The Chainlink

Bikepacking Essential Gear & Holiday Gift Guide

By Eric Alexander


Before we talk about gear, I’m going to break this into three backpacking categories:

  1. Weekend trip also known as a "Sub 48"
  2. Multi-day (3 or more days)
  3. Expedition (a week or more)

While you will use some of the same gear no matter the length of the trip e.g. bags, keep these categories in mind.  If your looking for a bike there are many choices so I will not be making this a bike gift list (see this touring bike discussion for ideas). I will list the products with a link to the manufacturer so you can look into what you want. I’m going to shy away from listing sites to buy the gear just for ease-of-use and future reference.

Note: I’d like to stress the importance of supporting your local bike shop. They are there for you when you need maintenance and have questions so if you don't see it on the shelf, ask and they will order it for you.

Weekend (Sub 48)

This will be a list of basic products needed for an enjoyable weekend trip. Most of the items on this list will work in all trip categories. In order to keep costs down for the newer bikepacker, these recommendations will not be the lightest, most "baller" gear.

Multi-Day (3 or more days)

This is the next step after you have completed a few weekend trips and sorted out your gear and plan of action. Most of the items used on a weekend trip will be used for this length also. You may need to add a few items if you won’t be near power or basic utilities e.g. bathrooms, running water. Some additional items may include a mobile USB power bank, toilet paper, cookware, and dry food.

Expedition Trip

This is the big daddy of trips. I would suggest completing a few multi-day trips before attempting a grand adventure. The number one thing that will make this trip or any distance trip a success is planning. To tackle a trip of this size you will need to either use a site that has pre-planned routes or sit in front of your computer and plan. In addition to planning your riding route, you will also need to consider food locations and campsites. One aspect many don't consider in the planning stages is, if this is a solo trip, you need to be in right mind and keep your goal in mind. Myself and others that have done long solo tours found it to be a head game i.e. your legs may be good but out on the road your mind wanders.


  • Strava is a good source for a short weekend trip. you can search other peoples routes that are in you area and contact them with questions.
  • Blackriver is a new app in the cycling world with big plans and a group of guys that can pull it off. With this app you can tell a story to go with your route and post pictures along the way. So this is more of a Blog type route tracking app. You are also able to search routes in your area or in any are you are planning to ride in.
  • Ride with GPS is hands down the best place to plan a route. You get features that allow you to zone it via google earth to see what the road surface is. You are also able to connect with other riders to share routes.
  • is a great place to find routes from all over the world. They are detailed with sleeping locations and points of interested all marked on maps that are available for download.



This is the one thing you must have and there are three options.

1. Rack With Panniers

  • Ortlieb panniers are roomy and waterproof they also sell a line or rackless bags.
  • Blackburn Design has a full line of racks, bags, and rackless bags.
  • Banjo Brothers also has a line of both rack and rackless bags. The quality and cost of this brand is a go to for someone just starting out or a seasoned vet.

2. Rackless Bags That Strap to a Seat Post and Frame

One of the most useful bags I have is a handle bar/stem mounted bag.

3. Backpacks

Depending on distance, having all the weight on your back can wear you down. However, this is the simplest, most cost-effective way to carry supplies.


Food - Just bring the stuff your going to eat on the bike and stop someplace for a good dinner before you hit the campsite.

Stoves - You must make camp coffee even if you done drink it, it’s just cool to do.



Tents - The lighter the better and smaller is better.

Alternate Sleeping Option

Hammock - Another sleeping option but the one downside is you need trees lots of trees wherever you decide to sleep.

  • ENO is the most popular and readily available. If you watch REI they put the one link system up for $100 close to Christmas that's half price.
  • Kammok is, in my opinion, one of the best brands. From bug nets to the Firebelly, their gear is top notch.
  • Hennessy is the third option one of the models they offer is longer then most companies offer so if your over 6foot 3 look to them.

Sleeping bags or blankets and under blankets when using a hammock - You have a choice of blanket or bag. I found that a blanket suits me better. The cost of the blanket is less when you consider weight vs fill and temperature rating.

Sleeping Bags - there are a bunch of options so you just need to pick what temperature range you will be sleeping in and how much you want it to weigh.

Your third sleeping option is a Bivy. A bivy is basically a sleeping bag with a mat attached. This is as minimal as you can get and the lightest option. For reference, the same companies that make bags offer a bivy. You can usually find them under one-man tents.


Here's a list of some things I bring along as comfort goods to pass the time or make life easier. I won't offer links because most of these things are common items in any store.

  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Travel size hygiene pack
  • Toilet paper
  • Card game or dice game something small and packable
  • Candy anything gummy makes bad times better
  • A flask of Bourbon in case the gummies fall short.
  • Extra pair of socks... wet socks are no fun
  • Cool people. You will be together 24/7, keep that in mind.


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Comment by Andrew St. Paul on November 25, 2016 at 4:03pm

This is a great write up!

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