Ditch the excuses and get bikepacking!

The Ultimate Bikepacking Microadventure Gear Setup

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Imagine being able to just get up and head off on a bikepacking adventure anytime the mood strikes you. minimal planning. minimal preparation. Just go…

One of the key ideas behind microadventures is eliminating the excuses that keep us from actually starting an adventure. So often, these excuses tend to boil down to three things: Lack of time, lack of money and/or plain old laziness!

Of course, we don’t want to admit this! But as much as it’s human nature to seek adventure, it’s also human nature to take the easiest route. And the easiest route possible is to just stay home!

So the way I see it, anything that eliminates excuses and makes it easier to just start an adventure can only be a good thing. That’s why I’m sharing the one-bag solution I use to minimize the list of excuses that so often forms the barrier between me and adventure.

The gist of it

This setup revolves around the idea of having a single dry bag holding everything needed for a bikepacking adventure. Simple, versatile, adaptable to any budget, and always at the ready.

Simple

I try to refrain from using the word minimalist as much as possible when I discuss bikepacking setups with people who aren’t already hardcore bikepackers. Too often people will associate minimalism with enduring rather than enjoying adventure.

But being that this setup is geared towards shorter (overnight to one week) bikepacking adventures, it just makes sense for it to be minimal – or let’s call it simple – even for the average, non-endurance-athlete, person.

It includes the essentials for lightweight, yet comfortable bikepacking adventures, and can easily be thrown together 

Versatile

The setup I use is for three season use and can be easily adapted to suit your own bikepacking style, comfort level, and riding environment.

Prefer cafes to campfires? Ditch the cookset. Want four season adventures? Swap the sleeping system and add a couple extra layers. Want to feel closer to nature while also lightening your load? Ditch the tent for a bivvy bag!

Having a full bikepacking gear setup within one bag means you don’t even need your own bike. Grab your bag, jump on a bus, train, or plane, to wherever you want to ride, hire or borrow a suitable bike, strap on the bags and head off on your bikepacking adventure.

The versatility of bikepacking bags means they can generally be attached to any bike (with a few exceptions due to frame size and style). And the versatility of this setup means your bikepacking adventure options are limited only by your imagination… and your work schedule!

Adaptable to any budget

Bikepacking bags are notoriously expensive, but there are reasonable quality budget options available, which mean a full bikepacking bag setup is easily obtainable for under $100. You’ll hear many bikepacking purists decry the use of gear at such a price point, but I’m here to show that spending typical cycling industry prices on cycling gear simply isn’t necessary!

It’s possible to go even cheaper if you’re happy to forego bikepacking specific gear and just pack your stuff into dry bags and strap them to your frame. Not pretty and not 100% practical, but it works!

If budget is less of a concern, then you can easily substitute any of the recommended budget gear for some of the old faithfuls from the trusted outdoor adventure brands. This can be done right from the get go, or slowly over time as you figure out what gear suits your bikepacking adventure style.

Always at the ready

My main reason for creating a one bag microadventure system was to eliminate the excuses that were so often keeping me from pulling myself out of the vacuum of day to day life.

I knew that if I could click my fingers and have everything I needed for an adventure magically appear in front of me, then nothing could hold me back from getting out there. So I decided to make that as close to reality as possible, and this setup is the result.

No more cluttered outdoor gear, nor cluttered thoughts, to be gathered. All it required was a one off investment of time and foreplanning and a little money to acquire anything I was lacking. 

Now when I get the inclination for a bikepacking microadventure; no hesitation – I’m good to go. 

Gear list

The gear list is made up of:

  • Bags 
  • Shelter and sleeping
  • Cooking
  • Basic tool kit

I’ve provided two budget gear lists with recommended gear from both AliExpress and Amazon (The majority of my current budget bikepacking microadventure gear comes from Setup #1).

I have also included a third list which offers upgrade options for those who don’t mind spending a bit extra for the potential step up in quality. These are reasonably priced pieces of gear that suit this setup and are generally held in high regard amongst the bikepacking community.

Sections further down will look at clothing and additional gear options for your setup.

