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Photo courtesy of Trek

Words by trekbikes.com


When you take the best parts of mountain biking and the best parts of backpacking and put them together, you get bikepacking. Ride, camp, repeat. That’s the mantra. Unlike classic bike touring, bikepacking is done primarily off-road on trails and mixed terrain. It’s all about exploring (getting lost), camping (eating really well), and hanging with friends. If you’re intimidated by things like gear choices and routes, worry no more. The great thing about bikepacking is that anyone can have a good time with it.

What To Ride

You can bikepack with any bike capable of off-road riding, but it's best to have a setup that allows you to carry your gear on your bike. Bikes designed specifically for bikepacking will be the most capable and comfortable and will make it easy to carry your gear securely.

The 
Trek Checkpoint SL 5 is a carbon gravel bike made for epic all-road adventures. It's built with a full Shimano 105 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, but the defining feature of this model is the lightweight OCLV Carbon frame with IsoSpeed, a decoupler at the top tube/seat tube junction that provides additional compliance over rough terrain so you can stay stronger longer.

There are many other bikes in our 
adventure lineup that make incredible bikepacking bikes as well. A rugged all-terrain frame, 29+ tires for traction on any trail, rack system, and mountain-ready specs make for an excellent all-around choice for go-anywhere adventurers.

Check out the bikes in our adventure lineup here
.

How To Carry Your Stuff

It’s best to keep your gear on your bike. Wearing a hydration pack or light trail pack is fine, but you’ll fatigue more easily over time if a lot of extra weight is on your body. There are loads of pack options for carrying cargo including Front and Rear Racks w/ Panniers, Saddle and Handlebar Bags, and Frame and Top Tube Bags.

Handlebar Bag

The Handlebar Bag is an indispensable item when you’re on a bikepacking tour in the great outdoors. Ranging in different sizes, Handlebar Bags provide optimum space to stow your sleeping bag and pad. It also helps to secure a balanced distribution of gear and weight across your bike. Thanks to the roll closures at both ends, you can always gain quick access to your gear.

Top Tube Pack and Frame Bag

Weighing next to nothing and unusually practical, the Top Tube Pack helps to secure your personal fuel supply by giving you direct, one-handed access to your favorite snack while you continue to ride. 

Thanks to its lower center of gravity below your top tube, the Frame Bag makes for an ideal stowage location for heavy gear such as tools, camping stoves and food supplies.

Seat Pack, Bike Rack and Panniers

An essential item in your setup, a Seatpack enables you to keep items such as clothing and gear safe and dry while also acting as a rear fender. Below your Seatpack, a Rear Rack allows you to attach panniers for storing equipment like mess kits, food, and other items while maintaining a low center of gravity and off-road agility.

Blackburn Multi Mirror
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Crank Brothers Stamp 1 Large LE
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Salsa EXP Series Anything Cage HD
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Salsa EXP Series Anything Cage Bag
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Your cargo setup will depend on the bike you’re riding, and will likely include a combination of different pack options.

Pro tip: It’s super important to keep the weight balanced while you’re riding. To hear an expert talk about how to pack for bikepacking, check out Ryan van Duzer’s video on 
packing for his Baja Divide ride.

Photo Courtesy of Trek

What To Bring

FOOD
Yeah, you’re gonna need food. You’re also gonna need water—and if you don’t have access to clean water on your route, you’re gonna need a purification system. You should also have a stove unless you want to eat trail mix for your whole ride.

Here’s what you should remember: food is fuel. Carry what you’re comfortable eating. You’re going to be hungrier than normal, so it’s always a good idea to bring more than you think you need.

Pro tip: A hot cup of instant coffee is amazing when you wake up in the woods! If you skip the stove, you’ll wish you had one.

SHELTER
Tent, hammock, bivy—or sleep under the stars. Your shelter setup, which will include your sleeping bag and sleeping pad, is going to be a determining factor in your enjoyment of your trip. There are plenty of ways to save weight, but if you’re considering where you should burn your matches for creature comforts, this is a good place for it.

APPAREL
The key here is layering. You want to stay cool while you’re riding and warm when you stop. It’s a good idea to have a moisture-wicking baselayer, as well as a waterproof jacket and pants in case there’s a downpour. And nothing’s better than a fresh chamois after a few days in the saddle, so bring some spares!

