Here’s what you need for a bikepacking adventure

Try out bikepacking for some quality time with your bike

Bikepacking is the perfect way to get away for a few nights into the wild and channel your inner adventurer. And with some simple planning, and a few crafty bike hacks, you can start exploring those wilder places.

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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, but these are a few brands we’d particularly recommend:

Ortlieb

Ortlieb's bikepacking range is fully waterproof and comes with several size options
Ortlieb’s bikepacking range is fully waterproof and comes with several size options
Ortlieb

Blackburn

Blackburn's Outpost bikepacking bags are another popular choice
Blackburn’s Outpost bikepacking bags are another popular choice
Blackburn

Altura

Altura's Vortex bikepacking bags are a more affordable option
Altura’s Vortex bikepacking bags are a more affordable option
Altura

Apidura

Apidura's expedition range is great if you need to back a lot on your bike
Apidura’s expedition range is great if you need to pack a lot on your bike
Apidura
The racing range is a lot more compact and perfect for ultra-distance racing
The racing range is a lot more compact and perfect for ultradistance racing
Apidura

Apidura offers two ranges of bikepacking bags: one for ultra-distance racers where the key is minimalism, and one for expeditions where the key is volume.

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.

Drybags

Drybags are a great way to keep your stuff safe, and make great pillows
Drybags are a great way to keep your stuff safe, and make great pillows
Ortlieb / Altura

Sea to Summit lashes

Tie drybags and other accessories down with carabiners and straps
Tie drybags and other accessories down with carabiners and straps
Sea to Summit

3. Comfortable handlebars

You aren’t shredding the gnar here. 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.

Recommended handlebars

There are lots of different shaped handlebars out there
There are lots of different shaped handlebars out there
Surly / Jeff Jones / Alpkit / Salsa

*Currently out of stock but due back in from April 2019 — you can sign up for stock alerts.

4. GPS tracker

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 Gen3, will allow family and friends to track you via GPS and get help to you if you run into trouble.

Recommended personal locators

If you're heading out into the sticks, a personal beacon can help your loved ones track you in an emergency
If you’re heading out into the sticks, a personal beacon can help your loved ones track you in an emergency
Spot / ACR

5. Hydration solutions

Water’s 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 percent of bacteria makes every stream your next watering hole.

Recommended water filters

A portable water filter lets you drink from streams safely
A portable water filter lets you drink from streams safely
Lifestraw / Sawyer / MSR

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

The UK is criss-crossed with ridable bridleways and permissive paths. 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.

In the US, National Geographic offers maps for some popular trails and national parks.

Recommended GPS devices

When bikepacking, a hiking/off-road GPS device helps you navigate off the beaten track
When bikepacking, a hiking/off-road GPS device helps you navigate off the beaten track
Garmin / Satmap

2. Sleeping arrangements

Use the smallest sleeping bag you can get away with. A simple foam mat adds enough comfort for short trips and can be trimmed down to make it easier to pack.

Tent, bivvy or bothy? The choice of accommodation is yours and will make a big difference to how much you need to carry.

Sleeping mats

Sleeping mats come in all forms, from inflatable to self-inflating and foam
Sleeping mats come in all forms, from inflatable to self-inflating and foam
Alpkit / Thermarest / Klymit

Bivvy bags

A bivvy bag keeps your sleeping bag dry and lets you camp outside without a tent
A bivvy bag keeps your sleeping bag dry and lets you camp outside without a tent
Alpkit / RAB / Snugpak

*Currently out of stock but due back in from March 2019 — you can sign up for stock alerts.

Sleeping bags

Try to opt for a lightweight sleeping that packs down well
Try to opt for a lightweight sleeping bag that packs down well
Alpkit / Snugpak

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 rain jacket is always advisable too.

Recommended baselayers

A Merino wool baselayer will help mask the whiff if you've been out of civilsation for a while
A merino wool baselayer will help mask the whiff if you’ve been out of civilsation for a while
Endura

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.

Recommended stoves

If you're cooking, there are plenty of very small and packable stoves out there
If you’re cooking, there are plenty of very small and packable stoves out there
MSR / Optimus / Primus

And don’t forget that all-important and super-trendy titanium mug.

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.

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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?