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How to Start Bikepacking [A Guide to Adventure Cycling]

Discover the adventurous world of bikepacking.

If you like the adventure of backpacking overnight on the trail and cycling, you can combine them all together and go for a bikepack adventure.

Bikepacking allows you to cover more ground and still allows you to enjoy everything that nature has to offer.

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to start bikepacking today.

Bikepacking Guide

What is Bikepacking?

Take hiking, camping, and all-terrain cycling and smash it all together to make bikepacking.

In this lovely form of adventure cycling, you’ll load your bike down with everything you’d need to go on an overnight hiking trip, and then you’ll travel by bike. You might ride on roads, Forest Service Roads, trails, or a mixture of them all.

You can carry days’ worth of supplies on your bike or carry as little as possible. The gear and the length of time you wish to spend on your cycling adventure is your choice.

Bikepacking is the freedom of traveling further distances, connecting with nature, and experiencing new cultures, people, and scenery.

You can only hike so many miles on foot, but you can cover a lot of ground by bike.


Why Should You Try Bikepacking?

You should go bikepacking if you enjoy hiking, camping, and cycling.

That’s because it consists of all three of those things as one activity. But you can do more when you travel by bike.

When hiking, you can only go so long during a normal hike. You might be able to hike 5 to 20 miles. Maybe 30 to 50 miles if you fastpack. But you will definitely start to wear down when hiking that many miles.

That all changes when you’re on a bicycle.

You can cover 30 to 50 (or more) miles a day and not be in pain and worn down. Hiking 30 miles would take most of the day. Biking 30 miles might take a few hours. Bikepacking allows you to quickly cover more ground versus hiking.

It’s also something different. It’s something different to experience. You can see the natural work on two wheels as you bike down old and forgotten roads, dirt roads, trails, and more.

Bikepacking Versus Bike Touring

When you think about bikepacking, your mind might immediately go to bike touring.

That’s fair. The two are similar, but there is still quite a bit of difference.

Bike touring usually consists of a comfort bike, touring bike, or road bike. The route typically involves primarily paved roads, and large bags and rack systems are attached to the bike in order to carry your gear needed for the trip. Bike touring usually covers longer distances across different states and even countries.

Bikepacking is usually shorter distances and focuses primarily on camping and nature scenery. Most of the riding is done off the beaten path on dirt and gravel roads or even singletrack trails. Most bikepacking setups have different bags, and the bikes used for the adventures are usually gravel or mountain bikes.

As I said before, bikepacking is more like smashing hiking, camping, and biking altogether as one.

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What Bikes are Best for Bikepacking?

There are a lot of different bicycles available on the market. Choosing the best bikepacking bike is critical to your adventure because there is definitely a right choice and a wrong choice.


Gravel Bikes

A gravel bike looks a lot like a road bike.

It has a similar frame and drop handlebars that curve in. But it’s different in terms of tires and usually other components like the drivetrain and gearing. Gravel bikes also tend to have more places to put bags and water bottle cages.

Gravel bikes are usually the best types of bikes for bikepacking. Most bikepackers use gravel bikes on their adventures.

Gravel bikes can practically be used on any surface. I’ve even heard of the bikes being used on singletrack trails that are mainly meant for mountain bikes.

A gravel bike might be the best bike for you.


Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes also make great bikepacking bikes.

A mountain bike usually has standard non-curved handlebars, bigger tires, and frames built for rugged singletrack cycling adventures. Mountain bikes are typically either hardtail (suspension in the front) or full-suspension (back and front). Downhill riders favor full-suspension bikes.

Mountain bikes can be loaded down with gear and used for bikepacking.

It’s usually not as comfortable as using a gravel bike, but it can be better on terrains that are meant more for technical mountain biking.

The mountain bike is the next best thing for a bikepacking trip if you need a good bike.


Hybrid Bikes

A hybrid bike is also often called a comfort bike.

These bikes are best on trails like rail trails and bicycle paths. If your bikepacking route uses easier trails like rail trails, a hybrid bike might be your best option.

You can load them down with gear like you can with a gravel or mountain bike. You can get a comfortable handlebar system that is usually straight, and the seat is usually bigger for added comfort.

Hybrid bikes have tires that are a mix of road, gravel, and mountain bike tires. This makes it one of the better bikes for rail trails and easier bike paths.

Consider a hybrid bike if your bikepacking adventures consist of easier trails.



The eBike has gained much popularity over the years.

Cycling is a great fitness activity. It will do a lot for you in terms of health, fitness, and even weight loss. But not everyone can do it because of their health, age, or abilities. eBikes changes this roadblock. It allows people to enjoy the adventures and some health benefits of cycling but with some assistance through electronic means.

