bikepacking gear

Essential Bikepacking Gear: Top Must-Have Items for Your Adventure

Embarking on a bikepacking adventure combines the thrills of cycling and backpacking, allowing adventurers to cover greater distances while enjoying the outdoors. The unique demands of both activities require specialized gear that strikes a balance between lightweight, compact, and functional. With countless options available on the market, this article focuses on essential camping gear necessary for a successful bikepacking trip.

In preparing for a bike-packing journey, riders must consider a variety of factors including weather conditions, terrain, and personal preferences. These factors help dictate the type of camping gear to bring along, taking into account durability, versatility, and packability. From shelter and sleeping arrangements to cooking and maintenance kits, discovering the most suitable gear ensures a smooth and enjoyable experience.

While bikepacking shares similarities with traditional backpacking and bicycle touring, it possesses its own set of challenges and requirements. Consequently, bike packers must be diligent in their gear selection to guarantee comfort, safety, and optimal performance during their journey. The following paragraphs will provide an overview of the crucial camping gear every bike packer should consider investing in.

Bikepacking Tent Selection

When preparing for a bikepacking trip, selecting the right tent is crucial for a successful adventure. A suitable tent should be lightweight, compact, easy to set up and provide adequate protection from the elements. Consider the following factors when choosing a bikepacking tent:

Weight and Packed Size

The weight of your bikepacking tent should be a top priority as you will be carrying it on your bike. Ultralight tents generally weigh between 1 to 3 pounds. These tents are made with lightweight materials and offer limited living space. Keep in mind the trade-offs in durability and comfort, and make sure the reduced weight does not compromise those aspects.

Additionally, consider the packed size of the tent when it is stuffed in its bag. The smaller packed size ensures it won’t take up too much space on your bike, allowing you to carry other essential gear.


It’s important to choose the appropriate capacity for your tent. Tents are typically labeled as one-person, two-person, three-person, etc. Determine if you need extra room for your gear or a fellow rider. Keep in mind that increasing capacity may result in a heavier tent.

Season Rating

Tents are designed for use in specific weather conditions and are categorized as 3-season or 4-season. A 3-season tent generally works well for bikepacking trips during spring, summer, and fall. These tents provide ample mesh for ventilation and are lighter in weight. On the other hand, a 4-season tent is built for extreme weather conditions and provides better insulation, making it suitable for winter biking trips. Consider the destinations and time of year you’ll be bikepacking when selecting your tent’s season rating.

Ease of Setup

You may experience fatigue after a long day of biking, so it’s important to have a bikepacking tent that is easy to set up. Freestanding tents are generally easier to pitch and don’t require as many stakes and guylines to secure them. Research setup methods and read reviews before purchasing to ensure a quick and hassle-free setup experience at your campsite.

To summarize, consider factors such as weight, packed size, capacity, season rating, and ease of setup when selecting a bikepacking tent. It’s essential to choose a tent that will fit your needs and provide comfort and protection during your adventure. Research and reassess your priorities before making an investment in a bikepacking tent suited for your specific journey.

Sleep System Essentials

Sleeping Bags

Selecting the right sleeping bag is crucial for a comfortable night’s rest during bikepacking trips. There are several things to consider when choosing your bag:

  • Temperature rating: Pick a sleeping bag with a temperature rating appropriate for the climate you’ll be bikepacking in. Bags are generally rated by their “comfort” and “lower limit” temperatures.
  • Insulation type: There are two main types of insulation: down and synthetic. Down is lightweight and highly compressible but can lose warmth when wet. Synthetic insulation is typically heavier and less compressible but maintains warmth even when damp.
  • Weight and packed size: Bikepackers need lightweight and compact gear. Look for a sleeping bag that strikes a balance between warmth and packability.
Insulation TypeProsCons
DownLight, compressibleLoses warmth when wet
SyntheticMaintains warmth when wetHeavier, less compressible

Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads provide both insulation and cushioning, making them essential to a comfortable sleep system. There are three main types to consider:

  1. Air pads: Lightweight and packable, air pads offer the most comfort and can be easily adjusted for optimal firmness. However, they can be susceptible to punctures and require inflating.
  2. Self-inflating pads: These pads combine open-cell foam with air chambers for a balance of comfort and insulation. They are generally heavier and bulkier than air pads but offer more durability.
  3. Closed-cell foam pads: The most durable type, closed-cell foam pads are not as comfortable due to their rigid structure. They are, however, lightweight and affordable.

