Bikepacking – do’s and don’ts for a clueless bunch :-)

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  • Bikepacking – do’s and don’ts for a clueless bunch :-)
  • rascal
    Member

    A group of us fancy giving bikepacking a go – none of us have ever done it though. We’ve provisionally pencilled-in a Saturday night in May next year somewhere in the Peak – just a one-nighter to see if it’s for us. Plan is to have tea (or dinner depending where you hail from) to cut down the amount of weight to be carried.
    To those who are experienced in such things, what should we be looking to take? Some of us have full-sus bikes (some don’t have bikes full stop at the mo) so carrying could be an issue. The idea of a tarp, sleeping bag, whisky and brekky (I could we could split cooking kit etc) sounds great but not comfortable and prob overlooked plenty of stuff we’d need. Would prefer not to have to splash out on shitloads of kit for one night as waste of money if we don’t like it. Where would be a good area to try this out? -There could be up to 8 of us but reckon that’ll possibly reduce when it gets closer. Ladybower has been mentioned.

    Any pointers much appreciated…

    munrobiker
    Member

    Don’t splash out on loads of kit for your first go, see if you can fit what you actually need in a backpack (sharing a tent between you).

    If you can’t get up to Scotland for it, the Lakes is a good contender. You can really get out of everyone else’s way up there. I can’t think of anywhere in the Peak that’s really bikepack worthy – it’s all decent day rides and there’s not many secluded camping spots a long way from a road.

    scotroutes
    Member

    Don’t splash out on loads of kit for your first go, see if you can fit what you actually need in a backpack (sharing a tent between you).

    This. But if you need to spend money, spend it on lighter equipment, not bags and bike. Then you will be able to get it in a backpack. I have a couple of bikes I regularly use for bikepacking but I’ve also done a couple of trips this year on my Orbea Occam. That’s the right answer for some routes.

    If you’re not cooking then all you really need is a sleeping bag and tarp or bivvy bag. Dry clothes are handy in the event you get wet riding in, but only as much as you need to wear inside your sleeping bag. A thin baselayer top and a pair of pants at a minimum. Dry socks are nice too.

    Head for a dinner spot, eat, ride, sleep, get up, head for breakfast.

    Expect to learn as you go along. Expect it to get better/easier as you learn. I’n still learning and adjusting after 5 years or so of doing it every month.

    Get onto the Bearbones Forum and spend some time reading old threads and just generally catching up. Not only will you pick up lots of tips, you will regularly find 2nd hand kit for sale.

    mariner
    Member

    No dangling mugs or lighting a fire.

    jblewi
    Member

    My two cents.

    Riding with a backpack is horrible. If you can beg borrow or steal some bike packing bags then the experience will be much nicer!

    There are tons of sleeping spots in the peak, friend of mine runs a bike packing guiding/kit hire business there!

    Which brings me onto my next suggestion! Hiring some kit from him if budget allows.

    http://www.adventurepedlars.com £25 for two day’s hire of a complete bag range from alpkit has to be worth it!

    shedbrewed
    Member

    Take chocolate.

    Premier Icon Normal Man
    Subscriber

    You might enjoy this article then:

    Bikepacking.com Article

    philjunior
    Member

    Free stuff first:

    Pack dry clothes to put on when you rock up, you don’t want to be cold due to damp.

    Take spirits (hip flasks) to drink to save weight if you’re wanting some booze whilst you’re out.

    Avoiding cooking is a good way to save weight, you will still want to take some snacks for the evening/morning though, they don’t need to take up much room.

    Hard to say if it’s worth spending the money if you’re just dipping a foot in the water, but things I’ve found useful:

    Bar mounted dry bag – will fit any bike without too much bother. Gets in the way of lights so a solution to this is on my “to do” list as many of my rides have involved some darkness. Nice and light as it’s just waterproof material/roll closure and straps. Keeps everything I need to stay dry in it – sleeping bag, roll mat, spare clothes, with a bit of extra space usually.

    Lightweight tarp and a cheapish bivvy bag – self explanatory, keep me dry. I haven’t dared not use the tarp yet, even in dry conditions, but one day! In any case it’s so small there’s no reason not to take it with me. Some rope and alu tent pegs, use the wheels to put the tarp up if you’re not in the woods.

