Bikepacking is a relatively new term in the cycling world, but pedalling from A to B with a heavily laden bicycle is certainly not a new concept, and something that man has been doing for many a year. Some describe bikepacking as the cycling equivalent of Alpinism; the conquering of new routes and summits, carrying as little as possible, but just enough to ensure that you will survive the journey. Bikepackers have taken on this same approach to off road journeys on their mountain bikes, and with the evolution of ultra-lightweight bike bags and gear, the opportunities for exploration and adventure are endless.
A big appeal to bikepacking versus backpacking on foot, is the distances that you are able to travel in the same timeframe. Bikepackers often tackle the same terrain as hikers, making packing life on two wheels an excellent choice for those pushed for time or simply wanting to see and do more.
Who can go bikepacking?
If you can ride a bike then you can go bikepacking. It’s key that you have a sense of adventure too, because although the concept is as straightforward as taking a hike in the hills, there’s a lot more than can go wrong with a bike. You will need to plan well for potential mishaps, have a backup plan, and have some basic bike maintenance knowledge. There’s a lot you can do before you head out, but you’ll also need to be comfortable tackling some on trail repairs:
Where can go bikepacking?
In England and Wales, you are not permitted to cycle on public footpaths, but fret not, as there is no shortage of bridle paths and forest tracks where cycling is permitted, and often much easier to use with cycle friendly gates.
In other countries the rules of where you are allowed to ride your bike are varied and area specific, so make sure you check out your options before you head out.
How to get started
If you are totally new to the world of off-road biking, then the best place to start is on a mountain bike! You can hire mountain bikes very easily in many hilly forest areas or national parks. You can also take a lesson or join a course, which will go over some key pointers on how to negotiate steep and rough terrain both uphill and downhill, without doing yourself a mischief.
Once you’re happy with the basics of mountain biking, and are riding beginner level trails with confidence, then you just need to plan an appropriate route and get kitted up.
There is a whole host of gear that you can buy for bikepacking, but until you find yourself out riding in the hills every weekend, there’s really no need to invest in a full setup straight away. With a little thought and care, a few basic dry bags strapped to your bike will do just fine. The lighter you go, the better, but again, until you are hitting highly technical trails where balance and extra weight will hinder your performance, there’s no need to worry too much about this. However, you may find yourself having to carry your bike and all it’s gear over fences, through streams and up steep or rocky terrain. So keep that in mind when packing.
Start with a two day ride on low level tracks, stopping overnight at a campsite. Then you can progress onto more adventurous outings, sleeping wild on beaches or high up in the hills.
What to wear bikepacking
Obviously this is very weather and climate dependent, so with that in mind you may want to consider the following:
A waterproof and windproof jacket
- Waterproof trousers
- Thermal base layer
And the essentials list should include:
- Padded shorts
- Cycling gloves
Make sure you are comfortable and warm in your clothing, with layers to take off and put on easily. If you are wearing long trousers, make sure they’re tight enough to not get caught in the chain of your bike.
How to pack for a bikepacking trip
So, aside from the cycling part of bikepacking, there is great appeal in the gear you can gather to aid your bikepacking adventure. If you plan on going all out and getting fully geared up, then this video will help you understand what exactly that entails, and how to go about making the most of your limited space:
Where to learn more about bikepacking
If you love the idea of bikepacking adventures, you’re certainly not the only one. There are loads of excellent resources and bikepacking magazines to help you find great routes, offer packing information and provide a load of inspiration to get you deep into the wilderness for an adventure on two wheels.
Take a read of Bikepacking.com, Alpkit.com and Bikepacking.net.