Camping comes with one major coin-flip decision: pack all your gear in the car but be forced to stay on the peripherals of the wilderness, or load it into a backpack and carry it into the woods. The win-win solution? Bike packing.
Bike packing takes traditional bike touring from paved roads to dirt trails with the help of heavy duty mountain bikes, built-on racks, and strategic bike bags. Think of it as the highly efficient offspring of car camping and backpacking—you can pack all the gear you want out into the wilderness, but you won't have to lug it all there on your back.
"It's a way to still be on wheels and cover the distance without being in a car," says Natalie Randall, who alongside her husband, Dustin, just launched Roam Industry, a bike packing guide company out of Monticello, Utah. "You can slow down, see the country, and escape to the noises of nature rather than the motor."
The best part? If you can ride a bike, you basically already know how to bike pack. For everything else you need to know, we turned to Roam Industry for the 411.
What to pack
Depending on the season, Roam's must-have supplies include sunglasses, a hat, a scarf that acts as a barrier from dust and wind, a set of cards for stormy nights in a tent, sunscreen, wool socks, hair ties, and a Shammy (a cushioned cycling pad) for sore behinds. A bike packing guide company should provide the bike, a bike frame bag, a seat post bag, a "sweet roll" bag, bike racks, and all the information you need to get where you're going.
What to leave behind
"From past experience, it's clothing," says Natalie. "We almost always over pack and end up wearing maybe half [of what we brought]." She recommends finding a good base layer made from a warm and sweat-wicking material like Merino wool. Pair it with a light jacket that blocks wind and repels water. For chillier mornings and nights, pack a mid-weight jacket you can layer on. "Instead of taking pants and shorts, choose pants and roll them up," Natalie says. If you're really looking to make the tough cuts, forget the tent and sleep under the stars. "Even if the weather does not permit, using a bivvy or tarp system still provides great shelter from the elements and is lighter than a tent."
When to go solo
"We're putting together a bike hire option, which will allow people to hire out the bikes," Natalie says. If you chose to bike pack without a guide, a packing company should still be able to provide you with the information about optional pit stops along your route, like climbing areas, Indian ruins, and the best places to camp.
Roam Industry is currently raising money to help build their company. To donate, visit indiegogo.com.
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