Lockdown has given us a lot of free time to think about past adventures, go through the archives, and plan (distant?) future trips. Whilst digging through hard drives I found some old photos from a bikepacking trip on the Heaphy Track, New Zealand, and it got me thinking about the next bikepacking trip, whenever that might be. There’s something about bikepacking that trumps hiking for me. Travelling further, moving faster, more fun? I don’t know exactly what it is but travelling by bike with everything strapped to the frame is awesome.
Here we’re going to look at ten basic things you need to take bikepacking
First up, and a pretty obvious starting point, the bike. Now, there’s no right or wrong bike for bikepacking – it all comes down to the type of trip you’re going on. If, for example, you plan to ride 1000km on the roads, a road bike or hybrid would be the best shout. However, if your route includes bridleways and gravel tracks you’ll need an appropriate steed. A drop-bar gravel bike – like the Surly Straggler pictured – is a happy medium that will roll fast on the roads but also handle the rough stuff if you venture off road.
The next thing you’ll need for a bikepacking adventure is bags to carry everything in. Much like the bike, there are so many different options when it comes to choosing your bags. Traditional style panniers? Front basket bag? Minimal style saddle bag? Again, it’s down to personal preference and the type of riding you’ll be doing, and you’ll want to put some thought into it before making a purchase. This super useful guide to bikepacking bags is a great place to start.
Tent/Bivvy bag, Sleeping bag, Sleeping mat
One of the best things about bikepacking is sleeping in the dirt. You ride all day until you find a suitable spot to rest and set up camp for the evening. Once again, the choice of sleeping arrangements is totally personal; some prefer a bivvy bag, others prefer a tent. I’ve done both and can honestly say that either option has pros and cons. A tent is undoubtedly more comfortable if the weather isn’t perfect, plus you can share the load with a partner like I did on a bikepacking trip with Em in Wanaka. But a bivvy bag is lighter to carry, and if the conditions are right there’s nothing better than laying out under the stars. You’ll also need a suitable sleeping bag for the season, as well as a sleeping pad.
Stove, knife & spork
Bikepacking is as much about time off the bike for me as it is about riding. This includes cooking up an evening meal or brewing a morning coffee and, for this, you’ll need a stove, a spork and a knife. I used the Alpkit Brewkit Wolf for years, but recently bought a Jetboil. My spork is a titanium model from Sea to summit and I’ve got an Opinel knife but you can choose any knife from a specialist knife supplier.
I don’t go on any trip, bikepacking included, without my Aeropress. It’s bombproof and makes the best coffee, in my opinion!
You should never go out on the bike without a basic repair kit including spare tubes, pump, cable ties, chain lube, and a multi-tool – with a chain tool. I got caught out with a snapped chain which resulted in a long walk back to the car to fix the problem. Not only do you need to carry kit to repair any problem, but you should also know how to use said kit. For a full breakdown of basic bike maintenance essentials, check out bikepacking.com piece.
Spare warm clothes
Finally, and possibly one of the most crucial to an enjoyable evening off the bike, spare clothes and a warm layer. There’s nothing better than taking wet riding gear off and slipping into a dry pair of thermals and a down jacket. Don’t underestimate the little luxuries!
So there you have it; 10 essentials to take on a bikepacking trip:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Repair kit
- Warm clothes