A quick tip: Use a lighter air pad for summer trips and a more insulated self-inflating or closed-cell foam pad for cooler temperatures.

Bivy Sacks

A bivy (bivouac) sack is a waterproof, breathable cover for your sleeping bag that provides additional shelter and warmth. Bivy sacks are an excellent option for bikepackers who want to minimize their gear weight and pack size for a more efficient and streamlined ride. Consider the following qualities when selecting a bivy sack:

  • Breathability: Choose a bivy sack made from breathable materials to prevent condensation from accumulating inside.
  • Weight: Look for a lightweight option, as every ounce counts in bikepacking.
  • Protection and durability: Opt for a bivy sack with a durable bottom layer to protect against abrasions and provide insulation from the ground. A weather-resistant top layer is essential for protection from rain and wind.

In summary, the right sleep system essentials can make all the difference in ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable bikepacking adventure. Focus on selecting the appropriate sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and bivy sack based on your specific needs and trip conditions.

Cooking and Water Purification

Stoves and Fuel

When bikepacking, having a lightweight and reliable stove is crucial. There are several types of stoves to choose from, including canister stoves, alcohol stoves, and solid fuel stoves. Canister stoves are easy to use, with a fast boil time. For example, the MSR PocketRocket 2 weighs only 2.6 ounces and can boil a liter of water in 3.5 minutes. Alcohol stoves, such as the Trangia Spirit Burner, are lightweight, quiet, and more environmentally friendly. However, they can take a bit longer to heat water. Lastly, solid fuel stoves like the Esbit Ultralight are compact and don’t require any liquid fuel, but they may be less efficient.

Here’s a quick comparison:

Stove TypeProsConsExample
Canister StoveFast boil time, easy to useFuel canisters can be hard to findMSR PocketRocket 2
Alcohol StoveLightweight, quiet, eco-friendlySlower to heat waterTrangia Spirit Burner
Solid Fuel StoveCompact, no liquid fuel requiredLess efficientEsbit Ultralight


When it comes to cookware, there are several materials to consider: aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. Aluminum cookware is lightweight, conducts heat well, and is typically the most affordable option. The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist is an example of a versatile aluminum cook set. Stainless steel, such as the Stanley Adventure Two Pot Prep and Cook Set, is more durable and resistant to scratches but can be heavier. Titanium, like the Toaks Titanium 750ml Pot, is the lightest option and very durable, but also the most expensive.

  • Aluminum: lightweight, good heat conduction, affordable
  • Stainless Steel: durable, scratch-resistant, heavier
  • Titanium: lightest option, durable, expensive

Water Filters and Treatment

Clean drinking water is essential, and there are a few different methods for water purification when bikepacking. Water filters such as the Sawyer Squeeze or Katadyn BeFree are popular choices since they filter out bacteria and protozoa but are lightweight and compact. Another option is using chemical treatments like Aquamira Water Treatment Drops to kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Chemical treatments are lightweight and affordable, but may require a waiting period for full effect. UV purifiers like the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti can also be used, but they rely on batteries and may not always be the most reliable option.

