November 27, 2018

Bike Packing

This is all about using a bike to travel and camp, which means carrying a lot of gear. I have already spent several years pruning my gear for ultralight backpacking, so I have all the sleeping and cooking gear I need. The trick is to figure out how to put it on my bike.

Much to my surprise, the concept of using a rack and paniers is discouraged. That kind of thing is appropriate for road touring, but for trail travel, other schemes are used. Also carrying anything on a pack on your person is discouraged. I spoke with Dillon at Fairwheel bikes and he says that even carrying a hydration pack on your person is a nuisance compared to having it on the bike.

The best place to carry heavy stuff (like water) is in a triangular "frame bag". Light bulky objects belong hung on the handlebars, and a third place to have cargo is a bag under and behind the seat.

Naturally, you can spend money and get nicely made bags for each location, but this can quickly add up. It is also possible to improvise and make do. A company "Revelate" has a good reputation, along with "Bedrock Bags".

The "guide to bags" describes what they call the "starter hack kit", which can cost little to nothing depending on what you already have on hand. It boils down to a comfortable daypack (14+ liters) along with two dry bags. (Note that typical dry bags are not as sturdy as you might like). One 5-7 liters is attached under and behind the seat, the other 14-20 liters is attached to the front of the handlebars. (My down quilt currently goes into a 20 liter dry bag). A Revelate "salty roll" is a recommended commercial option for the handlebars, and is made of more sturdy fabric than the typical dry bag.

I already carry a Black Diamond Axis 24 daypack on most of my rides, so this will require no changes. REI sells the salty roll (15 liters) for $38. REI also sells the Revelate handlebar harness for $85, which is simply a bracket and straps to attach some other bag. Typically the sleeping bag goes on the handlebars. Your sleeping pad goes in or on the daypack. A tent inside the handlebar bag will provide some structure by way of the poles.

The Revelate "gas tank" bag goes behind the stem and on top of the top frame tube. This is a classic, named by resemblance to a motorcycle gas tank. $55 1 liter.


Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's mountain bike pages / tom@mmto.org