Having lots of experience the last few years thru-hiking, including the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail, I wanted to try a new style of venturing out into the wild. To do this, I reached out to my close friend Liz Sampey to help guide me into the world of bikepacking. She has way more experience on her bike than I do.
Here’s what I learned from this trip:
1. Bring your favorite foods: If you enjoy eating food as I do, I will bring a lot of it! I was kind of surprised how much hunger I felt, but also, mountain biking with 50 pounds burns SO MANY CALORIES! Bring your favorite treats, sweets, salty things, and of course, bring Oreos.
2. Make a loose plan of what you want to do: One of the most significant differences I have seen with thru-hiking and bikepacking is that a lot can go wrong with bikepacking, which makes sense since a bike is an additional piece of gear with many moving parts. Instead of stressing about the miles and scenic locations, consider the new and beautiful feeling of riding a weighted bike. Feel how grounding it is and notice how it balances differently with the additional weight.
3. Try and plan your trip around good weather: I know this can be difficult because scheduling can be difficult, but your first trip doesn’t have to be a ton of miles. And to be honest, I am not even sure how many miles I did on this trip because that was the last thing on my mind. Liz and I had a general idea of where we wanted to go, but she mostly encouraged me to listen to my body the entire time and let IT decide when it was time to rest. Your first backpacking trip doesn’t have to be “EPIC.”
4. Get Creative: Having a thru-hiking background, I think I expected more of a system for how stuff is packed onto my bike. Granted, Liz had a GREAT system since she’s been doing this for a long time, but we constantly were adjusting our packs, checking our tires, and making sure our clothes felt comfortable as we pedaled. Thankfully, we were outfitted with great cycling clothes, which I highly recommend checking out some very cute and comfortable gear!
5. Bring good company: Bikepacking can be kind of intimidating, at least it has been for me. Bringing someone with a positive attitude and willingness to talk about the real stuff can make or break your experience. Bring someone you can laugh with as you walk your 50-pound bike up the steepest, longest hill. Bring someone you can share your fears with. And ultimately, bring someone you trust.
Bonus tip: Don’t get hung up on having the perfect/best gear to get started bikepacking. Some straps to tie stuff to your bike and a backpack should do the trick to get you started. Sure, down the road, great gear can make it a little easier, but it’s not necessary to get going! Beause, that’s bikepacking, baby!
I had the best first experience bike packing, and it was because of these five reasons that I did. What tips would you share for first-time bike packers? Share them in the comments below. ⬇️
Grizel Caminas was born in Miami, Florida, and raised by her beautiful Latinx family. She received a Master’s Degree in Psychology in Counseling and practiced as a therapist. She learned so much about herself, a passion for genuinely hearing others, and a love for the outdoors.