If backpacking, mountain biking and bike touring had a three way lovechild, it would be bikepacking. This unruly, persnickety offspring of the bike touring world knows no bounds of roads, hotels or restaurants. But rather takes the trail less traveled; winding snaking singletrack through the forests and deserts, over mountains and through valleys, stopping for sleep wherever their is a tent platform and the view is lovely.
As I work my way through the Arizona National Scenic Trail section by section (read about this and all of my other quests HERE) I intend to bikepack quite a bit of this multi use trail. Bikes, for me, are my foundational adventure. Riding is like coming home. Comfy, familiar, and yet it has never lost the exhilaration for me.
Bringing the gear needed to spend a night or 5 while mountain biking is a bit of a packing adventure on its own. Unlike standard road touring, you can’t just load a bike and trailer with everything plus the kitchen sink and expect to pedal away. On the road, even on steep sections you can get away with excess baggage or a sloppy packing job to an extent. As long as you can keep pushing the pedals around you will be ok. Not so when touring on trail. The outrageously steep terrain and added challenge of maneuvering over rocks, roots, and switchbacks makes touring on dirt much much less forgiving. Too much total weight and you will have one helluva time moving your bike anywhere. But even more importantly, too much weight in the wrong places is bikepacking death.
You need to be able to control your steel pony over obstacles and not get pitched over the side of a cliff. Weight needs to be minimized and shifted to the middle of the bike as much as possible. Too much weight over your wheels drastically shifts the handling of your ride. Weight over the rear wheel makes handling on trail nearly impossible.
The last section of the AZT that I bikepacked I tried to get away with most of my gear in rear panniers. Bad move. The bike must have weighed 100lbs, all over the rear wheel. I knew better. I did it anyway. It was a bad time.
This time around I did everything I could to shave weight (including a new ultralight Big Agnes tent that was a gift from my beloved. Thanks Darlin!) and moved as much of it as I could to the center of my bike and onto my back. I had a much, much, much better time. I’m sure my kit will get dialed and fine tuned more over time, but I think I have the broad strokes down pretty well. Here is how I did it
That's it! That's how I packed for my relatively lightweight backpacking trip. Do you like to move fast through the countryside? What are your best tips and tricks for stowing your gear? Have other questions? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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