Packing for a Three Day Bike Tour
In years past, I did at least one "major" bike tour each year, often with my family. These trips were usually three to five days in length and were confined mostly to paved surfaces. This was "credit card touring," meaning we purchased most of our food along the route and having a large dinner at a restaurant near the day's destination. We stayed in a variety of hostels, motels, and bed and breakfasts but seldom camped.
More recently, I've been enjoying bikepacking as an alternative to traditional road touring. Bikepacking has more in common with backpacking than it does with credit card bike touring. Since I am usually on remote dirt roads or trails when bikepacking, I must carry shelter and food, be prepared to purify my water, and squeeze all of my gear into a set of frame bags designed to cling to my mountain bike in a way that preserves my ability to navigate challenging terrain.
I've recently been trying a hybrid of road bike touring and bikepacking. Carrying much of my own food is cheaper than buying everything out on the road and can be preferable when my routes (although mostly paved) take me far from towns. Likewise, camping is a great way to save money and preserve some of the adventurous, self-reliant nature of bikepacking.
The bike that I'm using for this hybrid approach is relatively new to me and is far from a traditional road touring rig. Road touring bikes tend to retain basic road bike geometry with attachment points for front and rear racks. "Skinny" tires are optimized for road travel. "Panniers" (bike bags) hold all the necessary gear and are often paired in both the front and rear. My bike, the Priority 600, shares characteristics of a road touring bike (rack mounts, robust brakes, expansive gear range) with those of a mountain bike (voluminous 44 mm tires, relaxed geometry, fenders). I wrote a bit about it in this trip report. The packing scheme I'm laying out here was for a three day trip with two nights of camping where I rode on mostly paved or semi-paved surfaces.
Packing for a long trip always takes some trial and error. One challenge of preparing for a bikepacking or long-distance backpacking trip is whittling the loadout down to the barest necessities. Although I could have applied this philosophy to this trip, I was not aiming for maximum speed and carrying a bit of extra weight was no problem for me, especially if it made the trip more enjoyable. I settled on a packing plan that would utilize two small panniers (they are actually front panniers, designed to be mounted on a front track), a dry bag that would ride on a rear rack, and an assortment of other smaller bags.
The dry bag contained my inflatable sleeping pad, my sleeping bag, rain jacket/pants, and sleeping clothes. Visibility on the road is important to me and I have mounted my Garmin Varia radar light and a basic Trek Flare light. The always-on, dynamo-powered fender light is also visible. The photo below demonstrates the incredible utility of the Priority 600's burley, built-in kickstand.
In the right pannier, I packed my tent, poles, and ground cloth. My Kindle and a cable lock (something I would never bring bikepacking) were also housed here.
The left pannier held all of my food and a liter bottle of water. The bottle may or not be filled depending on the day's route. I kept a collapsible coffee cup here because I was looking forward to enjoying at least one café stop each day.
For food, I drew on my experiences from previous trips. I enjoy compact, calorically dense snacks with a mix of sweet and savory flavors. In addition to classic trail mix, I favor prepackaged snacks like Complete Cookies and Bobo Bars (the lemon poppy seed ones are the best). For this trip, a goodly number of Fig Newtons, pretzels, and Reese's Pieces were also in heavy rotation. An old peanut butter jar served as a bowl for my morning cereal. I used a ZPacks bear bag since I hang my food even in less remote campgrounds to keep the critters away from my snacks.
The Revelate Tangle frame bag is an awesome place to stow an assortment of items, including my pump, repair kit, headlamp, tiny Dopp kit, USB charger, cash/cards, hankie, etc. The small bag near my seat-post housed whatever snack I was currently munching on.
The cockpit of my bike features a small handlebar bag from Lead Out! and a Revelate Mountain Feedbag. The former is where I kept my phone. I leave it unzipped for easy access in case I want to take a quick picture or look something up. The Feedbag is cylindrical in shape and has several convenient pockets for sunscreen, lip balm, and hand sanitizer. A USB charger was also there ready to top off my bike computer if needed. The main compartment of the Feedbag was for my Canon camera, keeping it handy for when I felt like taking a higher quality photo.
I'm an over-planner and derive lots of joy from making minor tweaks and improvements to setups like this. I try to learn from each trip and remember as many of those lessons as I can so I don't have to re-learn them each time. This post will help me to do that. But if you are still reading this and are inspired to go on an adventure with your bike, remember– all you really need is a bike and a backpack!