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What Is Bike Camping? The Basics of Bikepacking

What Is Bike Camping? The Basics of Bikepacking

Camping with your bike has become more popular recently. More and more people are enjoying this new way of exploring nature. If you are new to bike camping (a.k.a. bikepacking), you’ve come to the right place to learn all the basics. So let’s get started. 

What Is Bike Camping?

Bike camping is using your bike to reach rural and out-of-the-way spots for camping. According to Griffin Cycling, “Bike Camping is about escaping, about being off the beaten path, riding somewhere you could never get in just one day. It’s an antidote for stress and one of the most affordable ways to travel.” Essentially, bike camping is using your bike as the main transportation while traveling from campsite to campsite. 

What is Bikepacking?

What Is Bikepacking? 

Another term for bike camping is bikepacking. However, unlike bike camping, bikepacking usually involves riding through trails and camping in more natural locations. Bikepacking is a combination between all-terrain cycling and backpacking. 

What Kind of Bike Do You Need for Bike Camping? 

Because most bike camping paths are rugged mountain trails or forest-service trails, a mountain bike would be an excellent option for bike camping. However, you can use any bike that can carry some luggage and get you where you want to go.

The Mortons biking on the beach
Mountain bikes are excellent options for bike camping, we even know those who use E bikes… although know your range!

What You Need for Bikepacking

When bikepacking, you must bring all components with you in a bag strapped to your bike. Therefore, any supplies needed for bikepacking must be small, light, and easy to transport. Here’s a basic list of needs for your next bikepacking trip.

Pro Tip: Want to take your bike with you while RVing? This is How to Bring Your Bikes Camping: Best RV Bike Racks.

Bike Bags

A good set of bike bags is essential for bikepacking because you’ll store all of your camping and biking gear in these bags. You may need a day pack, a dry bag, a handlebar bag, and a pannier. You may also consider a bike trailer for some of your equipment. However, make sure to balance the weight of your gear between both the trailer and bike frame, so the trailer doesn’t get too heavy and affect the bike’s maneuverability. 

Bike Bags for Bike Backpacking
Make sure to pack all the biking equipment you need to safely bikepack.

Biking Gear

You should always include pads and helmets as necessary bike gear. You should also bring some tools for maintenance and repair, especially on an extended trip. These necessities include a tube or tire repair kit, extra tubes, and a multi-tool with a chain link tool. For longer trips, experts suggest bringing chain lube, chain pins or power links, spare cables, and a light lock for securing during in-town restocking trips.

Shelter

One of the best shelters while bikepacking is a tent. Your tent can be free-standing, half-free-standing, or not-free-standing. However, we don’t recommend not-free-standing because you must stake them, and it may be difficult or impossible to find locations to insert stakes. The other two options work well for this type of camping. Whatever you choose, make sure that your bike camping tent is light and compact so that you can easily pack it on your bike.

Bike Tenting
Don’t forget your tent when heading out on your bikepacking trip.

Cooking Gear

Your cooking gear depends on what type of food you’ll be eating on your trip. If you require heated drinks or cooked meals, then a camp stove may be a necessity for you. But if cooked foods aren’t necessary, you can instead opt for low-prep, no-cook meals such as sandwiches, cheese, crackers, or jerky.

Water

An adequate supply of water is crucial for a successful bikepacking trip. You may need to mount additional water bottle holders on your bike. You’ll also need ample water for cooking and drinking. Of course, several factors, such as weather and the length of the ride, can affect how much water you’ll need. A water filtration system or tablets can also be a good idea if potable water is difficult to find. 

Bike parked in the desert in front of mountains.
Plan your route before setting out on your bikepacking trip.

Toiletries 

You’ll need a camp towel, soap, and shampoo for basic hygiene. Remember to keep the towel small and store the soap in a plastic bag instead of a bulky soap container. 

Other essential toiletries include toothpaste, a toothbrush, floss, and deodorant. Don’t forget the sunscreen, too. Also, try to get toiletries in tubes so you can squeeze them smaller as you go. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid aerosol cans. Finally, all bikepackers should have at least half a roll of toilet paper on hand at all times.

Clothes

Clothing should be comfortable and efficient for both on the bike and in camp. For example, padded bike shorts and gloves can help make biking more comfortable. And a good pair of SPD-compatible mountain bike shoes will make pedaling more efficient while still being comfortable for walking around. Also, consider bringing some casual clothes and shoes for the days spent in camp. 

Pro Tip: Keep your bike safe while on your adventures! This is How to Prevent & Deal with Theft on the Road.

Caitlin Morton from Morton's on the Move bicycling.
Bike camping is an exciting way to explore.

Where Can You Go Bikepacking?

Consider factors like mileage, terrain, weather, traffic, and road hazards when choosing where to go bikepacking. Forest Service trails or roads are an excellent route for beginners. These trails are usually better maintained and wider, and you can camp anywhere along the way. 

How to Get Started with Bike Camping

If bike camping sounds intriguing, start by doing some research. Next, you should plan a route. Don’t plan something too difficult for your first time because there are always unexpected things on any journey. And look for a more experienced individual or group to go with. Traveling with someone with more experience can help teach you some of the foundational skills you’ll need.

Our bikes were stolen 🙁 | Traveling down the Oregon Coast Part 2 | VLOG 80

Bike Camping Is a Fun Way to Experience the Outdoors

Bike camping can be a fun and exciting way to enjoy the outdoors. And because you must pack light, you can easily plan a quick trip. Whether you’ve never tried bike camping or have been bike camping for years, this way of camping can open up new possibilities.

Have you ever tried bike camping? Drop a comment below!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Joe Curbelo

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Great article! Word of advice however is to reconsider whether to carry anything scented such as soap or deodorant. These items attract bears and if you're in a tent, you don't have much of a defense against an invasion!

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