Everyone who spends time on trails has heard of backpacking… but what about bikepacking? I never even knew this really existed till about 2 years ago. Honestly, I’ve never been backpacking (which I intend to rectify soon). With all the time I spend mountain biking, bikepacking was more of a priority to me.
So what’s bikepacking? It’s basically the same as backpacking, except that you do it on your bike. There are so many ways to bikepack, and a lot of it depends on where you are going and how far. Bikepacking has also eeked its way into racing. Tour Divide has made bikepacking pretty famous. Colorado Trail Race is also a more famous bikepacking route (I’m actually doing it, and it starts Aug 1). The strategy for racing vs touring is a little different, but the main focus is… you guess it – weight.
I know backpackers focus on the weight of their pack. However, trying to ride a bike with a lot of weight is the next step to crazy. If you can’t ride, you’re walking (which is what you’re doing backpacking anyway) so keeping your load as light as you can without putting yourself in danger for a bikepacking race is of utmost importance.
Bikepackers typically try to travel even lighter than a backpacker because you have to ride with the weight, including the weight of your bike.
Bikepacker racers have to compromise. What do you bring? How warm of a sleeping bag? Do you really need a stove for warm food? A tent? Refueling? TP for my bunghole? Basically, most creature comforts are tossed aside. There are varying degrees of what you “need” and if you’re doing your first bikepacking race (moi), it can be a little intimidating to find out what you really “need.”
How do you transport? Strapping gear to the bike is an obvious strategy, but when riding tight singletrack, panniers are no longer an option. There are a couple of companies that custom make frame bags and sell large seat bags. I got mine from Revelate Designs. Most people also carry a backpack, but around the size of a larger hydration pack.
Sleeping on the ground without a tent can be scary and weird, especially alone… but it’s something you get used to.
I’ll be following up soon with an abridged post for my CTR (Colorado Trail Race) preparation.