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Bikepacking

Bikepacking: how to plan and prepare for your first bike tour

Bikepacking, a matter of attitude.

Bikepacking is a matter of attitude, an outdoor adventure where you can free your spirit and experience the intense emotions connected with being in nature and facing its elements.

Thanks to your bike and a minimum of equipment you can spend the night outdoors, maybe just a few miles from home. I invite everyone to try it!

There is no need to drive your car for hours, unload your bike and ride full of expectations towards a famous destination and then head back at night. The most honest and easiest bikepacking starts from your own doorstep. Even a route that you know by heart changes radically if you ride it enthusiastically looking forward to the idea of spending the night in a tent.

The fact of not being able to foresee and plan everything – something we tend to do in our everyday life – transforms a weekend bike ride into a great adventure, a real journey with all the unexpected ups and downs involved.

It will be precisely the lows, the most severe situations, that take you out of your comfort zone, enhance your personal experience and remain as  indelible memories.”

Alberto Frizziero, Dolomiti Gravel

Read Alberto’s tips for your first bike tour!

What is bikepacking?

Bikepacking has become popular in recent years thanks to the availability on the market of specific bags that allow you to load the necessary equipment on your bike without compromising the bike handling.

 

A bike that is well equipped for bikepacking must remain agile, allow us to have fun on trails and dirt roads and not be overloaded to the point of turning it into a camping van.

 

Bikepacking differs from biketouring precisely because of the type of bags used. The classic biketouring bike is equipped with a luggage rack and side bags whereas the bikepacking bike has bags that are placed under the saddle, on the handlebars and inside the frame.

 

There are many companies that produce specific bags for bikepacking, and various shapes and sizes make it possible to equip gravel bikes, fully-suspended mtb’s as well as fat bikes.

What do you need for bikepacking?

Many people wonder what is needed to bikepack, but approaching bikepacking is more about spirit than equipment.

 

Choose trips that reflect your attitude and way of being, and pick routes that are rewarding and within your reach.

 

I suggest to start gradually, without spending a fortune as we all know, the cooler and lighter the outdoor equipment is, the more it costs. Your first travel experiences will be short, only with time and experience in the great outdoors will you become aware of what equipment you truly need and want to help you enjoy your future adventures. For a few euros you can buy dry bags that you can fix under the saddle and on the handlebars with straps. Add a backpack on your back and you are ready for your first bikepacking adventure!

Obviously, the condition of the bike is essential, it must be fully functional and well tuned. The best bike for bikepacking is probably the one you already own; if it works on trails, dirt roads or paved roads, with small adjustments it will be perfect to accompany you on your bikepacking adventures.

 

Like with all outdoor equipment, there is a correlation between the cost and the weight. Consider your choices carefully and remember, the lighter your setup the more fun you will have!

 

Start with what you already own and with experience you will figure out what your priorities are in terms of gear.

 

A lot depends on where you will go on your next bikepacking adventure. I live in the Dolomites, a mountainous environment, and the equipment I bring with me when enjoying adventures here is different from what I would use on a Strada Bianca in Tuscany or along a river in Europe.

I suggest you begin by spending your money on a light and modern tent and then on a quality sleeping bag.

 

Foam mats may be bulky but they weigh only a few grams, last a lifetime and cost a pittance compared to ultra-light inflatable ones. A lot of equipment can be “borrowed” from other sectors. I think the best insulator against the wet ground is inexpensive aluminum sheeting, the kind you use in the summer to protect your car dashboard from the sun.

 

As far as cookware and stoves are concerned, there is an endless supply on the market in every price range: choose the one that suits you best. Remember that dinner in a tent is a fundamental moment of the day and an opportunity to create a positive memory of your bikepacking adventure. Dinner doesn’t have to be spartan or frugal, pamper yourself with dishes that are easy to make or reheat and that are tasty and have proper nutritional value.

How to load and organize bags and equipment for bikepacking

Load your bike by placing the heaviest equipment on the center of the frame and in the lowest possible position: this will greatly help to avoid upsetting the bike’s rideability.

 

You can use one frame bag or more than one, by layering them. Keep in mind that frame bags are often incompatible with bottle cages.

 

I place the stove, gas and bike repair kit just above the bottom bracket while water, tent poles and camera gear go in the bag under the top tube. In the saddlebag, I place food (closest to the seat tube to increase the stability of the bag), sleeping bag, spare clothing and clothing to use for the night as well as cookware.

On the handlebars I use a rigid support made in a semi-shell form where, thanks to some straps, I secure the tent and the mattress.

 

In a small bag fixed on the top tube near the handlebar stem I put my cell phone, some money and dried fruit.

 

For some types of routes or terrain that I will cross, I also use a backpack. I love to be elegant on the bike and I want my bike set up for bikepacking to be functional. I don’t like certain contraptions that turn bikes into Christmas trees, with bags and pouches attached everywhere.

 

Personally, I only use the excellent bags from Miss Grape: www.missgrape.net, coupled with handlebar harnesses from Salsa or Specialized.

bikepacking

Excellent sources of inspiration and insight into the topic of bikepacking are the reference websites: www.bikepacking.com, www.theradavist.com or if you want to stay in Italy, www.bikepacking.it and www.montanuswild.com

Well, now it’s time to get out there and feel the dust on your face, be splashed with mud, get caught in a storm and dry out in the sun. Your next bikepacking adventure will change you, for the better. And remember: leave no trace of your trip, planet earth will thank you.

 

Alberto Frizziero, Dolomiti Gravel
Website: www.dolomitigravel.com
Instagram: @dolomitigravel