Bikepacking is more popular than ever, and we here at Steezy Collective are big fans of loading up and pedalling out into the wilderness. If you’ve been craving this feeling of self-sufficient, pedal-powered adventure, then you absolutely should go for it, but what if you don’t have all the gear or the funds to invest in it all?
The beauty of bikepacking is that it’s probably the most accessible and inclusive cycling discipline out there. We often see amazing photos of lust-worthy rigs with all the matching lightweight bikepacking bags strapped on, but that isn’t the reality for most bikepackers.
Unless you’re taking part in an ultra-distance race (in which case you really should try to invest in as much lightweight and compact stuff as possible), there’s no need to spend your monthly salary on a bunch of kit for something you’ve not even tried yet. And you don’t have to wait until you can afford to buy the best gear, you can get started right now, with whatever you’ve got to hand.
To show you how this can be done, some Steezers have shared their starting out stories, where they’ve ridden across counties, countries and continents with nothing more than plastic bags strapped to their frames, because that’s what bikepacking is all about really. It’s about carrying all your stuff, in whatever way you can, and getting yourself out on an adventure with whatever you and your bike can carry.
So read on for some inspiration that’ll likely have you gathering bags and bungee cords, raring to get started.
“On my first trip (the tour to and around Aus), I had a secondhand bike, racks and panniers, a cheap frame bag bought off ebay, lots of bungee cords to tie down the tent, and any extras on top of my pannier rack, although I did invest in a new handlebar bag and harness from AlpKit.
“Along the way, I made changes and upgrades, bought a front pannier rack and a set of small pannier bags, before I headed to Central Asia where I’d be carrying a lot more.”
“This was in Albania, before I reached Central Asia. The tent was also one I had already and you can see the neon orange and blue bumbag I strapped on the front that contained my valuable documents (ID, money, passport, meds).”
“I remember trying to attach whatever bags I could find to my bike, I must have looked like such a mess with bungee cords and ratchet straps holding everything together. The worst thing is I never ended up using the tent attached to the seat post, as I found a nice little bus shelter instead, whilst waiting for the ferry!”
“My first bikepacking experience was a tiny overnight experiment for my birthday in April 2021. I’d just gotten a bivvy and I was keen to see where I could get on my trusty hybrid. I packed almost everything in a backpack, including some pre-made pasta so I wouldn’t have to cook or carry cooking gear this time.
“I turned the carrying case for my tripod into an impromptu top tube bag and added a homemade stem bag for my snacks and some warm clothes for sleeping. I didn’t have a camp pillow, so I used an old sweatshirt to make a fuzzy case for one of those inflatable bath pillows I had kicking around. The whole thing was so unglamorous – I rode 10 whole kilometres from my front door – but it felt like magic.
“For someone with an injury that means I can’t really hike 10km one way to go camping, it opened up a whole world to me to see I didn’t need anything fancy to take a little weeknight adventure.”
“When I moved to Leeds, got into cycling and joined Fixed Gear Leeds, I met my best friend Meg. Meg was (and still is!) both a planner and a do-er, as well as an incredible cyclist and top adventure buddy. After a lot of weekend rides where we would head out into the Yorkshire Dales on our fixed gear bikes and I would slowly grind my way up horribly steep hills while she flew ahead of me effortlessly then waited at the top, Meg asked if I wanted to go on holiday with her, on our bikes. I had no idea about bikepacking or touring (this was pre bikepacking being a well-known term), none of the kit I thought I might need, and my only bike was my fixed gear. But I said yes. And we managed to rope two other friends into joining us! “
“We planned a week cycling through Belgium and France (mistakenly deciding that it would be a nice change to our usual hilly rides), and I invested in the biggest and cheapest saddle bag I could find at the time, which was actually rather small and quite rubbish. The saddle bag only fit in my jellyshoes, which I had decided I had to take as I was sure we would swim in the sea at least once, and my travel towel. We planned to stay in hotels, hostels and Airbnbs along the way, so I packed a dress, a bikini, a pair of knickers and a waterproof into a small hiking backpack, with some tools and an inner tube, and I was all set. Super minimalist (except for the jellyshoes).”
“None of us owned a cycling computer, and I was holding out against getting a smartphone, so we had an array of various paper maps which we used to weave our way through the Belgian and French countryside. This involved stopping at every junction to get the map out, finding where we were, and deciding where we needed to go. For one of the days I had printed out over 30 pages of turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps. Despite the ridicule I endured for my route planning and map reading skills, this day was the day we got the least lost!”
“Lots of things went wrong on this trip, but despite not really knowing what we were doing and not really having the ‘right’ kit, it was the start of what became a yearly bikepacking holiday. We sacked off going anywhere flat after the first year and started heading to the mountains, slowly saved up and invested in better kit and the right tools, and worked out what things we probably didn’t need to bring (jellyshoes and eyeliner got ditched pretty quickly). Getting cycling computers so we could just follow our planned route easily was a game changer, but we still take paper maps as a backup, and use them to plan a tour.”
“When I first started cycling in 2015 I loved going to Brighton from London on my bike, but I always felt like I was missing out because I couldn’t stay in Brighton for some fish and chips and a nice meal out. After a year or so of feeling like I was only having half of an adventure I decided to pack up and head to Brighton to stay in a B&B or hotel. At first, it was a little terrifying not knowing what could happen so far from home, but eventually it became part of the holiday! The adventure began the second I left the front door and didn’t finish until I’d done all of my unpacking. I started integrating it into more of my cycling, taking the train to the more remote sportives and having a cycling weekend around an event.”
“The best part of it is that I didn’t need anything extra apart from a bikepacking saddle pack. The rest was all kit I already had for normal everyday biking. I think starting with having somewhere with a roof and a bed to stay is the best first toe to dip in the bikepacking pond; you’ve got the security of somewhere to go if it goes wrong but you’ve also got less to carry. The camping was really just a natural progression of that!”