July 26, 2022
A solid bikepacking checklist is a fantastic start for your off-road missions. But knowing exactly what to choose is another story. From bike bags to GPS units, here are features and products we recommend when building a bikepacking setup that’s lightweight, packable and reliable.
Bike bags and racks
Essential for bikepacking (obviously). Whether you opt for seat packs or a rack setup, some tips on what to look for:
Seat packs are by far one of the most popular bikepacking bag options. They’re easy to install and don’t require additional mounting points or racks. Features you’ll likely want:
Waterproofing is a must (rainy days and muddy tires mean your seat pack will get wet).
Roll closure systems can accommodate tons of gear and you can roll them up tight when less stuffed.
Seat post and seat rail straps are essential. Cinch as solidly as possible to prevent tail wag.
Many seat packs include elastic cords or daisy chains. Elastic cords are great for stuffing a jacket into quickly, while daisy chains are good for clipping on tricky-to-pack things like camp mugs.
Internal stiffeners provide extra rigidity to the bag and prevent it from sagging under load.
Our pick: Ortlieb Bikepacking Seat Pack
Seat pack + rear rack combos
For extra security and hauling lots of cargo on big trips, a seat post/bag combo does wonders. Another option is a “floating” rack design that attaches to your bike’s seat stays, which provides excellent stability. Some floating racks include additional mounting points for smaller bags – a solid option for multi-days with more gear.
Tied with seat packs as the bag you’re most likely to see on a bikepacking rig.
For smaller loads, a simple strap that attaches to handlebars and the headtube works.
Make sure your bar bag is waterproof (keep those snacks dry).
Zippered or flap closures do the trick for tidy loads. For hauling more, a bigger bag with a roll-closure is best.
The front of your bike is stable, so it can handle cargo if you opt for a rack or cradle system.
With rack or cradle systems, opt for a heavy-duty drybag with roll closure system.
Our pick: Aeroe Spider Handlebar Cradle for its flexibility.
While you can go hyper-light with a bivy or hammock, the majority of us will opt for a light backpacking tent. Some things to consider:
One- or two-person tents that pack small and are used by backpackers work well.
A three-season tent is recommended.
Ensure the tent includes a waterproof fly with fully taped seams.
Look for a tent roughly in the 2kg range. Skip anything well above the 3 or 4kg mark.
Any good backpacking tent will include a compact stuff sack. However, it’s possible to pack a tent even tighter. If need be, strap your tent poles to your saddle bag, or wrap them and secure to your top tube. You may be able to save a good chunk of space.
“I leave my tent stuff sack at home while bikepacking and just toss the body and fly into my seat pack. Works like a charm, and extra grams saved.” – MEC staffer tip
Sleeping bags and pads
Ideally, you want a sleeping bag that’s warm enough for spring, summer and fall camping, but not so heavy it weighs you down. A sleeping pad is a must (just don’t opt for a mega-sized car camping one).
A nice, light sleeping bag is usually rated around 0°C to -2°C.
Target weight for a lightweight sleeping bag is around 900–1100 grams.
Make sure your bag has a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment.
Sleeping pads with insulation are ideal, but you may be able to go lighter if hot weather is likely.
A light sleeping pad should pack roughly to the size of a Nalgene bottle.
Camp kitchen gear
If you’re gonna bike, you gotta eat. Pack light, but be sure to bring essentials for good camp eating.
When it comes to stoves, single burner setups are best. They’re light, pack small and reliable.
If you pack a pot, pack as much of your cook setup into it (stove included, if room allows).
Some companies offer a “everything in a pot” cookware setup including collapsible bowls and mugs.
Don’t forget coffee! Aeropress and pourover setups are a fantastic and lightweight option.
Make sure you have a plan for keeping bears and critters out of your food.
GPS bike computer
There are tons of options in this category with a lot of personal preferences in play. Be sure that whatever you choose has preloaded maps or the ability to upload maps before your ride. A head unit with integrated solar charging is a huge plus.
Our pick: Garmin Edge 1040 Solar
Lights and portable power
A portable powerbank is a must. Don’t forget cords for GPS units, lights and your phone (we’ve all been there).
If room and weight allows, bring more than one powerbank. Powerbanks that can charge a phone two to three times are solid.
Opt for a front light you can actually navigate terrain with and not just be seen with, 400 lumens minimum.
A headlamp is a must-have for around camp.
A compact lantern to brighten up camp is nice, especially for groups.