Essential tech for bikepackers: all the devices you need for a successful trip
Going totally off-grid can be freeing, but the right gadgets will make your bikepacking expeditions a whole lot easier
Part of the joy of bikepacking is getting off-grid, but there are still some key bits of tech that will make your ride easier and safer. You'll want a set of reliable lights of course, and a headlamp for when you're setting up camp, but there are also some other key gadgets that will make your expedition run much smoother.
These are my top recommendations for tech to make your bikepacking experience as fun and safe as possible, taking the stress out of cycling so you can focus on enjoying the ride. Don't forget the batteries!
When you're bikepacking, your bike computer will be your best friend, providing turn-by-turn navigation right on your handlebars. Speaking from experience, I highly recommend choosing a cycling computer with a touchscreen. Ones that are operated using buttons alone are cheaper, but in my experience they're much harder to use. You can't type in an address, or easily pan or zoom on the map. Trust me, it's a hassle.
Thankfully, there are lots of touchscreen computers available, and they don't all cost the same as your bike. The Garmin Edge Explore 2 is an entry-level device, but has all the essentials you need for your expedition, including bike-specific directions (no directing you along pedestrian footpaths or onto freeways), and turn-by-turn navigation. You can easily import route created using third-party tools like Komoot, and the Edge Explore 2 will even recalculate directions if you go off-course (by accident or on purpose).
It definitely isn't a necessity, but a GPS watch might come in handy for checking how hard you're working, and whether you're getting enough rest to adequately recover. You don't want to end up feeling burnt out, slogging along on tired legs on a multi-day ride.
Sports watches need a couple of weeks to calculate a baseline for stats like sleep patterns, heart rate, heart rate variability, so you'll want to wear it for as long as possible before your expedition.
You don't need to spend a fortune. For example, Amazfit makes some great sports watches that offer everything you could want in an amazingly cheap package. The Amazfit T-Rex Pro, for example, is super sturdy, packed with health-tracking tools, has a lovely OLED display that's easy to read in sunlight, and costs under $150. It's not good for GPS route-planning, but trying to read a map from your wrist while cycling isn't fun. That's what your cycling computer is for.
If you're sticking to well-worn routes then a satellite communicator may be overkill, but in the countryside where cellular connectivity is sketchy, it could be extremely useful. A communicator with an SOS facility will let you call for help in an accident, but as data from Garmin's inReach devices shows, it's not just useful if you're injured. You could also use it if you have a mechanical failure that you can't fix at the roadside, and you can't realistically get your bike to the next town.
A satellite communicator will also let you stay in touch with family and friends via text messages, letting them know you're safe and allowing them to track your location via GPS.
For bikepacking, the Garmin InReach Mini 2 would be a good choice. It's tiny, measuring just 2.04 x 3.9 x 1.03in, and weighs only 3.5oz.
When you're bikepacking, you're likely to spend at least a little time riding in low light, so you'll need a reliable set of lights. If you're planning to be away from home for several days, battery life will be a big consideration. The experts on our sister site Cycling News recommend the Magicshine RN3000, which can be charged via USB-C or run from a battery pack that you can swap on the road.
Garmin's Varia rear lights include radars that will alert you to traffic approaching from behind, with audio and visual warnings. Some models also include a built-in camera to capture near-misses or other incidents.
Bike or helmet camera
It's an unfortunate fact that not all road users give cyclists the space and respect they deserve, and in the event of an accident, having video evidence can be a game-changer. Just like a car dash-cam, a bike camera can provide proof that you weren't at fault in an accident.
Even if you don't actually make contact with a vehicle, if someone makes a dangerously close pass or cuts you up, many police services (like my local Avon and Somerset Police) allow you to submit footage of incidents so dangerous drivers can be sent a warning.
There are various factors to bear in mind, including resolution, frames per second (FPS), image stabilization, storage, and battery life. A higher resolution means sharper images, and higher FPS means smoother video. However, high-res cameras, and cameras recording at high FPS will need more storage per second of footage.
Weatherproofing is also important. Many cameras are water-resistant, but you might need to invest in a special case if your camera isn't made to handle heavy rain.
Our colleagues at Cycling Weekly recommend the Insta360 Go 2 Action Camera as the best all-rounder. It's super small, light and easy to use.
You never want to go camping, hiking or bikepacking without a reliable light source, and a headlamp makes more sense than a handheld flashlight when you need your hands free for pitching tents or tinkering with your bike.
If you're aiming to keep weight to a minimum, our list of the best running headlamps includes some great options that won't weigh you down. I recommend looking for a lamp that accepts AAA batteries so you can replace them on the road and don't need to worry about finding somewhere to charge it during the day. The Silva Trail Runner Free H is a great option, and not very expensive.
I also highly recommend having a little keychain flashlight as a backup in case your headlamp fails. I carry the Olight i3E EOS, which costs $9.95 and has saved my bacon when my main light has failed.
Even if your headlamp takes AAA batteries and your GPS watch lasts months between charges, you'll still need a way to keep your phone powered up on the move. Power banks can be heavy beasts, but the EAFU Power Bank weighs just 185g, and has the seal of approval from my friends at TechRadar. It can charge up to three devices at once, has a little built-in flashlight for emergencies, and is pretty cheap at around $20/£20.
This article is part of Advnture's Bikepacking Week 2023 (running from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 May), our ultimate guide to adventuring on two wheels including essential advice, gear, and features to help you plan the perfect expedition.
All the latest inspiration, tips and guides to help you plan your next Advnture!
Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).