, though it may not be as comfortable as an inflatable one.
Foam Pillows: They offer consistent support and comfort. However, they’re bulkier than the inflatable variants.
In summary, your choices in shelter and sleeping gear should be based on the specific conditions of your trip, personal comfort preferences, and packing space. Whether you’re under a starlit sky with a tarp or snug inside a tent, ensuring you have the right gear can make your nights as memorable as your days on the trail. Rest well and ride on!
Clothing: Dressing for Success on the Bikepacking Trail
Outfitting yourself appropriately for a bikepacking journey is crucial. The right clothing not only ensures comfort throughout the ride but also prepares you for fluctuating weather conditions and provides safety. From base layers to rain jackets, here’s what to consider for your biking attire:
- Base Layers: These sit closest to the skin, wicking away sweat and keeping you dry. Opt for moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics that dry quickly and regulate temperature.
- Cycling Jerseys: They come equipped with pockets for easy access to essentials and are tailored for a snug fit, reducing air resistance. UV-protective materials can offer additional sun protection.
- Bike Shorts or Bibs: Padded cycling shorts or bibs provide cushioning and reduce friction, crucial for long rides. The padding helps in reducing saddle soreness and discomfort.
- Cycling Hats or Caps: Worn under the helmet, they protect your head from direct sunlight, absorb sweat, and in colder conditions, retain warmth.
- Gloves: Cycling gloves offer grip, reduce vibrations, and protect hands during a fall. They come in full-fingered versions for colder weather and fingerless options for warmer climates.
- Cycling Shoes & Click Pedals: Cycling-specific shoes have stiff soles for efficient energy transfer to the pedals. When paired with click pedals (or clipless pedals), they secure the rider’s foot, improving pedaling efficiency and control.
Protection Against Harsh Weather
- Rain Jacket: Lightweight and waterproof, a cycling-specific rain jacket will have a longer back to protect against tire spray and will be breathable to prevent overheating.
- Overshoes or Shoe Covers: These protect your shoes from rain, cold, and mud, keeping your feet warm and dry.
- Arm and Leg Warmers: Easily removable, these are perfect for starting off on chilly mornings. They can be taken off and stored once it warms up.
- Wind Vest: A sleeveless jacket that blocks the wind from your core, an essential layer for windy conditions without the bulk of a full jacket.
Evening & Camp Gear
- Sandals or Camp Shoes: After a long ride, your feet will thank you. Lightweight sandals or shoes are perfect for camp comfort and river crossings.
- Lightweight Dry Clothing: Pack a set of dry clothes exclusively for the evening, ensuring you’re not sleeping in the day’s sweat. It helps regulate body temperature and ensures comfort.
- Lightweight Down Jacket: For colder evenings, a compressible and lightweight down jacket provides much-needed warmth without adding significant weight to your pack.
In the world of bikepacking, your clothing is more than just attire—it’s your armor against the elements, your comfort during arduous stretches, and your solace when you rest. Investing in the right gear, understanding layering, and preparing for varying conditions will ensure you’re not just riding but thriving on your adventure. Dress smart, and enjoy the journey!
Navigation and Communication: Staying Connected and On Course
In the vast expanses of the outdoors, knowing where you’re going and maintaining a line of communication is paramount. Thankfully, technological advancements in the realm of bikepacking have given adventurers a host of tools to ensure they’re on the right path and connected. Here’s a guide to the essentials of navigation and communication for your journey:
Bike Computers & GPS Routing
- Bike Computers: These devices, when mounted on your handlebar, provide real-time data like speed, distance, heart rate, and elevation. Advanced models can also offer GPS-based navigation, guiding you turn by turn throughout your journey.
- Dedicated GPS Devices: Unlike regular bike computers, these are solely focused on navigation. They often come with preloaded maps, route tracking, and waypoints. Their robust build and extended battery life make them suitable for longer trips.
- Route Planning with Komoot: Tools like Komoot allow cyclists to pre-plan their routes, taking into consideration the type of terrain, distance, and elevation. Once the route is set, it can be synced with your GPS device or phone for seamless navigation.
The Role of Smartphones
- Multi-functional Device: Beyond just calling or texting, smartphones today are equipped with GPS capabilities, making them viable navigation tools. With apps like Komoot, Google Maps, or Strava, your phone can double as a bike computer.
- Protection: Given the potential for adverse weather and accidental drops, it’s crucial to invest in a sturdy, waterproof case for your phone. Additionally, handlebar mounts can secure your phone in a visible location for easy navigation while riding.
Keeping Devices Charged
- Power Banks: These portable chargers come in various capacities, measured in milliampere hours (mAh). A typical smartphone battery ranges from 2,500 to 3,500 mAh. Thus, a 10,000 mAh power bank could charge such a phone 2-3 times, depending on the efficiency and condition of the battery.
- Selecting Capacity: For weekend trips, a 10,000 to 20,000 mAh power bank might suffice. For longer expeditions, consider higher capacities or multiple power banks.
- Solar Panels for Camping: For extended trips where electricity sources are scarce, solar panels are invaluable. Portable solar chargers can harness sunlight to recharge devices directly or store energy in an accompanying battery. They’re environmentally friendly and ensure that, given adequate sunlight, you’ll always have a power source.
In conclusion, staying oriented and connected during a bikepacking trip is easier and more efficient than ever, thanks to modern technology. By effectively leveraging bike computers, GPS devices, smartphones, and ensuring they remain charged and protected, you’ll navigate your journey with confidence and remain in touch, no matter how remote your location. Safe travels and clear paths ahead!
