Bikepacking is a way for travellers who have a passion for exploring and having a quest for adventure. Let’s say that it is the most common unconventional way of travelling. The oxymoron would be apt since it is convenient yet an offbeat way to travel. Your offbeat travel plan begins with this beginner’s guide to bikepacking.
In the midst of the busy schedule, trying to strike a balance between work and life, searching for some quiet moments of peace and tranquillity while hanging around unknown people, try bikepacking. It is best to travel solo or with a couple of friends for one or two nights.
If you want to go places but have a modest budget, don’t worry; begin with what you have at hand. Take the bike and bags that you already possess and get going through the weekend.
Once you have set your mind to lose yourself amidst nature, you may wonder how to pack for bikepacking. There certainly are some science and hacks that you need to know before heading out, but above all, it is what suits you best. Try, make mistakes, correct them accordingly on your next trip. However, one needs to know some basics about bikepacking setup before giving it a shot.
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Bikepacking Setup 101 | Beginner’s Guide
Choosing The Bike
If you are low on budget but have a zeal to explore, try the bike that you possess or is readily available. At the very beginning, try a trip for just one night and see how it goes. If you want to indulge in a bikepacking tour, a gravel bike, hardtail mountain bikes, and rigid mountain bikes are good options as they are more comfortable and have proved to be stable on harsh terrains.
The Essentials To Be Taken Care Of
Nowadays, people travel the world on their bikes; therefore, it is essential to pack according to the number of days of your journey and the geographical location of the place you are headed towards. It is helpful to make a list of your bikepacking kit or a bikepacking gear list for the very first time so that every time you get on an adventure, you can check the items in the list. As bikepacking is quite different from routine travelling, here are a few things that will help you have a hassle-free journey.
A Good Sleep Is Desirable
After an enriching day’s journey, you need to get a good sleep and dream about it. A sleeping bag, sleeping mat or quilt can be packed according to the need. Try to get a tent for two people even if you are travelling solo and keep inside all the essentials at night. Avail the sleeping gears as lightweight as possible.
Clothes According To Need
Take extra tees, warm tees according to the duration of the journey. Have a pair of shorts, pants, a warm jacket and a couple of socks. After cycling for the whole day in those shoes, give your feet some relaxation, carry slippers. Pack light but bring proper clothes needed, and while you are reading this beginner’s guide to bikepacking, I would suggest you bookmark it or make a checklist while reading. It would help you the most.
For Nature’s Surprises
We can never predict what nature has in store for us. It may rain, or the sun can be very generous to you. A rain jacket and rain pants are a must-have. Carry sunglasses.
Better To Carry Food Than To Cook
When you are out bikepacking, it is more about exploring, knowing the unknown, meeting new people, having experiences of a lifetime and less about your comfort. So try to get going with dry food as much as you can. Carry snacks, energy bars, cookies, nuts, coffee. It is good to avoid cooking. When you are in a city, or a town tries the local food at restaurants. Still, if you want to cook, you can carry portable stoves, one or two utensils and a coffee mug if you like.
Carry as much water as you can in water bottles and reservoirs. Hydration is most important in this kind of trip. Refill the bottles when you get a chance.
Taking Care Of Yourself
You are out overnight, so you need to carry your toothbrush and toothpaste. It is better to keep a moisturiser, lip balm, wipes, toilet paper, and plastic garbage bags handy to maintain hygiene. You are out exploring, and you will meet new people and make friends and perhaps want to grab a coffee with them chatting about life, right? Keep a deodorant with you.
Taking Care Of The Bike
The bike repairing kit and tools should always be packed. You don’t know what kind of roads you will come across. Your bike may need to be taken care of. Add extra tubes for the bike while packing.
First Aid Kit
The path may be harsh, the weather conditions may suddenly deteriorate, but nothing should stop you from what you want to achieve. Do not leave without a first aid kit ever. For unknown and uncertainty, you should always have your first aid kit handy and with minimum requirements.
For a beginner, this is a must! Always keep First Aid Kit while you are out on your own seeking new adventures. This beginner’s guide to bikepacking emphasises this the most on this apart from others. From shoe bite to cramps and sometimes sprain and other kinds of physical issues happen while you are bikepacking, and it is a must for that occasion to have your kit handy.
