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Bikepacking Basics: One-Nighter Kit & Packing Tips

Bikepacking Basics: One-Nighter Kit & Packing Tips

Bikepacking Basics: One-Nighter Kit & Packing Tips

Bikepacking – in fact, touring by bike with any luggage system – is arguably the best way to see the countryside. Rolling along on two wheels you cover ground at a decent pace, eating up the views as you go, but you’re not travelling so fast that you miss anything. 

Rackless bag systems, AKA bikepacking bags, are brilliant for a number of reasons. They enable any bike to carry luggage – many trail bikes, road bikes and CX bikes don’t feature rack mounts so panniers are a no-go. Consequently, they’re also easy to switch from bike to bike to the needs of different trips. Also, by keeping the weight cinched up tightly to the bike, and spread around the frame and forks, bikepacking bags enable a fully-laden bike to handle pretty much exactly as it usually does. Neat!


So if you’re looking to head out on your first bike-based overnighter, bikepacking bags are a great way to gear up. A seatpack, frame bag and a bar bag or set of fork bags will happily accommodate enough kit for a camp-out without investing in the latest ultralight, super-packable camping gear. 

Now that you’re sorted for bags, the next consideration is what you need to pack into them. Let’s start with sleeping kit. Even in the height of summer, the UK does tend to get a little chilly after dark and protecting yourself against the cold damp air is key to a decent night’s sleep.

For this example, we’ll assume you’re using a bivvy bag – they’re a compact and cost-effective shelter, and the relatively small pocket of air inside (compared to a tent) is easy to keep warm. Underneath you, inside the bivvy, you’ll want an inflatable sleeping mat. They pack down nice and small but provide invaluable insulation to prevent the ground from wicking your warmth away. 

When it comes to sleeping bags, there is a dizzying array of options from the cheap and cheerful to the wince-inducingly expensive. Down-filled bags are more costly, but very warm for their weight and pack down well. Synthetic fills have been coming on leaps and bounds lately though, and are rapidly coming up to match down-filled bags. They’re generally cheaper, and also continue to keep you warm if they get wet which is definitely a pro when camping out in the UK! A summer-weight synthetic bag is rarely enough warmth alone in our experience, however, their small pack size can still be benefitted from. Add in a sleeping bag liner, maybe pop on the jacket you’ve had to pack anyway, and that bivvy bag is starting to get toasty. 

How about a change of clothes? For the one night, you could make the argument that you don’t need a second set of riding kit. We’d say it’s still worth having a fresh pair of bibs, socks, and a baselayer though – all the stuff that’s against the skin. It makes a big difference to how ready to ride you feel in the morning, especially if the only shower you’re getting comes in a pack of wet wipes! Other than that, the extra bits of kit like a waterproof, knee/arm warmers and a second set of gloves are all things that you’d have with you for a full day of riding anyway. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for packing your kit into your bikepacking bags, but there are some universal pointers. For the seatpack, you’ll want to stuff soft and squidgy items in ready to be compressed and cinched up against the saddle and seatpost. In our example here, fresh riding kit for the next day is loaded into a drybag and packed into the narrow end of the seatpack. This is followed by the sleeping bag and tarp (handy in case the weather looks dodgy when you’re setting up camp. Lastly, an insulated jacket is compressing into another drybag. Using individual small-capacity dry bags within the seatpack helps enormously to reduce the pack size of the various items – really go to town compressing things like that jacket, kneel on the bag to squeeze as much air out as possible. The end result should feel pretty solid. Cinch it up well before trying to fit it to the bike, then cinch up those straps good and hard to prevent the seatpack from swinging around while you’re riding. 

In the forkbags here, we’ve packing in some other fairly dense items. Fork bags are mounted quite low, so even if they’re a little heavy the handling of the bike isn’t massively affected. One key difference vs the seatpack as that they are much easier to dip into during the course of a ride, so they have been loaded up with repair kit, another little dry bag with chamois cream, sun cream, hand sanitiser etc, in addition to the bivvy bag, stove and other campsite gear. Once closed up, there’s still room for snacks to be added along the way. 

The framebag is one of the easiest luggage options to be (carefully!) accessed while riding, so we find it’s worth keeping a little room spare here for food items. Anything else you’re likely to pull out often, e.g. extra riding layers, cafe lock or portable chargers, are a good shout to store here, too. The shape also lends itself to longer objects like your pump, or tent poles if you’re using them. 

There are lots of additional bags around too – top tube bento-box style numbers, add-on pouches for bar-rolls to fill up with snacks (noticing a theme?), stem bags where we like to stash a is somewhat never-ending. We’ve covered the essentials though, and the rest is best worked out first hand. 

Now you’re all packed up, it’s time to saddle up and roll out. The biggest difference you’ll notice is that you are, inevitably, carrying a bit of extra weight. Climbs that may have been a breeze before will be a little more difficult, so don’t despair if you do find yourself getting off for a stroll every now and again. It’s not a race, after all. Happy travels!

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