In summary:

  1. Water Filters: lightweight, compact, filters bacteria and protozoa (e.g. Sawyer Squeeze, Katadyn BeFree)
  2. Chemical Treatments: kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, lightweight, affordable (e.g. Aquamira drops)
  3. UV Purifiers: kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, relies on batteries (e.g. SteriPEN Adventurer Opti)

Tools and Repair Kits

When bikepacking, it’s essential to be prepared for any mechanical issues that may arise. This section will cover the necessary tools and repair kits to carry with you on your adventure.


A multi-tool is a compact and versatile piece of equipment that combines multiple tools into one. Look for a multi-tool that includes:

  • Hex wrenches (various sizes)
  • Torx wrench
  • Chain breaker
  • Screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead)
  • Spoke wrench

Consider the size and weight of the multi-tool, as well as the number of functions it provides. Opt for a multi-tool that is lightweight, easy to carry and has all the essential tools for your bike.

Bike Repair Items

It’s crucial to have a few basic bike repair items in case of a flat tire or damaged components. Include the following items in your repair kit:

  1. Patch kit and tire levers: To fix punctures on the go, carry a patch kit with adhesive patches, sandpaper, and tire levers to help remove the tire from the rim.
  2. Spare inner tube: Always have at least one spare inner tube that matches your bike’s tire size. A punctured tube is easier to replace than to repair on the trail.
  3. Portable pump or CO2 inflator: A portable pump or CO2 inflator allows you to inflate a tire quickly and easily. Ensure the pump works with your tire’s valve type (Presta or Schrader).
  4. Chain lube: Keep your chain clean and lubricated using a small bottle of chain lube.

Spare Parts

It’s wise to bring some spare parts with you in case of unexpected bike issues on the trail. Some commonly needed spare parts include:

  • Extra brake pads: Brake pads can wear down over time, especially in wet or muddy conditions. Carry a spare set that matches your bike’s braking system.
  • Spare chain links and quick link: In case of a broken chain, carry a few extra links and a quick link for easy repairs.
  • Derailleur hanger: A bent or broken derailleur hanger can impact your bike’s shifting. Bring a spare hanger compatible with your bike’s frame.
  • Spare spokes and nipples: Damaged spokes can ruin a ride. Carry a few spare spokes and nipples to match your bike’s wheels.

Navigation and Electronics

GPS Devices

When bikepacking, it’s essential to have a reliable navigation system. GPS devices are the go-to option for many outdoor enthusiasts. They provide accurate location information, route tracking, and various additional features such as points of interest, customizable maps, and even weather updates. Popular GPS devices for bikepacking include:

  • Garmin Edge series
  • Lezyne Mega XL GPS

It’s crucial to select a device that’s specifically designed for outdoor activities like bikepacking, to ensure durability, water-resistance, and long battery life.

Maps and Compass

As helpful as technology can be, it’s always wise to have a backup for your navigation needs. A traditional map and compass setup is a foolproof way to stay on course while bikepacking. It’s important to bring detailed and waterproof maps of the region you are exploring. Topographical maps can be especially informative, providing useful information on elevation and terrain features for planning your route.

Additionally, familiarizing yourself with map reading and compass skills before your trip can be crucial in case of a GPS malfunction or the loss of satellite signal. Remember to regularly cross-check your GPS device with your physical map to help confirm your position and make any necessary route adjustments.

Portable Power Banks

One of the most common concerns for bikepackers when it comes to electronics is retaining battery life. Portable power banks can resolve this issue and keep your devices charged throughout your journey. Some factors to consider when selecting a power bank include:

  • Capacity (measured in mAh)
  • Charging speed
  • Size and weight
  • Durability and water resistance

Balance these factors according to your specific needs and the duration of your bikepacking trip. High-capacity power banks may be necessary for extended adventures, while ultra-compact and lightweight options may be more suitable for shorter outings.

Remember to test your chosen power bank alongside your GPS device and other electronics, ensuring compatibility and efficiency in charging. Regularly charging your devices only when necessary can extend battery life and reduce dependency on your power bank.

