Bikepacking

bike·pack·ing (verb). Definition: The coffee-fuelled action of pedalling between camping locations with personal belongings precariously strapped to a bicycle frame. Used in a sentence: “Andy please stop talking about your bikepacking adventure, I have to work”.
Prepared By:

Guy Bolton

A decade ago you probably hadn’t even heard the term bikepacking. Flip the pages to the present day and it’s perhaps the flagship adventure sport within a booming industry. I jumped aboard the two-wheeled, coffee-fueled past-time well after it was first cool. Following on from almost a decade of comparatively expensive, usually dangerous, and logistically heavy adventure sports, cycling has an immediate approachability, simplicity and sense of satisfaction you can’t find anywhere else.

bikepacking

In its most naked form, bikepacking is; bike + camping gear + bungee cords = good times. However, like so many things once niche, there’s now an enormous commercial backing to the sport. Tents, bags, cooking gear, and even your underwear can be purpose-made/branded for the sport (for a fee). The good news is, you’re unlikely to forgo any of the enjoyment, safety, or satisfaction if your budget can’t stretch to a garage full of new toys – If you have a bike and a tent, you’re most of the way there.

Why bikepacking? If you’re reading untraveled.com our guess is that you want to get out and really see things, not the polished marble of a hotel bar or the backs of a thousand tourists’ heads. This is where the sport hits its sweet spot. You’re moving slowly enough to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and see what you’d otherwise miss by train, car, or bus, but fast enough to cover far more than you could ever see on foot. Locals (for the most part) treat you as an exception to typical tourists – a bike covered in camping gear has a mysterious ability to catalyse smiles and curiosity across cultural and language barriers. Once on the road, it’s also an incredibly cost-efficient way to travel; your transport, entertainment, and accommodation are all under your saddle – and with the exception of your camping stove, you’re not burning any fossil fuels.

While travelling huge distances on two wheels may be an intimidating proposition, and the sport is filled with jaw-dropping records like Mark Beaumont’s 79-day circumnavigation of planet Earth – you have the flexibility to move as many or as few miles as desired, stopping for as many sights, coffees, pizzas and naps as you please. You may also be amazed at how innately efficient a human on a bicycle is, and by extension – how far you are capable of moving yourself. There are however a few important things to know before rolling out of town to make sure you’re safe, happy, and never stuck on the side of the road.

bikepacking

Healthy Bike, Happy Rider, Better Bikepacking

Keeping your bike in tip-top shape on the road is no sweat. If you’re predominantly riding on roads the likelihood of any complex mechanical issues developing is low, and usually, you’ll still be able to pedal home or to the next bike mechanic. That said, it’s important to have a few key skills practised, all of which can be learned (for free) in the abundance of YouTube videos around the sport.

bikepacking

Nutrition and hydration

Bikepacking could well be an eating competition on two wheels. Maintaining proper nutrition over multiple days on the road is a skill in itself and you’ll need to be eating substantially more than you would normally. This is however a great excuse to experience the local cuisine and cafes along your route guilt-free. It’s easy to forget to eat and especially drink enough while underway so a timer on your phone or watch is a sure-fire way to stay a lot healthier and happier as the miles add up. A bag full of trail-mix attached to your handlebars and a few energy bars works wonders to fill the gap between proper meal stops, and don’t forget some electrolyte mix in your water bottles if you have a long day ahead.

bikepacking
bikepacking

Leave Nothing But Tire Tracks

Traveling by bike naturally has a lower environmental impact than most other forms of travel. There are however a few steps you can take to ensure you (and mother nature) have an even better time along the route. For other sustainable travel tips, check out our Leave No Trace guide

 

Reuse

A reusable coffee cup is a great idea irrespective of the environmental benefit. It’s more resilient to spills, stays hotter, and is easier to drink from on the road (if that’s your jam). A small chalk bag or feed pouch mounted to your handlebars is the perfect place to keep one within arms’ reach.

Bottled water can become a tempting proposition on a long hot day, but wherever there are people, there is almost always running drinking water. I’ve never had a coffee shop or stranger watering their garden refuse a top-up. +1 for Planet Earth and your wallet. If you’re planning on making use of takeaway restaurants along your route, take a sturdy container – cheap disposal containers will leak and leave your bikepacking kit smelling like a burrito for the next week.

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Camping

A simple task never taking more than a few minutes and some due care is to always leave your campsite in a better state than when you arrived. Rubbish and waste are obvious markers of a poorly considered stay, but often neglected are the effects on flora and fauna. It can be all too tempting to move rocks and branches to clear space for your sleeping mat, however, this is inevitably disturbing the natural habitat of wildlife and insects who are subsequently more likely to disturb you in the night while looking for a new home.

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Try a local ride first

Whether training for a bucket-list adventure or just getting out for the weekend, a short bikepacking trip near home gives you the chance to test equipment and your legs in the safety of familiar surroundings. Take the time to fine tune your riding position, identify any squeaks or rattles which might require attention, and work out what meals and snacks agree most with your stomach.

bikepacking

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