Bags

Shelter and Sleeping

Cooking

Stove:

BRS-3000T Ultralight Titanium Stove with locally purchased gas canister (or replace with DIY alcohol stove)

Basic Tool Kit

Puncture Repair Kit:

Sahoo Puncture Repair Kit

Spare Tube:

Purchase required size locally or online

Extras:

Duct Tape, Electrical Tape, Zip Ties and chain lube purchased locally or online

Bags

Shelter and Sleeping

Cooking

Basic Tool Kit

Spare Tube:

Purchase required size locally or online (I recommend Chain Reaction Cycles)

Extras:

Gaffer Tape, Electrical Tape, Zip Ties and chain lube purchased locally or online

Bikepacking bags

What makes a bikepacking setup a bikepacking setup is, essentially, the style of bags used. Rather than attaching panniers to racks on your bike, you attach bags directly to the bike frame, seatpost and handlebars.

Why not just wear a backpack? You definitely can do that, and many people have travelled continents doing that. But why carry the weight yourself when you have mankind’s most efficient form of transportation willing to carry the weight for you!  

One of the perceived weaknesses of bikepacking when compared to traditional bicycle touring setups – packing volume; I view as one of its greatest strengths. You’re forced to think about what you really need to take with you and you’re forced to enjoy a lighter, more aerodynamic, and easier-riding bike!

Lighter weight, narrower profile and fewer damage-prone solid fixing points mean that bikepacking setups are also perfect for offroad riding. This opens up so many doors to adventures that are simply not open to traditional cycle touring setups.

That sort of versatility is key when creating the ultimate no excuse bikepacking microadventure gear setup.

This setup uses four bags that all fit into one for storage and convenience:

  • Main bag/handlebar bag
  • Saddle/Seat bag
  • Frame bag
  • Top tube bag

With no special mounting points or racks required, these bags all fit on practically any bike that you’d be comfortable adventuring on (with frame size and seat post height usually being the main factors that could possibly affect attachability).

The purpose of each bag… 

40L Dry bag (with detachable straps)

This bag is key to this setup and serves three distinct purposes:

1) Storing your gear when not in use:

As already mentioned, a huge hindrance in being motivated to head off on an impromptu adventure is the feeling of having so many things to prepare and pack. 

If you have a single bag where everything is always stored, always at the ready, then preparation and packing is another excuse done away with. Store it next to your front door, in the boot of your car, or under your desk at work; anywhere where it can remind you to get out and seek adventure.

The dry bag will also be used to store your gear when it’s in use. Space inside a tent is usually going to be pretty tight as it is, or not there at all if using a bivvy. So it’s wise to have a 100% waterproof solution for storing your gear outside when you tuck in for the night.

2) Backpack:

One of the beauties of this setup is that you don’t even need to take your bike to go bikepacking! Well, obviously you need a bike to go bikepacking. But you don’t need to start your bikepacking adventure on a bike. Take a bus, train, or even plane to a nearby (or far away) destination, grab a bike, strap on the bags and hit the road.

Having all of your kit in a single backpack makes getting to your departure destination a breeze. I’ve found that 40 litres is the ideal size for fitting everything you need for a comfortable bikepacking trip. Best of all, it’s the perfect size for carry-on luggage – who says your microadventure has to be near home?

Another good reason to have a backpack handy is when you’re on the road with your bikepacking setup and you want to ditch the bike for a bit to check out some sights on foot. 

With the large dry bag, you can quickly unstrap the bike bags and chuck them inside it to carry around, or leave it with someone for safekeeping from potential acts of mischievous opportunism.  

3) Handlebar bag:

The final purpose that the large dry bag serves is actually as the handlebar bag. This is really what the majority of bikepacking handlebar bags already are; just a dry bag and some sort of attachment system.

I recommend using the handlebar bag for holding your tent or bivvy and sleeping pad. So once you’re ready to load your bike up, just take out each bikepacking bag, strap them onto the frame, leaving just the tent and sleeping pad in the dry bag. You can then squeeze all the air out of the bag, roll it up as small as possible, and attach it to the handlebars.

When it comes to the attachment system, it’s down to personal preference. For me, going the budget route, it’s a toss up between using the Newboler saddle bag harness, and just attaching the drybag directly to the handlebar using Voile straps or something similar.

Saddle/Seat bag

This bag connects to the seat post and the rails of your seat. What it contains will obviously depend on what you choose to take with you, but will often include lighter and loftier items, such as sleeping bag and jacket, along with other items of clothing.

If packing a tent, I’ll use this bag to store my sleeping bag, clothing and cookset. If packing a bivvy setup, then the sleeping bag will be placed upfront on the handlebars with the bivvy and sleeping pad.

