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Bikepacking guide: How to pack your bike, and yourself

Cyclist magazine
8 Jun 2017

A quick guide to all the key essentials you should have with you when you head out into the wild

So you’ve brought the correct OS map, plus a trendy gravel bike, and a suite of the latest bikepacking bags. Plus you’ve devised a finely honed kit list detailing exactly what you’ll need for your upcoming expedition. But how do you jam everything you’ve assembled into the various bags now dotted about your bike?

Unsurprisingly, there’s a particular way to go about this if you want everything to fit into place as optimally as possible. Allowing for the easiest of access, the greatest balance of weight, and the most economic use of space, read on to find out how to achieve the perfect bikepacking pack…. 

Your bidons

While a good touring bike will allow you to attach a number of bidons to its frame, you don’t necessarily need to use them all for water. One little tip we’ve used in the past is to fill one with porridge oats mixed with dried milk. Then all you need do is add water, heat on your stove and enjoy! 

Handlebar pack

Use this to store your clothing and other lightweight objects such as your bivvy bag. You don’t want to have too much weight on the front of the bike as it could make steering hazardous, and certainly more difficult. 

Compression straps

Use the front of the pack, too, to strap on extra clothing you might need in a hurry, such as a waterproof or a quilted jacket. Don’t forget to attach your GPS to your bars either – unless you like getting lost!

Saddle pack

This is often the biggest of your packs. Use it to carry your heavier equipment as it will also help you to stay more balanced on the bike. This is where most of your food, your stove and bits such as your medical kit will live. 

Framepack

This is where you should keep all those things you might need to get to while in the saddle or while fixing the bike. So cram it full of ride food, as well as things like your mini pump, patch kit, tools, and spare inner tubes.

Extra storage

You can use the saddle pack’s compression straps to stow any extras that also won’t mind getting wet if it rains – a pair of sports sandals, for example, which make for a little bit of (lightweight) post-ride luxury. 

Weight of packs: 3.6kg; Weight of bike: 11.5kg; Total weight: 15.1kg

The Rider

Head: A helmet is advisable, while a cycling cap will help with sweat, glare from the sun and, if needs, be help keep your head dry and warm. Alternatively, you may want to rock a bandana, dude. Eye protection, meanwhile, is always a good idea – especially as there tend to be a lot of bugs in the wild!

Body: A merino wool base layer is ideal for your top half, not least because they tend not to absorb your body pong. A good lightweight shell jacket is also essential.

Legs: A pair of padded cycling shorts or trousers will make those long hours in the saddle more bearable, although you could just don a regular pair and wear your bibs underneath. Also, you’re going where few people will see you, so no need to need to shave your legs!

Feet: Finish your look off with merino socks and a pair of hard-wearing mountain bike shoes.

What’s in your pockets?

Your pockets are also useful places to carry things like your credits cards, cash, phone, tissues for personal hygiene, a whistle (useful for emergencies), and a fully charged battery pack to top up electronic devices.

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