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Expert advice for getting into bikepacking

Expert Stories


Interested in bikepacking but unsure where to start?

We asked seasoned experts about the bikes, bags and gear they use to explore the backcountry. Find out how to set yourself up for success in this beginner-friendly gear guide.

All of my tours have started from my front door in Oklahoma City. Every tour has a different aspect and all tours have been equally enjoyable. I really enjoy viewing wildlife without causing distress to the creatures. I love to camp in the bush to experience the true essence of the American frontier.”

Derek Schleifer
ExpertVoice member and Cabela’s retail employee
Bikepacked more than 14,000 miles in a single tour

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Which bike should you be using?

There are countless reviews and opinions to be found about what style of bike is ideal for a bikepacking trip. Let’s keep it simple: The best bike for a bikepacking trip is the one that you already use. Mountain bikes, gravel bikes and road bikes can be used depending on the terrain that you plan to explore.

If you are in the market for a new bike, bikepacking is a great way to experience versatile bikes that you may have overlooked before. Hardtails, gravel bikes and even fat bikes can make excellent bikepacking rigs. Here’s a few of experts’ top picks:

Comfort is key

You can expect to log lots of miles on your saddle over the course of a bikepacking trip. Be sure that your saddle is correctly shaped and padded to help mitigate discomfort. The WTB Bolt is an expert favorite. 

Keep on rolling

Whether you’re planning on riding gravel, single track or mixed terrain, having a dependable tire that can handle miles of trail is paramount. Some key tire factors to consider are grip, puncture protection and versatility. Continental’s Cross King ShieldWall Tire is a great place to start. 

Pack it in

Your hiking or frame pack in combination with standard dry bags will do just fine if you’re looking for ways to minimize your expenses. However, the past few years have seen significant innovations in the world of packs and bags specifically designed for biking.

Bikepacking bags typically consist of a handlebar roll or harness, a frame bag and a seat pack.  Small pannier bags and tube top bags can also make great additions to your bike if you’re looking for even more storage options.

Food and water

Your meals on a bikepacking trip shouldn’t deviate too much from any other backpacking or hiking trip. Small gas or alcohol-burning stoves are a great way to cook a hot meal after a long day on the bike.ExpertVoice member Thomas Jukes bought Camp Chef’s Mountain Series Stryker stove for bikepacking years ago, and it’s become a favorite piece of gear for outdoor recreation year-round. 

Water filtration and purification systems are economical and lightweight options, as well, although you should still consider carrying at least one bottle or reservoir, just in case. Experts love this compact gravity system from LifeStraw.  

Camping gear

The warmth and padding of your sleeping bag and pad can change dramatically depending on when and where you plan on bikepacking. Trading a little more weight to make sure that you don’t freeze at night is always a wise choice. Minimalist and ultralight bikepackers might also consider an alternative sleeping setup, such as a bivy sack or hammock.

Other essentials

In addition to food, water and shelter there are a few other integral pieces of gear that should be included on every bikepacker’s list, such as a repair tool, lights and a GPS system. Our experts rave about the Crankbrothers M17 multi-tool and NiteRider’s Lumina 1000 Boost for a longlasting and durable light. 

Start your adventure

The best way to start bikepacking is to use what you already have and pick a short (20-30 miles) overnight route that’s close to home. You’re sure to discover what gear you need to have a successful and enjoyable experience.

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