Bikepacking 101: Essential Gear For Your Adventures
Having the right gear means you’ll be able to make the most of any adventure – this is especially true for bikepacking trips. To make sure you have the best possible experience, we’ve compiled a list of essential gear to get you off to a flyer.
Let’s jump right in.
THE RIGHT BIKE
It’s really important that your bike’s well suited to the terrain you intend to tackle and the storage requirements for your journey. To maximise your investment, we’d recommend focusing on versatility when choosing a bike. This usually means either rigid front forks or suspension with a lockout system. Either way, having the ability to stiffen up the front end makes for more efficient climbing.
As for wheels, it’s recommended you’re rolling with 29 inch ‘29er’ wheels for their efficiency on longer rides and ability to comfortably roll over small obstacles compared to 27.5-inch wheels. In time you’ll also want to adapt your set-up to suit your own personal tastes, maybe play with different chainsets or try hydraulic brakes, there are plenty of options out there.
Having a sound set-up to roll out on is important, but you’ll quickly get a feel for what you like. Be sure to get chatting to other bikepackers you meet on the trails – advice from experienced riders is priceless.
BIKE PACKS AND BAGS
Aside from the bike itself, bike packs are quintessential for a proper bikepacking experience. A typical bikepacking setup involves a frame pack, seat pack, handlebar pack and accessory bags – creating enough capacity for your carrying needs. Each type of bikepacking bag is unique due to its size and position on the bike.
Frame packs are great to store heavier items due to their low, central position, while handlebar packs should be kept light to minimise the impact on handling. The intricacies of packing and gear setups are endless and very much personal, but having these 3 cornerstone packs is a great place to start.
For in-depth detail on the types and recommendations of bags, check out this Complete Guide.
Water is not only a bikepacking essential, but also a survival essential and there are 3 things to look out for here – purification, storage capacity and fitting it on your bike. Making sure that the water is drinkable is easily done by adding a water purification tablet, following the instructions on the packet, or any other method. In terms of storage, a minimum of 6 to 8 litres of water should be carried, spread across bottles and bladders stashed in your bags and in holders.
Even if you might not drink that much every day, make sure to refill and purify your water bladders and bottles before each day of riding to be safe. That being said, water is quite heavy, so feel free to cut down if you’ve planned well and know you’ll be able to top up regularly.
It’s time to sleep and rejuvenate for the long hours / days of riding to come. Sleep and shelter gear can vary wildly depending on your specific needs. Is it comfort or lightweight minimalism that you want to sleep in?
For a comfortable setup, a simple sleeping bag, mat and tent will be standard for most riders and will be comfortable enough for a decent sleep even for camping beginners. On the other end of the spectrum, hardcore riders may opt for just a puffer jacket and sleeping bag with a bivy bag, foregoing the sleeping mat for a bed of dirt and leaves, and skipping the overhead shelter to directly face the night sky. Certainly, we’d recommend you camp in comfort for the first couple of rides that you go on.
Bikepacking is an intense physical activity, so you’re going to need plenty of fuel! Make sure to plan your meals beforehand, ensuring adequate amounts of each macronutrient and that all your food is easy to pack. An easy way is to purchase ration packs and freeze-dried meals that you can quickly prepare using a classic Trangia or similar light-weight cooking system. Just make sure you’ve done a few practice runs to ensure you’ve got all the cutlery you need.
It’s also wise to prepare sufficient scroggin, or trail-mix to ensure that you’ll have energy throughout the day. Here’s a classic mix of high and low GI foods we particularly enjoy.
A bright lighting solution is crucial for not only your safety but also your enjoyment of the trails at night. There are many possible setups for lighting, but in general, it’s good to have a handheld/personal torch such as a flashlight or headlamp for when you’re away from the bike, and bike lights, either battery or dynamo for when you’re on the go.
A solid battery setup is a great starting point, provided that you invest in lights that are powerful with a wide lighting angle. Knog’s PWR Mountain Kit was painstakingly designed to be perfect for night exploration on (and off) your bike, with up to 2000 lumens to light up the trail.
When it comes to clothing, the key is to be minimal. A rule of thumb is to remove half the stuff you decide to pack the first time, that’s how badly people tend to overpack. Be wary of any possible weather conditions over the duration of your trip and be sure to layer your clothing depending on the temperature outside.
Only pack what you absolutely need, paying special attention to your feet – shoes and socks are the most important aspects of clothing, purely due to the sheer amount of peddling you’ll be doing. For socks, wool is a great option to take care of the odour and moisture, and for shoes, breathability and comfort are the traits to look out for in a great pair of bikepacking shoes.
TOOLS & KITS
Finally, it’s important to pack some basic first aid gear and bikepacking tools, as you don’t want to get caught out miles from anywhere. The ever-present possibility of punctures means that a spare inner, as well as general bike maintenance tools are must-haves. Simply put, be prepared to take care of yourself, and your bike in case of an accident.
With all this stuff packed onto your bike, you’ll be ready for a great first adventure. The best thing about it is that as you go on more and more adventures, you’ll be able to condense your experiences and decide what you really need and don’t need, gradually refining your bikepacking gear setup for future trips. Here’s some inspiration!