Bike Camping 101

If you’ve been online in recent years you’ve probably seen a steady increase in the amount of folks loading up their bikes and hitting the road for a camping trip. Whether an overnighter or a month-long tour, there are more ways than ever to get out and go bike camping.

We have been getting a hankering to get out in the wild, which led to a bit of research on our end. Anyone is welcome to join the squad, so we threw together some of our findings to share with you, whether you’re completely new to the idea or are ready to up your game and deck out your rig for a longer trip. There are a million ways to approach bike camping, so we’re going to hit the topic from a few angles in the coming months and hope that you’ll join us for the ride.

Choosing your bike.

Many of us have an old hardtail or full-rigid mountain bike in the garage that has been sitting there gathering a thin layer of dust—tough to throw down on the trails but a trustworthy steed, craving new adventure. These bikes are perfect for getting into bike camping. They’re versatile, hardy, and, in most cases, quite easy to spruce up for a modern-day trip. Since every bike is different, we aren’t going to dive deep into maintenance or component upgrades, but we will share some of our favorite accessories to take that old bike and bump it up to the next level.

If you’re ready for more, you could buy a modern bike with all the trappings of a ready-made adventure rig. Niner and Bombtrack are a couple of brands that make bikes we love right out of the box, but there are brands all over the place that will have you going straight from the shop to your tour. Copious amounts of bottle and gear mounts come standard these days, giving you 3 or 4 options on the frame and sometimes even a couple mounts on the fork. Tubeless means less time fixing flats and a more comfortable ride when the going gets tough.

Packing your bags.

We’ll begin with thoughts on what you’ll need to bring along with you. The first thing we like to think about is the different bags and packs we want when heading out for a trip. Generally, a good setup starts with a seat pack, a frame bag, and a handlebar bag. Shapes and sizes vary, but with some combination of the three, you should be in good shape. Depending on how far you’re going, you will also want to think about how much water to bring. The amount of water you need to carry will affect your choices—if you’re headed out for a ride with plenty of water access, you may just need a couple bottles, but sometimes you’ll want a backpack or frame bag with a reservoir.

Once you have bags picked out that are to your liking, you may want a few extra bits to complete the set. Most forks can handle some form of cargo (be wary with a carbon fork) and this can be a great way to carry a big water bottle or anything you can’t fit in the frame bags. We like the Blackburn Cargo Cage or the Dawn to Dusk Bear Hug, which can be affixed to the seat tube, downtube, or forks.

You're All Set Up,
What Now?

You've got your gear, now it is time to fill the bags and pick a route.

So you’ve got your set up. Now it's time to load the cargo. There are obviously so many things you can take with you on a trip—sometimes you’ll want a tent or a bivy sack, sometimes you’ll need a sleeping pad and sometimes you won't.

There are, however, lots of things that you should have with you just about all the time. Regardless of where you’re headed, road, dirt, or some combination, you need to be ready for the unexpected. Inclement weather, flat tires, and the much-dreaded bonktown are all situations that require a contingency plan. We like to keep some food in our pocket and a rain shell in our bar bag for easy access. When you pack up your bike, you’ll want to be sure to pack it with the day ahead in mind. Leave the necessities for last so they’re the first thing you find when you reach into your pack.

Whether you plan your route before or after you get your setup, we recommend having at least a rough idea of where you want to go. There are tons of resources for route planning, like Bikepacking.com or Komoot. Using a route planning tool is not essential but will give you bike-specific details and give insight into the difficulty of the route. If you’re just starting or aren’t sure how fit you really are, try something simple if you can. Our social media manager, Will, camped just 14 miles from home on his first bike camping trip and only went for a night. Finding something close to home is the perfect way to get your feet wet when it comes to packing and riding with all that extra gear.

We hope this inspires you to get up and out on a bike camping trip, or even just start to plan out some new adventures for yourself. If you have any ideas, tips, or questions, feel free to message us on our social media accounts. We’d love to help you get going.