Frame bag

Being located right in the middle of the bike, and having the lowest centre of gravity makes this the best place for storing any heavier items. Being affixed to multiple points on the frame also means that the weight will not sway when riding.

Any tools or heavy items that will not need to be accessed regularly will be placed in the bottom of this bag.

I tend to reserve a large portion of this bag for storing food, so I leave it practically empty when it’s being stored, other than a couple freeze dried meals.

Any clothing that doesn’t fit in the saddlebag will also be squeezed into the frame bag.

Top tube bag

A top tube bag is the perfect place to keep anything you’re likely to want regular or easy access to:

  • Phone
  • Powerbank
  • Wallet/Money/Cards
  • Passport
  • Riding gloves
  • Multitool 
  • Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • Torch
  • Snacks

I always keep my valuable stuff in this bag within a separate dry bag. This will ensure it remains dry in heavy rain and is easy to remove from the bag if you need to leave your bike unattended at any time.

What to wear

The type of clothing worn when adventuring, and when bikepacking in particular, is going to differ drastically from person to person. There are just too many variables and individual preference factors to include clothing on a single recommended gear list.

So instead, I’m going to provide a brief general recommendation for what you might want to include in a three season setup, regardless of your riding clothing style.

Many cyclists prefer to ride in cycling specific clothing, while many, like myself, prefer more casual travel attire. To keep weight as low as possible while still having a good degree of comfort and options, regardless of what clothing style you go for, I recommend packing the following quantities of items (or their cycling garb equivalents).

  • 1 x waterproof jacket
  • 1 x sweatshirt/jersey
  • 2 x T-shirts
  • 1 x long sleeve shirt
  • 1 x pair of shorts
  • 1 x pair of pants
  • 2 x pairs of underwear
  • 2 x pairs of socks
  • 1 x pair of gloves
  • 1 x beanie

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you already own at least some of this clothing. So you should already be most of the way there.

Being that this is a budget setup, any clothing will do. However!.. I strongly recommend that you consider outdoor adventure specific clothing, especially when there’s the potential for rain and/or particularly low or high temperatures…

Choice of Materials

If there’s one area that I tend not to skimp on as much when it comes to adventure gear, it’s in the choice of material used in the majority of my clothing. 

Whenever possible, I go for merino wool – the benefits of its properties are simply too great not to:

  • Comfortable 
  • Wicks moisture (Pulls moisture from the body to the exterior of the shirt where it can evaporate more easily)
  • Regulates body temperature (keeps you warm in cold environments and cool in hot environments)
  • Odor resistant (Can last for weeks of riding without smelling)
  • Retains warmth when wet

I want to know that in the most extreme worst case scenario, no matter how wet I am, I will still remain warm. So the fact that merino wool keeps you warm even when soaked, means it could be the difference between life and… well, hopefully just a very uncomfortable time. 

I aim for merino in all of my shirts, sweatshirt, socks, underwear and beanie. If you prefer cycling specific clothing, I’d still recommend having at least a single merino baselayer or T-shirt for when in camp.

Of course, a material this good is obviously going to come with a price tag to match the benefits! So I recommend keeping an eye out for sales on merino clothing. I’ve also had good luck with finding merino clothing in thrift stores.

My go-to brand for merino is Icebreaker, but there are a bunch of manufacturers to choose from, so you should be able to find something within your price range if you keep your eyes peeled.

Pants and Shorts

This setup isn’t about always going completely backcountry. Often you’ll be cycling through towns or cities and may want to ditch the bike to check out a museum or art gallery, or somewhere where padded shorts don’t quite fit the dress code. This means having clothes at hand that can pass as being respectable if the occasion warrants it.

Pants like Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi or Prana’s Stretch Zion are both comfortable to ride in and also offer good aesthetics. Just remember to wrap some sort of strap around your right ankle when riding to avoid any unwanted interaction with a gnarly sprocket and chain.

However, if you prefer padding when riding, then forego the pants and just say ‘dress codes be damned’!

If you’re not a fan of lycra, then mountain biking shorts, or baggies, are a good option for bikepacking. These can come in both padded and unpadded varieties and are obviously going to be built for the task at hand. 

If you will be riding in colder climates, or you tend to get cold easily, then including a lower body baselayer (ideally merino wool) in your setup is also advised.

Footwear

Once again, personal preference is going to dictate the route you take when it comes to footwear for bikepacking. 

