A resurgence in interest in cycling, combined with the persistent allure of backpacking, has given rise to a new form of travel – bikepacking. Essentially, the idea is that you combine the sense of freedom and complete flexibility that comes from backpacking with the extended reach you can achieve riding a bike. This way, you get all the joys (and the savings) of backpacking but can cover much more ground. By being on bike, you open up so many more possibilities for places to stay – places that would take too long to reach by foot.
If you’ve never tried bikepacking before, it is definitely worth starting small – no need to set off round the world just yet! Taking a short two or three day trip, near to where you live, is a great way to get a feel for what it is like riding with the extra weight of camping supplies and food. Also, a short ride will give you a chance to work out what new gear you might need to get before setting off on a longer journey.
What Gear Do I Need for Bikepacking?
In particular, do you have enough storage space and is everything held securely and comfortably? If not, it might be worth investing in accessories like pannier racks and bags, to increase storage space without having to take more weight on your own back.
Another really important thing to think about while bikepacking is clothing. Are you going to be comfortable riding for multiple days? This is a very different proposition to going on long one-day rides. If you are bikepacking, you probably have to get back into the saddle the morning after, so being comfortable is absolutely paramount.
Finally, it should go without saying, you’re going to need lots of water – enough to camp with when you reach your destination as well as to stay hydrated while you ride. This means that you might need to look into buying a hydration pack, as you can comfortably carry a large amount of water this way.
Planning A Bikepacking Route
When it comes to bikepacking, planning your route and having a good map is really key. You want to make sure that the distances you’re looking to ride in a day are realistic. Again, this is where starting small is a good idea. Do a short trip near where you live, to get a feel for how many miles you can comfortably cover in a day while carrying your equipment. And of course, take into account climbs! You might be able to comfortably break twenty miles in a few hours on the flat, but once you start cycling up hill with all that extra weight the distance you can cover will take a real hit.
Also, depending on where you are riding, you’ll probably want your route to end at a campsite. Remember, wherever you choose to stop and camp, you’ll want to plan to arrive while there’s still some daylight, as putting up a tent in the dark can be a real hassle, especially if the weather isn’t great either.
Build Up Gradually
Finally, once you’ve optimised your gear and got to grips with route planning, you can start to extend your trips. So, build up from going away for a few days to maybe a whole week. Building up gradually is a good idea, as you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. What you don’t want to do is get halfway into a two week trip, only to realise that you’re struggling to cover the ground each day. Make sure to plan in rest days too, and as your trip length grows you’ll need to make stops to buy more supplies or make more room.