Katherine Donnelly | 01.17.2018

Mountain biking is enjoying something of an upswing in popularity as of late, with the last several years being particularly kind to the hobby of going out for the weekend with nothing but a bike and an armload of supplies to get you through until the work week resumes. 

Much like backpacking, bikepacking takes the best parts of a nature hike and removes some of the major hurdles between you and the great outdoors. There's less concern for struggling over rough terrain and more of a focus on the travel itself, but how do you properly prepare for your first few trips?

Packing for a bike outing is just as important yet as easy as any other outdoor trip, and it carries with it the same pitfalls and concerns to keep in mind whether you're aiming to spend a week on the trail or just squeeze in an overnight trip between work days. Knowing what to pack is just the first step, but it's an easy one to tackle if you have the right knowledge at hand.

With that in mind, here are six important items to ensure you have in your travel kit the next time you take off.

1. Multitools

If you keep on top of your bike's regular maintenance, there's a healthy chance you won't have to worry yourself with any major repair work while out in the field. Unfortunately, strange happenings aren't as uncommon as they should be, leading to lose chains and bolts causing small issues that can be easily managed with the help of a handy multitool. 

Specialty multitools made for cyclists with optional gadgets such as chain breakers are always nice to have, but shooting for something with hex wrenches that fit your bike and a few screwdriver heads is a solid place to start.

2. Spare Tubes and Tire Replacement Kits

If any part of your bike is going to show signs of wear while on a ride, it's the tires. You're probably going to suffer a tire or tube issue first and foremost. One sharp angle or unseen bit of debris can puncture even the best tires, so ensuring you have a kit prepared for a worst-case scenario is vital.

At the very least, carrying a miniature bike pump and a few spare tubes for your bike's tires can save you from having to push a bike with a flat all the way back home.

3. Food and Water

Common sense isn't always so common. Make sure your food plans for the afternoon, weekend or even week are appropriate for your caloric and diet needs. 

You'll probably need more water than you think you will, even if it feels too heavy to take, so make sure you stock up and stay hydrated. Military-style rations make for lightweight and portable options on the go, or you can opt for more traditional foods kept in weatherproof and spill proof containers.

4. Protective Gear

Going for a leisurely ride doesn't mean you can skimp out on wearing an appropriate safety helmet at the very least. Keep your noggin safe from mountain trail spills and you'll live longer to enjoy those mountain trail rides for years to come!

If you're particularly concerned about taking a spill, there are plenty of protective bikepacking options between pads for your elbows and knees, safety gloves, or even neck braces for particularly nasty courses. You might want to start smaller than double black diamond rated trails, though.

5. Sleeping Bag

If you're going to stay out overnight, you might want to get a tent or at least a sleeping bag of some kind. Hammocks are nice, but insulated bedrolls can help you stay warm or cool throughout the seasons. 

Cold weather travelers will doubtlessly get more use out of insulated versions, but keeping space between yourself and the ground is just another step you can take to save yourself from backaches and sore limbs the next morning. No reason to make your trip any harder than it already is, after all.

6. A Proper Bike

The most obvious is also the most important: The quality of your bike should be paramount. You could theoretically take any megamart bike out on the trail, but chances are you're going to suffer more breakdowns and emergency pit stops than with a decent quality bike meant to handle the stresses of non-city riding. 

Various bikes for various trail types and riding styles are freely available, so take a little time to familiarize yourself with suspension types and tire widths to get a feel for what you might like best while out on the trail.

Now get packing!

Packing up your camping gear and getting away for a bikepacking trip at the drop of a hat can be dead simple when you've gotten the hang of picking and choosing what makes it into your next wild outing. Keep yourself well-fed and protected, pack gear to handle emergencies, and you'll make it through even the longest of biking trips without losing sight of the horizon and the beautiful sunrises it can provide.

This piece was written by Contributor Amanda Wilks, an avid mountain biker and bikepacker currently living in Boston. Follow along on her adventures on twitter!


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