I personally like to wear plain lightweight hiking shoes on flat pedals. Many cyclists will consider this to be damn near heresy – letting the potential power in the upstroke of the pedals go to waste. 

But looking at it from a budget and versatility standpoint, flat pedals win hands down for me. Any shoe will do, and this setup just has more flexibility when it comes to riding bikes that are not your own if the pedal type isn’t a factor.

Bikepacking microadventures are also about adventure and enjoyment rather than speed, so the efficiency gains really aren’t required.

Of course, if you ride clipless, then you will already have the footwear for riding clipless, so shouldn’t need to worry about splashing out on a new pair of specialized footwear.

If you plan on riding any bikes that are not your own, then when riding clipless you may need to consider including pedals (and a small pedal wrench) in your setup. 

Lastly, although not necessary, you may want to include some footwear for around camp. I usually include flip-flops/thongs/jandals, which easily fit in the handlebar bag or can be strapped to the seat pack.

Jacket

A good quality hardshell jacket is always going to be a worthwhile investment for anyone who dabbles in outdoorlery.

But in my experience, no matter how good the jacket, when riding for extended periods in heavy rain, you’re going to get wet; either from the outside in, or the inside out – which is why I recommend merino wool on the inside.

When choosing a jacket for bikepacking you’ll want something that is durable, lightweight and breathes well, and I would avoid anything that doesn’t have underarm zippers.

In the spirit of BudgetBikepacking.com, I’ve closeted my eye wateringly expensive Arcteryx hardshell and replaced it with the Marmot Precip. This is a well reviewed hardshell that can be found for as low as $70, and so far has proved to be a fantastic piece of budget gear. 

Shelter and sleeping

The shelter and sleeping system you choose will play a vital role in determining the enjoyment level of any microadventure.  

I personally keep both a two man tent (Naturehike Cloud Up 2) and a bivvy bag (Alpkit Hunka) in the dry bag so that I can choose which I’d prefer depending on how adventurous I’m feeling. I just remove whichever shelter I don’t need before setting off.

There are other shelter options such as hammocks and simple tarp setups, but I believe tents and bivvys are the most suitable shelters for this particular setup… 

Tent vs Bivvy

Psychologically it is a very different experience to a night in a tent, but a tent’s illusion of being protected and being indoors is actually the primary reason why I advocate experiencing a night in a bivvy bag.

Alastair Humphreys

Tent

Pros:

  • More space and comfort
  • Provides complete weather protection
  • Keeps out bugs and other critters
  • Better ventilation means lower likelihood of major issues with condensation
  • Can fit multiple people and have the packed load shared

Cons:

  • Usually heavier than a bivvy
  • Lightweight tents tend to be expensive
  • Can be difficult to find a suitable camping spot (especially when wild/stealth camping)
  • More difficult to take in plane carry-on luggage

Bivvy

Pros:

  • Super lightweight
  • Not too pricey
  • Easy to find sleeping locations (especially good for wild/stealth camping)
    Very quick to setup and pack away, even in the dark
  • Feel close to nature
  • No issues taking in carry on plane luggage

Cons:

  • Condensation can build up easily within, possibly resulting in a wet/damp sleeping bag
  • May require an additional tarp shelter in wet conditions
  • Difficult to change clothes inside of
  • Can be difficult to enter/exit
  • More open to midges/sandflies (and slugs, spiders, snakes…)
  • Can feel claustrophobic.

Admittedly, it may take a fair bit of persuading to get most people around to the idea of sleeping in a bivvy bag, but I highly recommend giving it a go at least once. Including a lightweight tarp is a good option if rain could be an issue.

As for how I set up my bivvy bag system – the Naturehike ultralight inflatable sleeping pad and Aegismax sleeping bag together fit inside the standard sized Hunka bivvy. This can all be rolled up and carried together, making it very quick to setup and pack away in the 40L dry/handlebar bag. 

Just a note that if you’re over 5′ 10″, or wouldn’t describe yourself as thin, then I’d opt for the Hunka XL for the additional wiggle room.

Sleeping Bag

When it comes to budget sleeping bags, I’ve not yet come across anything that can compete with the Aegismax lengthened mummy sleeping bag for three season sleeping. The price to size to comfort ratio really hits the sweet spot for me.

It is rated EN03537 to a comfort level of +11°C / 52°F,  a lower limit of +6°C / 43°F, and an extreme limit of -9°C /15°F.

