matt grayson bikepacking header photo matt grayson bikepacking header photo matt grayson bikepacking header photo

So you want to be a bikepacker?


Before you head outside, make sure to read up on the government restrictions around COVID-19. We have found this website from Ordnance Survey very helpful. It brings together current advice from government, local authorities and other outdoor organisations, to help you decide where to go and what to do, safely.

So you wanna give this bikepacking thing a go, do ya?

Well, let me tell you, it’s not all breathtaking vistas and unrivalled freedom to ride and explore. Sure, it’s mainly that, but there are also some downsides. Ever woken up at 5 AM in a misty field, soaked to the skin by condensation because you forgot to zip up your bivvy bag before nodding off? Tried to get to sleep with literally a thousand dogs barking at your presence from a quarter of a mile away (this actually happened to me)? Ever had seven punctures in a single day after heading down what – in retrospect – was definitely a mountain bike trail? All these wondrous experiences and more await you if you decide to become a bikepacker.

What is bikepacking?

Bikepacking is a sub-genre of cycle touring, only with less kit and usually covering more ground per day than what might be considered traditional. The idea is to strip away all but the most essential items. So, you can focus all your attention on covering loads of miles. That means the lumpy, packed-to-bursting panniers are left at home, replaced with a swish-looking, aerodynamic seat post pack large enough to hold a sleeping bag, waterproof outer bivvy bag and not a lot else. You’d then typically augment your carrying capacity with an array of different frame packs, handlebar bags and other nifty carrying solutions.

Check out brands like Restrap to explore their comprehensive range of bikepacking kit. Bikepacking is also strongly associated with wild camping. That isn’t to say that classic cycle tourers wouldn’t wild camp. Nor that bikepackers would be averse to nipping into the occasional campsite for a hot shower. Typically, though, it’s the bikepacker you’ll more often find bedding down in the nearest hedgerow, generally worrying less about finding an ‘official’ place to lay their heads.

matt grayson photo of riding setting up for the night
Photo by Matt Grayson

Why do this crazy thing?

Well, mainly because it’s damn fun. The ability to move faster and further means you can fit way more adventuring into your trip. Regardless of whether you have set aside a weekend, week or a month to travel. Bikepackers who don’t have the luxury of weeks and weeks of paid holiday might choose to go on super-short ‘micro adventures’. Taking just enough for one night in the wild – from their front door or office to someplace out in the middle of nowhere, waking up to the sunrise, before riding back home.

Think about it – how far could you get from home in one day’s riding? What incredible spots could you explore? Why not make it a mid-week adventure. Leave work on Tuesday, sleep beneath the stars, then ride in and shower at the office on Wednesday morning?

What kit do I need?

There’s no getting around it, bikepacking is an expensive hobby. You need to invest a little bit in the luggage to carry your sleeping gear, and bikepacking bags range from £25 for an extremely bargainous Planet X Podsac, right up to £130 for a market-leading Apidura Expedition Pack.

The nice thing cost-wise about bikepacking is that you don’t need a bike that’s been built for touring. A bikepacking seat post bag should affix to any bike (within reason) and as such you can use the same machine for bikepacking as you do for riding sportives, racing cross-country MTB or even your battered old commuter bike.

And then there’s camping kit itself, which depends heavily on where you’re going, but you’ll never regret investing in a good quality sleeping bag. You can purchase cooking equipment for campsite meal prep. Or, just dine at greasy spoon cafeterias and good old petrol station buffets.

Still want to be a bikepacker? We say go for it. There’s no time like the present and no feeling like waking up in an entirely new place to a view of the sun coming up. Hopefully without the sounds of dogs howling, or the sensation of a sodden sleeping bag.

All photos were made by our good friend, ambassador and outstanding photographer Matt Grayson. For more great stories and cycling photography follow Matt on Instagram.

Cover for your travels, you and your kit

Since 2019, Bikmo also offers adventure sports travel insurance, to cover all possible aspects of your adventures. For all of our biking enthusiasts who are looking to cover their whole trip. Including emergency medical and repatriation expenses, trip cancellation, baggage damage and so much more!

With 3 levels of travel cover to choose from, and some optional extras, your single trip or an annual multi-trip policy will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your adventure.

Whether travelling alone or with the family. In the UK, Europe or Worldwide. You can choose the level of activity cover you need to meet your holiday travel insurance requirements.