Thundercats rider, Lina Bivainyte, talks us through her recent bikepacking experiences and offers up some tips for those thinking of giving it a go!
Bikepacking was never really on my list of things to do, but over the last year or so, seeing friends exploring the country got me intrigued and rather jealous of all the fun they were having off-road. This seriously got me looking into the gear needed. I decided to trade my cyclocross bike for a gravel one and slowly started picking up a few bike bags as well as sleeping and camping gear. You could literally invest hundreds into the quality stuff, but you could equally borrow things from friends and do it on the cheap to begin with. Once you know you’re into it, you can always upgrade and get the latest and lightest gear for your bike. Here is some of the key things you would need to get started for an enjoyable bike adventure.
I know a lot of people out there choose to bivvy [essential a very small, lightweight shelter/sack], but after hearing some sleepless night experiences I decided to spend a bit more time researching the type of sleeping set up I would be comfortable with. After all, you don’t want to be waking up exhausted and having to do a long day on the bike, so this is key to get right (well, at least for those who prioritise sleep!). Although bivvys are quite small and fairly stealthy – especially great when you don’t want to be noticed or disturbed – they can make you feel like you’re very exposed with little protection. If that’s not for you, I’d highly recommend investing in a small tent.
My top pick is the awesome 2 person tent from Alpkit called Aeronaut that has a pole you inflate with a bike pump – absolutely genius for all the bikepackers out there. And if you’re a light sleeper like me, a tent or a bivvy with a hoop sounds like a much better choice. Having done enough camping, I would also suggest taking a sleeping mask and some decent ear plugs for a bit of extra comfort. If you are planning to camp out during the summer, it gets pretty light very early and birds are so loud too, so they come in extra handy to get a bit more shut eye in the wild.
Once you have some basic gear sorted, you could do a test ride and camp somewhere you are going to be comfortable with. This is by far the easiest way to see whether you’d enjoy bikepacking – doing something fairly local and for one night is a good start. You don’t want to be far away from home or doing a new route in case things don’t go to plan, but if you’re prepared and researched well, you could certainly be more adventurous.
The next thing you need is a good bag/strap system that will hold everything you need for your trip. You could certainly go down the road of getting bikepacking bags such as frame, bar and saddle packs, or you could try a few dry packs with straps. These are usually much cheaper, easier to adjust, fit and are more versatile too. I personally have chosen a mix of Restrap bags and Sea To Summit dry packs with Voile straps. So far, this set up has been great and I love how great it is for low bars with little clearance at the front and at the back of the bike. My last tip for packing is using Z Lok Combo – not only it is useful as a lightweight bike lock, but you can also strap things like flip flops with it to your bike packs or other gear.
Finally, a good coffee set up can really help with early mornings. All you need is a small gas stove, mini gas canister, a titanium pot or a mug to heat the water in and one of the coffee making systems such as filter or an aeropress. We found this perfect ultralight GSI Java Drip that fixes onto a mug, is super small and is absolutely perfect for a decent brew. I recommend to take some paper filters for a slower drip for it. Oh well, and coffee of course! I usually just bring some that’s already ground to save on space and weight.
These would be my top tips on starting out with bikepacking and getting your first mini adventure in! See you out there on the trails.