I tend to run fairly warm, so am actually comfortable using this bag (while also wearing layers) down to near freezing point. Though I also include a silk sleeping bag liner in my setup if I’m expecting cold conditions.

If you need something warmer, Aegismax have other goose down mummy bags with comfort levels going all the way down to -23° C/-10° F, and Hyke & Byke also have a selection of well reviewed sleeping bags.

Please note, one issue that most budget brand sleeping bags will share is that they are not going to be certified to the Responsible Down Standard, which may well be a deciding factor when choosing your sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags aren’t the only option when it comes to tucking in at night. Quilts are also a very popular sleeping system for lightweight travelers. You can read about the differences between sleeping bags and quilts here.

If you’re happy spending a bit more, I’d recommend sleeping bags and quilts from Enlightened Equipment. They’re a company that have earned a really good reputation due to the quality and price of their products. Their motto Ultralight. Straightforward. Affordable also resonates well with BudgetBikepacking.com

Sleeping Pad

My setup currently utilizes the Naturehike inflatable sleeping mat, which is very similar to the Sea-to-Summit ultralight sleeping mat. It’s thin, but very comfortable and I find that the pitted design makes it warm despite lacking insulation. Another excellent budget option is the Klymit Static V2.

If you’re happy to spend a bit more on your sleeping pad, then you can’t go wrong with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.

However, having spent a lot of money on quality sleeping pads over the years, this is one area where I definitely prefer the budget option.

Blowing sleeping mats up by mouth (as I’ve always done) drastically reduces the lifespan of any mat due to the moisture introduced to the inside of it. Sure, you can extend its life by blowing it up using another method, but carrying the extra equipment has just never been convenient for me. Despite still blowing it up by mouth, I’ve found that my current, low price, non insulated mat has lasted longer than any of the expensive mats I’ve used before.

Cooking

Microadventures generally aren’t about fine dining, so sticking to the bare basics is definitely recommended when it comes to a microadventure cooking system. 

The absolute easiest cooking system is having no cooking system at all, and just packing meals that can be prepared cold.

However, if you’re a hot meal in the evening and a warm drink in the morning kind of adventurer, then a stove, pot and a spork are necessary additions to your microadventure setup.

Stove

There are many excellent lightweight options available, but when budget is a factor, I believe these three options stand out above the rest:

  • Etekcity ultralight stove – Incredibly cheap and very well reviewed. It uses a screw top propane/butane canister, which is commonly available in camping and hardware stores. It even includes a piezo ignition, so no lighter or matches required.
  • BRS-3000T ultralight titanium alloy camping stove – The ultimate budget minimalist canister stove, weighing less than 1 oz (28g). 
  • DIY alcohol stove – A super simple and lightweight stove that can be made in ten minutes. It uses denatured alcohol/methylated spirits as fuel, which can be found in any pharmacy, so is very readily available. Other varieties of DIY can alcohol stoves can also be found here.

There are also fancier systems which boil faster and work better at low temperatures, like the Jetboil Flash and the MSR WindBurner, but they come with a hefty price tag and take up more space. 

If you’re after a system like the Flash or Windburner, but can’t justify the spend, Widesea have a well reviewed one which can be found at a much lower price

For a three season microadventure setup, however, I think the simple ultralight stoves and a lightweight pot are more than adequate to cook up a hearty meal after a long day of riding.

Here is a good article comparing the real world performance of the different stove systems.

ultralight-cooking-stoves-and-pots

Other Cookware

Plates, mugs, cutlery, chopping board, kitchen sink…

These are all lovely things to bring along on a glamping trip, but should be left at home when heading out on a microadventure. A single pot with a lid is all the solo adventurer will need. 

I prefer to go for the slimmer, taller pot systems as they fit nicer into bikepacking bags, and when space is tight, can be strapped to the outside or even to the forks of your bike. The pot lid is also the shape of a large mug, making it ideal for the late night hot chocolate or sunrise coffee.

I’m currently using a Widesea pot off AliExpress, which is fantastic. Redcamp and Bisgear have the same style of pot in complete cookware sets, with the Bisgear set even including an ultralight stove.

These pots are all the perfect size to fit a standard sized gas canister within, along with an ultralight stove and any extra pieces required for your kitchen setup. 

Extra pieces of kitchen equipment to consider including:

  • Sharp knife (a pocket knife is fine)
  • Can opener (also on the pocket knife) 
  • Spork 
  • Cleaning sponge
  • Microfibre cloth / shammy
  • Lighter / matches

Food and water

The fact that this setup is made to be stored while also being always at the ready means that some thought has to go into how you’re going to want to deal with food and water requirements.

