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What is bikepacking? Find out more about the fast-growing cycling trend

bike packing
A bike set up with bikepacking kit (Image credit: Getty Images)

What is bikepacking?

No doubt you will have heard of cycle touring and also backpacking. Well, bikepacking is a hybrid of both, yet also an activity in its own right.

The difference between more traditional cycle touring and bike packing is that instead of affixing a pannier rack and panniers to a bike, the bikepacking bags fit neatly around the frame of the bike. In most cases, the packs have velcro straps that make it easy to fit them to seat posts, tubes and handlebars.

Bikepack manufacturers claim this style of bike bag saves almost two-thirds of the weight compared to traditional pannier racks and panniers. They provide better aerodynamics, too.

Like backpacking on foot, the aim of bikepacking is to give cyclists the freedom to ride with a load but in the easiest way possible. Of course, when cycling you generally have the ability to travel further than when hiking.

bike packing in Corrour

Bikepacking can take you to many amazing places, such as Corrour in the Scottish Highlands (Image credit: fionaoutdoors.co.uk)

The rise and rise of bikepacking

Bikepacking is fast-growing outdoors activity and many bike packers will tell you about the advantages. These include:

  • Freedom to cycle wherever you fancy
  • A self-sufficient activity
  • Great for road and off-road
  • Ideal for all cycling abilities
  • A way to see amazing places
  • Brilliant for strength and cardiovascular fitness

bikepacking

Bikepacking gives you the freedom to explore with self-sufficiency (Image credit: Getty Images)

How to get started with bikepacking

First, you need to choose the right bike for your chosen adventure. It could be road, gravel, hybrid, mountain bike or e-bike depending on the terrain of your route.

The number of packs that you attach to your bike will depend on how much kit you will need to pack – and how far you plan to ride. 

There are different bags such as frame bags, which fit under or above the tubes of the bike; seatpost bags, which attach to the rear of the saddle; as well as handlebar packs, which affix to the front of the bars, and front fork bags. 

Lightweight kit and clothing will be a good idea if you want to enjoy the ride. Being laden by heavy items, even if they are in bike packs, will be tiring because a heavy bike is not so easy to pedal.

Be practical about what you choose to take with you, especially in terms of safety, but also make sure you are realistic about what you will really need.

For example, you will definitely need a puncture repair kit, waterproof jacket, sleeping bag, your choice of the best tent or bivvy bag, sleeping pad and camping stove, food and water, and one of the best first aid kits, but do you need clean underwear every day, three spare cycle tops and a hairbrush?

To cut down on some of the items, you could choose to sleep in bothies and hostels. A more luxurious way to bike pack is to book into B&Bs along your route.

It’s up to you to decide on the number of clothing changes and toiletries that you take. 

bike packing

Adventures are easy to find while bikepacking (Image credit: Getty Images)

Will I enjoy bikepacking?

Bikepacking is for anyone with a sense of adventure, even if it is in the smallest sense of adventure, and for cyclists who enjoy longer distance trips by bicycle. 

You do not need to go for weeks, perhaps a couple of days of cycling in a stunning place, although you might also be the sort of person who likes to head off for months on a self-sufficient trip.

You can stick to roads or venture on to gravel tracks and even more remote paths and trails. Bike packing is for all types of outdoors people and includes children, adults, families, couples and solo riders.

There are also bikepacking events worldwide that might appeal to people who like to compete or participate in a big adventure with other bikepackers.

Fiona Russell

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.