Bike-packing Basics, Part One

bikepackEssentially, bikepacking is simply backpacking via bike, and is a fun option for bike lovers, couples, or even families who ride together. Furthermore, it allows you to travel more miles than you would be able to by hiking, and can allow you to access dirt roads and trails that other vehicles can’t. Today we’ll take a look at the basics of bikepacking—the bike, the gear, the technique, the planning—for those who may be interested in giving it a try.

Obviously, you’ll need a mountain bike to tackle bikepacking. You’ll want to make sure your back can handle the terrain you have in mind. Here, you’ll want to avoid performance options and think a little more about comfort, so it might be best to have separate bikes for trails and for bikepacking if you plan on doing both. An ideal setup for many will consist of a 29er bike, equipped with a suspension fork that has lockout (or no suspension at all), mechanical disk brakes, and a multi-position handlebar. Of course, your own preferences will vary, depending on your needs.

Also, it helps to attach a rack or storage bags to your bike, in order to carry the gear you’ll have with you. I’d also recommend adding ergonomic grips, in order to make longer trips a bit more comfortable on your hands.

When it comes to gear, bikepackers will likely need to carry the same gear as they would if they were backpacking, but they’ll also have spare bike parts, too. Unlike backpacking, though, you won’t be carrying the gear on your back, which is where racks on your bike will be helpful. You’ll want to keep most of the weight as low as possible on your bike, which will make your bike easier to control and make your ride comfortable. Once they’ve been bikepacking for a while, many will learn how to lash gear to their bikes using rope or bungees, or even repurpose gear to meet their needs. Feel free to experiment and see what works best for you.

Bikepacking is completely foreign to many outdoors enthusiasts, but it’s a great way to add spice to both your backpacking and biking habits. If you’ve never tried it, I suggest challenging yourself this season and planning a bikepacking trip. And be sure to come back later this week for more tips on bikepacking!