You learn something every time you go bikepacking. But occasionally, you come across a tip that seems so intuitive, so obvious, that you’re not quite sure why you didn’t think of it sooner. We’ve compiled 11 of our favorite tips for bikepacking, borrowed from experienced bikepackers, to make your trips more enjoyable, safer and just plain smarter.
- Tape your frame & bags to keep them from getting trashed. Areas where a frame bag wraps around the tubing will collect dirt and dust underneath as you’re riding. Over the course of a trip, the friction will rub the paint down to bare metal – this happens faster when conditions are wet. To prevent wear on your frame, grab a roll of 3M Tape and use a pair of scissors to cut perfectly-sized frame protectors for each rub spot. For your bags, do a quick test ride with all your gear on the bike and look for areas where your bags might rub against each other or against sharp points on the bike. Then, use a patch of Gorilla Tape on the bag itself to prevent wear.
- Lose the Nalgene and standard bike bottles. There are better options that provide higher volume. While a number of manufacturers make larger 1L bottles, a less-expensive option is to pick up a few 1L Smart Waters: they fit great in a standard water bottle cage and give you an extra 6oz+ of water compared to your standard bike bottle. Smart Waters also allow a Sawyer Mini water filter to be mounted directly to the mouth so they can be used as a ‘dirty bottle’ for water collection. If you have larger-format cages like the Salsa Anything or Blackburn Outpost, ditch your Nalgene and look for the larger 1.5L Smart Water for an extra 16oz.
- Nest your cookpot with your waterbottle on the downtube. A medium-sized ultralight pot like the Toaks Titanium 550ml is a perfect fit with a Smart Water bottle (see above). This nesting also works with a 1L Nalgene. Consider throwing a small baggie over the top of the pot (in between the pot and bottle) to prevent dirt from accumulating inside the pot.
- Use Ski Straps to secure your waterbottles. Especially if you have water bottles mounted on the fork, make sure to lash them down with a strap of some sort to prevent ejection and the potential for broken wheels and teeth. For this job, we’ve had great luck with Ski Straps, since they stretch just enough to keep things snug and can also be used in other situations…
- Ski Straps can also pull double-duty as makeshift stakes. Another benefit of the venerable ski strap: if you find yourself at a campsite where the ground is particularly rocky and stakes can’t be used, loop a Ski Strap through your tent’s stake line, stretch it out until the tent is taut, and place a big rock in the middle. We used this method at a particularly rocky campsite at the White Rim, and the tent held up nicely in moderate winds.
- Create your own “Bike Emergency Kit.” Instead of scrambling the night before a big trip to find all the little bits you might need in-case of a trailside mechanical, make your own “bike emergency kit” to take with you every time. We like starting with a large(ish) patch kit with a plastic snap-case. Fill it with your patch kit, spare shoe cleat bolt, spare M5 bolt for any bottlecages, spare disc-rotor bolt, a few zipties, a curved needle with nylon thread for sidewall repairs, and a chain connector link. Toss it in your bag and forget about it until you need it – but hopefully you won’t!
- Reinforce Ziploc baggies using clear packing tape. Ziploc sandwich / snack baggies work great for organizing small stuff in your pack, but they’re particularly vulnerable to punctures and wear. Reinforce your bags with a layer of clear plastic packing tape to make them less prone to wear or holes and make sure they stay waterproof.
- Use alcohol to keep your chamois clean(er). No one likes riding in a dirty chamois, but unfortunately for lightweight bikepackers, it’s often a fact of life. If possible, dry out your chamois each night and try to sleep in something else (or nothing). For extra bacteria-fighting power, find a tiny spray-bottle and fill it with isopropyl alcohol. Give your chamois a few sprays before you go to bed to cut down on bacteria and stink on longer trips.
- Downsize your chain lube bottle. One mistake that first-time bikepackers make is not to consider what they’ll be inflicting on a chain during multi-day trips in the elements. Grinding out miles with grinding-noise from your drivetrain isn’t fun, but who wants to lug a huge bottle of bike lube along? Instead, grab a tiny Nalgene bottle from your local REI or mountain supply store, and fill with your lube of choice. Yep, we’re on a tiny-bottle kick now.
- Worried about bike theft? If you’re posting up in an area where someone might be tempted to walk off with your main-mode of transport, consider grabbing a small, retractable bike lock – or just an extra length of cord – to use as a backwoods bike alarm. Before you head to bed, scoot your bike next to where you’re sleeping, loop the lock or cord around your bike and pass through a convenient loop on your sleep system. While it won’t stop dedicated thief, it should give you a jolt awake and an maybe an opportunity to respond before your ride disappears into the sunset (or sunrise). Just don’t trip yourself when you get up to pee.
- Stiffen up your rig. Especially if you’re bikepacking with front or rear suspension, don’t forget that your bike needs a few adjustments before hitting the trail. Starting with your typical trail settings, add a few PSI to your front/rear tires to prevent rock-dings. Load your bike with all the gear you intend to bring and check sag on the fork and shock, adding pressure as needed. If your bike has an especially short headtube or you have lots of gear on your harness, consider setting your compression adjustment (which is typically located on the fork crown) to a ‘medium’ setting to prevent nose-dive that could cause your bags to rub the front wheel.
And finally, some words of wisdom: On a recent Dropper Post podcast episode, our guest Skyler Des Roches made an excellent point: “Anything that your reason to carry it is ‘just in case’ shouldn’t be carried. Just in case of what? You need to know what you’re going to use something for.” We agree – be honest in your packing and make sure you know what you’re bringing and how you’ll use it. When you encounter your next climb, your body with thank you for it.