The ultimate guide for Outdoor Activities
If you love riding bikes and hate sleeping inside, bike packing was made for you. Blow past all those slow, meandering hikers on your machine that is far superior to regular old human legs. Biking allows you to see more sights, feel more thrills and, if I’m being honest, look way cooler. Whether you’re in it for the adrenaline or just don’t feel like walking, bike packing is an awesome way to explore the outdoors.
WHAT TO RIDE?
Choose your ride. Make it a good one.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT RIDE FOR THE TRIP.
This one seems easy. “I’ll ride a bike,” you say as you skip to the next section. But wait! What type of bike will you ride? Well, that largely depends on what type of terrain you’re gonna be on, your budget, and most importantly, your personal preference. Let’s go over your options and we’ll figure this thing all out.
Rigid Bike: I get it, a bike without suspension, or “rigid” bike, sounds pretty rough at first. But rigid bikes have plenty of reasons to be highly considered when choosing a bike packing bike. For one, no suspension means there are less moving parts for you to worry about. Moving parts = breakable parts and limiting them as much as you can give you better odds of making an entire trip without needing repairs. Also, since there are fewer parts, rigid bikes are generally less expensive. Ideal for dirt roads or hard-packed trails, rigid bikes allow you to have more control and can rail corners (biking term) like no other.
You must have this>>> Rainproof Bicycle Seat-post Bag
Full-suspension: When riding more rugged, technical trails you’re going to want a more forgiving, more comfortable ride. This is where the full-suspension bike comes in. Be it rock or divot or stick that you thought was a snake, the suspension smooths all that junk out and makes for a much less jolting ride. Some riders will say that a full suspension bike won’t give you the same control or feel that a rigid bike would give you, but if the trail is rough enough, your body will thank you.
Hard-tail: Life is all about compromise, and bike life is no different. A third option to consider is a hard-tail bike, which only has suspension in the front. This allows you to keep some of the control afforded by rigid bikes, especially on corners, while still enjoying the terrain-smoothing front suspension. Some people call it the best of both worlds, others call it the worst of both worlds. The only way to really know is to get on the bike and see how it feels.
STUFF TO BRING
Some of this stuff is pretty important
GET IT. PACK IT. USE IT.
Helmet – A helmet should be the number one thing on your list. Yes, above the beer. Ok, we can make them 1A and 1B. Much like beer, a helmet is something you should never skimp on. Technologies have improved greatly and there’s no reason you should be wearing your beat up old helmet on the trail. Specifically, look for helmets with MIPS technology. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, and it’s designed to reduce rotational forces put on the brain during an impact. I know it sounds kinda boring but just remembers: rotational forces = bad, brain = good. Next, you’ll want to make sure your helmet of choice has plenty of vents to keep you cool. Overheating saps your energy and can be dangerous if allowed to go on for too long. Of course, the biggest factor when deciding on a helmet is the size. If your helmet doesn’t fit your head it won’t work properly. It will also make you look quite stupid and let’s be honest, most of this is about looking cool.
Check this out>>> Waterproof Bicycle Front Bag Accessories
GPS – Next, you’ll need to know where the hell you’re going. Reading a map is fine, and a super useful tool to have, but if you’re like me, you just want a robot to tell you where to go and what to do at all times. A handlebar mounted GPS unit will do just that and there are a ton of options out there. Look for one small enough to fit on your handlebars, load up your maps and you’re ready to roll. Another choice is to use your trusty ol’ cell phone. Check for apps that allow you to monitor progress while out of service but keep in mind that cell phones won’t have the battery life or durability of a standalone GPS unit.
Our Collection: SmartWatch with GPS tracker (support snorkeling)
Clothing – Clothes make the man (or woman) as they say. That’s probably truer when bike packing over anything else. Since you’ll be working and sweating for hours on end, you’ll want something lightweight, breathable and quick-drying.
You might have an interest>>> Windproof Fleece Jacket Unisex
• Midlayer – If there’s any chance of cold weather, make sure to bring along a lightweight, down jacket. You may not need it riding, but you’ll be glad you have it once you get to camp.
• Rainshell – A packable rain shell should be with you on every trip, even if you’re going to the desert. Look for something breathable and preferably one with pit zips, so you can dump excess heat quickly and easily.
• Pants or Shorts – A good pair of durable shorts are the preferred option for most riders. Look for a pair with a built-in chamois, to help minimize friction and wick away moisture. I don’t have to tell you how bad friction and moisture can be on your shorts area. Even though shorts are preferred, it’s a good idea to bring along a pair of waterproof pants for when the weather inevitably turns ugly.