Food

Different people will require different food setups for different microadventures in different environments.

Regardless of where I am likely to be adventuring, in order to always have the bag prepared I like to have at least some of the following light, long shelf-life, foods stored in the bag at all times:

  • Single serve oatmeal packets
  • Single serve pasta/rice/noodle/couscous meals
  • Freeze dried camping meals
  • Small bag of milk powder
  • Small salt and pepper packets/sachets
  • Hot drink single sachets (cappuccino/latte/hot chocolate, etc)
  • Trailmix

When I head off on bikepacking adventures I will usually pop into a supermarket to pick up anything additional that I want for that particular trip (usually meat, veggies and some sort of bread). 

When on the road I store most of my food in the frame bag. Anything squishable, like bananas and bread, I will usually attach under the attachment chords on top of the seat bag, or on top of the handlebar bag.  

Water

A rather essential thing to have with you on any bikepacking adventure is drinkable water. So it’s key to figure out how to store it and how to restock it safely.

Water storage:

The most common storage places for water are bottles attached to the frame (on the seat tube, down tube and forks), or in hydration packs inside your frame bag or on your back. I believe that bottles attached to the frame are the superior solution for bikepacking, so I tend not to use hydration packs/bladders.

More often than not, a bike will include at least one bottle cage, but this may need to be removed from the inside of the frame if it gets in the way of the frame bag. This can fairly simply be relocated to the underside of the same tube (if there’s room) or to the forks.

If there are no mounting holes / braze ons to attach a bottle cage underneath the down tube or on the forks, there is a simple hack to attach it: Simply strap it on with electrical tape (remembering to put some tape on the frame first to avoid scratching the paint). I like to also add a couple of zip ties to strengthen the attachment.

If you prefer less of a hack solution, Bikepacking.com have an excellent article on cage mounting options.

I personally keep an XL bottle cage in my dry bag for attaching to the downtube on any bike I ride. This allows for the fitting of large 1.5L bottles.

Some recommended XL bottle cages are:

Water filtration and purification:

Being able turn water from streams and rivers into safe drinking water is vital when you’re going to be away from civilization for more than a day or so.

Fortunately, there are a variety of options for turning potentially dangerous water perfectly potable. Being that size and weight matters with this setup, I prefer to use straw filter style devices. These can be obtained for around $20 and are definitely a recommended addition to your setup:

Even smaller and lighter in weight than straw filters are purification tablets/drops like those from Potable Water and Aquamira. These can be used in place of filters if you know you’ll have access to fairly sediment free water (or don’t mind a bit of crunch in your water). Alternatively, they can be used as a backup, or in combination with the above filters for extra protection.

mini-water-filters-1

Personal hygiene

When adventuring there’s a good possibility that you will get dirty and that you will smell. It’s all part of the experience. It also makes jumping into freezing streams all the more refreshing!

This simple setup list provides more than enough tools to keep you fresh in the outdoors:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Eco-friendly soap
  • Wet wipes/baby wipes/moist towelettes 
  • Toilet paper
Some recommended eco-friendly travel soap options are:

Female microadventure setups may need to include an additional item or two, but can still be kept very minimal.

If your adventures will involve any amount of time in indoor public spaces, then it can also be a good idea to include a little bottle of roll-on antiperspirant/deodorant.

Bike tools and repair KIT

Bikepacking tool and repair kits will generally differ based on how much space you have and how far from civilisation you’re likely to be.

This is a microadventure setup  rather than a full on expedition one, so a doomsday scenario repair kit simply isn’t warranted.

These are the essentials that I recommend including in your kit:

  • Leatherman style multi-tool (I prefer the cheaper Gerber)
  • Mini pump
  • Cycling multi-tool (ideally with chainbreaker and spoke keys)
  • Lube
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Tyre levers
  • Spare tube
  • Chain links
  • Gorilla tape (wrapped around lighter or pump)
  • Cable/zip ties
  • Super glue
  • Paracord
  • Voile straps

If you know that the only bikes that you’ll be riding all have the same wheel size, then you should pack a spare tube that size. However, if there’s even the slightest possibility that you’ll be riding on a different size wheel, then always pack a 29” tube.

