Bikepacking Guide: Everything You Need to Get Started
February 21, 2019
Looking for a new outdoor adventure? Then bikepacking might be just what the doctor ordered: combining the excitement of backpacking with the fun of bike-touring, bikepacking is a great way to explore new trails and secluded camping destinations.
However, before you head out, you’re going to want to gear up! After all, you wouldn’t head out into the great outdoors on a multi-day hike with nothing more than the clothes on your back, would you?
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to get started with bike camping: from planning your route to picking the right bike, we’ve got you covered!
Planning Your Route
The first step to bikepacking is deciding where you want to go, and for first-timers, we suggest checking out local state parks or forest-service roads, as they’re usually more accessible by bike and have a variety of camping options available.
Additionally, we also recommend applications such as MapMyRide or Ride with GPS, as they make routing exploration and creation super simple and fun.
Once you know exactly where you want to go, it’s time to pick a time and day for your bikepacking adventure!
When deciding on a day, it’s important to note things like the weather as this will directly impact your gear requirements for the trip: if it looks like it’s going to rain, you’re going to want to bring along a proper shell and other weather resistant cycling gear.
Additionally, if you’re planning to do numerous bike overnights, you’ll want to ensure that your bike is equipped with headlamps and reflective spokes for nighttime visibility.
For more bike camping gear recommendations, please check out our gear guide found below.
After deciding where you want to go, the next step is to start gathering the appropriate gear.
Before diving into our specific gear recommendations, we want to remind our readers that because bikepacking is basically backpacking with a bike, many of the gear choices that are applicable to backpacking are relevant here.
Additionally, it’s highly recommend that you bring along some basic necessities on the bikepacking adventure, like food and water, for example.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably want to bring more food and water than what you’ll need for the trip just as a precaution, and while this might seem like a burden on a regular backpacking trip, bikepacking makes it much easier to bring additional supplies as the bike is more or less carrying the load.
Sena Smart Cycling Helmets
Sena’s R1 and X1 cycling helmets combine Bluetooth 4.1 functionality with Advanced Noise Control™ technology to provide cycling enthusiasts with the best all-around helmet experience on the market.
With Sena’s smart cycling helmets, riders can hear GPS directions, listen to music from their smartphone, take phone calls, and even track their cycling performance with their favorite fitness applications.
What’s more, the R1 and X1 feature a four-way intercom capable of communicating at distances over a half mile distance, which means that you can seamlessly communicate with your bikepacking buddies while you’re out on the trail.
So if you’re in the market for a new cycling helmet or simply looking to upgrade, check out Sena’s Bluetooth cycling helmets for a high-tech approach to your bikepacking adventures.
Picking the Right Bike
Because bikepacking usually involves some pretty rough terrain, most riders will typically opt for a rugged mountain bike; however, having a mountain bike isn’t necessarily a requirement.
Indeed, any bike can be outfitted to handle the great outdoors: it just depends on how much time, money, and energy you’re willing to spend upgrading your bike.
To make your bike more suitable for a bikepacking adventure, you’re definitely going to want to look into upgrading your tires, brakes, handlebars, and perhaps even your suspension (depending on what kind of ride you want).
Additionally, your chosen bike should be compatible with panniers or with some other type of storage solution since you’ll be transporting all of your camping gear with you as well.
Bikepackers have a range of options when it comes to storage, including items like cycling backpacks, dry bags, panniers, handlebar bags, bike trainers, and so on and so forth.
However, it’s important to note that all bikes have a limit as to how much extra weight they can carry or tow, and before you start loading up your bike with all your gear, you should definitely check out the manufacturer’s recommended load capacity for your bike.
Additionally, you also want to make sure that you distribute the weight of your storage solutions evenly throughout the bike, as an unbalanced load is not only more difficult to ride but also more dangerous since they’re harder to control.
In general, bikepackers should look at the following storage solutions:
Seat Bag: Good for light, bulky items or extra bike specific gear (e.g., spare tires, bike repair tools, pumps, etc.)
Handlebar Bag: If you need quick access to certain items like a map, smartphone, or GPS device, a handlebar bag can add a bit of convenience to your bikepacking experience.
Water Bottle Cage: If you’re not planning on utilizing a wearable water solution like a Camelbak, then a water bottle cage attached to the downtube will suffice.
Panniers / Frame Bags: These are great for storing your camping gear, extra clothing items, or any other tools that you might need on your bikepacking adventure.
Backpack: If using a water bottle cage, a lightweight backpack can be used for storing extra clothes, shoes, and other gear that is relatively lightweight.
Bike Trailers: For longer trips or trips with the family, a bike trailer can be an invaluable tool to have since they are more than capable of carrying a large number of items.
Additionally, when picking out these items, please make sure that they are waterproof or at the very least water resistant, as there’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination with drenched luggage!
When deciding on a tent, the key features that you want to pay attention to are weight, size, durability, and ability to withstand adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, and even high winds.
Indeed, many experienced bikepackers settle on ultralight backpacking tents since they’re often designed with these qualities in mind.
For a specific production recommendation, we definitely recommend checking out the Copper Spur HV UL3.
Weighing in at 4.96 lb, the Copper Spur HV UL3 packs down to 4.5’’ x 20’’ and has more than enough room for 3 individuals. And despite being lightweight, the Copper Spur HV UL3 features an extremely robust build thanks to a proprietary random rip-stop pattern nylon that provides added strength and durability.
Additionally, all seams on this tent are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape, making it highly resistant to heavy downpours.
When deciding on what kind of cycling shoe to wear on your bikepacking adventure, cyclists have a range of options available to them.
For many experienced road cyclists, the temptation is to wear their trusty clipless cycling shoes, and while this is definitely a fine option, clipless cycling shoes aren’t necessarily the most comfortable shoe to be walking around in, so it’s best to bring a second pair of shoes that would be more comfortable around a campfire.
If bringing a second pair of shoes seems a bit cumbersome to you, then consider an SPD-compatible mountain bike shoe, like the Truk Pro Bike Shoe from Chrome Industries. Featuring a durable rubber heel cup, reflective materials, and a clipless pedal system, the Truk Pro allows riders to enjoy the efficiency of their favorite road shoe without sacrificing all-day comfort.
If clipless isn’t really your thing, then an all-purpose mountain bike shoe like the Five Ten Freerider Pro will be more than enough to get you through rough mountain trails or forest back roads.
inally, because bikepacking will likely involve dirt roads or even mud, you should wear a shoe that you feel comfortable getting dirty or wet.
Explore the Outdoors with Sena!
As the industry leader in Bluetooth cycling helmets, we take great pride in providing customers with the most innovative cycling products on the market—and we’re always looking to do more!
Take our latest and greatest smart cycling helmet: the R1.
Equipped with Bluetooth 4.1, the R1 cycling helmet allows riders to take calls, hear GPS directions, listen to music, and even hear training cues from their favorite fitness app.
Additionally, the R1 also has a built-in Bluetooth intercom, allowing cyclists to connect with 3 other riders over a half mile distance. And with Sena’s patented Advanced Noise Control Technology, users can filter out wind and white noise so that your riding companions only hear your beautiful voice in HD quality.
For video recording, Sena also offers a range of outdoor HD action cameras, like the Prism Tube Wi-Fi. Capable of recording video in 2K Quad HD quality (1440p @ 30 fps) and providing wind noise reduction, the Prism Tube Wi-Fi action camera is the perfect helmet accessory for capturing all of your bicycle camping adventures!