How to Pack for Bikepacking | Everything You Need to Know

When starting, one of the most popular questions is how to pack for backpacking. And rightfully so; when I initially became interested in backpacking, I couldn’t help but marvel at how someone could ever fit all their things in such a little area. It wasn’t doable.

Fortunately, we live in a time where manufacturers can create some of the tiniest and lightest hardware, not to mention the ability for individuals like us to collectively gather all of the information and share it with the world on devices like the one you are holding as you read this.

Each packed bike packing bike will be different due to the diverse packing lists people generate. But I hope that by reading this, you will better understand how to pack for backpacking. There is no hard and fast rule regarding where to pack your belongings, but having a broad notion will assist.

Depending on your specific aims and tastes, you may take everything, including the kitchen sink, or be an ultra-minimalist. This article on how to pack for backpacking might help you with either.

Here are a few things to think about while you assemble your backpacking gear:

  • Maintain the weight low: Store the heaviest items on your gear list as low as possible to assist in maintaining the bike’s center of gravity lower. As a result, the bike will handle considerably better than if it was top-heavy.
  • Also, avoid carrying a backpack; not only will it give you a sweaty back, but it will also weary you much faster. If you must carry a bag, choose something tiny, such as a hip bag.
  • Organize for ease of use: This is a critical step in learning how to pack for backpacking. Pack whatever you could need during the day in a convenient location. Things like your phone, wallet, sunscreen, and snacks may be stored in a top tube or grub bag that is easily accessible while riding.
  • You want to be confident about looking for these products when you need to take a brief break or fill up on Snickers bars at 7-11. Because you won’t need your stove or multi-tool as much, you can keep them lower in your frame bag.
  • Avoid wear and tear: Riding in rougher terrain, like gravel roads, will have you bouncing around, as will everything in your bags. It’s tempting to discard aside critical cases that certain items of gear come with while learning how to pack for backpacking.

Check that nothing sharp or abrasive will rip a hole in one of your beautiful bike packing bags. This may be accomplished by storing them in their container or bag. I only found the case for my MSR PocketRocket stove when it wore a hole in my custom Rogue Panda frame bag on the second day of my Tour Divide ride. I will not repeat that error.

What goes where?

A traditional bike touring configuration will have panniers that dangle off the sides of the bike. However, a bikepacking setup will generally maintain all the bags in line with the center of the bike by employing a handlebar, frame, and saddle bag.

Each packing strategy has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While panniers save weight on the bike, they make single-track navigation more difficult since they make the bike broader.

Lower and broader panniers are readily hooked on fallen branches, pebbles, and tree stumps, causing damage to the bags and, in the worst-case scenario, causing you to crash and harm yourself. Bikepacking bags are attached to the handlebars, the frame, and the saddle. As a result, the weight is somewhat higher, which is why heavy things should be stored as low as feasible.

Another advantage of bike-packing bags over panniers is that they rarely require racks. On harsher terrain, panniers are fastened to metal racks with plastic clips that might shake loose and even shatter. Let’s talk about how to pack for bikepacking now.

  • Frame bag: This is most likely the giant bag you’ll have strapped to your bike and is ideal for storing the heaviest items like your stove, gasoline, food, tools, water bladder, and first aid kit. Consider obtaining a frame bag with an interior divider; it lets you keep your stuff better organized and prevents everything from falling into the bag’s bottom, causing it to bulge out.

Check out my selection of low-cost frame bags here.

  • Handlebar bag: Use this to store camping equipment such as your tent, sleeping bag, and tent poles. Keep the weight of whatever you place here to a minimum; storing bulky items here will considerably influence your bike’s handling.

A list of low-cost handlebar bags may be found here.

  • Saddle Bag: Because this bag is also relatively high on the bike, carry lighter things in it. This is a great place to put extra clothes, a sleeping mat, and a tent. Many of these bags suffer from “saddle bag wag,” which can be prevented by positioning the heaviest objects closer to the seat post.

Here you may get low-cost saddle bags.

  • Top tube bag: I keep my phone, wallet, extra cash, headphones, and cliff bars here. The top tube bag is ideal for storing essentials you want quick access to during the day.  

Here you may get low-cost top tube bag.

  • Stem bags: also known as grub bags- are used to keep supplies like water bottles, flashlights, bear sprays, pocket knives, or any other small items you want ready access to later in the day but don’t necessarily require throughout the day. Keeping this type of stuff in this area saves you from rummaging through your frame bag at camp.

Here you may get low-cost stem bags.

  • Water storage: Because water is the heaviest item you’ll be carrying, you’ll want to keep it as light as possible. Some people like carrying a water bladder inside the frame bag since it is the bike’s lowest and most central part. While this is the best area for storing water, the water bladder poses specific concerns because it is readily ruptured.

Here you may get low-cost water stroge.

Imagine yourself in the middle of the desert and realizing that your water bladder has leaked everything but a few sips. That’s why many people, like myself, strap bottles to the fork legs using bigger cages like the Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cage. While it has a minor effect on steering, the piece of mind I get from utilizing stainless steel Klean Kanteen bottles is well worth it.

Here’s a quick rundown of my backpacking gear and where I keep it. Check out this post for a more in-depth look at my backpacking gear list.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned vet, you’ll always benefit from an ultimate backpacking gear list. Having a master bike packing gear list on hand that you can refer to at any time can assist you in planning last-minute weekend excursions or even 4-month round-the-world expeditions.

Keep a paper copy of this backpacking gear list in your bike packing bags, or save it as a bookmark on your phone for rapid reference.

Organizing your stuff into related things will help you remember to pack what you need:

  • Bike, helmet, luggage, front and rear lights, bike lock
  • Tent, tarp, bivy, or hammock – handlebar or saddle bag
  • Sleeping sack or blanket with pad, pillow. Guy lines, stakes, and ground sheet – handlebar bag
  • Cooking: stove, fuel, lighter, cup, pot, and spork – frame bag
  • Water: A water filter, purification tablets, and a reservoir or bottles – frame bag and fork-mounted cages
  • Riding gear includes padded cycling shorts, jerseys or t-shirts, socks, rain trousers and jacket, arm and leg warmers, a buff or bandana, and bicycle gloves. Sleeping clothes, wool layers like underwear, a long-sleeved shirt, loose-fitting pants, a warm cap, and a puffy coat – saddle bag
  • GPS and smartphones are used for navigation. A printed map is always a good option in case any of these fails – bag for the top tube.
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrush, hand sanitizer, biodegradable soap, baby wipes, prescription medications, chamois cream, and toilet paper – frame bag
  • Spare tubes, patch kit, pump, tire levers, tiny bottle tubeless sealant, spare chain link and a chain tool, chain lubricant, spokes, spoke wrench, duct tape, zip ties, multi-tool, knife, and a small cleaning towel-frame bag.
  • Bandages, antibiotic cream, alcohol wipes, pain relievers, Benadryl, emergency blanket, gloves, blister pads, and tweezers – frame bag
  • Food, a torch, additional batteries or a battery cache, sunglasses, a camera, a Spot tracker, permits, zip-lock bags, ID and credit cards – stem and frame bags

I hope this “How to Pack for Bikepacking” post helps you determine where to carry what and how to pack more efficiently. Thank you for taking the time to read this. For additional helpful information, see the linked articles mentioned below.

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