What is Bikepacking
Bikepacking is the combination of mountain biking, hiking, and minimalist camping. Bikepacking allows for the freedom and enjoyment of a multi-day hiking adventure while adding the thrill of mountain biking. Bikepacking allows for exploration of the backcountry that would not be accessible to hikers or trekkers because bikepackers have added range. One advantage to bikepacking is that it allows for the exploration of places that are seldom reached and is not limited by the type of terrain or path. Bikepacking doesn’t require a paved road; in fact, bikepacking can be done on gravel, dirt trails, and cross country. Once the thrill of the day of bikepacking is over, simply remove the lightweight camping gear being carried in one of the several bike packing bags and set up camp.
One of the advantages of bikepacking is that it does not cost a lot to take advantage of it. You do not need the latest bike, super ultra-lightweight camping gear, custom bikepacking bags, or a custom heavy-duty bike frame. The low cost of entry to bikepacking is what is making this activity one of the fastest-growing backcountry adventures. While it will take some bikepacking gear to get started in order to carry your gear, much of this equipment is easily attainable through local outfitters, online e-tailers, or even Amazon. Most bikepackers start by using a bike they already have and adding the necessary frame bags to it. Bikepacking is an adventure that is easily affordable.
Bikepacking at its Core
While it is debatable whether mountain biking, hiking, or camping is at bikepacking’s core, what is certain is that bikepacking allows for exploration of the backcountry at a greater distance than what hiking would allow. This is true whether your bikepacking trek is a day trip or a multi-day backcountry adventure and carrying only the essential gear that you’ll need to set up camp at the end of the day’s travel. Multi-day mountain biking is bikepacking at its core: carrying only the bare necessities on a bike that’s light enough to explore the trails you’d seek out on a day ride. Whether you are bikepacking the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, the Maah Daah Hey Trail across North Dakota, or bikepacking the Kokopelli Trail through Colorado and Utah, bikepacking takes advantage of all the backcountry adventure that hiking does and perhaps more. With the increased adventure and distance, however, the more important that you are prepared for your bikepacking trip, have the essential gear, and a really good GPS tracker.
One of the best things about bikepacking is that almost any bike can be a bikepacking bike and are capable of carrying the bags that will make it easy to carry your gear. Obviously, common sense has to be applied, and you certainly would not want to retrofit your street racing cycling bike into a bikepacking bike. However, if you have a mountain bike, just about all of those will be bikepacking-ready. Obviously, the type of trail that you intend to explore will dictate what type of bike will perform the best. Certain conditions may call for a more rigid bike, while others may require a full suspension bike, and yet others may require fat tires, especially in snowy or sandy conditions.
Competitive bikepacking has become increasingly popular. These courses span over 200 miles and the bikes are equipped with ultra-light gear to maximize efficiency. Bikepacking has not only become popular in the U.S. but internationally as well. An increasing number of bikepacking races continue to pop up all over the world and more and more bikepacking racers are competing and testing these racer’s speed and skills over a myriad of terrain.
What is the Best Bikepacking Bike and Gear
What then is the best bikepacking bike? The best bikepacking bike will be relative to the terrain it has to traverse and the routes it rides, which will dictate the bikepacking rig setup. If you are a beginner at bikepacking or thinking about trying out bikepacking, the best bikepacking bike may be the bike that you already own, mountain or trail bikes will most likely be more than capable of handling a beginner route and terrain. The bikepacking bags that you will need will easily be able to be attached to your existing bike, because modern bikepacking bags attach by Velcro and are not dependent on your bike frame having eyelets in order to carry the gear. Later, once you become convinced that you enjoy bikepacking (which you will), you can then find a bike specifically designed for bikepacking on the terrain and in the conditions, you plan to ride.
Modern bikepacking bags are commercially available, and easy to obtain. Modern bikepacking bags are soft and pliable and are made to fit different areas of your bike. As such, each type of bikepacking bag performs a different function. How to pack it and what camping and emergency gear go where is rather an art, but in subsequent articles, our expert bikepackers will share their tips and knowledge on how best to pack your gear for your adventure. The most popular and most necessary types of bikepacking bags are the frame bag, a handlebar bag, a harness, a seat bag, and perhaps even peripheral bags that attach to the sides of your rear tire. They do not rattle, they are lightweight and are tailored made to fit almost any bike, mountain, or trail.
Without these bags to hold your gear, you would not be able to efficiently carry the necessary equipment you need, especially on multi-day backcountry bikepacking trips. A word of caution, though, some frame bags are specifically designed to only correctly fit a certain bike, so before you buy one, make sure that it is universal fitting and not specifically designed for a particular bike.
For those that want to experience bikepacking without having to buy any bags or gear first, it is possible to use a flexible backpack that you can wear and you could also use some bungee cords to attach a travel bag to your bike frame that would carry your tent and other camping equipment. This is not optimal, however, and when you decide that backcountry bikepacking is something you want to continue to experience, you will want to go ahead and get the proper bikepacking gear to ensure that you are experiencing the extreme enjoyment that bikepacking offers and not struggling with gear.