Gore Wear C5 All Mountain Shorts
$130.00
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Bontrager Flatline Mountain Bike Shoe
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Technical performance that works on and off the bike....
Bontrager Blaze WaveCel
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ESSENTIALS

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will get you thinking about the crucial gear you’ll want on any adventure.

  • Navigation
    GPS and maps. You can do one or the other, but it’s advisable to have both. Good ol’ paper maps sure do come in handy when the battery runs out.
  • Lights
    Lights on your bike are a must on any ride. But also remember that it gets dark early in the woods. A headlamp in the tent is great for reading when the fire dies down.
  • First aid kit
    If there’s one place to over-pack, this is it. Be prepared for everything from blisters to stomach bugs.
  • Repair kit
    It would be great to bring the whole toolbox, but when you’re riding light you should at least bring a flat kit, inflation, chain tool, multi-tool, and extra chain links.
  • T.P.
    You know what it stands for, you know what it’s used for. Don’t forget to bring it!
  • Fire-starting supplies
    Try as you might, you’ll never start a fire with a bike. A campfire is nice at the end of a long ride, but you should also think of a lighter or matches as safety equipment.
  • Zip ties and bungees
    These are things you’ll always be able to use, whether you need to strap something to your ride or need to make an unconventional repair on the trail.
  • Notebook and pencil
    Document your adventures. It’s great to look back on them and remember where you’ve been!

Photo courtesy of Aaron Ehlers. Stop by the Grand Ave shop to chat all things bikepacking with Aaron!

Where To Go

It’s easy to imagine bikepacking can happen only in remote and exotic locations, but the truth is there’s probably an escape right in your backyard. You don’t have to go far to find adventure! You can check your local state parks and contact the DNR for information on trails and campgrounds.

One of the main things you’ll want to consider as you’re planning your route is your access to water and a way to treat it.

Planning is a huge part of the fun. In fact, this is where your ride really begins. Search location tags on Instagram, look at routes on Bikepacking.com and TrailForks.com, check GoogleMaps and message boards, pull the dusty atlas out of your glovebox. However you do it, have fun poring over the topographies to find interesting areas to investigate.

If you’re just starting out, plan a local one-nighter. You learn something from every trip, and even after a single night in the woods you’re bound to discover something you wish you’d done differently, something you wish you’d brought with you, and something you wish you’d left behind.

For those searching for a stellar, close-to-home Minnesota bikepacking route, the Straddle and Paddle route is a must-ad to the top of your list. The route traverses the North Shore and Boundary Waters, including a section where you canoe around the beauty that is the Boundary Waters. Check out the full details of the route on bikepacking.com here.

Lessons From the Trail

Attitude is everything
Be positive. If you start to feel yourself getting grumpy, you’re probably dehydrated or hungry. Pound a water bottle and keep plugging along. Soak in the beauty of the mountains. Remember: you’re on a bike, and that makes everything better.

Plan ahead, but expect the unexpected
Part of the fun of bikepacking is the unknown—you’re riding to experience cool new stuff, after all—but it pays to have a plan. You can have a true adventure while still keeping your bearings. Bikepacking forces you to be self-reliant, and you can really learn a lot about yourself when you’re faced with this kind of challenge. Be ready for that. Go forth! But come home in one piece, too.

Work with what you’ve got
You don’t need all-new stuff to have an adventure. If you’ve got a mountain bike and a sleeping bag buried in your gear closet, you’re well on your way to bikepacking. On the trail, you’ll learn fast what you need and don’t need, and you’ll be happy not carry more than you need.

You don’t have to be a pro
Bikepacking is ridiculously fun no matter how skilled you are, and the more you do it the more fun you’ll have. Learning by doing is exactly what makes this kind of riding so much fun.

It’s your adventure
Most importantly, your bikepacking adventure is whatever you want it to be. Get a bike, plan a route, pack your gear, and hit the trail!

What's Your Next Adventure?

Bikepacking, gravel riding, and country roads have opened up a world of possibilities. There's so much to be seen from behind the bars of your bike. Getting lost is no longer a negative thing, it's an adventure. Wherever your adventure riding takes you, we want to follow along! While you're exploring off the beaten path, snap a pic of your ride and tag us when sharing on social media. When we spot your photo, we'll repost it on our social accounts, and you're invited to stop by any of our shops and snag a Freewheel Voda water bottle FOR FREE!

We can't wait to see the places you go!