Here is a bikepacking guide from someone who thinks a bikepacking guide is pointless because there is no one right bike setup. I am not going to tell you what to take on your next bikepacking adventure because I know nothing about your next rad bike trip. Plus I’m sure as you know any employee at REI and your local bike shop can school you on technical gear. However, because I love camping, riding bikes and being in neature (yeah nature sure is neat) so much I’ll share some tips that I hope will expand your relationship with your bicycle.
A few weeks ago I rode the Oregon Outback; made by popular by Velo Dirt. It is a self supported dirt ride across Eastern Oregon with many waterless miles and one which requires some degree of planning. It was my second time and I did it on an entirely different bike setup because I had learned some things the hard way. Like, don’t ride Oury grips just because they match your rad whip, ride soft grips that will save your nerve endings so you don’t dread getting on your bike the next morning. A great way to test out your setup is to do a few Sub-24 Hour Overnight trips. The great thing about an S24O is it can be a fun thing to do with friends while exploring your local camp spots. Wake up make camp coffee and ride home with the rest of the day ahead of you.
The key to a fun Oregon Outback is to make sure you are comfortable on your rig. I opted for a drop handlebar over a flat bar this time around because it offers more hand positions and helped distribute more of my body weight over the front wheel so my tush wouldn’t take all the impact on the bumps. That worked for me but there were also fat bikes, cross & gravel bikes, mountain bikes, a fixie (yes brakeless), tall bikes, cargo bikes and blue bikes. Folks carried their gear with traditional rack and panniers, lightweight frame bags, backpacks and some even pulled loaded trailers. Seeing different ways people chose to roll speaks to how versatile bicycles are.
I had an aha! moment when I was descending a gravel trail with a bunch of switchbacks behind a fella who was riding a 20”, 120lb cargo bike with his hands behind his back. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen happen on a bike. Watching him lean his bike through the apex as his panniers swept dust off the ground made me realize we often put more limitations on our bikes than actually exist. I think this is true for ourselves as well. Bike camping may seem overwhelming because of the gear, logistics and frankly the lack of bathrooms was an issue for me at first, but with an open mind and a pack of wet wipes you might be surprised by your own boundaries.
Okay, onto the packing part. The amount of stuff you pack should directly correlate to the pace and mileage of your ride. If you plan on hammering through, cut your toothbrush in half and break out your gram scale. Perhaps you prefer the six day plan like me. It’s full of corn-doggin where you stop and nibble at the toasted end of your corn dog stick in the middle of the trail to see who will come along the path next. If so then you may go relatively lightweight on the necessities so you can pack sling shots, water guns, a heavy camera, whiskey, two pairs of sunshades (one for lookin' fast and one for just lookin') and treats to make friends! Everyone loves treats so pack snacks, patches, buttons or stickers to share and you will have so many new instagram friends!
If you take away only one thing from my rantings make sure to pack two pairs of Machines For Freedom bibs at the minimum. Wash the dirty pair in a clean river, sink or spigot with Dr. Bronner's each night and hang to dry. Well, I’m positive this does not qualify as a bikepacking guide but if you have specific questions on gear I used just ask.