How to Pack for a Bikepacking Adventure
Planning a bikepacking adventure and wondering what to pack? Our guide will help you prepare for the experience of a lifetime!
Bikepacking has been a method of travel for awhile now, but it’s seriously grown in popularity in recent years. Whether it’s a weekend trip, or a longer journey, lots of travellers are giving bikepacking a shot! But unlike backpacking, the packing skills for a bikepacking adventure vary greatly. And even the preparation stage can be a bit daunting if you have no experience. So if you feel like this describes how you feel, we’ve got you covered! Read on to discover our guide on how to pack and prepare for a bikepacking adventure.
How to Choose the Right Bicycle
Choosing the right bike for your bikepacking adventure is essential. But choosing the right one means knowing where your adventures will take you. For example, there are road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and even foldable bikes. While all of them will get you from Point A to Point B, it’s best to choose a bike made for your intended journey.
If you’re looking to go on an action-packed bikepacking tour, then a mountain bike is a good option. But if you’re looking to cycle longer distances, then a road bike is a better option. Essentially, a lot of the comfort has to do with the seat and tyres on your bike. You can imagine how sore you would feel after a few hours of cycling with a hard seat!
And one final thing to look for: bikes with several gears are best suited for those action-type of adventures. This will help you conquer any type of hill – or mountain – on your bikepacking journey. So if you plan on adventuring through the Alps, choose a good mountain bike! But if you’re going to be travelling around a place like the Netherlands, you’ll really only need a few gears. Check out this guide to help you choose the right bike for your adventure!
Do I Have to Bring my Own Bicycle?
Not necessarily! Of course, you’re more than welcome to bring your own. Most train companies in Europe allow for bicycle transportation, as do airlines, so it’s really up to you. If you’d rather bring your own, then skip to our nest point!
But if you’d rather rent one upon arrival in your destination, that’s also possible. You can find rental companies all over Europe, and they offer bikes for all types of adventures. For example, if you choose to bikepack in the Netherlands, you can rent a bike at any major Central Station throughout the country!
How do I Pack My Bike?
If you want to pack up your bike and ship it abroad, you definitely can. Or maybe you find one while travelling and want to ship it home? Depending on the type, size, and weight, the price to ship and ways to pack will vary. We recommend checking out this handy guide on how to pack a bike. And if you’re in need of a box, head to any local bike shop and ask for a gently used one and any packing material they have. They’ll be happy to hook you up, and you also help save the waste!
Make Sure to Do a Thorough Bike Check!
If you bring your own bike, make sure to do a thorough check on its condition in advance. It’d be a shame to arrive in your destination only to discover your gears aren’t working, or your tyres need servicing.
The most important things you’ll want to check are your brakes, bike lights, tyres, and gears. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, there are always bike service shops and student groups who can do it for you. With student groups, you’ll definitely get a better price!
And What About a Helmet?
Helmets are generally not mandatory for cyclists in Europe, so you don’t necessarily have to pack one to go bikepacking. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, because you can never really guarantee an accident won’t happen. However, it might be cheaper and easier to just buy one upon arrival. It can make for a cool souvenir as well!
So, What Do I Need To Pack?
Ahh, the reason you came here! Now it’s time to pack for your bikepacking adventure. If you have any experience packing for backpacking trips, you probably have a few tricks up your sleeve anyway. It only takes one or two trips to learn what you should have brought, and what you could have left at home.
But bikepacking doesn’t offer the space or comfort of a traveller’s backpack or a suitcase. Additionally, there are items you’ll need for a bikepacking adventure you wouldn’t need for any other trip. This next section will help you pack the necessary items required for a typical bikepacking holiday.
Choosing the right luggage to pack up for your bikepacking adventure is crucial. Bike bags easily click onto your bike, and come in a variety of sizes, styles, and types. But if you’re comfortable with it, you can also use a small traveller’s backpack. It really just comes down to what you realistically think is the best for you. Whatever you decide, we strongly suggest bringing a waterproof bag. With weather and climate being as unpredictable as it is today, it’s best to be prepared and invest in a bag which will protect your belongings.
