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How to Gear Up for a Bikepacking Adventure

How to Gear Up for a Bikepacking Adventure

Blending mountain biking and backpacking, bikepacking is a two-wheeled trip over trails and roads where participants carry everything they need on their bike or back. Bikepack adventurers are able to cover more miles than on foot and access areas inaccessible to other modes of transportation.

Whether you’re heading out for an overnight or a multi-day pedal, here’s how to get in the flow … ride, camp, and repeat.

Selecting a Bikepacking Bike  

If you hoped the answer to, “How to start bikepacking” would begin with buying the blinged-out, Eagle-equipped, full-suspension steed of your dreams, prepare yourself for disappointment—and on the upside, a more wallet-friendly recommendation. You’ll find numerous bikepacking-specific bikes, but the best bikepacking bike may be the one already in your garage. Spend time on the trails and you’ll see everything from gravel grinders and hardtails to full-suspension rigs configured for bikepacking. Rigid and hardtail mountain bikes are the most popular choice, as they can handle rough trails, pedal efficiently on dirt roads, and have more room to carry bags due to the absence of rear suspension. Simplicity also means less opportunity for something to fail in the field.

Of course, don’t be deterred from buying your dream bike—the answer to how many bikes to own is n+1 (that is the number of bikes owned, plus one). Just keep in mind, whichever bike you settle on for bikepacking, make sure it’s capable of tackling the type of terrain you’re planning to travel over.

Building Your Bikepacking Setup 

Whether you buy a new bike specifically for bikepacking or turn the hardtail hanging in the garage into a multi-day adventure machine, there are a few adjustments you’ll need to make.

  • Account for the additional weight of the gear you’ll carry by adding more air to your tires.
  • If your bike has suspension, check the manufacturer’s weight chart and adjust accordingly.
  • Since many bikepacking routes involve long days in the saddle, consider that bar ends, comfortable grips, or a multi-position bar will go a long way toward delivering a more comfortable ride.

Selecting Bikepacking Bags

One thing backpackers and bikepackers have in common is the desire to get weight off of their backs. Unlike backpackers, bikepackers have an easy way to do it: they can simply store bikepacking gear on their ride. There’s a practical purpose for transferring pack weight to the bike as well; wearing a heavy backpack while riding is uncomfortable and makes the bike top heavy, resulting in faster fatigue for the rider and diminished handling of the bike.

There are numerous variations for cargo carrying while bikepacking, but a standard beginner bikepacking setup often includes a handlebar bag, frame bag, saddle bag, and top tube bag. It’s also common to ride wearing a small- to medium-sized hydration pack or daypack. But biker beware: space gets consumed quickly. In addition to essential bikepacking gear like a tent, sleeping bag, and stove, you must also carry bike-specific items such as a multi-tool, chain link/power link, and spare tubes.

Bikepacking Essentials 

Bikepacking is a gear-intensive activity. A bikepacking gear list includes backpacking staples such as a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, and headlamp. It also includes bike-specific items like a helmet, spare tubes or tire repair kit, and multi-tool. If your plans include riding in the dark, you might also want a high-power bike light. A few other bike-related items to consider are padded shorts, gloves for improved comfort, and clip-in bikepacking shoes for increased pedaling efficiency.

There are a bunch of compelling reasons to go bikepacking, but the most important is that it’s fun and a great way to explore a place.

Tim Peck is a freelance writer and bike enthusiast from New Hampshire. The only thing Tim likes more than shredding New England singletrack is replacing the calories he burned after an epic ride. Follow Tim on Instagram here