Please advise me: Bivvy / bikepacking

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  • Please advise me: Bivvy / bikepacking
  • Premier Icon el_boufador

    Hello, I’ve had a browse of the few voluminous threads on the matter but quickly got overwhelmed! So any advice appreciated. Sorry for the long question too.

    I’m planning on dipping my toe in this bivvy / bikepacking lark over the summer. I’m pretty well seasoned so far as wild camping goes, so camping / bivi gear etc, packing light etc. I’m comfortable with.

    My problem is that I’ll have limited time for this, so I want to make the most of every trip – I’m trying to do as much learning / thinking in advance so have to do less fannying on / making mistakes as I go.

    The main thing I’m trying to work out at this point, is what style of riding I would most enjoy and what bike to do it on.

    The type of trip I will be doing will be mostly just 1 night microadventures. I may possibly go so far as doing a 2 day / 2 night trip.
    I also think I will be relying heavily on local facilities e.g. pub, chippy for food, in order to keep the weight down / outlay low (so will really just be carrying sleeping gear, warm gear and a stove for a brew). There won’t be any self supported or multi-day epic shenanigans.

    Given the choice of any normal summer ride, I will always tend to go towards the more technical end (winch & plumet) of things, however I think being more ladened up, I’m going to need to moderate my expectations a bit, and go a bit more XC. But I would still like some tech thrown in (if it’s doable)

    I’ve got the following bikes to play with, in increasing levels of gnar:

    1. Geared CX bike. Could be built up with road tyres, skinny cx tyres, or monstercross-ish

    2. Singlespeed xc hardtail (26″) could be built up geared at a push.

    3. 140mm 26″ full sus. Mainly built for rocky days like the peak, lakes, calderdale etc, but also pedals fine for longer xc sections (especially well if I put lighter wheels on). This is my go-to bike in the summer.

    At the moment I’m thinking I’d like to give it a go on the full sus, built with the light xc wheels. For a bigger trip I would probably do something like get the train out into the middle of the peak or the yorks dales, ride back home to Leeds generally on xc trails but with the odd bit of tech thrown in (e.g. if doing peks, the classics like across the beast, cut gate etc). Stop somewhere on the way after a meal at the pub.

    Does this seem like a reasonable plan of bike and route? Or would I be better off just accepting I am laden up and have more fun taking it steadier / non-tech on the cx bike? Will I die?

    PS thinking 13l seat pack / 20l bar pack and about a 20l rucksack would be easily enough storage, and does not mean I need to buy a specific frame bag, until I have worked out what bike I like using best.

    thanks for any advice!!!!

    Premier Icon scotroutes

    With full sus you might be limited in seat pack/bar bag size by the simple physics of suspension travel.

    If you’re only doing a single night, eating in pubs etc then there’s no need for a frame bag – or use a frame bag and skip one of the others. Frame bags are pretty model specific though whereas bar and seatbags are suitable to be swapped amongst your bikes as you see fit.

    Either way, you’ve correctly identified the compromise you need to reach. 53L of luggage for one night out is a lot though! You shouldn’t need half of that 🙂

    Premier Icon el_boufador

    Thanks, yeah I don’t think I will use all that! Would pare the rucksack down smaller to get the weight off my back I reckon.

    Out of interest, how much volumage would you be using on a 2 nighter (assuming reasonable weather window). Off the top of my head, thinking maybe 40l would be fine?

    Have spotted some mighty bodges for getting a dropper post to work with a seat pack, think I might try that 🙂

    Premier Icon el_boufador

    sorry just seen 53 l / 2 = 26.5l 🙂

    Premier Icon scotroutes

    40l would be more than enough, even including carrying some extra food for between catering establishments. If you get into the whole scene then you’ll probably invest in even lighter/lower volume gear and that 40l will reduce significantly.


    tech or non-tech it’s your choice – they’ll be fun for different reasons. i’ve enjoyed both in the past.

    22L rucksack is what i started with and thats plenty of space for a summer ride. Winter the sleeping bag moved onto the bike.


    As you’ve surmised, doing local trips is the way to start- if things go pear shaped it’s easy to cut your losses and get home. Wait till things warm up so you don’t need so much kit: sleeping mat, sleeping bag and either bivy, tarp or tent are all you really need. If you are using pub/ chippy/whatever for the evening meal then you will need just enough to make a brew in the morning.

    If you are used to lightweight camping/backpacking then you should be fine with taking minimal kit. You don’t need the specific bags/ harnesses to begin with, you can just strap dry bags to your bike, then if or when you decide to continue you’ll have a better idea of what you want.

    Chech out the Bearbones forums plus the review section on that site


    I take 60l rucksac for multiday self supported camping trips so 40L should be plenty for an overnighter where you dont have to cook

    Premier Icon charliew

    I’d go for using a bothy instead of bivving. Done a couple of trip using trains and bothies and both pretty enjoyable for different reasons…

    All my overnight kit* goes in one (Lidl )pannier bag. I add a velcro’d rackpack if need more clothing/supplies 🙂

    *1-man tent
    2-3 season bag
    Inflatable mat
    Trangia mini cook set
    Brushed cotton padded hoodie for cold wear (plus bundled as a pillow)

    Knowing how a pannier-bag isn’t strictly in the sexed-up cycle-touring bike-packing MO, I luckily have other options.

    Am sure I could put the tent between my bars and strap mat to top tube or vise-versa. Sleeipng bag in stuffsack could probably go behind seat or stuffed in large saddlebag/seatpack. Leaving the Trangia set to go on back in the Lobo ( along with toothbrush, 1st aid, trail tools, tiger balm, wind-up radio etc.)

    Water goes in bottle under downtube

    Premier Icon metalheart

    Being the veteran of, oh, six overnighters now you kind of describe what I do.

    I’ll echo ScotRoutes and say 20l for a bar bag is big! I’ve the 15l Ortlieb one and it’s definitely on the big side. First trip I had it rub on the front wheel. I’ve improved my attachment prowess and reduced the volume in the front to eliminate this.

    I have the16l Ortlieb seat pack which again is big but as it’s a roll bag and having a little extra available when needed isn’t such a bad thing.

    I also have a frame bag and an 18l rucksack. The sack has never been full, use to hold waterproofs and food (mainly), oh and my water (in a bladder). I’d recommend you keep water on the bike than on your back if you can.

    I started off which what I thought was reasonably lightweight gear from my walking/camping days but have pretty much replaced it all with lighter and, just as important, lower volume gear.

    This what it looked like for my recent trip on the Moray Way (100m, mostly off-road with an overnighter, meals taken in ‘civilisation’):

    SolarisMAX all bikepacked up by Metalheart-UK, on Flickr

    ETA: whilst I’ve not tried bikepacking with a full sus I’ve found that on the techier stuff you’re hampered by the luggage which tends to move about a bit when pushed. Also, moving luggage will strip off your paint if you don’t protect your frame. Alu frames/forks can wear quite quickly, esp if you add some peak (or my case Cairngorm) grit into it the mix! Follow my Flickr link you’ll find some nasty wear photos….

    Premier Icon el_boufador

    Thanks all, just to say ths has been invaluable advice. I’ve put this into practice now and have a couple of trips under my belt. Really, really enjoying it! especially: learning what works (and I am learning a lot, and seeing the riding possibilities open up!)

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