    3 season down sleeping bag (got a go outdoors one) – haven’t yet had cold night due to clumpy down, not sure how much I trust the hydrophobic coating but it’s much lighter than anything even double the price and more for the same temperature ratings, and packs down very small.

    Sea2summit thermal inflatable sleeping mat (I went for the insulated but normal sized one – which has been a good compromise between comfort and weight/pack size) – has kept me warm and comfy, I sleep really well on it. Also lightweight and packs small.

    Down jacket – potentially more useful on bothy rides, but again lightweight and plenty warm for when you stop for the night.

    I’ve only had one cold experience, in February in the highlands, bothying, 4°C max inside the bothy according to the thermometer. It was OK, but we had to get very close to the fire! A down jacket would’ve been useful although I had plenty of warm stuff with me to be honest.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
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    Been a long time since I’ve done it, but don’t underestimate the value of a really good feed and a hot drink before turning in. Helps keep you warm.

    These days getting off the ground is too hard 🙂

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Write a list of what kit you think you need.

    Cross off everything that won’t result in death if you don’t take it.

    Sleeping:
    Sleeping bag, weight depending on the weather, but you can go thinner than you think as you will also need a set of camp clothes (I take a pair of fleece lined running tights, a merino LS top and a down jacket). The base layers are worn and the jacket goes on top of the bag overnight if it’s chilly.
    Bivy bag; waterpoof, light, cheap, pick two, or even 1 at the extremes. They range from the durable and waterproof ex-army ones, that cost £20 and weigh quite a bit. To 300g ones that will only just keep a shower out (they’re mainly to keep the dew/frost off your bag).
    Tarp: Decathlon do a huge one. Ditch the guy lines and poles and figure out a few ways of pitching it over bike wheels etc. Arranged so it covers your face/shoulders you can probably fit 4 people under it comfortably (so take 2 for a group of 8). Or if there’s no rain forecast, just do without.

    Plan heavy stuff among the group. You don’t all need 2x tubes, pump, CO2, tools etc. So that’s almost 500g saved already. You don’t need any more spares than you would normally take, if it’s 30 miles each day it’s still only a 30 mile ride, you don’t need every conceivable spare. Puncture repair kit, multitool, a few chain links, brake pads, spare tube. If you’re the type to turn up with a 5kg camelback of crap for an evening ride then you need to learn to be more ruthless. You only need one stove and a 1l pan to boil enough water for 4x cups of tea. You don’t all need a big mug/pot, just a small mug. Being self sufficient is nice, saving 1kg of kit each is nicer.

    Dry clothes – pointless. At best a dry set of clothes means your dry for the first few minutes of day 2 at the expense of carrying another half a kilo of stuff on day 1, and a full kilo on day two once it’s wet. A set of clothes for the camp is nice though and keeps your sleeping bag fresh. Over three days if you’re planning on washing stuff or being within smelling distance of other humans then maybe, but overnight it’s a nope.

    That’s about it. Don’t overthink it. You can spend an absolute fortune on lightweight gear, which still weighs more than just not taking it in the first place.

    whitestone
    Member

    Colin and thisisnotaspoon have covered most things.

    For an overnighter using a pub for the evening meal I’d just take sleeping kit (which includes dry clothing) and a meths stove and to mug to make a brew in the morning.

    I’d say a good sleeping mat is probably more important than a good sleeping bag.

    Tarps take a bit of getting used to. Try a few setups in your garden and then stick to a couple rather than trying to remember every single variation.

    In a similar thread earlier this year I posted my complete summer kit list. Harnesses, bags and kit come to well under 5kg

    crikey
    Member

    You’ll need a poo.

    Think about it and deal with it, leave no trace of this…

    That means burying it deep enough; trowel…

    Or carrying it out; bag…

    …and please don’t take this bit casually; various parts of the nice places to wild camp are gradually becoming wild toilets.

    johnx2
    Member

    midge bag to put over head. Saved my life one night earlier in the year. Mates died of midges crawling up their nostrils.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Ohh yea, a trowel.

    Dangling mug from a bag – clueless hipster bike packer johnny come lately doing it because it’s on MBR’s top 5 things to try and looks good on instagram.

    Orange lightweight trowel bungeed to the saddle bag – someone actually going on an adventure long enough to require a poo.

