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  • Maria Landrau

What exactly is bikepacking?

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

backing bike fully outfitted

What exactly is bikepacking?

When Eric Parsons began mountain bike touring in Alaska and around the world in the 1990s, there was no such thing as "Bikepacking." And, while he and other bikers went on long-distance, multi-day adventures, they didn't have frame bags, seat bags, or handlebar harness systems. Bikepacking is primarily done off-road on trails and varied terrain, combining the best elements of mountain biking and backpacking.

Exploring (getting lost), camping (eating exceptionally well), and socializing with friends are all on the agenda. Don't be concerned about things like gear and compression gear to reduce drag. The beauty of bikepacking is that anyone can enjoy it. To get a fresher on bikepacking start with a bikepacking documentary as riders cover the realities of bikepacking.

What to Ride

Many bikepacking destinations are accessible via forest service roads or singletrack trails, a mountain bike is an excellent choice. However, any bike with racks and/or storage bags can be used. Bike manufacturers are building specialized rigs strictly for bikepacking. Find bikes that match your riding and terrain preferences.

To handle long distances keep in increasing your distance on your training rides and consider integrating indoor cycling training to your practice during winter months and inclement weather.

What to bring

What bikepacking equipment and food to take along is dependent on the length of your trip. You’ll take key pieces of the bikepacking puzzle and some are a few steadfast no-brainers.


Plan to bring enough food for the duration of the journey, and err on the side of caution. A good carbohydrate-protein ratio will provide you with the energy you need to get through the ride. Protein at the end of the day will allow your muscles to recover and be ready to perform the next day.

Before embarking on a multi-day adventure, experiment with different foods and learn how your body reacts to each one. Everyone is unique, so test various foods to find out which provide the best nutrition and endurance.


Maintain hydration throughout the ride to replace salt and minerals lost through sweating. If you’re riding in an area where there is no access to safe drinking water, make sure you have access to a purification system that can convert unfit water into drinkable water.


If the weather permits, spend the night in a tent or even a hammock under the stars. Choose a comfortable sleeping pad and a light sleeping bag that work well together. This will be heavily influenced by the weather, so do some research on the forecast before you go. Even if it's not raining, having a tarp handy is always a good idea. If you're bringing a lot of gear, be aware that it will take more effort to haul it all along with you and consider the amount of time needed to put up and take down.


Bikepackers, in general, want to be environmentally conscious and, whether they realize it or not, advocate for ethical clothing manufacturing. There are many eco-friendly clothing manufacturers, and you should start with the base layers. You want to stay cool while riding and warm when you stop. A moisture-wicking base layer will suffice from warm to mild temperatures. In the fall or winter, a waterproof jacket with detachable sleeves will make your trip more comfortable. Lastly, always have a spare set of bibs to change into after rains.

Learn more about buying used cycling jerseys and new ones.


For backpacking and bike touring, a good GPS is essential. Because of the remote areas you'll encounter while bikepacking, it's even more important. Garmin's InReach series and the Spot X are examples of personal locator beacons and satellite messengers that fit the bill. When choosing a navigation unit make sure it can be easily recharged while riding.


Bikepacking lights are an important part of riding safety, efficiency, and performance. Choose a light that lights up the day and night. You should be able to ride on paths safely with a light intensity of 500 to 900 lumens. Almost all lights have different intensity levels, which determine how long they last, so choose the one that will keep you riding safely as it gets darker.

Kit for repairing

Having a multi-tool on hand can help you get out of a jam, so keep one in your spare bag. A spare tire, in addition to the required flat kit, can mean the difference between a long walk or, worse, being stranded in the middle of nowhere, so bring one with you.

First aid

A basic first aid kit will not save your life in the event of a major emergency, but it will buy you time to get out of the woods and seek medical help. Minor wounds and ailments that are treated promptly and properly can mean the difference between completing a planned route and having to cut your bikepacking adventure short. That would be a bummer.

Fire-starting tool

At the end of a long journey, a campfire is both enjoyable and necessary. In the wild, it provides light, warmth, cooking, and even protection from predators. Pack fire starters that are indestructible, such as the Überleben Sånft-korr™.

Bike bags

The gear for bikepacking is divided among a half-dozen packs that fit inside the bike frame's empty spaces. These bags are designed to be modular, so they can adapt to the needs of each ride. To achieve the distance and load criteria, add extra bags. Keep in mind that the more weight you add to the bike, the faster your body will tire and the more calories you consume.

There are numerous cargo-carrying pack alternatives, including:

• Pannier racks on the front and back - Ortlieb is the market leader

Your cargo configuration will most likely be a combination of different packs, depending on the bike you're riding. Whether you need to strap something to your bike or do an impromptu trail repair, bungee cords and zip ties will come in helpful.

Lessons from the trail

Everything is determined by one's attitude.

Positivity is key. You're either dehydrated or hungry if you're grouchy. Keep pounding a water bottle and pushing forward. Relax and enjoy the scenery. Remember you're on a bike, which puts you in touch with nature.

Be prepared for the unexpected.

While the thrill of the unknown is a big part of bikepacking—after all, you're out there to experience the world—having a game plan is as important. In the face of a challenge like this, you may learn a great deal about yourself through bikepacking. It's going to happen. Make it back and do it safely.

You don't have to be an expert to participate.

The more you do bikepacking, the more pleasurable it becomes. Regardless of skill level. It's best to pack light for your first trip, focusing instead on having fun and learning what works and what doesn't for your next one.

A mountain bike and sleeping bag are all you need to get started in the world of bikepacking. During a biking trip, you'll quickly realize that you don't need as much gear as you think you do. Seek new bikepacking trails, as you'll acquire more confidence the greater distances you ride.

The most important aspect of your bikepacking trip is that it is precisely what you envision. Make a plan for your trip, pack your gear, and hit the road!

It's easy to amass backpacking accessories over the years, and selling them on Pedals is one way to update your bikepacking kit. Pedals ia a mobile application to locally buy and sell used bikes, parts, clothing, and micromobility transport.

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