You can get an eBike for just about every situation. They have them for road, gravel, mountain, and even hybrid-styled bikes. An eBike might be your best bikepacking option.

If traditional cycling is keeping you from enjoying it, you might want to try an eBike.


How to Choose the Best Bikepacking Route

The best bikepacking route is one that has been prepared and planned for by the rider. You’re the rider, so you need to plan out your best route. Now that the activity has gained so much popularity, there are many resources available to help you plan your perfect route.


Major Bikepacking Routes

You can always choose major bikepacking routes that are highly popular among bikepackers all over the world.

Two of the famous routes include the Colorado Trail and the Tour Divide. These routes are located in the United States, and there are many other routes available throughout the States. There are also many bikepacking routes scattered around the world.

Bikepacking isn’t just an American craze. The activity is highly popular among the cycling community all over the world.

Sometimes, choosing a popular route is best when you just start out and want something that has been widely used and reviewed.


Make Your Own Route

You can also choose your own route, which is what I love to do.

I live in an area with a National Forest, several back roads, and a lot of farmland. Using a combination of gravel roads, dirt roads, forest service roads, and multi-use trail systems, I can create bikepacking routes of twenty miles to several hundred miles if I want to.

All you need is an understanding of public land and trail systems that allow cycling and camping and a good map of the area you want to ride in.

Being creative and making your own routes will only let you fall in love with the activity even more.


Route Websites

There are also many websites available to find bikepacking routes.

One of the most popular websites, of course, is Bikepacking, which is a magazine dedicated to the activity. You can find routes in your area and all over the world. Another great website for finding route information and stories is Crazy Guy on a Bike. Doing a simple Google Search will likely gain you even more websites to help you out.

If you’re technically inclined, I suggest you create a blog and document your bikepacking adventures. Your website can be one of the many websites available for bikepacking in your area.

If you need help with creating your own blog, check out my blogging website for tips and instructions.

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How to Plan for Your Bike Trip

In order to have the best multi-day cycling adventure possible, you have to properly plan for it. It’s fine to experience things as is and spontaneously, but you have to have some sort of plan in place to keep it all safe and sound.


Daily Distance

Plan for your daily distance on what you can actually do.

Before going bikepacking, try to ride every day for about a week on your fully loaded bike. This will help you determine your daily mileage based on how you feel each day. You might think you can do 60 miles a day until you experience it and realize you’re more likely to complete 30 miles a day instead.

The last thing you want to do is plan to do more miles than you can handle and then have to change your trip itinerary while you’re out on your bike rather than before you actually go.

You need to test yourself and your abilities before you go live.


Food and Hydration

Food and hydration are pretty important for a multi-day cycling adventure.

If you don’t get enough fuel and calories from food, you might bonk out and not be able to finish or meet your daily goals. If you don’t hydrate enough, you can get dehydrated and even require emergency medical attention if it’s severe. These two things are extremely important to plan for. They might be the most important thing to plan for.

Make sure you are able to pack plenty of food and water. Make a route that passes by sources to replenish yourself such as grocery stores and creeks to filter drinking water at. You also need to understand how to ration food and water if you get in a situation where you have no available way to replenish resources.

Your food and hydration plan is extremely important, so be sure to take it seriously.


Camping and Lodging

Figure out your camping and lodging logistics before you start your cycling trip.

Don’t expect a spur-of-the-moment camping setup or lodging availability when bikepacking. Campgrounds could be full. Lodging may have no availability. Many elements can hinder your ability to find a place to sleep if you are blind about it into the ride.

Try to make any reservations you can before the ride. Understand what campgrounds available and what alternatives are are present just in case camping is full.

The last thing you want to do is have to deal with camping problems when it’s time to camp and go to sleep.


Leave No Trace

It’s important to Leave No Trace when cycling and camping for multiple days.

Leave No Trace provides steps to take to help reduce your impact on the environment while using it. You should definitely enjoy what nature has to offer, even on two wheels. However, you should take plenty of steps to help mitigate the impacts that could damage or weaken what nature has to offer. This allows many generations after you to be able to continue to enjoy nature like you were able to.

One of the biggest ways to Leave No Trace is to pack out what you pack in and to leave an area better than you found it. These methods can make a huge difference in the impact that you make as a cyclist in nature.

Leave No Trace isn’t meant to be a burden for us; it’s meant to allow many generations after us to also enjoy what we were able to enjoy, and that’s worth protecting.


