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Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction on 05/15/2012 17:48:53 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Great Article! on 05/15/2012 20:39:24 MDT Print View

Great article! Well written (as usual) and I appreciated you keeping it simple enough that mere mortals like me could keep up. I'm inspired to go out and try bikepacking after being off a bike for the most part since I was a teen.

One area that wasn't mentioned was Idaho. I saw some very remote and rough dirt roads along the Idaho-Montana border and I'm sure a good trip could be put together there. Off the top of my head I'd be thinking about that dirt road between the Selway Bitterroot and the River of No Return Wilderness areas. That would give you a nice stretch of riding in a remote area.

Edited by Cameron on 05/15/2012 20:46:51 MDT.

Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Gear? on 05/16/2012 08:18:37 MDT Print View

Great article. I was hoping there would be recommendations for bike-campers: how best to carry your gear, what shelters are good for protecting your bike, etc. Will there be a separate article on this sometime, or is the subject too narrow?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: bike gear on 05/16/2012 08:30:03 MDT Print View

Richard, as mentioned (perhaps briefly) above two more articles on packs and rackless carry bags will be appearing in weeks to come. They'll review specific pieces, discuss techniques, and build on the themes touched on here.

Luke, the Magruder corridor road splits the Selway and Frank Wildernii, and is an excellent dirt tour. Especially in the narrow window when almost all the snow has melted out but before the road is open to vehicle traffic.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
singlespeeds on 05/16/2012 11:31:53 MDT Print View

Does this mean coaster brakes are back too? I really miss those, and am jealous of my kids' bikes!

Edward Barton
(edwardalbarton) - F
Salsa Anything Cage on 05/16/2012 12:05:56 MDT Print View

For a pack option that may not be covered in the follow-ups, check out the salsa anything cages. Great for carrying a tent and sleeping bag low on the front wheel. Inexpensive, fairly light, moreso than a full front rack, and the low weight adds stability without widening the bike's profile too much. The softpack approach at Revelate etc. also works well, but this can be a good supplement to that without much added weight. I took them largely off-road over the Pyrenees last summer. The welds are weak and failed after about 2 weeks combined on the trail and road. I replaced them with some bits of wood, rubber, and hose clamps and they've worked well ever since.

Dylan Snodgrass

Locale: San Francisco, CA
Salsa Anything Cages on 05/16/2012 12:49:15 MDT Print View

I had the Salsa Anything Cages fail at the weld points after a few days of dirt touring. They were replaced and failed again after another 3 days. My experience is that although a good idea they are not suited for real world use until Salsa changes the design and/or manufacturing quality. Cass Gilbert agrees:

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction on 05/16/2012 15:13:23 MDT Print View

Good primer, Dave. One error though. There was at least one more Lost Coast ride done by two Bozemanites. Granted they repeated the original Lost Coast route but their journey is worthy of mention.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Lost Coast on 05/16/2012 15:44:13 MDT Print View

I wrote three, but in fact four bike trips have been done on the Lost Coast: Parsons-Kentch (Yak-Cordova), DeWoody-Lawson (Yak-Cordova), Dial et all (Yak-Gustavus), and Mauri Doro (Yak-Cordova). Doro was solo and on a 29er with snocat rims. He has a blog and youtube vid in Italian.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Lightweight Bikepacking comment on 05/16/2012 17:34:23 MDT Print View

Excellent article. Thanks for taking the time to write it and thanks to BPL for publishing it.

I had taken several paved road camping bike trips in the 70's, but gave up on it in favor of hiking because I really don't like riding near cars. In 2006 Jim and I learned about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and it inspired us, so in 2007 we took our first joint bike trip - Banff to Antelope Wells on the GDMBR. We LOVED our GDMBR ride, and would put it in our top five trips ever. We've since taken two more bike trips that mixed dirt roads and very quiet paved roads (2 weeks in Northern California and one week in Central California).

To bucket myself, I'm a Dirt-Road rider, no interest in and no skills for technical riding. The GDMBR is a masterpiece of non-technical dirt road routing. It's ridable by a reasonably fit person with regular old riding skills and a solid reliable bike. I'd say anybody who can backpack for a week and who rides a bike on a regular basis (like commuting to work) can ride the GDMBR. Don't get intimidated by the fantastic videos David included of HellBike trips! The GDMBR includes some technical sections (that can be hike-a-biked by the likes of me), but most of it is ridable by people with no technical skills. The more fit you are, the less time it takes (and more enjoyable it is), but it doesn't require the 80-100 miles/day strength and endurance that one might infer from David's article. We didn't take a camera on that trip, so no photos to share. There's a lot more information about the GDMBR over at

Also, I just posted a long-overdue trip report about a one week Central CA trip we took a couple years ago.

Edited by drongobird on 05/16/2012 17:36:09 MDT.

Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Great Article on 05/16/2012 18:09:02 MDT Print View

A combination of bad knees and wanting to drive less has made me seriously think about doing bikepacking lately. So this is an amazingly well timed article for me. It isn't a short ride to the mountains for me, about 60 miles, but I could be interesting.

I'm excited to see the new couple of articles.

Casey Greene

Locale: upper rattlesnake
Snowy Hellbiking on 05/16/2012 18:25:43 MDT Print View

I think lower 48 wilderness areas are perfect for hellbiking. Ride to the Wilderness boundary. Put the bike on the back. Come out the other side. Get back on the bike.

Last weekend in the Selway-Bitterroot:

Summertime on the Bass Creek Trail

Racing the morning sun up the pass with a frozen Bass Lake below

S Fk Lolo Creek

ps. My work may or may not share my views with due to the legality of this practice.

Edited by caseygreene on 05/16/2012 18:58:32 MDT.