No matter what size wheel you’re riding, should it ever be necessary to change the tyre, then a 29” tube will fit. Just make make sure you’re familiar with Eric Porter’s universal tube trick, and you’ll always be sorted!

Finally, as lame as it sounds, remember that the absolute most important piece of gear in your kit is knowledge. You should know how to use every tool you have and how to fix at least the most common bike issues. 

Sometimes you may find that things go wrong on the road that you simply don’t have the tools to fix. That’s when your creativity and problem solving skills will be put to the test. Learn the basics, learn the advanced, and learn the hacks so that you have the knowledge to fallback on when needed. 

bike-tool-repair-kit

The setup in storage

When storing your gear in the dry bag, there are some things that you’ll need to consider to ensure that your gear remains in peak condition and your setup is always at the ready.

Tips for Storage

  • All items, should be cleaned and dried thoroughly before putting them in the bag for storage. Especially items that are likely to be wet or damp like the tent and sleeping pad. 
  • The bag itself should be left open, with the sleeping bag unravelled to allow it to loft and breathe. It only takes a minute to stuff it into its sack when you want to head off.
  • Restock food and clean clothes as soon as possible after any adventures so you’re always ready for the next one

The List

With this setup, it would be ideal if everything within the bag stayed inside the bag when not being used. However, for most people, that likely isn’t going to be an option. You may want to keep your top tube bag and bike tools attached to your daily ride all the time, you may want to wear your riding clothes in your daily life or during off-bike adventures, etc.

This means that the bag may not be able to be 100% prepared at all times.

That’s why I recommend making a short list of things that need to be put in the bag before any adventure. I peg this list to the opening of my bag so I don’t forget anything when I head off. Alternatively, you could keep the list as a note on your phone.

I like to always have one change of clothes in the bag, so that when I want to head off, I put on the clothing that isn’t stored in the bag (making sure I have my jacket), and then I’m good to go.

If there are items that you know you might need for some adventures, but not others, then this is the sort of thing that can also be noted on the list.

Safety and comfort

This section will just go over some essential and non-essential items that you’ll want to consider including in your setup in order to stay safe and comfortable.

Bits and Bobs / Odds and Sods

There are lots of additional little things that you may need on an adventure that you don’t realize until you’re already in the thick of it! Don’t forget to include these things in your kit if they’re likely to be needed on any adventures:

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Hat/cap
  • Local map(s)
  • Insect repellent
  • Insect headnet
  • Bear spray
  • Ziploc bags
  • Plastic bags (for trash)
  • Needle and thread
  • Additional dry bags
  • Paracord
  • Lighter/matches

First Aid Kit

Over the years I’ve found that my adventure first aid kit has slowly shrunk to the point of practically being just some painkillers, a roll of medical tape and a needle and thread (for damaged equipment rather than first aid use – but the option is still there!). 

However, I’d definitely recommend something a little more full featured than this. Bikepacking.com have a couple of good lists showing recommended first aid items for bikepackers, which is a good starting point when putting together your own first aid kit.

At the very least you should get a little, cheap, travel first aid kit off Amazon to which you can add a few painkillers. If you have any conditions or allergies, be sure to also include the relevant treatments for those.

Cellphone

There’s a good likelihood that this item was never not going to find its way into your setup.

Cellphones are obviously incredibly useful for a wide range of tasks, but when it comes to bikepacking, its use as a navigational aid is likely where it’ll have most value.

It can also come in incredibly handy if anything unfortunate happens and you need to call in help. 

The downside of cellphones is usually going to be their battery life and their usefulness as a communication device when in signal-less backcountry   

GPS

Not a must-have for microadventures, but certainly a nice to have from both a convenience and safety standpoint. GPS units can make entering the unknown a much less intimidating task.

I recommend the Garmin Etrex 20x, or any of the other units in the Etrex range of Garmin GPS devices; a range which finds a nice balance between functionality and price. 

Alternatively you could get a cycling specific unit which can also record your adventure route and ride details, which I find is nice to have.

I’m currently using the Bryton Rider 450E which is proving to be an excellent device at a more reasonable price than similarly featured cycling computers on the market. 

Seat/Saddle

Saddle sores and other posterior pains – the ultimate ruiner of longer distance cycling enjoyment! 

Having to deal with the majority of your weight, constant friction, and sweaty, moist conditions, the contact point between you and the bike is going to be one of the most important pieces to get right in your whole setup. 

