As any experienced bikepacker can tell you, a back can hold more gear than you’d think. Just make sure that the total weight of you and your gear doesn’t exceed 275-300 pounds. Equally important is how you distribute that weight.
Learn the various storage packs available, and how to best stow your gear!
What Kind of Bike Do You Have?
Certain bikes, particularly gravel and mountain bikes, come prepared with mounts and racks to hold your gear. Road bikes typically do not. Keep this in mind when picking a bike for your bikepacking trip, or when deciding how to pack.
If you’ve simply got to use a road bike, some packs can still be strapped onto it. There are also additional accessory racks and harnesses that you can attach to deck any bike out. A mountain bike or gravel bike is ideal for maximum storage, however!
How Much Weight Can Bikes Handle?
A bike can hold anywhere between 250 and 300 pounds in total. This means that whatever you weigh, plus your luggage, should not exceed this.
Even then, the more it has to carry, the slower your bike will go. Too much or too-heavy gear can also make handling your bike more difficult. So, try to pack light.
Along with the amount of weight, how it is distributed is equally important. After all, a badly balanced bike could tip right over!
What Bikepacking Bags Are Available?
There are several bags that you can store bikepacking luggage in, besides the good old-fashioned backpack. The most useful of these are the frame pack, the handlebar roll, and the seat pack. These will carry the bulk.
There are also top tube bags, stem bags, and cargo bags, which can hold accessories like cellphones, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more!
Top Tube Bag
Top tube bags are typically connected by velcro to the top tube and stem or head tube. This grants easy access to small items like water, snacks, maps, your cellphone, sunscreen, pepper spray, sunglasses, etc.
For the sake of bike handling, ensure that the things you store in your top tube bag are lightweight (the pack is fairly small, so it’s hard to overpack anyway).
Next, we have the infamous seat pack. When packed right, this can provide some excellent out-of-the-way storage space. This is where you can put bulky items like a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, rain gear, clothes, and a tent.
When packed incorrectly, the bike can seriously begin to sway from the seat pack. Make sure to distribute the weight properly, and store the heaviest items closest to the seat post.
As you can imagine, you will not be able to go rummaging around in a seat pack while you’re on-the-move. This means you’ll want to store any items you’ll need during your ride elsewhere (such as a top tube bag or stem bag).
Your frame pack is your heavy-duty pack. This should hold weightier items like bike tubes, food, bike repair tools, and your stove and fuel. This will keep your bike’s center of gravity low. The bike frame is also an ideal place to store your water.
Additionally, because bike frames are within reach, many packs have a couple of pockets or compartments. These are fine places for a wallet, your keys, or even a snack.
Some frame packs even have dividers, so it’s easier to organize what you store (in others, they are all together in one compartment).
Handlebar Harness or Rack
People have been storing things on their handlebars since bike riding began; it’s an intuitive spot. You’ve got some free space and a few bars to work with, which is perfect for a roll, harness, or rack.
Keep in mind, you want lightweight items stored on your handlebar. Otherwise, they can interfere with not just your balance, but your ability to turn.
Clearly, this would be a bit of a risk! Instead, take some of your bulkiest items and roll them up for storage in a handlebar harness or rack. This means things like your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, or coat.
A stem bag is designed to attach to your handlebars and stem. This means it will be in close and easy reach as you ride, making it the perfect spot to store a snack!
This can also be an excellent place to keep maps, your cell phone, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water. Some are even insulated to keep your snacks and drinks cool. When you’re feeling a bit hot and sweaty from biking, there’s nothing quite like a reliably cold drink!
A cargo cage is located directly on either side of a bike’s front wheel. Cradle-style cargo cages are capable of helping hold fishing poles, tent poles, and other gear.
Your average cargo cage is usually used to hold things like water, extra clothing, or a first aid kit. This is a place to store whatever you have leftover.
Just make sure to keep it lightweight. Remember: most weight should be focused at the center of the bike, ideally (the seat rack and frame rack).
Along with all of these unique packs, we have the good, old-fashioned backpack. There are plenty of backpacks that are compact and lightweight enough to bike with comfortably.
These can be used to store odds and ends, such as your hairbrush, toothbrush, journal and pen, and toothpaste, medication, etc.
Backpacks are also a good spot to keep a freshly-made sandwich or another snack. Some are even insulated for storing food and water, so you can enjoy a cold drink!
Why Does Weight Distribution Matter?
Why does weight distribution matter so much, anyway? For a biker, the distribution of weight on their bike will affect its handling directly. This means that a poorly balanced bike will literally be more difficult to control, proving a real safety risk.
You will need to give due consideration to each item you stow, trying to keep everything nice and lightweight. Only a few heavy necessities should be brought, and these should be kept primarily to the frame pack and seat pack.
If you’re not worried about the potential danger, it may interest you to know that better weight distribution on your bike will also allow you to go faster!
As you can see, there are a variety of nifty packs that you can attach to your bike. You can use these to bring all of your most important gear – and then some – on your bikepacking trip. Just make sure to distribute the weight properly, and don’t overpack!