My first “big bikepack” was a last-minute decision. I decided to not do a gran fondo (ie: a long-distance road cycling ride). I took the money I would have spent entering the fondo and used it for FUN. I bought some bike bags, a couple cheap motels stays, and ferry tickets, found a pal and we took off for 2 nights, 48 hours and 300+ km. It felt like a real adventure.
Before that trip, the most I had done was overnighters with a backpack to known locations, but that “FUN-dough” trip sparked the drive to do more bikepacks and to take it off road. Five seasons of bikepacking later and I still love it.
I have slowly perfected my packing list by keeping track of every tiny thing I bring and then checking that I used it when I get back. I will add to the list what I wished I had with me and I always try to pack things that will serve two purposes, so I can eliminate an item. What I pack for a weekend and what I pack for 10 days is about the same. The only thing that would change is food.
Determining what clothing to pack for bikepacking is one of the trickiest things to perfect. It changes depending on the time of year and where you live and you want to pack enough, but not too much. I live in British Columbia, Canada, and this is what I bring for where I live and ride:
Merino leggings (sleep and around camp)
Merino long sleeve baselayer (sleep, around camp and an extra layer if needed)
Merino tank (sleep, around camp and an extra layer if needed)
Merino thick socks (sleep: dry and warm)
Underwear x # days away (sleep, swimming, around camp)
Merino arm warmers, knee warmers (optional depending on weather)
Packable Down Jacket (sleep, around camp, riding if it is cold)
Packable breathable rain jacket (sleep if I am cold, around camp, riding if it is cold/ wet)
Packable rain pants (optional depending on weather/ time of year)
Cashmere beanie (sleep, around camp and oh so comfy)
Deerskin moccasins with a thin sole (around camp)
Long finger gloves (sleep and riding if it is cold/ wet)
One pair of extra Chamois shorts (if my trip is more than 4 days)
Extra pair of riding merino socks (wet socks don’t feel good)
Clothing/Gear I wear on the bike:
Merino jersey or t-shirt
Chamios shorts (I prefer ones I can pull down to pee in so I don’t have to undress and expose my upper body to the cold/ wet)
Merino bra (doubles as a bikini top for swimming)
Gilet (ie: light jacket that is windblocking, water-repellant)
Photochromic lens sunglasses (one lens to rule them all)
Comfortable off-road cycling shoes (can you walk in them for a hike-a-bike or push a bike uphill with them?)
Heartrate monitor (I love data)
Bandana (to pull up when things get dusty, to wet to cool me down in the heat)
If you’ve read this list, you’re probably wondering... What!? One chamois for 4 days, gross!! I keep myself really clean, at every opportunity I wash up. I don’t want the bulk of chamois shorts filling up my bags. I will also sometimes wash my chamois on bikepacks and put it in the sun to dry on the top of a bag. But you do you, there is no right way. Bring fresh ones if that makes the trip enjoyable for you!
Pro Tip: I sleep with my riding clothes in the bottom of my bag at night, so they are not cold in the morning.
I am always jealous of my friends who have large size bike frames. It always feels to me that they have room to pack anything they want. Riding a small frame means packing smaller amounts of stuff. So when I starting purchasing gear for bikepacking, space-saving items were at the top of my list. The first thing I bought was a sleeping quilt over a sleeping bag with a zipper. I also used a tarp over a tent because it took up less space. This past season, I bought a bivy (basically a single-wall tent) and I am in love with it. Just get started with what you have or can borrow. Try it out, see what works for you. Then make your gear list and start slowly dialing in your ideal set up. Here is my essential gear list:
Ground sheet (I use a piece of Tyvek, but you could use a piece of old plastic shower curtain cut to size)
Tarp, pegs, rope (Tent or Bivy)
Sleeping quilt (or bag)
Sleeping bag liner (I bring this when it will be cold)
Blowup pillow (my one non-essential essentials)
Cooking pot (packed with stove, fuel, bowl, cup, flint – but, I don’t always plan to cook, since these items take up space)
Big knife (food, wood, safety)
Bear bag for food (smell proof)
About 30ft of paracord (to put your food out of animal reach at night/ and it fixes lots of things)
Waterproof battery pack that will charge my electronics multiple times (to charge my InReach, Garmin and phone)
Pro Tip: Make sure your tent poles are short enough to fit in a bag or on the top tube of your bike.
Must-have Safety Supplies
These are items that I always bring with me, but I hope I don’t have to use:
Big multi tool and everything I need to fix a flat or my bike
1000 emergency dense calories
First Aid kit
Variety of bandaids, reg and butterfly (ones that will stay on when sweaty or wet)
Sterile pads and gauze
Triangle Bandage/ Sling
Big strong safety pins
Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Pepto Bismol tabs
Pro Tip: Knowing how to use your safety gear, fix-a-flat supplies, and first aid kit is just as important as bringing it!
There are a few things that travel with me that are just as essential, but not meant to keep me safe or warm:
A necklace gifted to me by a good friend to remind me that I am riding on stolen land.
ClimbCandy™, my name for treats that I reward myself with while doing big climbs.
A tiny notebook and pen to jot my thoughts.
More About Me, Juliet
I’ve been riding since 2013. First as a part of triathlon, then I tried my hand at TT/Road/ Crit, then got the CX bug, that transitioned to gravel and bikepacking. I live in Vancouver, BC and it is so easy for me to ride out my back gate to adventure. All roads lead to big mountains, deep forests and ferries that take me to islands. I find quiet, freedom and the ability to truly hear myself while I am out there. You can follow me on Instagram @juliet_loves_romeo