Bikepacking is the perfect way to get away for a few nights into the wild and channel your inner adventurer.
With some simple planning, and a few crafty bike hacks, you can start exploring those wilder places.
What to take bikepacking
Preparing your bike for an overnighter is easy and doesn’t need to break the bank.
1. Bike bags and packs
A rucksack is fine for shorter trips, but bike bags make longer rides more comfortable.
For a hardtail, you can buy a universal frame bag to make the most of its carrying potential. If you ride a full-sus, you may need a custom-made bag that won’t interfere with the suspension.
Plenty of companies produce bikepacking bags to suit a huge range of budgets. Check out our in-depth guide to bikepacking bags for more info.
2. Lash a dry bag
Lashing dry bags to your bike is a simple hack that emulates specialist bar and seat packs. While there are many benefits to getting the right kit, if you’re just starting out or fancy a one-off trip this should see you through without costing the earth.
Voile rubber straps and Sea to Summit hook release tiedowns are two of the most popular ways to strap a bag to your bike.
3. Comfortable handlebars
With a bike encumbered with bags, you aren’t going to be setting out to shred the gnar.
If you’re planning a long day in the saddle, a more upright position will make things easier, so sling some extra spacers under the stem and raise that handlebar.
For flat bars, something with increased back sweep, such as the Jones H-Bar and its many imitators are a perfect choice for many riders.
For the curly wurly bar crowd, something with increased flare and width – such as the Ritchey Venturemax – can help to improve control off-road.
4. GPS tracker
It’s a good idea to make sure someone knows where you’re heading and when you’ll be back, especially if riding alone.
A personal emergency beacon, such as the SPOT tracker, will allow family and friends to track you via GPS and get help to you if you run into trouble. These work via satellite communication rather than regular mobile phone networks, which is important to consider if you’re venturing into the back of beyond.
5. Hydration solutions
Water is heavy, takes up a lot of space and chances are you’ll want more than you can carry.
Mini water filters are now super-compact and affordable, and their ability to filter out 99.99 per cent of bacteria makes every stream your next watering hole.
How to plan a bikepacking trip
Now your bike is all set up and you’re ready to start your bikepacking adventure, here’s all the essential info you need to plan your trip out into the wild.
1. Plot the route
England and Walles is criss-crossed with ridable bridleways and permissive paths. Scotland’s progressive access laws make planning much easier with most land accessible by the public.
For the greatest detail possible, pick up an Ordnance Survey map or sign up with OS online and rough-out a route. You can even download its app to your smartphone and use it as a GPS. Make sure you have a way of recharging though.
Apps such as Ride With GPS, Komoot and Strava are all worth considering for pre-planning your routes.
2. Sleeping arrangements
Use the smallest sleeping bag you can get away with – volume rather than weight is usually the issue when it comes to stuffing sleeping kit into your bikepacking bags.
A simple foam mat adds enough comfort for short trips and can be trimmed down to make it easier to pack. An inflatable mat is an infinitely more comfortable solution, however.
Tent, bivvy or bothy? The choice of accommodation is yours and will make a big difference to how much you need to carry.
3. Find the right clothes
The great thing about being miles from civilisation is that no one will know how bad you whiff after a few days in the wild.
Merino wool is naturally antibacterial, so can be worn for days on the trot. Make sure to take some antibacterial chamois cream too. You’ll need suitable layers to put on for your time off the bike. Packing a waterproof cycling jacket is always advisable too.
4. Cooking equipment
Unless you’re willing to haul a lot of kitchen kit, wild cooking generally consists of boiling water. You can use this to make tea, cook dried noodles, rehydrate dehydrated meals and make porridge.
Head to your local camping store for lots of affordable and compact solutions. Don’t be tempted to make an open fire – they’re messy, damage the ground and can get out of control.
5. Pack light
Do you really need that extra jacket or half a tool kit? One of the most fun elements of bikepacking is making do with the bare minimum. Pack items that can be used for more than one thing. For example, a tyre lever makes quite a good item of cutlery, or a spork can be used as a makeshift tyre lever.
6. Learn from the experience
Look at your set-up and think about how to make it better next time. This could be by making it lighter or changing your riding position. Be ruthless when unpacking – if you didn’t use something, will you really need it next time?