Clothing and Personal Items

Layering System

When bikepacking, it’s essential to remain comfortable in various weather conditions. Using a layering system helps achieve this by allowing you to easily adjust your clothing based on your level of activity and the environment. The three main layers include:

  1. Base layer: This moisture-wicking layer keeps you dry by pulling sweat away from your skin and managing body temperature. Choose lightweight, quick-drying materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics.
  2. Mid-layer: The insulating layer keeps you warm by trapping heat close to your body. Select materials like fleece, down, or synthetic insulation for this layer.
  3. Outer layer: A windproof and waterproof shell protects you from the elements. Look for jackets and pants with breathable materials like Gore-Tex or eVent to allow excess heat and moisture to escape.

Rain Gear

Rain can happen unexpectedly while bikepacking; therefore, ensuring you have suitable rain gear is crucial. Here are a few items you should consider packing:

  • Waterproof jacket and pants: Aim for lightweight, packable, and breathable materials to stay comfortable and dry during downpours.
  • Waterproof gloves and shoe covers: Cold hands and feet can make bikepacking miserable. Waterproof gloves and shoe covers protect your extremities and enhance comfort.
  • Helmet cover: A helmet cover helps keep your head dry and shields you from chilling winds.

Personal Hygiene

Maintaining good personal hygiene during bikepacking trips is essential for staying healthy and comfortable. Prepare a hygiene kit and consider including the following items:

Biodegradable soapFor washing your body, clothes, and dishes responsibly
Toothbrush & pasteKeep your teeth clean and breath fresh
Lightweight towelA microfiber towel is compact and dries quickly
Toilet paperAlways pack out used toilet paper in a waste bag
Wet wipesFor quick clean-ups when water isn’t readily available
Hand sanitizerKeep your hands clean before handling food or personal items

Remember, the essential camping gear for bikepacking should include appropriate clothing, layers, rain gear, and personal hygiene items. Prepare according to potential weather conditions and personal needs to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

Bike-Specific Gear

Panniers and Bike Bags

Bikepacking requires carrying gear, clothing, and food; therefore, choosing appropriate storage is essential. Panniers are bike-specific bags that attach to racks on the front and rear of the bike, providing balanced and easily-accessible storage. Here are some qualities to consider:

  • Weight: Opt for lightweight panniers to minimize the impact on bike handling.
  • Material: Look for durable, water-resistant materials, such as nylon or polyester.
  • Attachment: Choose panniers with a secure, user-friendly attachment system compatible with your bike’s racks.

In addition to panniers, frame bags and handlebar bags offer extra storage options. Frame bags fit within the bike’s main triangle, while handlebar bags attach to the handlebars and rest above the tire. Consider these factors when selecting bags:

  • Size: Match bags to your bike’s dimensions and avoid interference with pedaling or steering.
  • Features: Opt for bags with multiple compartments for better organization.

Lights and Reflectors

Visibility is crucial for safe bikepacking. Here is a simple setup for enhancing visibility:

  • Front Light: A white LED light mounted on the handlebars, providing ample illumination for 15-20 meters ahead.
  • Rear Light: A red blinking or steady light to alert traffic from behind.
  • Reflectors: Mount spoke reflectors on both wheels and attach reflector strips to bags, bike’s frame, or clothing.

When choosing lights, consider the following aspects:

  • Brightness: Lumens (lm) measure brightness, with 200-400 lm considered optimal for bikepacking.
  • Battery Life: Choose lights with sufficient battery life for your planned riding hours.

Helmet and Gloves

For personal safety, equip yourself with a high-quality helmet and gloves. Here is what to look for:

  1. Helmet:
    • Fit: Ensure the helmet fits snugly and adjust straps for proper positioning.
    • Ventilation: Look for a helmet with multiple vents to stay cool during long rides.
    • Safety Features: Opt for helmets with MIPS technology, which reduces rotational impact on the brain during a crash.
  2. Gloves:
    • Padding: Choose gloves with ample padding in the palm area to minimize hand fatigue.
    • Fit: Opt for a snug-fitting glove to maintain dexterity while cycling.
    • Features: Look for gloves with touchscreen compatibility and reflective elements for visibility.

