Bikepacking Explained: How to Pack Like a Pro

Bikepacking Explained: How to Pack Like a Pro

What is Bikepacking?

Imagine pedaling along a rugged mountain trail at dawn, the crisp air invigorating and the sun rising over the horizon. Your bike, packed with essential gear, navigates smoothly over gravel and dirt. You pause at a scenic overlook, taking in the expansive valley below, a moment of solitude and connection with nature.

Bikepacking is an adventurous blend of cycling, camping, and hiking that allows outdoor enthusiasts to travel through a variety of terrains while carrying all their essential gear on their bike. It's an adventure sport that blends the thrill of long-distance cycling with the joy of camping in remote areas. Unlike traditional bike touring, which often sticks to paved roads and involves carrying gear in panniers or trailers, bikepacking focuses on off-road routes and self-sufficiency, requiring specialized equipment and packing strategies. It's a minimalist approach, emphasizing the essentials and fostering a strong sense of independence and resilience.


Handlebar view of Bike Packing


The Appeal and Benefits of Bikepacking

Bikepacking offers a unique way to explore the great outdoors. It provides the freedom to travel through remote areas inaccessible by car, the opportunity to experience nature up close, and the satisfaction of self-sufficiency. Some key benefits include:

  • Adventure and Exploration: Discover new trails and landscapes, and experience the thrill of venturing into the unknown. The recent addition of more mountain trikes has made these adventurous treks more accessible, allowing those with different abilities to enjoy the journey.
  • Physical Fitness: Bikepacking combines endurance cycling with the physical demands of camping, providing a full-body workout that enhances cardiovascular health and builds muscle strength.
  • Mental Wellness: The sense of accomplishment from overcoming challenges and reaching your destination offers a mental boost. It also provides a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, helping to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
  • Environmental Impact: Bikepacking is a more eco-friendly way to travel compared to motorized options. It encourages a closer connection with nature and promotes environmental stewardship.

By embracing bikepacking, you can enjoy a fulfilling and enriching way to explore the outdoors, whether on a traditional bike or a mountain trike.


Sleeping in a Hammock while bikepacking


Essential Gear for Bikepacking

When it comes to bikepacking, the most important thing is to start with the bike you have. Any mountain bike can get you started on your bikepacking adventures. While newer bikes might offer more comfort and be lighter in weight, the type of bike you have should never hold you back from exploring the outdoors.

But if you have the option of choosing a bike, here are some considerations:

Frame: Look for a lightweight and strong frame, often made of aluminum or carbon. These materials provide a good balance of durability and weight, making your rides more efficient and less taxing.

Tires: Wider tires are preferable for bikepacking as they offer better traction and stability on varied terrain. Consider upgrading to tubeless tires to reduce the risk of flats and improve overall ride quality.

Gearing: Ensure your bike has an adequate range of gears to handle both steep climbs and flat stretches. A 1x drivetrain (single chainring in front) is a popular choice for its simplicity and reliability.

Remember, the spirit of bikepacking is about adventure and self-sufficiency. Whether you're using your trusty old mountain bike or investing in a new one, the key is to get out there and start exploring.


Bikepacking bike gearing


To ensure you're prepared for any situation, consider these essential accessories and tools:

Bikepacking Bags: Unlike traditional backpacks, which can cause extra strain on your muscles and make long rides uncomfortable, bikepacking bags such as frame bags, handlebar rolls, and saddle packs are designed to distribute weight evenly across your bike. This setup helps maintain balance and reduces fatigue, allowing for a more enjoyable ride. Prepare for bad weather with a waterproof pack and pack trash bags for extra bag coverage if necessary. 

Navigation Tools: A GPS device, maps, and a compass are essential for staying on course, especially in remote areas where cell service may be unreliable.

Repair Kit: Carry a multi-tool, spare tubes, a patch kits (yes multiple), a pump, and tire levers to handle any mechanical issues that arise. Being able to perform basic repairs on the trail can save you from being stranded.

Safety Gear: A helmet is a must for protection. Additionally, lights (both front and rear), a headlamp (even if you don't plan to ride a night), reflective gear, and a first-aid kit are essential for visibility and safety during your journey.

Bike Rack: Your bikepacking journey begins long before you hit the trail. For most people, it starts in the early hours of the morning when you load your bike onto your vehicle and head to the trailhead. To ensure your adventure doesn't end before it begins, make sure you have the right bike rack for your bike (or trike) and vehicle. Let's Go Aero bike racks offer a reliable and efficient solution to transport your bike safely to your starting point.


