In this first installment of Ask The Komorebi Cycling Team*, we'll tackle a pretty common question that a lot of first time bikepackers ask - what should I pack and how do I organize it all into my bags?!
Before you begin to pack, you'll need to have familiarity with the route you'll be riding. How many days you'll be out, the degree of remote areas you'll be pedaling through and you're comfort level "roughing it" all come into play as you gather gear to take with you. Longer, more remote rides will require more careful consideration than just a quick overnighter to your local state park.
As with most skills - more often you do it, the easier it gets. By your second or third trip, you'll know your gear preferences and where it's best packed for appropriate accessibility. It's valuable to keep in mind that there is no one perfect way to pack - but you'll quickly learn YOUR prefered gear and how to organize it on your bike. Take notes, make lists and keep your gear clean and organized to make the packing process quick and easy.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the kinds of gear that you could take with you. Keep it simple and simply start by thinking about what you need to make sure your basic needs are safely met: water, food and shelter. Then, work out from there, filling in with your wants as space/weight allows. Here are some specifics on those three big needs:
- For water, you'll want to know approximately how much you'll need (depending on your body composition and expected level of exertion) and where you'll be able to access more if/when you need it. Although some riders bemoan the "weight penalty" of carrying too much water, not having enough when you need it can be a serious problem. For us, it's worth it to fill up at the start and remove that potential cause for concern. For fill ups, if you're 100% confident that potable water is easily accessible on the route (restaurants or campgrounds with water spigots) than you might consider not packing a water purifier with you. However, it's always a good idea to have a water purifier on hand for those just-in-cases. There are a lot of purifiers on the market that aren't too pricey, pack down to a pretty small size and work extremely well - contact our friends at the Mountain Shop for expert knowledge on which style of purifier would be best for you. We always packs at least 2 purifiers for the team to share, even when we know we'll have clean water sources available on the route. We're partial to the Platypus Gravity Works since they're fast, efficient and allow us to multitask while the water filters. Water should be very easily accessible while you're on the bike - standard bottles or camelback bladders that you can reach while you're riding. Purifiers can be packed a bit out of the way since you won't need constant access.
- Food! You're going to want plenty of it and you'll want it to be calories that you're excited about eating after long days in the saddle. There are now lots of options for freezed dried meals - Google "gourmet freeze dried camping food" for a dizzying selection from organic curry to huevos rancheros. You'll want snacks too - the options are endless and you're best prepared to pick out which options will be best for your belly. When packing food, also include those tools you'll need to prepare it: stove, pot, spork, coffee filter - whatever you might need to get that energy into your body! Snacks should be easy to grab while you're on the bike, but you might consider packing dinner and breakfast foods more deeply in your bags since you won't need to access them until you've stopped riding for the day.
- Overnight trips also require you to bring along a shelter to bed down into at the end of your day. Again, there are plenty of options for you to consider from the traditional tent, to a hammock, or even a simple tarp. You can also choose between sleeping bags and quilts with a sleeping pad. Go with a combo that you'll know you'll be comfortable and sleep well. Definitely consider the overnight low temperature and precipitation forecast for were you'll be riding. Since it tends to be a bit bulky, consider sharing shelter equipment with friends you're riding with and packing it around the bike into nooks and crannies as space allows.
The next most important consideration is clothing. As a general rule, take less than what you think you'll need - this is especially true for warm weather overnight trips. As clothing is such a personal consideration, we'll offer no hard and fast rules. Again, after your first couple of trips, you'll have a much better idea of what to take and what to leave home. Keep weather necessary clothing items (arm and knee warmers, hats, raincoats if need be) in places you can get to pretty easily. Pajamas and next day jerseys/shorts can be packed away since you won't need them at a moment's notice.
A general goal to work toward - a successfully packed trip is one where you're used everything that you took with the exception of emergency food and first aid items.
To better illustrate what we pack and how we carry it on us, we've posted detailed packing lists of gear that each rider took with them for our Chain Of Lakes trip here. Use them to craft your own packing list!
*Have a question to ask the Komorebi Cycling Team? Be in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!