Food and Nutrition

Caloric Needs

When bikepacking, it is crucial to maintain appropriate energy levels. Caloric needs vary depending on factors such as body weight, mileage, elevation gain, and weather. As a general rule, bikepackers should aim for approximately 3,000 to 6,000 calories per day. To estimate daily caloric needs, consider the following factors:

  • Body weight: Add 14-16 calories/pound of body weight for moderate exertion.
  • Mileage: Add 27-31 calories/mile.
  • Elevation gain: Add 2 calories/foot of climbing.
  • Weather: Adjust for temperature by adding or subtracting up to 10% as needed.

Non-Perishable Foods

Selecting non-perishable foods is essential for bikepacking trips. Choose lightweight and calorie-dense options that are easy to prepare. Some popular non-perishable food options include:

  1. Dehydrated meals: Pre-packaged or homemade, providing a hearty meal with minimal effort.
  2. Pasta and rice: Lightweight and versatile carbohydrate sources.
  3. Jerky: A durable, protein-packed option available in various meats.
  4. Dry fruits and nuts: Nutritious, calorie-dense choices for snacking or meals.
  5. Nut butters: Compact sources of healthy fats and protein.

Snacks and Supplements

snacks and supplements play an integral role in maintaining energy levels and combating fatigue. Consider the following options for bikepacking trips:

  • Energy bars: Convenient, calorie-dense, and available in various flavors and formulations.
  • Trail mix: A customizable blend of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate for on-the-go snacking.
  • Sports drinks: Replenish electrolytes and provide carbohydrates during intense activity.
  • Electrolyte tablets: Easily added to water for replenishing essential minerals.
  • Multivitamins: Aid in covering potential nutrient gaps from a limited diet while bikepacking.

Safety and First Aid

First Aid Kit

A well-prepared first aid kit is essential for any bikepacking trip. It should include items that cater to both minor injuries as well as more serious emergencies. At a minimum, your kit should contain:

  • Bandages and dressings: adhesive bandages, gauze pads, elastic bandages, and adhesive tape
  • Medications: pain relievers, antihistamines, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary personal medications
  • Tools: tweezers, scissors, and a small thermometer
  • Miscellaneous: disposable gloves, safety pins, and a small first aid guide

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the contents of your kit and know how to use each item. Additionally, always check your first aid kit before each trip to replace or replenish supplies as needed.

Emergency Shelter

Unexpected weather changes or a sudden injury can leave you stranded in the wilderness. Carrying an emergency shelter is crucial for staying safe and warm during these situations. There are several lightweight and compact shelter options available for bikepackers, such as:

  • Bivy sacks: These are waterproof, breathable bags designed to fit around a sleeping bag, providing additional protection from the elements.
  • Tarp shelters: A versatile option, tarps can be pitched in various ways to create a makeshift shelter. Ensure you also pack cordage and stakes for setup.
  • Emergency blankets: Also known as space blankets, these are lightweight, heat-reflective sheets that can be used as a minimalist shelter in a pinch.

Consider your specific needs, trip duration, and environment when selecting an emergency shelter.

Signaling Devices

In case of an emergency, it’s crucial to have devices that can signal for help. Pack the following signaling tools in your bikepacking gear:

  1. Whistle: A loud whistle can help you attract attention from afar. Attach it to your backpack’s shoulder strap for easy access.
  2. Signal mirror: A small, lightweight mirror can be used to reflect sunlight, catching the attention of rescuers.
  3. Headlamp with strobe function: A headlamp that features a strobe or flashing function can serve as an effective signal during nighttime or low-light situations.

Don’t forget to learn how to use these devices before your trip and ensure they are readily accessible in case of an emergency.

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