Cell Phone Coverage

Try to understand that cell phone coverage might not be available where you bikepack at.

In most cases, areas in the backcountry where bikepacking typically happens are areas without cell phone towers. Most of the places I bike and hike at have no cell phone coverage at all. If you rely on your cell phone to always work, then these places might not be for you to go on an adventure.

In most cases, any apps that you use to navigate or record your cycling adventures might need to have an offline version downloaded in order to use them in areas where coverage isn’t available.

Cycling in the backcountry is really rugged and primitive most of the time, and it’s important to be aware of that.



You need to know the types of terrain you’ll experience on your cycling adventure.

For most bikepacking routes, the terrain is moderately different to extremely rugged. You’ll likely experience rough trails, gravel roads, and dirt. You might hit wet spots, water, and thick mud. Many bikepackers end up doing a lot of hike and bike type travel when in these wild areas.

Keep in mind that the elevation gain might be high, too. The higher the elevation gain, the hillier the ride will be.

Knowing what kind of terrain and elevation you’ll experience will help you with your overall plan, especially in terms of how many miles you’ll ride each day.


Navigating Your Route

How will you navigate your bikepacking route?

It’s important to know how you’ll navigate it before you actually start. You should also make sure there are alternatives for navigation in case your primary one fails. For example, you should pack a map and compass (and know how to use them) if your cell phone app quits working.

You could even create a route on a map system (like Google Maps) and print out the directions so that you know what streets to take. If you can drive the route before you bike it, try to take advantage of that if you can.

The last thing you want to do is get lost when trying to meet a certain mileage amount or time spent on the bike.



The weather can make or break your bikepacking adventure.

If severe weather suddenly occurs and you have nowhere to take shelter, it can become a very dangerous situation for you. It isn’t rare for popup tornadoes to occur in my area during certain seasons without the expectation of severe weather, and I don’t even live in tornado alley.

You must research the weather and take precautions necessary to prevent yourself from getting into a dangerous situation due to unexpected bad weather.

Try to watch the weather all the way up until you don’t have the signal to see weather updates anymore.



Before you go on a multi-day cycling adventure, you need to understand all the hazards you might encounter on your trip.

These hazards might be a mixture of man-made, environmental, and natural created hazards. An example of a man-made hazard could be an area where violence often occurs. An environmental hazard could be a blizzard or a tornado threat. A natural hazard is something like biking in grizzly bear country or steep trails on the side of a mountain.

When you prepare for a hazard, you gain an understanding of what hazards exist, and you develop ways to prevent or deal with them if they occur. If you go unprepared, it’s less likely that you’ll positively overcome the hazard.

Being prepared for something negative is better than not being prepared at all.


Bikepacking Gear Checklist

It’s important to bring the right gear when you go on a multi-day cycling adventure. Not having the right gear could ruin your trip or make it more difficult to do. The following gear recommendations are popular among many seasoned bikepackers.



The first thing you need is a good bikepacking bike.

The bike depends on the ruggedness and terrain of your trip.

If you’re going to ride on gravel and dirt roads, a gravel bike will most likely be your best option. A gravel bike is often the most picked option for multi-day cycling adventures.

If you plan to ride on rugged singletrack terrain in the middle of the woods, you might want to choose a mountain bike. A mountain bike is going to handle conditions that are too rugged for most gravel bikes.

If you plan to stay on rail trails or easier bike paths, you might choose to use a hybrid-style bike instead. These are often more comfortable to use for longer trips that use an easier trail system.

It is important to choose a good bike that fits you well. You should go to your local bike shop, get fitted, and take their advice to choose the right bike for your needs.


Camping Gear

You should pack camping gear with you if you plan to sleep in campgrounds.

Bring a tent or hammock. If it’s just you sleeping in it, bring one that is for one person to help save on weight and space.

Bring sleeping gear. This depends on your comfort level. This could include a sleeping bag and a sleeping bag liner for colder seasons. You might also want to bring a sleeping pad to help you be comfortable sleeping on the ground. If you require a pillow, they have inflatable ones available.

You should also bring a headlamp with extra batteries so you can see in the dark.



You want to travel with a kitchen on your bike, along with plenty of food and water.

Your kitchen should include a portable stove, fuel for your stove, cookware, a cup to drink and eat out of, and a spork to eat with.

Your food should be stuff that’s easy to pack, prepare, and eat without too much trouble. Stick to freeze-dried types of food that don’t require a certain temperature to store it. Bring plenty of snacks to eat in between and keep you fueled for your biking adventure.

