Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river –
There’s the life for a man like me,
There’s the life for ever.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
from Songs of Travel and Other Verses
The Great Outdoors: our first home. From simple pastime, to centering our mental focus, to healing the weary heart of the wayward traveler, enjoying the wonder of nature serves many purposes in our lives. Some chose to experience it from the comfort of their RV, some seek temporary residence in their family cabin (“Glam-ping”), while others take to the trails by foot and hike their way through the wilderness. Personally, for us here at ‘Bago, the more rugged the experience, the better! Despite being the most rugged form of outdoor travel, hiking/backpacking can be limited by the distance one can traverse on foot when carrying a pack loaded with gear. However, when one removes that heavy pack and loads the gear onto a bike, more ground can be covered offering up new possibilities for your outing.
Bikepacking was born out of the long tradition of bicycle touring, where cyclists use racks and panniers for storage of their gear on the bike. Touring with this setup has advantages—namely, being able to carry a lot of gear. More gear means longer trips supplied by more food and water, more tools and repair parts, and potentially sturdier sleeping accommodations. It is not, though, without its flaws. Firstly, more gear means more weight. For shorter trips, this weight only serves to slow one’s speed and turn climbs into grueling grinds. Secondly, the added weight can adversely affect how the bike handles on gravel, B-roads, and especially singletrack. Although the weight can be loaded so as to lower the center of gravity, the panniers distribute the weight away from the midline of the bike, which can make the bike unruly to maneuver sometimes. Thirdly, noise. Nothing more needs to be said about that…
As a response to the growing popularity of minimalist backpacking, BIKEpacking has proven to be a suitable alternative to rack-and-pannier touring by addressing some of the aforementioned drawbacks. Without the metal racks and internal frames within the panniers, bikepacking packs are a significantly lighter option for storing and hauling gear. Less weight = more speed, especially when accelerating and climbing. The frame bags also keep a tighter front profile, improving handling on rougher terrain. Furthermore, with the bags being more pliable, gear can be “creatively stored”—stuffed—onto the bike and be more easily accessed. And… no noise!
Bikepacking lends itself well to an ultralight style of camping. This means that where it may be easy to carry a large tent, down sleeping bag, and ground mat, one may want to opt for smaller options, including bivy sacks or hammocks. Tarps can be replaced by lightweight shelter footprints, or even and sheet of Tyvek! As for other gear, one must sometimes get creative in finding ways to cover needs while reducing weight and volume of gear to fit into the smaller-volume frame bags.
If you find yourself interested in exploring the outdoors by bike for extended periods, stop by Winnebago Bicycle and talk with us about your plans. We can offer advice on bikes for bikepacking, gear, clothing, and even opportunities to join us for a weekend expedition to test the waters of bikepacking. Let us share our passion of outdoor adventure with you!