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What is Bikepacking?

A woman going over a log with her mountain bike.

If you are looking for a new way to find adventure and freedom at the same time, bikepacking might be right for you. You need an open mind with a curiosity to explore with your bicycle, regardless of what type of bike you have. So before you grab some gear and jump on your bike, find out more details about bikepacking.

What Is Bikepacking?

Mountain bike with backpack beside a pile of wood.

In its simplest definition, bikepacking is a bike tour that happens over multiple days that can happen off-road or mixed terrain while the biker carries all their equipment on their bike. Think of your typical backpacking hike, but on a bike. It is a combination of the best of both worlds.

Bikepacking is considered a way to find freedom and adventure combined together and is often referred to as ultimate freedom. This ride takes you off the beaten path. It puts the rider on the road less traveled. 

Where Do You Go Bikepacking?

A cycling traveling and bikepacking.

Bikepacking can happen just about anywhere you want. One of the few requirements that come along with bikepacking is that you leave the path in the same condition as you found it. This principle is called the Leave No Trace principle.

It is easy to find pre-set routes online that provide you a fantastic ride, and you do not have to put the route together yourself. There are events specifically designed to bring bikepackers together in one place. It is recommended to beginning bikepackers that they try an overnight trip to get a feel for how the trip will go. 

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What Kind Of Bike Is Used For Bikepacking?

Bikepacking with complete gear.

Bikepacking covers a wide range of biking rides and trails. Unfortunately, there is no best bike for bikepacking that is ideal for every circumstance. There are many considerations when determining which bike is right for you and your route.

Each piece of the items you carry may be light, but the mass weight becomes heavy when you combine them. This means that you need a frame that is able to carry all that weight across bumpy and rough terrain. If you do not have a robust enough frame, you can risk cracking it. 

Some other features you may want to consider are a comfortable saddle (seat), wider tires, disc brakes, mud clearance, and luggage mounting options. 

Another alternative is to use what bike you currently have and plan your trips, including the route and length of time, around your bike. If you are new to bikepacking, this may be a great way to start before spending a large sum of money on new equipment. 

Taking your time to get a feel for bikepacking with your current bike allows you to gain more experience and an understanding of what you want on your ride. This way, you only purchase items that make sense for you.

Mountain bikes are able to handle the more demanding trails, but they may not give the rider the speed they want. Nevertheless, many experienced bikepackers recommend mountain bikes as the go-to bike for all routes. 

If you are looking for a faster bike that gives you confidence on the trail, you may want to consider an adventure road bike or a gravel bike. Depending on the route, you may be able to use a road bike. 

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Typical Gear Options For Bikepacking

Bike with backpacks for bikepacking.

While every bikepacker is different and may have different preferences as to what they take with them on the road, there are some common items. You do not want to carry all of your items on your back. You want to keep the weight as low as possible because this gives you better handling and comfort. 

Beginner Riders Typically Prefer:

daypack to carry anything that is lightweight or sensitive to vibration and you do not want on your bike frame. A daypack is what you carry on your back. A dry bag is ideal for heavy items, and it attaches to your rear rack. A handlebar bag is best for light to moderate weight items such as clothing or a tent. 

Water bottle cages to hold your water where it is centered and low. If you are bikepacking with your family or a large group, you may want a bike trailer to carry heavy items. 

Experienced Riders Typically Prefer:

More experienced riders often have a large seat bag which is ideal for carrying bulky items that are lightweight. A handlebar bag helps carry items that are of moderate weight, such as extra clothing. These bags can also hold the gear to which the rider needs quick access, such as a camera or a map.

 Water bottle cages to hold your water where it is centered and low. Frame bags for heavy items like tools, food, and hydration bladder. Many expert riders become proficient at lashing gear to their bike with tie-downs. 

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Common Gear For All Bikepackers

Different kinds Mountain bike equipment.

It would be best if you had all of the gear that you would typically take with you while backpacking. This gear typically includes items like a tent, sleeping bag, stove, and food. In addition, as a bikepacker, there is other gear you will need like a helmet, tire repair kit, spare tubes, and a multi-tool. 

If you are taking a long trip, you may want chain lube, spare cables, and a lightweight lock. When riding in the dark, you should consider a bike light that can mount to your handlebars or your helmet. 

Gloves and padded bike shorts help to make your ride more comfortable. It would be best if you considered clipless pedals and bike shoes to help maximize efficient pedaling. If you are going to do a lot of walking, bike shoes are not the best for walking around.

You may want to pack lightweight casual shoes for rest days and days at camp. You may want to carry a tarp to protect your bike from bad weather.