BikePack Enclosed Bike Carrier

V-Lectric BikePack Enclosed Carrier

The V-Lectric BikePack Enclosed Carrier is the ultimate solution for bikepacking enthusiasts, offering a secure and weatherproof enclosure that protects your gear and e-bikes from the elements. With its easy-loading design and robust construction, you can confidently venture into any terrain, knowing your equipment is safely stowed and ready for your next adventure.

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By equipping yourself with these tools and accessories, you'll be well-prepared for the challenges of bike packing and can focus on enjoying the adventure.


BikePacking 101


Efficient Packing Strategies

Planning Your Route and Duration

Before packing, plan your route and determine the duration of your trip. Consider factors like terrain, weather conditions, and available resources along the way. This will help you decide what to pack and how much food and water to carry.

Packing Light: The Essentials Only

Focus on packing only the essentials to keep your load manageable:

  • Shelter: Lightweight tent or bivvy sack.
  • Sleeping Gear: Compact sleeping bag and sleeping pad.
  • Cooking Supplies: Portable stove, fuel, lightweight cookware, and utensils.
  • Clothing: Moisture-wicking and quick-drying layers, plus weather-appropriate gear.
  • Food and Water: Non-perishable and high-energy foods, water bottles, and purification methods.
Bikepacking bags and camping gear


Distributing Weight for Optimal Balance

Proper weight distribution is key to maintaining balance and control on the bike:

  • Front: Handlebar bag for lighter items like clothes and snacks.
  • Middle: Frame bag for heavier items like tools and water.
  • Rear: Saddle pack for bulky but light items like sleeping gear.

Bikepacking in the desert


Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overpacking or Underpacking

Overpacking can make your bike unwieldy, while underpacking can leave you unprepared. Make a packing list and stick to it, prioritizing multi-use items to save space.

Ignoring Weather Conditions

Always check the weather forecast before your trip and pack accordingly. Bring rain gear and warm layers to protect against unexpected changes in weather.

Neglecting Bike Maintenance

Regular bike maintenance is crucial. Ensure your bike is in top condition before you leave and carry basic maintenance tools to handle any issues that arise.

Not Using Space Wisely

Efficient use of space is crucial for maintaining balance and minimizing strain. Use bikepacking bags like frame bags, handlebar rolls, and saddle packs to distribute weight evenly. Avoid cramming everything into one bag, and instead, use each bag for specific types of items to keep your gear organized and accessible.


Bikepacking and camping

Preparing for Your First Bikepacking Trip

Testing Your Gear and Setup

Before embarking on a long trip, test your gear and setup on shorter, local rides. This will help you identify any adjustments needed for comfort and efficiency.

Training and Physical Preparation

Bikepacking requires a good level of fitness. Build your endurance and strength through regular cycling and cross-training exercises.

Building Confidence with Shorter Trips

Start with shorter trips to build confidence and experience. Gradually increase the length and difficulty of your journeys as you become more comfortable with bikepacking.

Bring a friend

Bikepacking is often more enjoyable and safer when shared with friends. Riding with a group can enhance the experience, offering companionship and support. Sharing gear among group members can also lighten the load for everyone. Items like cooking equipment, first-aid kits, and repair tools can be divided among the group to ensure everyone carries less weight and is better prepared for any situation. Plus, having friends along for the journey can make the adventure even more memorable and fun.


Bikepacking with friends


Summing It Up

Embracing the Bikepacking Adventure

Bikepacking is a rewarding way to explore the outdoors, combining the best aspects of cycling, hiking, and camping. It offers a unique blend of adventure, physical challenge, and a deep connection with nature. Whether you're navigating rugged mountain trails or peaceful forest paths, bikepacking allows you to experience the world from a new perspective.

By packing efficiently and being well-prepared, you can enjoy both the journey and the destination. The key is to focus on the essentials, plan your route carefully, and be ready to adapt to changing conditions. With the right mindset and preparation, each bikepacking trip becomes an opportunity to discover new places, push your limits, and create lasting memories. Whether you're embarking on a solo adventure or sharing the experience with friends, bikepacking promises a fulfilling and enriching way to explore the great outdoors.

Final Tips for a Successful Bikepacking Experience

  • Plan your route and pack accordingly.
  • Keep your gear organized and accessible.
  • Stay flexible and adapt to changing conditions.
  • Enjoy the journey and embrace the adventure of bikepacking.

By following these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of bikepacking and creating unforgettable memories on the trail.



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About the Author

Amanda Kennedy

Camping Enthusiast & Product Tester

Amanda Kennedy is an avid camper and captivating storyteller. Whether exploring new trails or writing about them, Amanda brings adventure and inspiration to every aspect of life.