What To Pack For Bikepacking
Now that I’ve done a few bikepacking trips, I’ve really got the bug. Unfortunately, getting said bug is pretty bad timing seeing as I’m now a mother and can’t exactly just disappear all the time to camp out with my bike. I’ve a couple of short trips planned for later in the year but until I figure out how I can combine family and cycle touring I’m gonna leave it at that for 2019. If you’ve any tips or advice for a families with small children who’d like to try bikepacking, please do leave them in the comments below as honestly, I’m not sure where to start!
Solo bikepacking, I now feel very comfortable with. I’ve ridden through various parts of the world carrying a tent in my bag, not knowing where I’m going to sleep or when I can replenish food and drink supplies. It’s fun. It also really quickly shows you exactly how much stuff you really need, which is very little. Because of that, it’s vital (if you want a comfortable trip) that the few things you take are really fit for purpose.
Whilst away with some extremely experienced bike packers in California, I picked up a lot of tips about what works and what doesn’t, which I thought I’d share with you, dear readers. I also discovered that several items that I’d formerly considers ‘luxuries’ are very much worth carrying. I now takes these as a matter of course.
Here’s what I consider the essential kit list for lightweight bikepacking.
I’m very happy with the Apidura bags I’ve been using – they’re incredible lightweight and very robust so well worth the investment. Experiment with different set ups depending on your needs. I always use a saddle bag and a small top tube bag (for my camera or phone). Then I add a handlebar bag and/or a long top tube bag. Check out the full range here.
A sleeping mat
We’ve got two – the Alpkit Cloudbase and the Thermarest Neoair XLite. The former, at £50 is much cheaper than the latter and actually packs down very slightly smaller. The Thermarest is slightly more comfortable and warmer but it’s more than double the price.
A really good sleeping bag
I like Rab’s sleeping bags best. They don’t make the one I use anymore (it’s a hand-me-down) but I’d recommend anything from their Neutrino range. You might scream when you see the price so only invest if you’re sure you’re serious about doing a lot of camping!
A very small, lightweight tent
I know a lot of people are into bivying. It sounds romantic, but it’s essentially just sleeping in a bag. I sleep badly enough as it is and the thought of diminishing the amount of sleep I’ll get by doing that is not a fun thought. Unless you are a serious racer, a little tent is worth its weight in gold – you’ll be warmer, more comfortable and sleep a whole load better. On my last trip, only one guy slept in a bivy under a tarp and he got wet every night.
I used the Terra Nova Starlite 1 on my last trip. It packs down very small, weighs less than a kilo and is quick to put up. Just be careful with it as it’s fragile.
Yes, it’s bikepacking but don’t you want to sleep? My Exped Air Pillow (size M) is worth its weight in gold.
I initially thought I’d just eat sandwiches and cold food for a few days on my last trip. I’m so happy I was talked out of that. Sitting around the campfire watching everyone eat and drink coffee would have been torture. I really enjoy cooking and heating water on a fire but that’s not always possible. I’ve been using the tiny MSR Pocket Rocket for a few years now and it has never let me down.
A sleep mask
Essential if you don’t want to wake up at 4am.
A head torch
I didn’t take one last time and it was really hard to find my way back to the tent at the end of the evening. And I worried about going to the toilet in the dark in case I stung my bottom or something. Just take one.
A metal cup
Useful for eating and drinking but also for heating water. Just make sure you don’t touch the handle with your fingers if it’s been on the fire.
For making food, obviously.
A pot scraper
This was a new one to me. It’s a small piece of plastic with rubber on one side that you used for cleaning all the stuck on food out of your cooking pot. It might sound a little unnecessary and sure, you could live without it but it saves a lot of hassle and makes washing up easier.
A hat and a down jacket
I’ve been using the Arteryxc Cerium women’s down jacket for about 5 years now and not just for bikepacking. It weight just 280 grams, looks nice and is comfortable and cosy.
Merino’s antibacterial properties mean it stays fresh for longer than other fabrics. It remains warm even when wet and is a good thermo-regulator, meaning it’s useful in both cool and warm conditions.
For hangout out and sleeping in.
This is useful if you don’t have a handle/clamp/thing for picking up hot cooking pots. Just stick it round your neck and it will come in useful.
A coffee making thing
People took various different kinds of coffee making devices on my last trip and they all work in one way or another. My personal preference is the MSR Mugmate. It’s just a filter that you put inside your cup with coffee grounds inside.
A spork and knife
You’ll need a knife for preparing food and fixing stuff and there’s something nice about having a decent one. My favourite was a present from Marin Bikes. My other favourite, a lovely Victorinox is currently missing. The spork is for eating… obviously.
Sunscreen and lip balm
Never skimp on protecting yourself from the sun. And lip balm is a godsend when you’re miles from anywhere and have been roughing it.
Whilst it’s nice getting away from it all, I like to have a powerbank in case I need to charge my phone in an emergency. On my last trip, it came in very handy when my bike computer ran out.
A full toolkit
In this video, I go into what tools you’ll need for a bikepacking trip but I’ll just write them here in case you can’t be bothered to watch it:
Spare tubes, puncture repair kit, tubeless repair kit and sealant (if you’re tubeless), Co2 cartridges and attachment (again, good if you’re tubeless and need to reseat your tyre), multitool with chain breaker and THE CORRECT SIZE allen/hex keys, spare chain, spare derailleur, zip ties, lube, pump.
These are my essentials for bikepacking, the things I would be upset to leave behind. Food is another topic for another day, one I’m looking forward to talking about as evenings around a campfire, eating food straight from the pan are one of my favourite times. Do you think I’ve neglected to add anything to this list? Let me know!
If you’d like to buy any of the items, I’ve put an affiliate link in the text or you can check out my Amazon store here.