    So far I’ve relied on my well trained bowels, they do their one movement of the day 30min after the first strong coffee. Timing this for a public toilet or cafe is an art form (interpretive dance to be precise if things are running a bit close).

    Premier Icon tuboflard
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    Most of it’s already been said. I’ve not needed to put up a tarp yet, just stick with a bivvy bag but then I tend to look for a very reliable weather window before confirming the night. A beanie is a great luxury as can wear it before retiring for the night when working through the whisky and wear it in the bag too to keep warm. A small inflatable pillow is a good buy too, super light and makes a big difference to the quality of sleep too (for me at least).

    I’ve personally split the kit between a seat bag and a rucksack but I’ve put light kit on my back and water in bottles on the frame so pack weight is no worse than a big day out with 2l of water on my back.

    tjagain
    Member

    Dry clothes – pointless. At best a dry set of clothes means your dry for the first few minutes of day 2 at the expense of carrying another half a kilo of stuff on day 1, and a full kilo on day two once it’s wet.

    This is one I do not get at all. Ok these guys are only going to go for a short one nighter but to me a complete dry change is essential and assuming also the essential to me waterproofs then you do not get wet the second day! The dry clothes are for emergancies / if you fall in a river / prevention of exposure etc.

    Its two things I would never overnight without – a full set of proper waterproofs and a set of dry clothes! A pair of thermals will do and a fleece but something dry and warm to change into at camp or in the event of getting stranded and soaked is certainly on my essentials list

    tjagain
    Member

    I do not know if its been mentioned yet but a flint for lighting your stove. It just works. Always. Matches and lighters can fail especially when wet. A flint always works

    Premier Icon crazy-legs
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    A meths stove, a pan and some water gives you coffee and hot food like porridge or any of the food-from-a-bag meals that outdoors shops sell.

    If you’re lighting a stove in the Peak District, DO NOT put it on the ground, you could set fire to the peat and it’ll burn forever – put it on some rocks.

    Premier Icon 40mpg
    Subscriber

    A bin bag to keep the dew off your kit and out of your boots overnight. Weighs nothing, takes no space, is reusable.

    scotroutes
    Member

    very long time ago (actually only 6.5 years but it seems much longer), I did a blog on the kit I was carrying and how I packed it all. It’s fair to say that things have moved on a bit since then – mostly, I’ve got lighter and more compact – but it might still be a good kicking off point.

    https://www.blog.scotroutes.com/2013/05/bikepacking-kit-list.html

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    This is one I do not get at all. Ok these guys are only going to go for a short one nighter but to me a complete dry change is essential and assuming also the essential to me waterproofs then you do not get wet the second day! The dry clothes are for emergancies / if you fall in a river / prevention of exposure etc.

    Its two things I would never overnight without – a full set of proper waterproofs and a set of dry clothes! A pair of thermals will do and a fleece but something dry and warm to change into at camp or in the event of getting stranded and soaked is certainly on my essentials list

    Which is why you should read the next sentance after the bit you quoted…..

    Having said that, also read the first bit. You’re no more likely to die of hypothermia due to falling in a river on an overnighter (unless you sleepwalk) than you are on a day ride. You dont take dry clothes on a day ride do you? Significantly less likely infact as you have a bivy bag and sleeping bag. An argument i think we’ve had before but the other way arround because i argued that carrying an emergency bivi bag was prudent even in the uk at something as benign as a trail center because if you come off and break a leg then it doesnt matter that its only 20minutes walk from a road if you cant walk and have to wait for the ambulance.

    Also, being the UK, a backup plan of a bothy of youth hostel weighs less than trying to cover every eventuality.

    rascal
    Member

    Thanks all – some really useful tips in there. I’ll read through the blogs/links soon and have shared this forum post with the other guys too. It’ll def be the Peaks as not worth traveling to the Lakes just for one night…we don’t have to be miles and miles from a road/civilisation to get the essence of it…we all live relatively close to the Peaks so more likely to happen if there. Possibly need to hire a few bikes but can do that at the place that hires Alpkit bags.
    It’ll prob go quiet for months but will update when you get more sorted nearer the time – cheers

    antigee
    Member

    So far I’ve relied on my well trained bowels, they do their one movement of the day 30min after the first strong coffee

    ….well that’s just redefined “would you like to come in for a coffee” for me and not in a good way

    tjagain
    Member

    TINAS – I guess its because the idea of sleeping out close to civilisation is so strange to me. I generally don’t go for one night and often to the wilder bits
    Its just embedded in me – and if out in the wilds I do carry even on a day trip enough to survive a night out

    trail_rat
    Member

    Going by a recent “edit” do your research – otherwise you end up dragging a loaded bike and packraft through the Lairig Ghru and half your riders quit because thats no fun for anyone.

