Getting started with bikepacking
If you’re on the lookout for a new challenge, don’t mind a few days off grid and love the idea of riding your bike for days on end – then bikepacking may be the activity for you!
So, what exactly is bikepacking? There are many ways to get into bikepacking, and no one way is better than the other. It’s a great way to combine your love of riding with the lightweight travelling style of backpacking. You can do it solo or with your family, you can bring the dog, or rope in your neighbour – however you like! The best part is, it’s completely up to you how you choose to enjoy bikepacking. If you only have a weekend free, or an entire month – you can tailor your journey to be whatever you want it to be.
If that all sounds good to you, you’re probably wondering what kind of gear you need to tackle a bikepacking adventure. The great thing about getting started with bikepacking, is that because it’s so adaptable – you can choose a route that suits the bike you already have. If you have a road bike, stick to the tarmac – there’s no need to buy a new bike. Now that you’ve got the ‘bike’ part down, the next step is the ‘packing’ component. Again, there is no need to buy a collection of specifically designed packs for your first foray into the world of bikepacking. If you have a couple of dry bags, a comfortable daypack and some water bottle cages you’re in a good position to set off for your first adventure.
Ok so you’ve got your bike, you’ve got your pack – but what else do you need before you set off on your journey? Here is a list of essentials (aside from your bike and packs) which can be adapted depending on the weather, how long your journey will be and how many riders in your group.
A lightweight tent that can be packed down into one of your bags or strapped directly to your handlebars. This not only provides a safe place to sleep, but it also protects you from the elements should the weather take an unexpected turn.
- A sleeping bag and mat, again – aim for a lightweight bag that can be packed down small to maximise space. You’ll need to get a good night’s sleep on multi day rides, so your comfort is important.
- A GPS device and your phone, this could be a life saver if you run into trouble. Preload your route and make sure you tell someone where you’re off to so that they know when to expect you home. We all enjoy a little unplugged time, just be sure to keep your phone charged so you’re ready to plug back in when the time comes.
- A headlamp, this is essential for an overnight trip – if you’re going for a longer trip it will be worth investing in an extra set of batteries as well, just in case.
- Cooking gear – you’ll need to refuel after a long day in the saddle, so having the ability to cook whilst on the trail is crucial. Whether you’re rehydrating meals, or cooking oats in the morning, a small, lightweight stove with an aluminium pot will make your bikepacking trip much more enjoyable. Don’t forget to pack the waterproof matches as well!
- A spork is next on this list of essentials, you’ll need something to eat your newly hydrated meals with and a spork is the perfect piece of cutlery if you want to maximise on space and cut down on the washing up.
- Make sure to pack your bike repair kit full off spare tubes, a patch kit, pump, and your bike tool of choice. If there’s one place you don’t want to be caught out – it’s in the middle of a week-long ride!
- In addition to your bike repair kit, you’ll also need to pack one for yourself in the form of a first aid kit. Things can go wrong no matter how prepared you are, so be sure to stock up on plasters, pain killers, bug spray, sunscreen and hydration gels.
- When it comes to your clothing, you’ll want lightweight, protective items. As you’ll be out overnight, be sure to pack an insulated jacket for the cooler evenings – one that packs down small is ideal. Packing different layers means you’re better equipped for changes in temperature, so be sure to include a few t-shirts, long sleeved tops and shorts in addition to your regular cycling kit.
- A knife is always good to have on a bikepacking trip – we’d recommend one that is foldable and small so that you can slot this into your bag easily. You may need this to prepare food, eat or cut bandages with.
Once you’ve done your first few trips, you’ll have a better understanding of what you do and don’t need to bring with you. A good tip is to make a pile of everything you didn’t use when you get back and see if you can make your pack lighter the next trip. Similarly, if there was something you were really missing – make a note of this and see if you can pick this up for next time. Maybe you were craving a hot mug of coffee, add some coffee and a mug to your packing list! Was your head cold in the evenings? Throw in a beanie! Didn’t need that 500-page book on trees of the south coast? Ditch it!
If you do decide to give bikepacking a go – let us know! We’d love to hear how you’re getting on and what your favourite trails are.
Need somewhere to store your bike after all that adventuring? We’ve got the perfect thing!