When attaching the bags, evenly spread the weight out so it helps you stay balanced. Additionally, you can attach a basket or small bag to the handlebar. This is great for things like water, energy bars, and your phone.
But what if you spontaneously decide you want to try bikepacking out while travelling? How will you get your 32L backpack to your next destination? Lots of countries (Germany, for example), have the option for you to have your luggage transported to your desired destination.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but we recommend you pack as little clothes as possible for a bikepacking holiday. Your best option for bikepacking is to pack layers, and clothes which dry quickly. Flannel, cotton, nylon, and polyester are all quick-drying and a great option to pack and wear while bikepacking.
Bike shorts, yoga pants, and athletic socks are also pretty important items to pack for bikepacking. If you get caught in the rain, having an extra pair of dry socks will be a lifesaver! And of course a rain jacket is essential.
And when you want to wash your clothes, you can! Hostels always have laundry facilities, so know you have an option to wash your clothes.
Two of our top items we think you should pack for a bikepacking trip is a hat and pair of sunglasses. Protecting your eyes, head, and face while cycling is as important as ensuring your tyres are inflated. We really mean this! Most bike paths are out in the open sky, and don’t always offer a lot of shade. So these are essential items to pack for any bikepacking adventure!
Just because you have to downsize your luggage doesn’t mean you have to ditch the hygiene products! Travel sized toiletries are widely available, and are optimal for weight and size.
Most hostels typically have free items on hand, but it’s not always a guarantee so it’s up to you if you want to risk it! As for hair care, pack a shampoo and conditioner bar so your backpacking adventure is little lighter. And last but not least, do not forget the sunscreen!
Depending on where you’re going, it might be a good idea to pack some tools for your bikepacking trip. If you’re planning on sticking to small and easy countries like the Netherlands, you don’t necessarily have to pack these. But if you plan on bikepacking in places like Portugal or Italy, then we strongly recommend the following:
- A set of tools to change your tyres.
- A chain breaker (here’s a video on how to change it).
- Chain lube. There are different ones depending on the climate you’ll be cycling in.
- Extra Tire camber and a self sealing tube for emergency. This one can be a liver saver. It blows oxygen and temporarily covers the holes in the camber until you can find a safe spot to change the tyre.
These items can definitely take up space in your luggage, but are sometimes necessary depending on where you decide to spend your bikepacking holiday.
Electronics & Other Items
Depending on the nature of your trip, you can leave most of your electronics at home. But you likely won’t be travelling without a phone, so we recommend packing a power bank and phone holder. This will allow you to use your phone hands-free and easily navigate your route. These are really essential items to pack for any bikepacking adventure.
As for water, a refillable bottle is a must if you want to stay hydrated while cycling. Like phone holders, you can also purchase water bottle holders for easy access.
GPS, and other Helpful Apps
This isn’t necessarily something you have to pack for bikepacking, but it’s something you should prepare for in any case! However, we suggest planning your route ahead of time so you’re not entirely reliant on navigating while cycling. It can be distracting and certainly take away from the experience.
Of course you can just use Google maps to plan your holiday, but there are better options with more info specific for bikepacking. If you plan on cycling in the Netherlands for example, the ANWB そして Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists’ Association) have great routes and tips available for you to explore.
Another good app to have is Strava. While it’s more frequently used by long distance cyclists, it’s great for tracking your activity throughout the day. By the end of your trip, you’ll be able to see all the efforts you put in on your bikepacking holiday!
How to Pack for a Bikepacking Adventure
And that’s our guide on how to pack for a bikepacking adventure. Bikepacking is one of the most unique and conscious ways to travel Europe, and we’re certain no matter what region you choose to explore, you’ll come away with incredible memories and a thirst for more!
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