    Premier Icon metalheart
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    My first b/pack ‘trip’ was a 2 hour ride out from my mates house to Loch Einich with everything in a 45L rucksack (it’s in my post history, somewhere, 3 years ago…).

    The kit was bulky and not particularly suited but it got me into it.

    For me the essentials are:
    Bivvy bag (alpkit had hunks XL on sale for 50 odd £ recently, they seem to be well regarded).
    Sleeping bag – a down one that packs up small is best. But these are normally ~>250£ RRP (can be picked up in sales for much less). This probably a compromise but it will take up room…
    Sleep mat – makes a huge difference. I like the Exped ones. 70-80mm thick when inflated, allow a decent nights sleep. But again, these are north of 100£. Don’t buy cheap, you’ll just have to replace it if you do get the taste for it…
    Tarp – worthit, but not cheap (I did pick up a siltarp1 for under 30£ in a sale however). Poles are useful, but you can rig it using your bike(s) instead.
    A front mounted dry bag to take some of the weight off your back is highly recommended. Again, alpkit used to strapped bags you could use.

    You’ve a while to go, keep an eye on outdoor websites for sales (check the PSA/bargains thread on bearbones).

    However, warning, tape up the bike to prevent rub, especially the head tube.

    I have the full kit, most stuff has been bought twice, I’ve spent thousands. But I enjoy it and it’s better value than pissing it up against a wall…

    Premier Icon mrwhyte
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    Trail-rat, did you cycle up via Rothiemurchus lodge? Walked up to the Charlamain Gap a couple of weeks ago and saw a few tyre prints and thought ‘this bit isn’t very fun’…god knows what the pass would have been like!

    When route planning, if there is an easy alternative to a bridleway, take the easy alternative! There were a few spots on my recent trip where I had it in my head I HAD to keep to bridleways etc as much as possible. However looking back, I should have taken the road routes to skip certain bits.

    Make the most of route planning too. Meet up as a group in the pub with books and maps and look at routes together as it adds to that sense of adventure and anticipation of the trip itself.

    Other than that. Enjoy!

    trail_rat
    Member

    Trail-rat, did you cycle up via Rothiemurchus lodge? Walked up to the Charlamain Gap a couple of weeks ago and saw a few tyre prints and thought ‘this bit isn’t very fun’…god knows what the pass would have been like!

    No i ran through it on the Lairig Ghru Race this year – I’ve ridden in to Corrour from Linn of Dee before – how ever after Corrour its pretty horrific to the water shed – even worse down the other side. till you get past the Chalamain gap.

    Not somewhere anyone that has been through it would suggest taking a bike.

    Other top tip is – ALWAYS take your shorts off at night- even if you just roll them down in your sleeping bag – let your nethers breathe and also dont trap sweat against your skin under the grippers (can lead to bad itchey rash)

    Houns
    Member

    Don’t store anything in a metal tin, god knows what I was thinking putting my lights and spare batteries in one on my last trip

    whitestone
    Member

    @tjagain – I remember a thread from some years ago where you were considering taking new clothing for every day for a two week trip.

    If you get wet on the first day and it’s raining on the next day then putting on a set of dry clothes just gets two sets wet. If day two is dry then the wet kit will dry out as you move along.

    philjunior
    Member

    This thread has reminded me I need to buy a trowel. Have managed a reasonable burial without so far, but especially as there are lightweight ones about, it’s a useful bit of kit that I might even put into my normal ride camelbak, my bowels are, alas, very regular and not always well trained!

    philjunior
    Member

    Dry clothes – pointless. At best a dry set of clothes means your dry for the first few minutes of day 2 at the expense of carrying another half a kilo of stuff on day 1, and a full kilo on day two once it’s wet. A set of clothes for the camp is nice though and keeps your sleeping bag fresh. Over three days if you’re planning on washing stuff or being within smelling distance of other humans then maybe, but overnight it’s a nope.

