What is Bikepacking?

By alpjim

Bikepacking combines the simple pleasures of riding bikes with minimalist lightweight camping.

Modern lightweight reckless bikepacking bags free riders from the shackles of heavy equipment. You can now carry everything they need for an overnight trip using a range of bags that attach to the bike frame.

This means you combine the freedom of a multi-day hike with the pace and distance over ground of a mountain, gravel or road bike.

It's about exploring the network of bridleways and trails carrying only the essential gear for a multi-day adventure.  


Bikepacking Rigs Explained

Bikepacking varies from a quick out-and-bike 20 mile bivvy to a Transcontinental Race ready ultralight minimalist endurance race and a the full blown round-the-world expedition tourer.

The wide variety of bikepacking adventures can be summarised into three broad groups:

A close to home overnighter or multi-day route covering hundreds of miles. Typically the ride may be 25 to 50 miles a day. Loop or through ride. Carrying the minimum needed for the trip. Can be complete wilderness or with refuelling stops on the way. Sonder Frontier is a great bike for multi-day bikepacking.

Multi-day bikepacking events include:


Long distance self supported endurance races like Trans Continental and Tour Divide have become popular with many new races each year. New innovative ultra lightweight set ups have meant people can ride further, faster covering incredible distances. Sonder Camino and Sonder Colibri are great bikes for gravel, road and endurance racing.

Endurance events include:

Setting off and travelling the world by bike captures our imagination. And cycling extremes whether it cold, heat or altitude are what dreams are made of. Sonder Broken Road and Sonder Vir Fortis are race-proven bikes for wilderness, racing and world travel.

Expeditions include:


Gear Freaks?

Like many outdoor enthusiasts and cyclists, bikepackers tend to spend hours pouring over boxes of equipment before selecting exactly the right combination for their trip. Do not despair if you haven’t got piles of equipment, whereas “Fast” and “Light” were the buzz words a few years ago most kit is now light enough to get you on the trails.

The pinnacle of bikepacking is bespoke bike luggage but a few carefully thought about bags and straps will be fine. Just remember riding off-road can mean you carrying the bike for some time over all sorts of obstacles,

The more ruthless you are with your equipment, the lighter the bike, the easier it will be to carry. The important thing to remember is the adventure should come first, get out there and do it and you can start to buy lighter, specialist kit later.


Things break when you are at the furthest point from help. A loaded bike handles differently and things tend to bounce around, stressing seams and load points differently than the designers perhaps thought. Try to keep your equipment system as simple as possible. This will not only help with its durability but also the time it takes you to load the bike.

Eliminate Redundancy

Why carry a down jacket and a four-season sleeping bag? Could you get away with a three-season bag and wear your down jacket in bed?

Keep Things Handy

Throughout your day you are going to be delving into your bags to get food, water, tools, cameras etc. Try to plan your system to keep these items handy and accessible. You don’t want to open the dry bag with your sleeping bag inside, in the rain, just to pull out a spare tube buried at the bottom of the bag. The order that items are loaded and unloaded off your bike can help streamline setting up camp without getting equipment unduly wet.

What Wrong With Panniers?

Nothing. We love both bikepacking and cycle touring. The key difference is weight.

Panniers give you a lot of space... which you can fill with more stuff and ride in style, which normally equates to a heavier bike! You can be disciplined with panniers and not fill them but I have yet to meet someone who doesn't just pack that extra Mars Bar.

Panniers can also make it hard to carry a bike for any distance as well as affecting the balance and handling of a bike to a much greater extent than framebags and seat packs

Get The Balance Right - Go For a Test Ride

Make sure you ride your bike around the local park before heading out on the trails. Try different configurations of weight and luggage distributions and see how it affects the handling and carrying of the bike. Make sure there are no straps and fixtures that could work loose and cause you an embarrassing tumble. A local sub 24 hr overnight ride, often termed a microadventure, makes the ideal test ride.

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