Bring plenty of water. You can store water all over your bike and even wear a hydration backpack. Hydration is so important. Water should be the bulk of your weight. Try to choose a route with plenty of creeks and take a water filter with you to keep drinking water filled up. Make sure you test and use your filter before taking it.

Remember to cook and eat your food away from camp, especially in bear country.



It’s a good idea to bring some survival gear with you, just in case.

This gear depends on where you will be backpacking, in all honesty. You should bring survival gear mainly based on the season and weather outside.

For example, if riding during the colder months, you might want to bring a fire-starting kit with a folding saw to be able to cut firewood. This survival item can help keep you warm if you need to build a fire.

You might also want to bring an oversized raincoat. You could make an emergency shelter out of it if needed. It can help keep you dry if your tent or hammock doesn’t come with a rain fly.

A bathroom kit and personal items are also good to bring.

What other types of survival items would you consider bringing? Comment on this blog with your answers. I’d love to know what else you might bring on your bikepacking trip.



Clothing is something to consider when bikepacking.

You should at least bring a second pair of cycling clothes.

I wear tight-fitting spandex cycling kits when I bikepack. I would bring a second kit to wear while my other kit dries from hand washing them. You don’t want to wear the same kit too many days straight for health reasons.

You might also want to bring extra clothes to wear around camp.

If the weather and temperature change, extra layers are good to have around if you need them.

Lastly, make sure you bring rain gear because it’s often clothing items we forget to pack and end up needing the most.



Consider what gadgets you might need for your multi-day cycling adventure.

A good bike computer or sports watch is good to have around to record your ride and collect data about how it went. I use my iPhone watch with Strava for this. It even records my heart rate and pulse, which gives me details about how my ride impacts my health.

Other electronics I bring often are GoPro cameras, extra batteries, and accessories to use the GoPro in different manners. I record all my trips and make YouTube videos about them.

Some cyclists who create videos might pack a drone.

The type of gadgets is really your choice based on what you need them for.

One thing I do recommend is bringing an extra charging cord for your phone and a power brick to charge it. This will prove to be helpful to keep your phone from dying. You might bring extra chargers and power bricks for other electronics you might want to take.

If the temperatures are colder, consider keeping a hand warmer with your batteries to prolong their life in colder weather.



You’ll want to bring repair items for both your bike and your supplies if required.

Your bike repair items should be basic tools and accessories. You’ll want to bring an extra tube, a patch kit, an air pump or CO2 system, multi-tool, tire levers, a chain breaker, and other repair tools that you feel are necessary for your bike.

You should also bring a gear repair kit just in case you might need it for your tent, bags, and other cycling supplies. This kit should consist of a small sewing kit, duct tape, a knife, smaller tools, and some paracord.

Bring the repair gear that is needed to help conserve weight.


Bike Bags and How to Pack Them

There are many different bags available for your bikepacking setup. There are also many great ways to pack your bags to ensure the best storage capacity while you ride. In this section, we’ll take a look at a few bag options and what to pack in them.


Handlebar Bag

Handlebar bags attach to the front of your handlebars and fall right above your front tire.

These come in different styles, including roll bags and zippered bag systems. There are also different sizes of bags that can handle different capacities.

The best gear to store in these bags includes your tent, extra clothing, and rain gear. When packing your tent, it’s often best to pack each individual item in the bag rather than keep the items in the prepackaged tent bags. This will help you reduce weight and pack the items better.


Frame Bag

The frame bag attaches to your top and bottom frame bars resting in the middle of the frame.

You don’t want to pack too much into this bag as it might get in the way of your pedaling.

The best things to include in this bag are tools for your bikes, kitchen items, and food.


Saddle Bag

Your saddle bag attaches to your saddle (seat) and is usually oversized, sticking out into the air right behind you.

This is a bag that you can typically pack a lot of your bulk gear into.

I would use this bag to pack my sleeping bag in. I would also put my sleeping pad and camp pillow into it.


Top Tube Bag

The top tube bag goes over the top of the top frame bar.

It’s a smaller bag, so it doesn’t hold a lot of gear, but you can use it to store gear you’ll likely use often while bikepacking.

This is where you would put your snacks, hydration powders, first aid kit, sunblock, lip balm, and insect repellent. These are items that you’re more likely to use during the duration of your ride.


Hydration Backpack

It’s a good idea to wear a hydration backpack.

You don’t want to put too much weight on your back. However, a hydration backpack might be the best thing to carry.

Your main use of it will be to carry extra water. My hydration pack can carry two liters of water. That’s a lot of good water to keep me hydrated throughout my ride. I also pack my water filter in this bag since I’ll likely filter water into my bladder.