Bikers must have this>>> Sports Skinny Compression Tights
Footwear – Finding the perfect footwear for bike packing can be tricky. You’ll want moderate stiffness to make pedaling easier but you also need some flexibility for those inevitable times when you’re forced to walk or carry your bike (yes that will happen). All that pedaling and walking (why are you doing this again?) can build up quite a bit of heat so you’ll want breathable footwear that allows heat to escape. Also, look towards shoes with buckles, dials, and Velcro over a lace closure system. These are easier to adjust and will make riding more comfortable.
• Clipless – Many backpackers prefer the efficiency of clipless pedals/shoes. These will lock your feet in place while riding, allowing you to expend more energy on moving forward and less on keeping your feet from slipping off the pedals. When a crash is imminent, they can easily be undone allowing you to brace yourself. The major downside is that you’ll need specialty shoes and pedals and they aren’t always interchangeable. This can make things pricey.
• Clips – Pedals with toe clips are slightly less efficient than clipless but more efficient than platform pedals. These can fit over any shoe you find comfortable and are easier to set up than clipless. However, they are more difficult to free your foot from if you’re about to crash.
• Platform – These pedals are the standard pedal we all know and some of us love. They’re the least efficient choice, but they cost no extra money, can be used with any shoe and you run no risk of getting to your bike when things get dicey.
Cookware – As with everything in bike packing, you’re gonna want your food and the things you use to cook your food to be as lightweight as possible. For cookware, titanium is your new best friend. It’s much stronger and lighter than aluminum and people will think you’re cool for owning so much of it. If you go with prepared, bagged meals like Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry, you’ll only need a small pot to boil water in and a utensil. This helps keep weight and pack size down to a minimum. You’ll have to find your own balance between convenience and pack weight. Luckily, there are plenty of lightweight cook set options if you’re the kind of person that likes to over-prepare or plan on cooking for a group.
Stove – To boil your cooking water, a simple canister or alcohol stove are your best bets. A canister stove is slightly heavier and you’ll need to pack out the empties, but it’s easier to use in adverse conditions and a better option if you’re doing any real cooking or boiling water for multiple people. Alcohol stoves are extremely lightweight and small but are actually less fuel efficient in the long run. Also, don’t forget all the fire safety rules that bear with the hat taught you. Don’t ever leave an open flame unattended, it could literally ruin the woods for everyone.
Water Treatment – Now, if you plan on drinking water (please be planning on that) you’re gonna need some treatment options. Without a doubt, tablets/drops are the lightest and most packable option. Simply add the treatment to your water, wait for it to do it’s magic, and drink. The drawback is that these don’t filter particulates in the water and can slightly alter the taste. Another option is to bring along a small water filter. Filters won’t negatively alter the taste of your water and will filter out all sediment and particulates. Because of this, they’re a great choice if your trip will be taking you through areas with standing water as your only water source. To hold all your precious water, attach bottle cages or two or three. For storing large amounts of water, keep a hydration bladder in your frame bag and enjoy as you please.
A good backpacking tent = a good backpacking tent
CAMP COMFORTABLY BETWEEN YOUR DAYS OF BIKING
Ah yes, shelter, one of the four tenets of survival. The other three, of course, being food, water, and the entire Led Zeppelin discography. Again, weight is a major factor when choosing, but you’ll also have to consider where you’re going, how many are in your group and what type of weather you expect to be in.
Hammocks – Hammocks are a great option, as long as you’re staying somewhere with plenty of trees. One of the benefits of using a hammock is that you don’t need to worry about finding a flat spot free of rocks or debris. High winds can make for an interesting night, but if you like being rocked to sleep like a tiny baby, you’ll have no issues.
Tents – If the weather looks rough, or if you’re sharing sleeping arrangements, or if you just don’t like hammocks, you should opt for a tent. A tent gives you more room to stretch out, which can be nice after spending miles and miles on top of a bicycle, and doesn’t require you to find two well-placed trees.
Tarp – You can also opt for the ultra-light route and use your bike to prop up a tarp, which you can then sleep under. While this may not be for everybody, you can’t deny the weight saving benefit.
Sleeping Bags – When it comes to sleeping bags, the light weight and high compressibility of down is tough to beat. The drawback is that if down gets wet, it starts to lose insulating properties and can make for a miserable cold night if camping in a miserable, cold location. To combat this, you should keep your bag stored in a waterproof compression bag. This will help your bag not only stay dry, but will help keep pack size to a minimum. If you want a less expensive, more water resistant sleeping bag option, synthetic is the way to go. Synthetic bags won’t compress as much, and are usually heavier but will keep you warm even when wet.