I recommend buying one saddle that fits you and your riding style perfectly, using it regularly, and making it an essential inclusion in your bikepacking setup. 

There are too many variations in body type and riding style for me to recommend any particular saddle. For me personally, however, I can’t speak highly enough of the Brooks B17 leather saddle for longer multi-day rides. 

Having said that, I’m happy riding on most seats, wearing non-cycling specific clothing, as long as I take regular rests breaks and don’t ride for days on end. 

I recommend that you ride lots, learn what works for you, and get the right clothing and saddle to fit.

Helmet

It goes without saying that you should include a helmet in any bikepacking adventures you do. 

What doesn’t go without saying is the fact that you don’t need to spend much at all to get a decent one.

If you already own a helmet, then that’s the right helmet to use with your bikepacking setup. If you don’t already own one, or are in the market for a new one, then check out this article on why you don’t need to spend big when purchasing a helmet.

Lights

I recommend always aiming to find camp well before sunset, so you shouldn’t have to deal with riding in the dark too often. But there will be times when it can’t be helped, or when the weather isn’t playing nice, and you need something to help light the way.

Amazon and Aliexpress have an endless number of bike lights available for next to nothing, like this 7w 2000 flashlight and bike mount for $3.50, and rear lights around the same price point.

$3.50 for a flashlight? Surely it’s crap! Well, a rating of 4.8/5 from almost 6000 people says that ain’t so, and they’ve always worked a treat for me.

In fact, when my $60+ Fenix flashlight died before my similarly styled $3 Aliexpress flashlight, I vowed never to spend silly money like that again. Not only did the $3 light last longer, it outperformed the $60 one!

If you prefer to go for a known name brand from a trusted retailer, I recommend popping over to a website like chainreactioncycles.com and sort by Discount to find decent deals on quality brands.

Finally, these $0.70 silicone lights are always a useful backup to keep in your kit.

For around camp I tend to use the same light as I use on the front of the bike, however, it can be handy going handsfree with a headlamp. These can be had for under $2 on AliExpress or over $100 if you’re after a fancier unit like the Petzl Reactik+.

Hi Vis

Just as important as active lighting is the passive lighting used in your setup – that’s the high visibility elements made up of reflective and fluorescent materials.

One of my absolute favorite parts of adventure cycling is wild, or stealth, camping. When going off track to find a place to set up camp for the night, it’s obviously going to be quite useful to not stick out like a sore thumb, so dark, earthy colors are ideal for remaining as invisible as possible.

However, when riding on the road you absolutely want to stick out like a sore thumb! So high visibility clothing and gear is essential in your setup.

If you don’t care for stealth camping, then it’s easy – go as bright as you can! However, if you’re like me, then you’ll want to find a sensible middle ground where you can change between levels of conspicuousness.

I like the majority of my gear and clothing to be fairly dark or muted tones, but then I’ll have a bright coloured and reflective jacket. Alternatively, you could just include a small hi-vis vest in your setup.  

I find that bright coloured plastic bags are also useful for adding extra visibility to my setup, and I often have one attached to my seat pack to carry trash anyway.

I feel that these steps, coupled with the small reflective elements present on most bikepacking bags and on the bikes themselves, offer a level of visibility suitable to most riding situations. 

For further reading on passive lighting for cyclists check out this article on the Ride Far website.

Don't be a dick

Just as it’s important to keep yourself safe and comfortable, it’s also important to keep others, and the surroundings in which you’re riding, safe and comfortable. I like to follow the simple life rule of “don’t be a dick”. As it pertains to bikepacking, this means… 

  • Learn and follow the cycling/road rules of whichever country or state you’re riding in
  • Leave no trace
  • Know “how to go”
  • Push yourself, but also know and accept the limits of your capabilities and gear. Don’t be the person who’s helicoptered out of the wilderness due to being totally unprepared!
  • Generally be respectful of and towards everything and everyone

Conclusion

If you’re anything like me, you spend too much time imagining yourself off on amazing adventures as you stare at your computer screen in the comfort of a temperature controlled room. Like me, you maybe just need that little extra push to actually embark on your own adventures. 

It’s the simplicity, versatility and readiness of this setup that encourages me to get my rear off the couch and into the saddle, and it may just do the same for you too.

The concept of microadventures already makes adventuring much more accessible to Joe and Jane Norm. The way I see it, by adding a bicycle and a gear setup like this, you can then really push the boundaries of microadventure to the point that they aren’t micro at all.

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