Food and Water: Fueling Your Bikepacking Journey
One of the most vital components of a successful bikepacking trip is ensuring you have adequate nutrition and hydration. The right food choices can significantly influence your energy levels, stamina, and overall trip enjoyment. From on-the-go snacks to campsite meals, here’s a comprehensive look at how to fuel your adventure:
- Energy Gels: Quick and convenient, energy gels provide a rapid source of carbohydrates, ideal for instant energy boosts during intense stretches. However, their nutritional content is mostly simple sugars, so they should be used in conjunction with other food sources.
- Energy Bars: More substantial than gels, energy bars come in various flavors and formulations, offering a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They’re compact and can provide sustained energy over longer periods.
- Drink Mixes: Electrolyte or carbohydrate-infused drink mixes can be added to your water. They replenish lost salts and provide an additional energy source, preventing dehydration and muscle cramps.
Local Eateries and Food on the Go
- Bakeries: A fantastic place to refuel, bakeries offer a range of carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, pastries, and sandwiches, perfect for replenishing glycogen stores.
- Restaurants: Depending on your route, stopping at local restaurants can be both a culinary and cultural experience. It allows for a balanced meal, ensuring you’re receiving all necessary nutrients.
- Meal Prepping: Consider preparing some meals in advance, especially for the initial days of your journey. Vacuum-sealed and dehydrated meals can be both nutritious and delicious.
- One-Man Rations: These are pre-packaged meals, often used by the military. They’re calorie-dense, designed for high-energy needs, and come with all the necessary accompaniments. Simply heat and eat.
- Gas Cooker: Portable and efficient, a gas cooker can quickly heat up your meals. It’s perfect for boiling water for freeze-dried foods or making soups.
- Hobo Cooker: Essentially a makeshift stove, a hobo cooker can be made using tin cans and fueled by anything from twigs to alcohol. It’s a minimalist solution for heating and cooking.
- Coffee On-the-Go: For many, a morning without coffee is unthinkable. Portable coffee machines or simple tools like a French press or Aeropress can be a savior. Combine with a gas cooker or hobo stove to ensure you get your caffeine fix wherever you camp.
Importance of Hydration
Water is imperative. Always ensure you’re carrying enough for the day’s journey. Depending on the region and availability, you might also need purification tablets or portable filters to make natural water sources safe for drinking.
In conclusion, the essence of a successful bikepacking trip lies not just in the journey, but also in how you nourish yourself throughout. Whether it’s the quick energy from a gel, the delicious offerings of a local eatery, or the joy of a camp-cooked meal, ensure your choices cater to both your nutritional needs and your palate. Stay fueled, stay hydrated, and enjoy every pedal stroke of your adventure!
Personal Essentials: The Small Things That Make a Big Difference
Amid the vast landscape and the thrill of the trail, there are small comforts and necessities that every bikepacker should carry. These personal essentials may seem trivial, but they can make your journey more comfortable, convenient, and memorable. From utensils for that morning coffee to hygiene hacks for the minimalist traveler, here’s a list of must-haves:
Eating and Drinking
- Alu or Enamel Mug: Whether it’s for your morning coffee, evening tea, or simply scooping water from a stream, a durable mug is indispensable. Aluminum or enamel mugs are light, resilient, and retain heat well.
- Dishes: Collapsible or lightweight dishes can serve as both plates and bowls, making your meals more enjoyable and organized.
- Good Knife: A multipurpose knife can serve various needs, from slicing food to making gear adjustments or even as an emergency tool. Ensure it’s sharp, rust-resistant, and comes with a secure sheath.
- Flask with Jack Daniels: Sometimes, after a challenging day or to celebrate a particularly scenic sunset, a sip of good old Jack from a flask can be the cherry on top. Remember to consume responsibly.
- Loading Cables: Essential for charging your devices. Opt for multi-purpose or universal cables to minimize the number you have to carry. Keeping them organized in a small pouch or zip-lock bag prevents tangles and damage.
- Hygiene Products: Even on the trail, maintaining personal hygiene is crucial.
- Toothbrush Hack: Save space by sawing off the handle of your toothbrush. It might seem trivial, but every inch of space counts in bikepacking.
- Biodegradable Soap: Ideal for both body and dishes, it ensures you’re not harming the environment.
- Compact Towel: Microfiber towels are lightweight, highly absorbent, and dry quickly, making them perfect for bikepacking.
- Wet Wipes: When water is scarce, biodegradable wet wipes can help in cleaning hands, face, or even giving yourself a quick wipe-down.
The details matter. While your bike, tent, and food are the pillars of your bikepacking experience, it’s these personal essentials that often bring the most comfort. From the simple joy of a drink from your flask as you gaze at the stars to the convenience of a compact toothbrush, ensure your pack contains these little tokens of comfort and utility. Happy trails!
Your Ultimate Bikepacking Assistant: Bikepackr
For both seasoned and novice bikepackers, preparation is key. And while there are numerous tools out there to aid in planning and executing a trip, there’s one that stands out among the rest: Bikepackr.
Bikepacking offers an experience unlike any other form of travel. With the wind in your hair and the freedom to explore off the beaten path, every journey promises a unique story. However, the success of your trip relies heavily on preparation. By equipping yourself with these bikepacking essentials, you are not only ensuring a smooth journey but also creating memories that will last a lifetime.