Now that you’ve got your bike and gear set up ready to roll - it’s time to think about you! Bikepacking is an activity that can be personalized to fit a wide range of cyclists, from the novice mountain biker to the ulta racer. What type of rider are you? Be honest with yourself about your abilities, celebrate your strengths and honor areas where you stand to improve. Set yourself up for success by acknowledging where you are and set goals to get where you want to go.
Where To Go for Bikepacking
The perfect first bikepacking trip should be approachable, include a few challenges to help you learn and be a lot of fun. Start small and enjoy the learning curve up to bigger adventures. Use what’s available near you and get creative - feel free to mix in mass transit, paved paths, unpaved roads and even singletrack, if you want, to customize your cycling adventure.
An overnighter is a trip that only includes one night of camping, a perfect fit for weekend warriors. Riding a fully loaded bike off-road takes more energy than a typical road tour, so plan on riding between 15-35 miles each day, depending on your comfort level. Big climbs or descents may add an extra level of challenge, so be mindful of the elevation profile and how that will impact your ride time.
Creating a new route from scratch can be a very timely endeavour, so it’s best to look for an established and well vet route that you can plug into for your first trip. There are a ton of resources out there to help you find those routes. The Komorebi Cycling Team recommends using Ride With GPS - their Find a Route feature allows riders to easily filter existing routes in their database. If you’re unable to find an existing bikepacking route near you, look for nearby rails-to-trails systems that connect to state parks or national recreation areas that will likely have unpaved service roads. Be sure to respect private property and stay out if you don’t have permission to access land. That said, it is not uncommon for some property owners, such a logging corporations with large swathes of land, to allow cyclists to pass through on roads. Be sure to do your research - try to find contact information so that you can confirm permission if you have any doubts. If you are allowed onto private land, be respectful and leave it exactly as you found it!
Water should be an important consideration in your route selection. Look for opportunities along the route were you can refill your bottles with potable water, such as from a gas station or church (be sure to check hours if you’re depending on a business being open!). If an easy refill option isn’t available, you’ll want to look for lakes, rivers or streams that you can filter water from to drink or cook with. Water availability from natural sources may vary seasonally - a raging river in the spring may be nothing more than a trickle by the fall.
You’ll also need to find a spot to set up camp for the nights you’re out. An established campground makes an easy option if there’s one on your route. Dispersed camping, which is the termed used for camping outside of a designated campground, is also an option. Dispersed camping is allowed and completely free within national forests and grasslands. Dispersed camping also means going without the usual facilities, such as toilets, trash cans or fire pits. Be sure to practice Leave No Trace ethics when you’re camping - know how to dig a cathole, safely put out fires and be sure to pack out everything you brought in.