Casey Greene

Locale: upper rattlesnake
"Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction" on 05/16/2012 19:19:32 MDT Print View

btw, Great break down Dave, and as usual, well written. Wish this one wasn't lock into a BPL subscription. I'd be sending it out to the many folks who are calling ACA with bikepacking questions. All signs pointing to a rise in popularity. If all things go well, by this time next year the GDMBR will not be ACA's only dirt route.

Edited by caseygreene on 05/16/2012 19:33:57 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction on 05/16/2012 20:59:54 MDT Print View for those who cannot read it and it's free.

Edited by jshann on 05/16/2012 21:08:19 MDT.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
fantastic on 05/17/2012 00:22:06 MDT Print View

Awe-inspiring. I am looking forward to reading about even more great places to go - especially for wuss "dirt-riders" like me.

For the upcoming write-ups on equipment, I will be very curious to hear what is currently *affordable* in the lightweight category. While bikepacking I have found that I cannot carry more than 10 pounds, tops, on my back, otherwise my shoulders start to hurt and my balance is really thrown off on the downhills. Therefore I try to move as much weight as I can to the bike - water goes into the bottle cages; bike repair items go into the underseat bag; etc. But I'd like to move a lot more weight from my back to the bike frame, and what I've found is that the two obvious solutions - those "triangle packs," and the larger under-seat bags that stick out over the back tire - are really expensive.

My Osprey Talon has been a fantastic pack for bikepacking, though - no complaints there.

Riding in Canyonlands aside, the most practical aspect of bikepacking, for me, is (a) the ability to ride my bike, instead of driving a car, to a trailhead, before starting to hike. And (b) the bike makes it a lot easier to do one-way hikes; when finished, you just get on your bike and bike back to your car.

- Elizabeth

Przemo Duszynski
(tonzlero) - MLife
Well written on 05/17/2012 03:29:21 MDT Print View

Great article, I think the quote at the beginning captures everything written above in a small universe:

“Slow enough to see the trees, fast enough to get through the forest.”

Casey, that's an interesting way to carry your bike. I was wishing I had such possibilities while lugging my bike thorough some very exhausting terrain. How are you strapping your bike to the backpack? Don't you have any issues with stability or the bike hitting you legs?

Edward Barton
(edwardalbarton) - F
Re: Anything cage on 05/18/2012 11:48:08 MDT Print View

Yeah I had the welds fail too as I said - best thing I found is to replace the welded pieces where they attach to the fork with some small pieces of wood, rubber, and hose clamps. After this they've worked perfectly for me, and still at less weight than a rack. Having some weight on the front also helps balance the bike, and adds stability because it's so low. For me they free up weight and bulk on my back and lead to more stable riding without a big weight penalty...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Bikepacking on 05/18/2012 12:08:49 MDT Print View

Thanks Casey. That GT looks pretty sweet. Eno hub?

Carry systems will be addressed in more detail soon, but I will say that the concept of the Anything Cage is for me less than impressive. Too much weight and complication (and failure points) for too little useable volume. But I also hate having any weight of consequence on the front end.

Elizabeth, you are correct that the custom frame bags and seat bags from the big three are expensive, but quite simply you get what you pay for; namely, cutting edge materials and construction quality which puts many cottage and mainstream backpacking gear makers to shame.

Fortunately a simple, one compartment frame bag is a very easy MYOG project, and there are plenty of ways to cludge a compression sack strapped under the saddle as a decent seatbag. I used that rig myself for many years. Not as stable or capable of carrying as much weight as a proper seatbag, but perfectly serviceable for hauling an UL sleep kit.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Lightweight Bikepacking: An Introduction on 05/18/2012 15:04:15 MDT Print View

I hope things have changed!

I have been against bikes on backpacking trails due to bad experiences in the early 1980's. I am now rethinking my (hopefully!) out-of-date opposition.

Riders then seemed most interested in whooping and hollering and taking risks, paid no attention to trail etiquette, scared all the wildlife, thought they owned the trials, routinely violated trail rules and laws, would run you down if you didn't get out of their way, etc. I had no problem with them riding on logging roads and such, but I didn't want them anywhere near me on a regular trail, and I stayed away from trails that allowed bikes. For the record I was an avid road biker then, went on multi-day road trips, and I commuted to work by bike for decades.

I'm hoping those types have been forced out via peer-pressure and that the remainder are thoughtful and courteous users of the trails, as are most (not all!) backpackers I come across.

But I haven't come across bikers on trails in quite a while, perhaps because the trails I use are too rough for bikes (e.g. Adirondack High Peaks, White Mountains). Have they changed? What is your experience?

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Hellbiking in the Lower 48 on 05/18/2012 15:46:22 MDT Print View

David - Great read, as always.

I do challenge the idea that you need to go to Alaska for a true hellbiking experience. In Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada there are some fantastic (even legal) opportunities for trail-less adventure rides. All is needed is an adventures spirit, willingness to suffer, and imagination.

My favorite "hell bike" to date is the Wyoming Range "Trail." More of a route then a trial this ride follows the crest of the Wyoming Range for seventy-five wild miles. Many of these miles are essentially trail-less and the rider is required to navigate a maze of game trails, barren ground and alpine tundra. (

In the Red Desert hundreds of miles of un-mapped wild horse trails and fading jeep trails provide intrepid cyclist days of adventure and exploration. A GPS and lots of water are essential.

Even Roman in the peak of his hellbiking didn't limit himself to Alaska. Among other epic adventure rides in the desert he completed the Canyonlands Grand Tour. (

More recently Andrew McLean completed a bike/packrafting tour near Canyonlands that is best described as hellbiking.(

Edited by forrestmccarthy on 08/03/2012 08:44:39 MDT.