Spring Bikepacking 101

by Ashley Bradford March 29, 2018

Photo by @whileoutriding

Bikepacking is essentially self-supported touring on a bicycle outfitted with lightweight frame-mounted bags. It combines the exploratory thrill of mountain biking with the meditative isolation of backcountry rambling.

A proper bikepacking trip can consist of one short local overnighter or a multi-week expedition into unknown territory. There are many ways to do it and not one of them is wrong. That said, there are certainties – lessons culled from hard-earned, real life experience – that we’d like to share. Whether you’re a novice bikepacker or a grizzled vet, we’ve got some good advice for you.

Ditch the Backpack
One of the great joys of bikepacking is making your bike carry the load, not your shoulders. If you think you need a backpack, you’re probably carrying too much. Revise your packlist or increase the carrying capacity on your bike with bigger bags – your back will thank you.

Insulate Minimally
A lightweight insulated jacket is perfect if temps drop while riding, but it truly comes in handy once you stop moving. The Alpha Snap Jacket with Polartec® Alpha insulation is best in class for its warmth-to-weight ratio.

Eat Real Food
We all enjoy the occasional energy bar or power goop on our daily rides, but that stuff’s no good for lasting multi-day energy and crucial gut health. Here’s a nutrient-rich, easy-carry recipe from Chef Zander of The Cyclist’s Menu:

“If all you've got is a Jetboil, you're doing pretty good! Let's face it: with all the endurance events cropping up, riders are leaving anything at home that's going to weigh them down. We talk about this a lot at The Cyclist's Menu – whether it's a long day in the saddle at Gravel Camp, an overnight 90 miler at our Bikepacking camp, or riding an event like the Dirty Kanza 200 or the Tour Divide – you need real food.
Here's a quick and dirty recipe that will keep you moving and feeling great. Best part is you can prepare this beforehand or make it on the way. You choose!
½ cup dry white or brown rice. White rice is a bit easier on your digestive tract.
1 avocado, on the harder side for transport.
1-2 pinches flake sea salt.
1 handful golden raisins. Pre-soak them in water if possible to aid digestion.
Sprinkle of hemp seeds.
Splash of Olive Oil & Tamari. These can be transported in small, plastic containers or stored in your food bowl with a lid.
Extra: Hard boiled egg! Prepare this beforehand for easier transport.
Place all of these amazing food items into a bowl and chow down! Then keep on truckin’!”

Wool is Ideal
Choose nature’s perfect material, especially for first layers. Wool keeps your body temp in check with breathable insulation that stays stink-free for days, even months on end – just ask the participants of the #Icon64 Challenge. The hardy Merino Ride Tee in combination with the wool Icon V2 is unbeatable for 90% of your adventures, no matter what the forecast calls for.

Tyvek® Floor
Bring along a rectangle of lightweight, cheap, super-durable Tyvek® to use as a tidy ground cloth. Great for a post-ride stretch session, sitting while preparing your food, or sleeping under the stars. Find it on zPacks.

Framebags Everyday
Once you go framebag, you’ll never go back – even for everyday rides! There are a ton of companies making bags right now, from large-scale productions to single-sewer cottage creatives, and most of them are great. We recommend Porcelain Rocket, Revelate Designs, or Outershell Adventure. Check out Bikepacking’s Bag Reviews for in-depth coverage.

Do Your Research
Bikepacking is a goldmine (and occasional black hole) of route knowledge, expert feedback, gear reviews, and ride inspiration from all over the world. This is one of our favorite bike-related sites to browse for its consistent quality and authentic, inclusive vibe.

Bikepacking isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a try for anyone with an appetite for outdoor adventure and an interest in self-supported, sustainable exploration. Start with a local overnighter and then see how far you can go!

Where will your bike take you this Spring? 

Ashley Bradford
Ashley Bradford


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