We Have The Technology, We Shall Use It
Carry your phone, add a GPS tracker that would help you in case you are lost. It will help if you carry spare batteries or a power bank. Always keep your phone charged. Despite being equipped with all the gadgets, it is sometimes fruitful to rely on the old school ways, so do not ignore the torch and the maps.
Do Not Forget These
It is needless to say that you need to carry your wallet and id. Take cycling gloves and a helmet.
Packing In Different Kinds Of Bags
There are many bags suitable for a bikepacking tour available these days which makes it even easier to balance the bike by distributing the load scientifically. We have covered the major bags that can be of your requirement in this beginner’s guide to bikepacking. Depending on the type of trip you are planning, you might get all of them or some of them.
A seat pack is a bag that is attached below the bike seat. It comes in various shapes and sizes. Grab one according to your needs. It is convenient to pack those items in the seat pack that you would not generally require throughout the day, like extra clothes, sleeping bags, bikepacking tents, cooking essentials, and rain gear.
However, it should not be overloaded as it may harm the bike’s balance while riding. A waterproof seat pack will be a better choice if you pack your clothes and sleeping bag in it.
It is of utmost importance to keep the handlebar pack as light as possible. It is usually cylindrical. Pack the lightweight items here and those which you would want to keep within an easily accessible reach.
Many bikepackers also keep those items that can be folded or rolled and fitted here easily, like clothes, tents, sleeping mats. You can also slide in the handlebar first aid kit, dry food and toiletries. Arrange the items according to your requirement.
The things that you may need frequently pack in the upper portion. Often handlebar bags come with an extra pouch which is best to keep small items like sunscreen, some emergency medicines, and moisturiser handy.
A-frame pack is a bag fitted under the top tube of your bike in the triangular space. As it is in the central position of the bike, experienced bikepackers tend to keep the comparatively heavy items here. The heaviest items should be put at the bottom.
The items you would probably need less frequently or may not need at all but can not do away with either should be packed here. The safety gear, bike repair tools, spare tubes, water reservoir, fuel, cooking stove, electronic items, and maps can be put here.
These are small bags attached to the stem, which is a place to keep small items within your reach which you may need at any point in time. It can be snacks, glasses or sunglasses, cameras, antiseptic lotion, power banks, toothpaste and toothbrush and so on.
Top Tube Bags
These bags create some extra space if you run out of them. Attached to the front tube, it is the easiest to access. The essential small items can also be kept here, for example, your phone, sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm or moisturiser. Its shape and size should be chosen according to the bike.
Front Fork Or Cargo Cages
It is up to you whether you need a front fork bag or not. It should be kept in mind that it can never be heavily loaded. A cargo cage can also be attached in case you want to carry extra water bottles or other small items if the other storages are full.
This is the bag we are all familiar with, but when it comes to bikepacking, it is not always a preferable option according to frequent travellers. As it adds an extra burden on your shoulder, it may make the journey revitalising.
Although I have seen people extremely comfortable with a backpack no matter where they go, move according to your convenience. However, if you are out on a long journey and need a good amount of food, water and other essentials only then you should go for a backpack, or else it is always wisest to keep your body free.
Last but not least are the bottle cages that should be a must. It is of absolute importance because you need to keep yourself hydrated all along. Bikepacking tour requires physical strength, and you don’t know what weather or what kind of areas you are going to travel by, so carrying a good quantity of drinking water till you reach a town where you can refill is always prescribed.
The bottle cages are specifically designed to carry standard size water bottles. If it comes in the frame pack, you can carry the water bottles in the front fork or the cargo cages.
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Some Thoughts On Bikepacking
- Before heading out, know the terrain well where you are going to travel. Study about the basic geographic features of the place and leave the rest to nature.
- Have a test run before going for the actual trip. Know your strength and ability and plan accordingly
- While packing try to spread the load equally on your bike. Restrain from overloading it.
- Pack only the essentials.
When you are ready to go into nature, experience something you had never felt before, go for it. Follow your instinct, be prepared for any circumstances. You may mess up for the first time, but you will become a great bikepacker with time. Learn from the mistakes. What you gain will remain yours forever. I hope this beginner’s guide to bikepacking has given you directions to your calling.