    I’d also second this, despite what TJ says. You obviously need enough clothes, but if you were riding to the bivvy spot and back, would you take a full spare set of clothes in case you got wet? In case of an injury etc. you’ve got your sleeping kit to keep you warm, which should at least avoid hypothermia while mountain rescue get to you.

    Also, if you go for a cheeky midweek bivvy, part of the fun is turning up to work absolutely stinking (assuming you have showers at work, if not you’ll stink regardless of clothes)

    tjagain
    Member

    It wasn’t quite that much Whitestone 🙂

    Premier Icon jameso
    Subscriber

    What to carry and how to carry it is the fun bit that you’ll figure out no probs.

    Been mentioned above but still – not lighting fires, how and where to dig holes and bury turds and how to carry out litter are perhaps where bikepacking / camping tip lists should start. Also where is OK to bivi and where isn’t (access, visibility etc). Less obvious stuff but important that we have no negative impact.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    ….well that’s just redefined “would you like to come in for a coffee” for me and not in a good way

    You’re safe, I’ve had my coffee this morning, kids are due at the pool at 10:05.

    TINAS – I guess its because the idea of sleeping out close to civilisation is so strange to me. I generally don’t go for one night and often to the wilder bits

    Even in Scotland you would have to try really hard to get far enough from shelter that it’s not an option.

    Hypothetically getting soaked on a river crossing at dusk in April and under prepared for it (assume that if it’s winter then I’d have more kit, but it’s not summer and therefore staying wet and riding at night isn’t an option).

    Options in order of preference:
    Change and carry on riding in overnight clothes.
    Stick tarp up in the woods, find a sheep fold or other shelter, get changed into camp gear and call it an early night whilst kit dries out a bit and I warm up.
    Locate nearest bothy on the route if it’s within an hours ride or so.

    If it really hits the fan:
    Locate nearest habitation and head for that. If things are really that bad then it’s not a lack of a spare jersey and shorts that’s caught you out, it’s being in a stupid place at a stupid time and deciding to cross the river.

    whitestone
    Member

    Remember that the countryside is dark at night, very dark, so any unusual lights will be very obvious. Find somewhere to bivy where you can’t see any house/farm lights and you should be good. Fires, as well as being somewhat problematic anyway, are just a beacon at night shouting: “We’re here!”. Then it’s arrive late, leave early, leave no trace so carry out any wrappers, etc, that you’ve brought in with you – after all if you had room for it when it was full then you’ve room for it emptied.

    For a summer overnighter I’d take: sleeping mat, sleeping bag, tarp (plus poles and pegs) plus dry sleeping clothes. The latter serve three purposes: something dry to change into after you’ve finished riding so you don’t get cold from your sweaty riding clothes; sleeping bag ratings assume the use of a thermal layer/pyjamas (the test actually uses a shell suit); they protect your sleeping bag from the body oils in your perspiration. One problem with kit for bikepacking is that the cheap stuff you’d use to test the water is neither light nor compact whereas the light and compact items are pricey but do last so you, eventually, get more for your cash.

    Cooking wise: Alpkit MyTiMug with homemade meths stove, windshield, lighter, pan scrub, folding spoon, tea bags and porridge packed into it. 50-100ml of fuel in a separate plastic bottle.

    The cheapest inflatable mat I’ve come across is one from Multimat but is also sold under various rebrands, £30, 300g and packs down to around the size of a water bottle.

    Sleeping bag: depends whether you are a warm or cold sleeper, if you are a warm sleeper look at the “limit” rating, use the “comfort” rating if you are a cold sleeper. Down vs synthetic? Unless you are bivvying out over multiple wet nights then down is fine, it will cope with dampness but not immersion. Not all down is created equal and you do tend to get what you pay for – higher fill power and better down/feather ratio will cost more but those bags will be lighter and more compact for the same warmth.

    Since you mention the Peak, pop into Alpkit and see what they have going. Also worth looking at DD tarps, quite a bit better priced than the Alpkit models.

    Premier Icon seosamh77
    Subscriber

    What’s with the not lighting fires nonsense? 😆

    Premier Icon jameso
    Subscriber

    What’s with the not lighting fires nonsense?

    Why would you need to?

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