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An Intro to Bikepacking: Your Next Favorite Outdoor Adventure Sport

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Intro to bikepacking: mountain biking in the desert
Bikepacking in the desert

Ready for a new type of adventure? Then buckle up, because Derek Edwards is here to introduce you to your next favorite outdoor activity on two wheels in this intro to bikepacking.

Thinking about getting started with bikepacking? We don’t blame you—while bikepacking isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, it’s grown in popularity and trendiness in recent years as more and more people notice the benefits of using a bike to explore the great outdoors. This self-supported style of mountain biking has sparked the imagination of many adventurers seeking to experience the world in a simpler, more sustainable way. 

What is Bikepacking?

Bikepacking combines the ultralight, minimalist approach of hiking and camping with the fun and thrill of mountain biking. It’s important to note that bikepacking isn’t just another word for cycle touring, as bikepacking predominately favors off-pavement routes involving dirt trails, mud, gravel, and all the messiness of traditional mountain biking. Bikepacking lets you get away from large, blustering groups of riders and seek out quieter, more unique moments found in nature.

What Kind of Gear Should you Bring Bikepacking?

When you’re gearing up for your bikepacking adventure, you’ll want to focus on choosing lightweight, multifunctional items that don’t weigh you down, while also sticking with gear that will still work while on a bike. Some essentials you’ll want to pick up include:

intro to bikepacking: Bikepacking on a meadow path on fat tire bikes
Bikepacking on a meadow path on fat tire bikes

Tips for Getting Started as a Beginner Bikepacker

Everyone has to start somewhere (hence this intro to bikepacking)! And there are a number of things you can do to plan out and ensure your next trip goes smoothly. Just remember—nothing beats experience. The most important thing is to get out there and figure out what works for you rather than be intimidated by the possibility of making the wrong choices. Some beginner bikepacking tips to consider:

  • Plan a small trip first. While you may want to jump right into your first big adventure, it’s a good idea to get comfortable with hauling gear around on a bike first. A two-night trip of about 20 to 30 miles a day is a good place to start.
  • Make sure your bike has lower gears that can accommodate heavier loads in more difficult terrain.
  • Adjust your tires and ensure they have ample air and suspension pressure to handle the weight on your bike. This will help prevent unwanted flats.
  • Keep pack weight as low as possible on the bike to ensure the best handling.
  • Skip the backpack—weight on your neck and shoulders can make riding miserable. Try to put as much gear as possible on the bike. That is the advantage of having a bike!
  • Choose foods that are lightweight but calorie dense. There are many great vegan food options for backpacking, like nuts, nut butters, seeds, and more.

Ethical Rules to Follow as a Bikepacker

Bikepacking shares much of the same ethos with backpacking when it comes to preserving and taking care of our environment, but it’s worth reminding ourselves of those Leave No Trace principles — especially as you set out to try something new. Much of this is common sense: leave every place as you found it, dispose of waste properly, keep campsites small, minimize or avoid campfires, and respect the animals and plant life around you. 

When you’re on a bike, it’s especially important to be considerate and aware of others. Yield to other trail users and be courteous to those who let you pass. Stay on designated trails. Don’t drag your brakes or purposefully skid in a way that erodes the trail. Respect is fundamental to keeping the wilderness a beautiful place that we can all share and enjoy. 

Bikepacking Sustainability

Overall, bikepacking is a great form of sustainable travel and adventure. Packing and compartmentalizing everything that you need onto a bike reminds us of the importance of self-sufficiency and sustainability. It slows us down and makes us more keenly aware not only of our surroundings, but of the things we need and don’t need in our everyday lives.

So get on you bikes and ride! Wander on.

Author Bio: Currently located in San Diego, Derek Edwards is an up and coming outdoorsman and nature enthusiast. Always one to advocate for a greener way of living, you can find him riding his bike along the boardwalk or paddling out in the bay. Follow along with his adventures over at Outdoor with Derek

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