Water Bottle Cages

You should have several different options for water bottle cages.

Most gravel bikes are going to have three or more options. You might have to create new ones on mountain and hybrid bikes. You can do that with duct tape, zip ties, and water bottle cages.

It’s a good idea to carry as much water as you can comfortably carry on your bike. Staying hydrated is an absolute must.


Bikepacking Tips

Bikepacking comes with many different problems, and mistakes can ruin your experience. It’s important to know some tips that will help you enjoy a better ride.


Check Your Bike Maintenance

You need to keep an eye on your bike maintenance.

Check your tire pressure level before each ride each day of your trip. Make sure you air it up where it needs to be. Colder weather will typically make the tire lose some pressure.

You should also check any bolts or areas that need to remain tightened up.

You should clean your bike after every use when possible and keep your chain lubed.

Checking these things will prolong the life of your bike.


Learn Basic Repair for the Road

It’s important to learn the basics of repairing your bike on the road.

If you don’t learn these things, you might be stranded without being able to fix your bike. This isn’t to say you need to be an expert bicycle mechanic. You just need to know what you need to know to survive a bikepacking trip.

For starters, you and every other cyclist should know how to patch a tube or change one if your tire is flat. You still need to know how to do it even if you’re tubeless because you might have to use a tube if the puncture is worse than what tubeless can take care of.

You should also know how to break and fix the chain on your bike. Carry a chain breaker tool and some extra links with you.

There are other quick repairs to learn that you can find on YouTube and other free sources. If it’s a free source to learn, you might as well take advantage of it and learn how it’s done.

Doing repairs yourself can save you a lot of time and money.


Tell Someone Where You’re Going

Before you go bikepacking, tell someone where you plan to go.

Inform someone not going where you will be going. This way, if you don’t return, they can contact emergency services and report you missing.

Print out a map of your route. Draw a line or circle of where you will be each day based on your plans. Indicate where you plan to camp each night, start the ride, and end the ride. This information will be critical to emergency services if you don’t make it back home.

Try to carry an emergency contact information source with you on the bike. I use a RoadID for mine.


Frequently Asked Questions about Bikepacking

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about bikepacking. Some of these questions might be questions you’re seeking answers to before you start your multi-day cycling trip.


How many miles should you bikepack each day?

This depends on your abilities. You should fully load your bike with all your gear and do day rides for a week. Determine how many miles you’re capable of doing each day. After a week of that, you should be able to figure out what you can ride each day on an overnight cycling adventure. The important thing is that you don’t try to overdo it. Overdoing it can lead to pain, discomfort, and potentially injuries.


What’s the best bike to use for bikepacking?

The best bike depends on the type of terrain and routes you’ll be cycling. A gravel bike is best for gravel roads and dirt paths. A mountain bike is best for technical singletrack trails. A hybrid bike might be best for rail trails and easier bike paths. The important step is getting properly fitted for a bike and buying a bike that is of good quality. You can do this by choosing a local bike shop over a big chain retail store that typically sells generic bikes.


Is it okay to use a road bike for bikepacking?

Using a road bike to bikepack depends on a couple of things. First, it depends on your skills in using a road bike. If you can maneuver over gravel and rougher elements with a road bike, it might be all you need for bikepacking. However, if you’re not skilled in these areas, you might find that a road bike is one of the harder types of bike to use for these sorts of adventures.


Is bikepacking a new concept?

Bikepacking isn’t a new concept. It has been around for a while. It has only become more popular over the years. Gravel bicycles are a newer concept and are often associated with bikepacking. Cyclocross bikes are like gravel bikes but were not traditionally used for bikepacking. They were used for racing as they are still used for that to this day.


Should I go with someone else on a bikepacking adventure?

This depends on your ability to bikepack. If you think you can do it alone, then by all means, go solo. If you’re unsure and you think you’d be better off biking with someone else, then find another bikepacker or a group of bikepackers to ride with. A group can keep you company, but going solo can enable you to set the pace and stop whenever you want to.


Final Thoughts About this Adventure Cycling Topic

Bikepacking is an awesome form of cycling to get involved in. It’ll allow you to enjoy an adventure like no other. By following the advice in this guide, you’ll most likely have the best bikepacking trip possible. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others. Follow me on X for more cycling tips and daily resources.

Shawn Gossman

About Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman is the author of this post and founder of the Beginner Cycling Tips Blog.

Shawn has been an avid cyclist for around 12 years. He road, gravel, mountain, and trail bikes. He likes adventuring more than racing.

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