If getting into Bikepacking has taught me anything, it’s this – be prepared. Riding long distances has taught me to have the stuff I need, so if, or should I say when things go sideways, I can deal. I wanted to share a little about what I never leave home without. First I want to talk luggage.
I have never really been a huge fan of carrying a pack. I have an Osprey Escapist 18 pack, which is an amazing piece of kit. Super light weight and about the right size to carry a whole lot of stuff but still remain compact against your body. Packs are fine for trail riding, but when I ride distances I need to get that monkey off my back and pack as much on the bike as possible. Weight on your back = weight on your ass. Seat packs and handle bar rolls hold my tarp, pad, bivy, ground sheet, quilt, stakes (not steaks), clothes, food and whatever else I can cram in there. When I’m just casually riding, I drop the seat and bar bags, but my frame bag and top tube bag stay pretty much permanently attached to my steed.
Frame Bag: If you’re thinking about picking yourself up a frame bag… Do it!
There are a ton to choose from and Elemental Cycle can certainly get you what you need, stocking a range of styles and sizes from Ortlieb and Apidura. I chose to get a Porcelain Rocket (a small Calgary-based manufacturer) custom bag made to fit my triangle perfectly. Custom is a good way to go but be prepared for wait times if you go this route. They are a great place to store uncompressible items.
What’s in my frame bag right now? Well, I have a pump, tube, zip strips, 6 cell lithium ion battery pack for my light, my puffy, spare gloves, buff, first aid. Water is heavy and perfect for storing in your frame bag as it won’t adversely affect your center of gravity. The jacket takes up most of the space in the winter and that’s where the top tube bag comes in.
Top tube bags come in all shapes, sizes and volumes. I think of it as my glove compartment. I fill this little gem with small tools and stuff that I need to get to quickly. Right now I have a multi tool, a flat container with small parts. (valves, valve tool, quick links, a shifter cable or two.) I also pack a small knife, tire lever, patches and food. When spring and summer come around, I usually carry the same stuff though I pass on the puffy, unless I’m bikepacking in which case it gets stuffed into my seat bag.
One piece of kit that I have really enjoyed having and never leave the house without is my Sawyer mini water filter. It stashes nicely in my TT bag for easy access. I’ll carry a SmartWater bottle, which I use as a dirty water vessel that conveniently screws right on to my filter. Fill with dirty water, attach the filter and squeeze clean, filtered water into your drinking bottle. You can also sip right off the filter if you want. With a little planning, I can go on a 200km ride with only two bottles and a filter. Nothing tastes better than water from a natural source. 1 litre of water = 1kg/2lbs. Water is heavy so I carry as little as possible which is counter intuativ I’ll sometimes carry a dromedary bag in case I need to have more H2O on hand.
Spot tracker: I won’t ordinarily carry my Spot if I’m just trail riding. Still, having a way to call for help when you’re in trouble gives peace of mind not only for yourself but for your family too. The units are fairly inexpensive but do require a subscription. Basically you can send custom ok messages, messages saying you’re ok but send help and of corse hidden under a flap is the SOS button. Press that button and you likely have CVSAR out looking for you.
Thats the nitty gritty summary, and if you read this far, thanks. I don’t claim to be an expert bikepacker or rider for that matter. I just want to share what I’ve learned. I’m still learning and that’s what makes it all such a blast. Get out! Ride bikes!