What to take when going bike-packing?


Must Haves
* The right mindset - nobody said this was gonna be easy :)
* Gravel/Mountain bike with knobby 38mm+ tyres. If running tubeless, ensure sealant.
* Route map on head unit
* Head-unit charge cables with battery pack
* Water carrying capacity of around 3L
* Food
* Lights
* Sunscreen
* Spares: 2 spare tubes, tubeless plugs, pump, tyre levers, multi-tool, patch-kit
* Off-bike clothes (eg. boxers, sneakers, hoody)
* Credit card, ID & cash
* Mobile phone + charging cable
* First-aid kit
* Mask, sanitiser

Nice to Haves
* Spares: chain link, zipties, electrical tape, derailleur hangar, spare valve, chain lube, * extra sealant, brake pads
* Extra contact lenses/glasses if needed
* Rainwear
* Bugspray
* Pliers, Pocket knife
* Luxury Items
* SLR Camera
* Aeropress

For Campers (see below for details)
* Bivi bag
* Tent
* Portable stove & fuel
* Camping cooking equipment

In depth

Like all things cycling there's spending and investment involved, and these items are split in to a few categories, the principal ones being bags and sleeping kit, followed by lights and accessories

Francis did a lot of research and focussed on buying quality but at value. "It's easy to buy stuff off Amazon, but you risk buying twice."

* My first lesson is 'Alpkit is your friend' - these guys sell quality stuff at ridiculously low prices. Their bags aren't as good as Apidura but they are literally a third of the price, and their tents and kit are up there with big name rivals.
* Decathlon is also good for those essentials - base layers, thermals, mats etc.

The three main contenders here are Apidura, Restrap and Altura (in descending price). I went for Restrap, given I wanted something I knew was proven at a high level without the cost of Apidura.

Apidura is undeniably better, but you'd need to be racing hard in harsh conditions to be really bothered. The thing I notice most about the cheaper you go with bags is the saddle pack wobbled the most the lower you go!
No surprise that Tailfin is the most expensive, and if you can afford it, get it.

This is your most expensive outlay, with a full suite of bags costing you £250-300.

Bags setup
For anyone unfamiliar, the best set up is a bar bag for tent etc, frame pack for anything you may need whilst riding, and a seat pack for your clothes and kit. I also have a top tube bag for essentials and sometimes a food pouch if I'm doing ultra distance.

Camping Kit
The key decision here is tent or bivi? Now that's a highly personal decision, based on tolerance and weight. I still struggle with the idea of my face being exposed at night.

For a Bivvy set up there's two brands I'd suggest, snugpack special forces and, unsurprisingly, Alpkit. I ultimately went for special forces as I wanted a central zip to get myself out as I couldn't reconcile myself with sleeping in something I had to wriggle out of. I also bought a special forces tarp to cover the bivi bag.

When it comes to tents, whilst there is no doubt that MSR make the best and most lightweight stuff, I went for Alpkit. I used the Alpkit Soloist 8 times last year, ranging from sub zero conditions on the Ickneild Way, the winds on the beach in Whitstable and relative warmth on the King Alfred's Way. What amazes me is that it doesn't take up much more space than my bivvi/tarp, but provides a much more private experience and you can store your stuff. Perfect for if you're staying at a campsite and intend to hit the pub for the evening. What more could you want?

The bivvi set up was marginally cheaper, coming in at £95, whilst the Soloist was £120.

Sleeping Bag
Unfortunately you can't just use the sleeping bag you used for Glastonbury or your Scout/Guides camp. Those bags are massive and today's bags are ultralight and pack down to the size of a water bottle, whereas your bags of old would fill your whole saddle pack.

Now here I may shock some people, as I went Chinese, but stay with me for a moment. Whilst there are super high quality options from the likes of Rab and North Face, I did a lot of research (correction - a fellow clubmate, Dan, did a lot of research) and it turns out theres a Chinese equivalent of Alpkit that makes some very decent stuff - Naturehike.

Do your research first on their other stuff, but I've used the Ultralight Down Sleeping Bag in -2 and I survived. I'm someone who many of you will know gets very cold, and whilst I did sleep in thermals I was OK! For the other trips above °5 I was absolutely fine in boxers. This also packs incredibly small, and for £100 vs £300 for the big name brands I'm still happy with my choice.

Inflatable Matt 
whilst you can feasibly sleep on the ground this will be uncomfortable and also cold - you don't realise how cold the earth can be beneath you until you experience it. Here I've had two brands

* West Hikers
* Decathlon.

I only changed from West Hikers after puncturing it on a thorn. I dont think you need to be fancy with your mat, you just need low weight and bulk, and both cost under £40. The West Hikers has a raised pillow section, so when buying the Decathlon I bought a packable pillow for £10. It's an essential item for sure!

Jacket (luxury item)
That's your essentials and what you need at a minimum. However, if you want a piece to top the experience off I'd suggest a down jacket.. whilst this may not seem immediately essential to some, remember that whilst you may be warm whilst riding or in your tent, you still spend plenty outside of it. I personally have a Patagonia but I use that every day and that's an expensive option if you're just using it to sit outside a cafe or on your campsite. I've a clubmate that uses a Decathlon and he seems pretty toasty to me!

That's it in terms of Essentials - for cooking kit, fuelling strategies and other bikepacking and endurance riding tricks keep an eye out.

Any questions? Reach out to @Francis on Discord, he will be able to answer