Bikepacking is becoming increasingly popular, especially this past year where we have been limited somewhat as to where we can travel. More and more people are hoping on their bikes, using pedal power and exploring what their local areas have to offer!
Now, bikepacking might not be for everyone, just as camping is not for everyone, but one thing we can guarantee is that if you are not prepared, you are not going to have a great time. Bikepacking requires some element of pre planning and pre organisation. So we caught up with manager Jake to chat through his bike packing essentials so you can set off on your next adventure well prepared! He would know, he bikepacked in Scotland of all places...
First up is thinking about what type of bike you are taking bikepacking. You can pretty much take any bike bikepacking but most often than not bikepacking involves gravel, dirt roads and some single trials so you are going to have a much better time with a bike that matches the terrain. Make sure you use a bike that can handle whatever terrain you set out to explore.
If you are just starting out or heading out on your first bikepacking trip then your regular helmet will do just fine. The key here is to have something lightweight, comfortable and suitable for the weather / season. If you are looking to invest something like the Bontrager Solstice will keep you cool, dry, safe and stylish!
If you’re out for more than a day ride, you’ll need lights. It’s always a good idea to bring two lights, and some extra batteries.
You don’t really need special clothing for bikepacking. Just be sure to pack plenty of different layers, waterproofs and sweat wicking first layers.
Choose kit that is comfortable on the bike and suitable for the weather conditions. One of the key mistakes to make is to pack too much clothing. Whilst spare clothing is useful for layering, be ruthless about what you really need to take. Layers such as merino base layers are great as they act as a sweat wicking layer, are warm and comfortable to sleep in, and will act as a great extra warm layer if you need it. Pack items that will pack up small and light.
You are going to need something warm and dry to rest your head under if you are planning a bikepacking trip for more that one day. Finding something light and packable is arguably just as important as something comfortable to rest your head on.
Bivouac/ tent or hammock?
This is entirely up to you and the time of year your are planning your trip in. For example a tent might do a better job of keeping you warm and dry in the colder winter months, yet a hammock might just do the trick in the Summer!
You will also need a sleeping bag and potentially a sleeping mat. You can get great blow up sleeping mats that pack down really small like this Alpkit sleeping mat.
4) Food and Water
When bikepacking it's really important to think about sustenance. Whilst our normal cycling gels, energy balls and PB & J’s might be fine for our day rides, if you are riding for more than two days in a row you are going to crave something more substantial! Depending on what you would like to eat will affect the equipment you need to carry. We usually suggest rice based dishes as they take limited amounts of water to make and they fill you up! There are loads of options for outdoor meals that are tasty and easy to make with just adding water.
We all know it's important to stay hydrated when cycling, and when bikepacking it's even more so especially if you are going off the beaten track. Depending on whether you want to do lots of stops to refill or just carry more water weight, it will effect the storage you choose on your bike, but most frames allow up to 3 water bottles to be attached. It is also a good idea to carry a mini water filter or water purification tablets.
As much as we plan to not get into any bother or get injuries, accidents do happen, and when you are on your own in a remote spot it’s important to be prepared. Depending on how long you are bikepacking for will effect how big your first aid kit should be. For a two to five day trip, a basic first aid kit will suffice:
4 - 5 prep pads / wipes OR a small bottle of cleaning solution
1 pair of tweezers - Stainless, not plastic; pointed, not blunt (to remove spines, splinters, visible wound debris, and TICKS)
A selection of plasters - Choose a small assortment for minor scrapes and cuts.
1 Small roll of gauze bandage - Cut the gauze to clean wounds with iodine and/or use it to wrap wounds as needed.
1 large sterile non stick pad Cut it down to size as needed.
1 self adhering compression pad or, if you aren’t as space/weight concerned, 1 elastic (Ace) wrap.
1 roll of fabric tape - Duct tape may be used alternatively, but it’s just not as good at conforming to weird anatomical contours.
Benadryl (in case of minor allergic reactions such as insect stings, dermatitis from poison ivy, etc.).
For longer trips bikepacking.com have some great advice on bike specific first aid kits!
6) Tool Kit
No one wants a hike a bike situation, and the best way to avoid mechanical mishaps is to carry a decent tool kit for your adventure. You want to strike a balance between necessity, space and weight. We suggest the below as essentials:
So how are you going to carry all this kit? You dont necessarily need special bike packing gear, and if you want to head out on your first bikepacking trip to test it out you can just take a backpack. However the more remote you go and the longer you go for the more kit you might need and you will quickly figure out why bikepackers prefer to load their bikes rather than carry the weight on their bodies. Try different things out and figure out what works best for you, your bike and your kit!
Seatpacks - They essentially strap onto your seat rails and around your seatpost.
Frame packs - There are also frame packs designed to work within the bike’s frame triangle, available in variations for both full-suspension and hardtail frames. The most obvious and universal type is a half frame pack. These are especially usable on a hardtail or rigid bike.
Handlebar mounts - The handlebars is a great place to strap your tent if you are carrying one as the poles will help keep the bundle straight!
Backpack - the obvious one but make sure you choose one that fits well, is comfortable and suited to being bent over on a bike for hours.
Some final bits and pieces you might consider carrying are a headlamp and any extra batteries for your lights. Some sunglasses or goggles, a camera, a book and perhaps a journal to document all your awesome adventures!
Heading on a bikepacking adventure and need some advice on why type of bike to take, the kit you might need? Get in touch with us and we can chat through your adventure plans and help get you kitted out with everything you need!
Jake's Scottish photo report
For the curious, here's Jake's photo report from his Scotland trip.