This article was written by Amanda Walters, an experienced freelance writer and regular contributor to Huffington Post. Follow her here: @Amanda_W84
Bikepacking is backpacking with a twist, or rather, a set of pedals and handlebars. It’s not new, but each bikepacking adventure is sure to be challenging, exhilarating, and unique. Just imagine crossing from one state—or mountain—to another, equipped only with your camping gear and your good old mountain bike.
If you’ve “been there, done that” and are looking for a greater challenge, you can try bikepacking with a fat bike. It’s a bicycle that has over-sized tires, and is designed for riding on soft and unstable terrain, such as sand and snow, making it the perfect choice for off-road desert and mountain adventures.
Part of the challenge of bikepacking is the planning process, wherein you have to decide on what you have to pack, making these items fit in your backpack, and knowing where to go. To help you get started, here are the five essentials you can’t go bikepacking without.
First things first: the backpack
If you’re bikepacking only for the day or overnight in the next town, a bike bag (some would say “a sporty fanny pack”) would do. For a longer trip, you would need a hardy structured backpack that has a meshed back support and waist straps. This eases the strain on your shoulders and keeps your back cool, balances the bag, and puts the weight near the seat so you can grip the handlebars without straining your shoulders. Choose a bag that is the same or less than the width of your back so it doesn’t stick out your sides.
You can rely on a GPS unit to determine which way to go, but make sure you also have—and know how to use—a compass and a map when you run out of power or if the unit gets lost somewhere along the way.
There are types of clothing that can keep you comfortable in both hot and cold climates, such as wicking shirts and underwear that serve to regulate body heat. Long-sleeved wicking shirts are good for the cold weather and for protecting your arms from the sun; you can simply bunch the sleeves up if it gets too warm. Other things to pack are: UV-protect shades, a cap or bandanna, a thin absorbent towel, an all-weather jacket, and light, quick-dry pants.
A tent, a sleeping bag, a space blanket, a flashlight or a headlamp with extra batteries, a portable stove, waterproof matches, cooking utensils, a good utility knife, and a first-aid kit—these are the things you can’t go camping without. Here’s a tip: before packing these, practice using them at home or in a park nearby. Tents are pretty useless when you’re in the middle of a raging storm and you can’t even figure out how the poles work.
Food and water
The most important things you should never go backpacking without are food and water—even if you’re just going for a short day trip. You have to prepare for the unexpected—an emergency, a bad turn, bad weather, or all of the above that may force you to stop or delay your trip. You can also pack food that does not require cooking for times when setting up camp may be difficult.
Other miscellaneous items to pack are sunscreen, an ID, some extra cash for emergencies, and of course, your bike pump just in case your tires need a little lift. Now, off you go and have a great bikepacking adventure ahead!
Do you have anything else you think I left off?