Sleeping Pad – Sleeping on an inflatable sleeping pad after a full day of riding can do wonders for your recovery. A foam pad will work, is more durable, and are usually less expensive, but they just can’t match the comfort of an inflatable. Pick something lightweight of course, and self-inflating if you want to save your breath for more important things, like breathing.
Repair / First Aid – Now, hopefully, you’ll never have to use these next things, but you probably will. Repairs are a fact of life on the trail, whether you’re talking about bike repairs or repairs to your soft, precious body, it’s important to be prepared for the worst or at least the pretty bad. A few things you should always have on hand for bike repairs are the pump (obvs), small wrench, multi-tool with chain breaker, spare tubes, patch kit, tire levers, tire boot, sealant, and zip-ties. These are the must haves, depending on how long your trip is or the terrain in which you’ll be in, you could need more. Bring what you feel comfortable carrying, it’s really that simple. For self-repair, look for pre-made first-aid kits and again, adjust to your needs.
WHERE TO PUT ALL THE STUFF YOU BOUGHT
Where to put that gear, and how to carry it
IT’S KIND OF LIKE BIKEPACKING TETRIS
Phew, you’ve got all this stuff together, ready to hit the trails. But now, where the hell are you gonna put it all? Don’t worry. I’m serious, worrying gives you wrinkles according to my completely sane grandmother. There are plenty of options for storage, allowing you to create a set up that not only packs up everything you need but keeps your ride comfortable and smooth.
Frame pack – A frame pack is a good option for storing heavy items. Since this pack will go within the bike’s triangle, the weight won’t cause your balance to be thrown off. Ideally, you would get a frame pack custom for the type of bike you have, but there are also universal options that work well.
Saddlebag – Saddlebags or seat bags are another essential piece of gear. Fitting just underneath your seat (go figure), they’re a good place to store bulky, compressible items that you need to keep dry. Watch the weight on these though, as making them too heavy can negatively affect your control.
Handlebar bag – I’m gonna hope you can figure out where handlebar bags go. These are easily accessible, water-resistant and provide a great place for items you’ll be using throughout the day. You’ll have to watch the weight on these as well. A super-heavy handlebar bag makes for a tough-to-steer bike and nobody wants that.
Panniers – Panniers are larger bags that can attach to racks with clips or bungee cords. They give you a ton of room and are especially useful for storing large items. They can, however, be quite cumbersome when trying to push or carry your bike through tricky terrain.
Daypack – If you can’t fit everything into all these bags, another option is to wear a daypack. When considering which daypack to bring, keep in mind that you’ll be wearing this while riding the entire time, so the smaller and lighter the better. You’ll also want to look for a pack with good back ventilation to minimize how sweaty and gross you’ll get. If hydration is your main reason for wanting a daypack, you may want to consider getting a small hydration pack instead. This will give you room for some smaller items as well as that sweet, sweet water you love so much.
TRIP LENGTH, TYPE OF TRIP
Excuse me, Mother Nature, I ordered sun.
PLAN, PLAN, AND MORE PLANNING
While planning your trip, you’ll have to decide how long you want to be out there and what the logistics will be like. If this is your first trip, a shorter loop is probably your best bet. A loop is much easier to plan since you’ll be finishing where you started (you know, cause it’s a loop). Bikepacking a through trail gives you more options as far as connecting other trails but you’ll need to get transported back to the start and that will eat up more time. If you have a lot of time and are confident in your endurance training, just do whatever the hell you want. It’ll probably be fine. If you have no time and no endurance, maybe just read a nice book.
WHERE are YOU GOIN’?
The adventure is about the destination. Or something.
RESEARCH ROUTES ONLINE, THEN GET AT IT
Bikepacking can be done wherever you find long stretches of bikeable trail or road. Your best bet will be checking out State and National parks, as they will typically have plenty of resources and info to help you set up the perfect trip. Another option is to check out some of the rails to trails programs across the country. A lot of these will connect to existing trail networks and since they were initially made for trains, you’re pretty much guaranteed an easy, steady grade. You can also find a ton of backcountry roads, just begging to be bike packed. Pack up and head out, it’s really all up to you.
GRAB A BIKE AND GO RIDE, ALREADY
Bikepacking is a great way to explore the land. The ability to cover so much ground in a day can make for exhilarating changes of scenery in a relatively short amount of time when compared to hiking. My advice? If you’ve read this entire thing you have to at least be mildly interested in bike packing, you might as well get out there and give it a shot.
Our Outdoor Gear Collections:
The ultimate guide for Outdoor Activities Remember back before the internet, how if you wanted to learn something, you had to talk to people? **shudder** If you needed some advice about hiking or climbing, you had to go to a library or ask everybody you ever met if they had experience hiking or climbing. Well,...