How to Start Bikepacking - A Beginners Guide
One of the best ways to learn how to start bikepacking is to simply load your bike up with the camping gear you already own and head to a local campground. If you do this a few times you’ll learn a lot more about what you need for future rides and you’ll also learn more about what type of bike you’d enjoy the most. When some start out learning about how to start bikepacking they fall in love with it, while others realize they like the pavement better and prefer bike touring over bikepacking.
Bikepacking is part backpacking and part biking, one of the best parts about bikepacking is that you see all types of people doing it these days, from exercise enthusiasts trying to get the perfect workout to families that love to spend time together and get some fresh air and exercise. Not only is it a whole lot of fun, but you can bikepack just about anywhere, especially if you have the right type of bike.
If you’ve never been bikepacking before, don’t try to start out on the roughest terrain or the longest trail. Start slow and work your way up to where you want to be. If you haven’t guessed yet, bikepacking means making sure you have a good mountain bike, because these are the perfect bikes to go trekking through all types of terrain without being uncomfortable.
Most people have a place nearby that allows for some great bikepacking, and one of the benefits is that you can participate in it whether you ride casually or want to trek everywhere at super-high speeds. In other words, bikepacking truly offers something for everyone, which is yet another great reason why you should get involved.
What Type of Bike Do You Need?
When learning how to start bikepacking, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether to buy a new bike or simply use the one you already own. While there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these options, the general consensus is that if you already have a bike that you’re comfortable with, you’ll likely be able to keep that one at least in the beginning. This also makes your first bikepacking trip a lot less expensive in the long run.
If your adventures are going to take you on treacherous terrain and you don’t have a mountain bike, you should definitely consider one. While it’s true that many bikepacking areas are made of smooth trails and terrain, many others are not. Simply put, the bumpier and more challenging the terrain, the more likely you’ll need a mountain bike instead of a regular bike fitted with wider tires.
You also need to take into consideration the extra weight you’ll be carrying, especially as it relates to your tires. Sometimes, it’s best to adjust the pressure of your tires to compensate for the extra weight. If the bike gets too heavy, you may even have to do some modifications to find the right type of gearing. Remember, it’s hard on your knees if the bike can’t accommodate this extra weight, so be prepared to make some changes if they are necessary.
Options for Carrying Your Gear
Your gear is an important part of your bikepacking adventure, so you’ll have to decide which way of carrying that gear works best for you. Your options are plentiful and include bikepacking specific bags, which are perfect for light bulky items; panniers, which are great for heavy items such as stoves, food, and water; dry bags, which hold heavier items and are designed to keep everything inside of the bag nice and dry; and handlebar bags, which can accommodate items such as tents and clothing.
Which one is right for you? Of course, all you really need to know is the type of items you’ll be taking along with you on the trip. Once you make that determination, choosing the right bags should be fairly straight forward.
Planning Your First Trip
As mentioned earlier, most people know of a place nearby where they can go and start to enjoy and revel in their very first bikepacking trip. If not, it should be easy enough to find this information. Remember, you don’t want to ride over very treacherous terrain or ride for too long on your first trip out. If you’re planning to stop and camp out at the end of the first day, try to find a campsite that isn’t far away. That way, your first day won’t be too long or hard for you.
This means that in addition to deciding exactly what personal items to take with you, you’ll also have to carry your tent and overnight gear. Many bikepackers have several bike bags so they don’t have to make any one bag too heavy. In other words, spread out the gear among the different bags so that none of them are too heavy.
Plan ahead and make a list of everything you’ll need for your trip so that nothing important is left behind. You can also choose between an organized trip that is planned out ahead of time by companies that specialize in these adventures, or you can organize a trip on your own. If you go with a company, make sure you sign up for a beginner’s trip so that it’s easier on your body.
Essential Gear You Shouldn’t Forget
You can’t decide how to start bikepacking without determining exactly what gear you need to make the trip a success. In addition to what you normally take with you when you ride, you’ll need other gear as well. Sleeping gear, gear to cook and eat your food are two of the most important types of gear you’ll need. Make sure you also bring along a first-aid kit and a basic repair kit in case you run into any problems or break-downs along the way.
The thing is, you likely won’t know exactly what you need to bring on that very first bikepacking trip. Since each person is different, you should take what you can on that first outing and then learn from that exactly what you’ll need for future trips. Deciding through experience is sometimes the best way to make sure you get it right the next time, so don’t panic too much if you find you’ve forgotten something the first time you take off on your adventure.
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