Ready to try bikepacking?

Published: May 13, 2021

bikepacking bike by woodpile Marek Piwnicki

The 101…
Bikepacking mixes everything a proper outdoorsy person loves: camping and cycling and a chance to see the surroundings at a slower pace, alone or with a group. As the name suggests, it’s like backpacking, but on a bike rather than by foot.

Types of bikes
The best kind is the one you already own, according to bikepacking.com. If you’re in for getting a new bike, consider hunting on Kijiji or Bike Exchange for something like a modern cross-country hardtail, a style which only has suspension on the front wheel. This style offers much more frame space for carting your gear. However, if you own a city bike, you’ll want to choose a route that features paved roads. Check out Muskoka Bicycle Pro Shop, The Bike Shop in Huntsville, or Ecclestone Cycle for selection on new rides.

Read More: How to choose the right bike

Packing guide
Similar to a typical camping trip, you’ll want to pack only what you need, so don’t go overboard (it’ll weigh you down and will also be harder to balance while riding). Here’s a starter list for your bikepacking trek. 

  • Bike gear: helmet, packs (see below for types), lights for night riding, and a repair kit, pump, multi-tool.
  • Accommodations: tarp, and tent, hammock, or bivy sack (good for sleeping solo).
  • For sleeping: Sleeping bag, sleeping mat.
  • For cooking: Portable stove, fuel, matches or lighter, a camping mug, pot, Jack knife that includes a spoon and fork.
  • For drinking: water purifier (such as a filter, purification tablets and a portable reservoir or bottles.
  • To wear: comfy clothes for riding and lounging (socks, bike shorts, rain gear, bike gloves, undies, a toque or baseball hat, also a warmer jacket if it will be cooler at night.)
  • Nav guides: a map of your route, a compass, a GPS and/or your cell phone.
  • For the ride: padded bike shorts, gloves, mountain bike shoes (if you have clipless pedals).
  • Consider an extra pair of casual shoes for camp and rest days. Packing a small tarp to protect your bike in foul weather is also a good idea.
  • First-aid kit: which also includes blister pads, bandages and pain relief (Advil, Tylenol, etc.).
  • An assortment of extras: besides your food and water, think about including a headlamp, batteries, sunglasses, a journal for jotting, and camera. 
  • Hygiene: sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and your typical travel accoutrements for washing up.

Best packing practices
When you’re loading up your bike, there are essentially three types of bags/packs you can use for your trips: 

  • A seat pack dry bag (should be or a seat pack, use a 5-7 liter dry bag), stored around the seat post and saddle rails.
  • A 14-20 liter dry bag mounted along and under the handlebars.
  • A backpack, IF you need a bit of extra carrying capacity—and don’t have any dry bags yet but you’re anxious to get out and start riding—a 14-litre (minimum) backpack is best. 
  • Optional items would include a water bottle cage, a bike trailer for toting heavier items or if you need more storage (say if you’re travelling with a bigger crowd, such as your family).
  • Panniers: to sling over the back of your bike. These are good for heavy pieces like a stove, your food, or water.

Trip timing
How long do bikepacking trips generally take? Whether you want to do one night or a few, ultimately that’s up to you as the rider-slash-pack mule. Dedicated packers might be out on the road for weeks or months and you may find the more you go out, or depending on your destination, your getaway timeline will vary. Something else to consider, which other bikepackers do, is what’s known as credit card bikepacking.

Credit card bikepacking
If you’re not fond of ferrying your own overnight equipment around, you can make things simpler on yourself by enjoying the type of trip that still involves your bike, but also your favourite piece of plastic. You can plan your getaway based on lodges, cabins, B&Bs, or hotels along the way. For some, it’s pretty sweet to be pedaling along, knowing you’ll have somewhere to recoup with a hot shower and a hot meal at the end of the day.

Destination options
The good news is, you can go basically anywhere that you’re already allowed to bike or camp. Some longer bikepacking excursions would be The Central Ontario Trail, a 500 km loop, or the Trans Canada Trail, which will take you through North Bay, Sudbury, and Sault Ste. Marie via Lake Superior’s north shore. For other ideas, check out Ontario Trails, or Northern Ontario.

With all this in mind, once you get geared up and your route mapped out, you’ll be able to enjoy a getaway experience mixed with heart-pumping pedaling, coasting along shorelines and wooded trails, inspirations of nature, and some great memories.

Read more: What’s the best bike to bring to the cottage? 

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