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.
First-time bikepacking bike set-up
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:
- Buy the Ortlieb bikepacking handlebar bag from Cycle Store
- Buy the Ortlieb bikepacking seat pack from Cycle Store
- Buy the Ortlieb bikepacking frame pack from Cycle Store
- Buy the Ortlieb bikepacking top tube pack from Cycle Store
- Buy the Blackburn Outpost handlebar roll with drybag from Cycle Store
- Buy the Blackburn Outpost seat pack with drybag from Evans Cycles
- Buy the Blackburn Outpost frame bag medium from Evans Cycles
- Buy the Altura Vortex waterproof seat pack from Probikekit
- Buy the Altura Vortex waterproof bikepacking frame pack from Evans Cycles
- Buy the Altura Vortex waterproof bikepacking front roll from Evans Cycles
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.
- Buy now from Ortlieb ultralite drybag 12 litre Cycle Store
- Buy now from Altura waterproof dry pack Probikekit
Sea to Summit lashes
- Buy the Sea to Summit Bomber tie downs single from Amazon
- Buy the Sea to Summit tie down accessory straps with hook release from Amazon
- Buy the Sea to Summit accessory carabiner 3-pack from Amazon
3. Handlebar comfort
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.
- Buy the Salsa Woodchipper handlebars from eBay
- Buy the Jeff Jones aluminium H-Bar Loop handlebars from Charlie the Bikemonger
- Buy the Surly Moloko handlebars from Triton Cycles
- Buy the Alpkit Love Mud Confucius handlebars direct*
*Currently out of stock but due back in from April 2019 — you can sign up for stock alerts.
4. Stay safe
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
- Buy the Spot GEN3 Satellite GPS Tracker from Amazon
- Buy the ACR ResQlink+ personal locator beacon from Amazon
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
- Buy the Lifestraw Go 0.65 litre filter bottle from Decathlon
- Buy the Sawyer mini filter from Snow + Rock
- Buy the MSR filtering pup trekking trail shot from Decathlon
Ready to ride
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. Where to ride
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
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.
- Buy the Klymit Inertia ultralite sleeping mat from Amazon
- Buy the Thermarest compressible self-inflating mat from Amazon
- Buy the Alpkit Numo lightweight sleeping mat direct
- Buy the RAB survival zone bivi bag from Snow + Rock
- Buy the Snugpak bivvi bag from Amazon
- Buy the Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag direct*
- Buy the Lifesystems bothy bag for two from Snow + Rock
- Buy the Lifesystems bothy bag for four from Snow + Rock
*Currently out of stock but due back in from March 2019 — you can sign up for stock alerts.
- Buy the Snugpak Softie Kestrel lite sleeping bag from Amazon
- Buy the Alpkit Mountain Ghost 140 sleeping bag direct
3. What to wear bikepacking
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.
- Buy the Endura men’s Baa Baa Merino long-sleeve baselayer from Evans Cycles
- Buy the Endura women’s Baa Baa Merino long-sleeve baselayer from Evans Cycles
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.
- Buy the MSR Pocketrocket 2 from Go Outdoors
- Buy the Optimus Crux Lite from Wiggle
- Buy the Primus Express camping stove from Decathlon
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.
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?