Bikepacking is the nano version of tiny home living or #vanlife. It requires you to pare down to the most essential of essentials. You are the motor and anything excess puts stress on the engine. But once you’re out on the trail, the best feeling about riding point-to-point for days on end is having everything you need attached to you or your bike. No matter where you stop, you’re home.
My most recent trip was to Croatia to ride a portion of the Adriatic Crest Trail. We wild camped a couple of nights, stayed in a mountain hut one night, and the rest of the time rented guesthouses or hotel rooms wherever we landed that day. We rode about 250 kilometers total, sometimes passing through remote areas requiring us to retrieve water from wells, and occasionally diverting from our route to find food. Supplies were scarce in certain areas, but cell reception was not. What a time in our world to be able to Google grocery stores, convert currency, track mileage, and find maps from a mountain top. Europe is a fantastic place to bikepack because of its dense infrastructure and well-marked trails. Even when we were far from towns and villages, we’d still come across people living and working in the middle of nowhere. It’s a great place to cut your teeth as a bikepacker and one of the coolest ways to travel.
Before jumping onto the trail, the first order of bikepacking is figuring out where the hell you’re going to carry everything. My adventure buddy Leslie and I were both riding Evil Offering bikes. Small sized, dual suspension mountain bikes pose a bit of a challenge when it comes to frame bags. So I ended up using the Blackburn Outpost Corner Bag as it was one of the only bags I could find, outside of something custom, that would fit my frame.
I filled it with items that I wouldn’t need daily; chain lube, spare brake pads, quick links, tire boots, a Leatherman-style multi tool, knife, Dynaplug, tire sealant, patches, fire starter and a lighter. Seems like a lot of gear for a tiny 0.7-liter bag but it worked well and tucked tightly into my frame. I mounted a PRO HV Mini Pumpto my water bottle cage bolts. I love this pump because it has a hose enclosed within the pump that makes it easy to use, and for a little pump it fills up a mountain bike quickly.
I also used an Osprey Escapist 32L Backpack, which held my hydration, PRO Multi Tool, shock pump, tubes, rain gear, thermal jersey, windbreaker, daily food, bag balm, and Thermarest Vesper sleeping bag. I did my best to keep this pack as light as possible but we were sometimes forced to carry four liters of water. That was definitely our biggest weight challenge but it was motivation to keep drinking.
On the bars, I used the Revelate Handlebar Harness with a 10-liter dry bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op. It held medications (antibiotics, Gravol, Benedryl, Advil) first aid supplies, clothes, and toiletries. I also carried a Carbon Reflex 2 Ultralight Tent and footprint from MSR. This is MSR’s lightest weight two-person tent at one pound, 13 ounces. This little micro home was easy to set up with so many well thought out features. These included dual doors, mesh pockets inside, and a rain fly that provided small outdoor vestibules for dry storage.
The Thermarest Neoair Uberlite is the lightest insulated mattress on the market at 8.8 ounces. It has 2.5 inches of loft and is incredibly comfortable and a breeze to pack in its stuff sack. I used a 15L PRO Discover Seatpost bag for carrying the tent, Thermarest, stove and miscellaneous items to reduce the weight on my back. This bag surprised me. I thought it would buzz my tire in rough terrain but it didn’t. I used two G3 ski straps to compress it crazy tight before mounting it under my saddle and added extra air to my rear shock to give more rigidity to the rear end of my bike. I wasn’t able to drop my saddle but it was a small price to pay for the extra packing space on a 10-day trip.
Clothing choices are always tough. How do you bring enough, but not too much, yet still have everything you need for all kinds of weather conditions? There are a few lifesaving essential pieces I always carry; a high-quality rain jacket with hood, rainproof shorts, and waterproof gloves. For the last several years I’ve used the Pearl Izumi WxB Summit jacket. I have it in a men’s medium. It’s a bit baggy but if I need to run multiple layers underneath I’m set. My backpack chest and waist straps batten it down and the hood over my helmet stays secure and keeps the rain off my neck and head. Pearl also makes a corresponding WxB Summit rain short and it’s equally awesome. The final crucial rain item is the Pearl Izumi WxB Barrier glove. I’m from Vancouver and these things withstand even the most biblical downpours. The best thing about these waterproof gloves is you still have fantastic handlebar and brake feel. I’ve used other gloves in the past but none work as well in the dexterity department as these things do.
Obviously, clothing choices change due to time of year and location. In addition to my rain pieces and the other items mentioned above, my clothing kit for this trip to Croatia in May consisted of:
• 2 pairs of Pearl Izumi Pro Pursuit chamois shorts(one bib/one non-bib),
• 1 pair of Pearl Izumi Elite knickers
• 1 pair of wind stopper thermal Shimano tights
• 2 pairs of Pearl Izumi Women’s Summit short
• 3 pairs of Pearl Izumi wool socks
• 2 sports bras
• 2 long sleeve base layers (one thick, one Pearl Izumi thin)
• 1 Pearl Izumi lightweight windbreaker jacket with removable sleeves
• 2 pair of underwear (AKA “gonch” in Canada)
• 1 Bergans lightweight stuffable/packable down jacket
• 2 short sleeve Pearl Izumi jerseys
• 1 Pearl Izumi thermal jersey
• 1 pair of hyper lightweight Nike track pants (after ride chillin’)
• 3 cotton T-shirts (after ride chillin’)
• 1 flannel long sleeve button up (after ride chillin’)
• 1 thermal Pearl Izumi toque/hat (can also be worn under my helmet)
• 2 pair of Pearl Izumi women’s MTB gloves
• 1 MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe Stove+ fuel canister
• 1 MSR Trail Mini Duo Cook set
· 1 MSR 2L DromLite water storage bag
• 1 MSR Mug mate coffee filter
• A ½ pound of ground Kicking Horse coffee
• 1 lightweight spork
• 1 MSR TrailShot Pocket-sized water filter
• 1 pressurized Geigerrig 2L Hydration Engine
• 1 inline Aquamira Frontier Max Filtration System
• 1 Garmin InReachwith Explorer package
• Power bankand cord for iPhone 7 (20,000 mAh)
• Sony a6300 mirrorless camera, 3 memory cards, and 4 spare batteries
• 1 Petzl headlamp
• 1 Shimano S23X sunglasses
• 1 Shimano Spark riding glasses
• 1 pair of Shimano GR7 flat shoes
• 1 pair of flip flops
• Bag Balm(for chamois cream)
• 20 Tablets of Nuun Boost(electrolyte replacement)
• Snickers bars as needed
• Passport, Visa and local cash
Any questions? Just ask firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by Elladee Brown @elladee17
Photos by Leslie Kehmeier @thewideeyedworld and Elladee Brown