Our Beginner Guide to Bikepacking Gear
Last night I was given the opportunity to talk bikepacking with some amazing people and give a demo of some of the equipment and gear used when out on the road. I was asked to create a list of gear that might be useful so here I am. I will be providing links to gear that will get someone starting out on the road quickly and on a budget to someone who might be able to spend a little more to deck out their bike.
The Budget Biker
You don’t need all the fancy gear just to enjoy the long roads and beautiful outdoors. All you need is something to keep your stuff dry and some bungee cords, strap on your bike and pedal out of town!
You can find a slew of dry bags on Amazon but some you can trust more to keep your sleeping bag and tent dry. I personally like Outdoor Research bags. They come in a selection of sizes, they are fully seam sealed and extremely durable. They can be found on Amazon for less than 40 bucks as well. I also would recommend a smaller one to put your phone and wallet in quickly in case you get caught in the rain but a couple ziploc bags in your pack will set you right. – Outdoor Research Dry Bag
Some bungee cords from Lowes can strap your Dry Bag to a front or rear rack. You can also invest in Voile Straps. These can also serve many purposes as I have used them to hold a rack broken in half to my frame for half a trip. Revelate also makes a version of these straps called the Washboard Strap and if you are local to Atlanta they have them in stock at Loose Nuts Cycles!
(While on the subject of bike shops. You can go the route of buying bike bags and gear online but I recommend always shopping local when you can. The Toecutters being based out of Loose Nuts Cycles is invaluable. They specialize in bikepacking, touring bikes and gear and can give incredible advice and show you the right bags for your bike or make your bike work to hit the road. I recommend stopping in, having a beer and checking out the bags they have in stock. Bring your bike in, strap a bag on and see for yourself if the bags will fit. Always find a local bike shop for some items. The relationship you can build with your LBS and mechanics will get you everywhere!)
If you want to strap something on then you might need a rack. Lately there is an influx of basket packing or rack packing. You will need a strong rack or basket. Surly makes a 24 pack rack that is highly adjustable to fit most bikes. Loose Nuts has these in stock and would be happy to let you know if it will fit. I would also check out these racks from Blackburn that almost doubles as a basket and can fit on the front or rear.
That is the basics to get you started. From there we can move onto spending a little more moolah and going over some Bikepacking Bag Brands
The Pay Day Packer
First off, if you are local to Atlanta and you want something completely custom to you then go talk to the dudes and the Spindle. They have an assortment of cycling clothing but also sew their own bike bags in house! So go ahead and get that bag with a gun holster on the side! (they have done that)
I will start off with the well known bike bag makers which will also be within your starting budget.
Revelate Designs – Pretty much invented bikepacking bags. You can try on and see most of their collection at Loose Nuts Cycles if you are in Atlanta. They have solid designs on seat bags and front rolls as well as the smaller bags attendees last night saw on my bike like the MAG-tank and the Jerry Can. If you don’t have racks you can just strap a Viscacha on the back and stuff it full!
Blackburn Design – They got on the bag game as well and have been putting out pretty awesome bags. Their Outpost Seat Pack is great because it features it’s own removable dry bag so you can stuff while on the ground instead of trying to pack with the bag on your bike. They also have a great line of panniers.
Apidura – Tough bags and also have front rolls adjustable to fit between all you drop bar riders. If you pack right most bags will fit between your bars but these are wider allowing you to pack it more full without hitting your STI shifters.
Ortlieb – Maker of some of the most durable and widely used panniers has now dipped their toe into the bikepacking market. They currently have their waterproof design that they are known for built into a seat bag and front roll as well as accessory bags. While on the heavier side they will last a long time like your panniers.
Custom Bag Makers
Aside from the Spindle there are a lot of independent and custom bag makers hitting the market but here are some that we would recommend.
Andrew the Maker – What can I say about him? One extremely nice guy putting out some of the most well made bags on the market. His on the bars camera and snack-sacks are incredibly well designed and good looking. He also make seat and frame packs as well as completely custom work. I highly recommend him. His bags will give your rig some class!
Porcelain Rocket – Based out of Alaska, Scott has been pushing the boundaries of innovative bag design. He was the man who invented the Roll-top Frame bag as well as a completely sway free saddle bag system for a regular seat post and Thudbuster. I don’t believe he is making his handlebar system anymore though.
Make your own! – If you know how to sew and own a sewing machine it actually isn’t that hard to make your own custom bags! Most are made out of Xpac and Cordura and are fastened using velcro straps. Grab a zipper strip and you are off to the races! It’s a fun weekend project and infinitely cheaper.
All The Rest
*obviously there are cheaper options than what I’m going to list below but the following items are also extremely well made for what they cost. You will sacrifice weight, packability and quality if you go too much cheaper. Why buy something twice when you can go nice.
For your money you can’t go wrong with any tent from REI. They pack small and are light enough which is what you want when it comes to carrying on your bike. I personally like their Quarter Dome 1 or for cheaper their Passage 1. Remember to get the foot print for it though.
If you are going the hammock route, make sure you enjoy sleeping on your back and your campsite has two trees available for it. You can usually deflect the cold from the ground in chillier months by putting a space blanket or sleeping pad layer underneath you. Hennessy makes a good hammock system.
As for a sleeping pad, this is what will keep your body warm during the night by creating a layer between you and the ground. Thermarest can provide you with good comfort. They have air mattresses and foldable . Personally I prefer air, it rolls up nice and can be stuffed away where as the foldable will need to be strapped on the outside of a bag and that is just one more thing flailing about on a ride.
Sleeping bags come in seasons and 2 different material. If you aren’t bikepacking the arctic tundra then a 3 season will suit you fine. I personally prefer down over synthetic due to a down bag being able to pack down much smaller and provide you with better warmth. I have slept with a 20 degree Kelty Cosmic Down sleeping bag in winter, spring and summer and have never felt more comfortable for the price. If you are just trekking during the summer then I don’t see any problem going on the cheap and bringing a light bed sheet or SnugPak.
Essential Odds and Ends
Shammy towel for washing and taintenance.
Titanium Cup for making coffee and heating food in.
Sawyer Water filter if you know you will not be near fresh water. This one is tiny and reusable several thousand times.
Camp stove and fuel if you want to unleash the chef in you. I have a Snow Peak Ti litemax or you can go minimal and cheap and make a soda can alcohol stove which can boil water extremely fast.
CamelBak for large water carrying.
Off the bike shoes if you are clipping in cause there is nothing worse than being stuck in cycling shoes. These can be flip flops to Toms and can strap or hang off of a bag.
Ziploc bags for keeping things dry.
Extra Batteries for devices
Jackery Giant Battery pack for cell phone and chargeable items.
SPOT tracker if you will be alone
Dr Bronners soap
Multi tool – Loose Nuts sells this particular one.
A good breathable, packable rain jacket if it will rain.
Remember. All you need is to keep warm if it’s cold and Dry if it’s wet so just strap things on your bike and just pedal.