Bikepacking: A Beginner’s Guide
So…you’re new to bikepacking eh? Or perhaps you’ve ventured out into the wilds a few times only to come back battered, bruised, and dismayed? Have no fear, give this a quick read and we’ll have you out bikepacking with the best of ’em in no time!
Let’s first start out with a frank discussion about what bikepacking is and what bikepacking is not.
What is Bikepacking?
In its most basic form, bikepacking is the act of combining (arguably) the two best things in the world – backpacking and biking, into a single hybrid sport. From single day overnighters, to multi-week long expeditions, bikepacking demands planning, preparedness, and perseverance. As with any new sport, we recommend starting out small and working your way up.
“If done right, it’s like mixing chocolate with peanut butter… it just doesn’t get much better.”
If done wrong, your adventure can quickly turn into a “pain-venture” the likes of which you’ve never seen.
What gear do I need for a successful bikepacking trip?
This may come as a no-brainer, but trust us, trying to jerry-rig your grandmother’s one-of-a-kind hand knitted blanket to the back of your $50 thrift store bike using a series of strategically placed rubber bands is just setting yourself (and probably your grandmother) up for a big disappointment.
Gear required for successful bikepacking can be divided into four basic categories:
Bike: Yep, you guessed it- bikepacking requires a bike. While you don’t need the latest and greatest thing on two wheels, you ideally need a bike that has a sturdy frame, strong wheels, and some good stopping power. After all, it’s got to stand up to the abuse of your trip, provide you with enough space to secure your gear, and support additional weight for extended periods of time. Check out: http://www.bikepacking.com/bikepacking-101/ for an excellent guide on how to select a bike and prepare it for bikepacking. Don’t forget to take along bike essentials such as extra tubes, patch/repair kit, multi-tool, and compact pump.
Compact, lightweight, and waterproof storage bags are an excellent way to keep moisture out of your gear. Of course, our recommendations include items like the Ultra-Sil® Compression Dry-Sack and the super lightweight, compact Ultra-Sil® Nano Dry-Sack (designed for inside your pack or bike bags). All these things can be color coded so you can find what you need quickly and be super organized.
Camp: Modern advances in technology have allowed for incredible space & weight savings that will save you from heartache out on the trail. Take a peek at our Ember EB I Quilt, Ultralight Insulated Mat, and Aeros Ultralight Pillow. They make a great pairing as our friends over at bikepacking.com will attest http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/sea-to-summit-insulated-air-mat/. Of course, you’ll also need a place to hang your hat (or helmet) at the end a good day on the bike. While a compact tent works well, you might consider our Ultralight Escapist Tarp (pictured in its packaged form below) or our new award-winning Ultralight Hammock. These are tremendous weight savers, very compact, and especially durable solutions.
Food & Drink: As any veteran bikepacker will tell you, there’s an art to packing just the right amount of food, drink, and snacks. Pack too much and you won’t have enough space for other important gear. Pack too little and…well, you’ll starve to death, or be forced to scavenge around the forest for nuts and berries. For specific ideas on how to pack food and drink, visit: http://www.bikepacking.com/plog/bikepacking-meal-planning-foodpacking-1/
Clothing: You can get by quite well with a good layering system. Depending on weather conditions, you should expect to bring the following at a minimum: quick-drying nylon padded pants or shorts, wicking polyester t-shirt or long sleeve, pullover fleece, and a rain jacket (just in case). A pair of long underwear for cooler conditions might be a wise choice if you have extra room in your pack.
Remember to check the weather, tell someone where you’re going and always pack it in, pack it out and leave no trace.
We hope you feel a little more prepared for your next bikepacking adventure! If you have any helpful words of wisdom you would like to add, or if you have any questions about bikepacking, drop them in the comments section below!