Timo Dillenberger

Bikepacking with the Gravelbike - this is how it works

The bikepacking guide: tips, tricks and packing list

Gravel bikes are the perfect bikes for bikepacking and bike trips. But so that the tour is really fun, the bike must also be properly packed. We give 5 tips that not only save your nerves, but also your back when bikepacking. And with our guide to bikepacking you forget guaranteed nothing.

Mit dem Fahrrad auf dem Asphalt
With our bikepacking tips your bike trip will be even more relaxed.

Tips for bikepacking

Tip 1: As little as possible, as much as necessary

As little as possible, as much as necessary. That is the credo when bikepacking. Always ask yourself the question: What can I leave out in case of need? What equipment saves space and weight?

The question: "What must with?", depends crucially on the length of the trip. Although it is more fun on the bike without a tent, cooking equipment and the complete provisions through nature to drive. However, this also noticeably limits the flexibility in the choice of route and its length. Help can be a mini tent, where the wheel at the same time tent poles,  like the "Bikecamper" from Topeak. This not only saves up to 1.5 kilograms of luggage, but is also effective theft protection for your own bike at night.

Discover more about bikepacking and Gravelbikes at the OutDoor by ISPO from 12 to 14 June 2022 in Munich. All info here.

Tip 2: Distribute weight evenly

The placement of the luggage on the wheel directly affects the ride quality. Many gravel bikes, for example, have eyelets or threads for a rear rack. Smaller and distributed all around the bike bags but get the weight distribution important for off-road and relieve the frame.

With the properly packed bike, fun and safety increase.
With the properly packed bike, fun and safety increase.

Tip 3: Many bags, many advantages

Manufacturers such as the ISPO Award winner Ortlieb also offer compact bags for saddle, frame, handlebars and fork with surprisingly small pack size.

With Gravelbikes bikepacking bags guide it comes now and then to carrying passages, the wheel weight rests then on a continuous soft padding. The important thing here is: push everything heavy deep into the bag. So they avoid strong pendulum and rocking movements.

Topeak's camping solution makes the bike part of the tent.
Topeak's camping solution makes the bike part of the tent.

Tip 4: hydration bladder instead of bottles on the frame

The water bottle on the frame is a classic. Thereby there are much better solutions: On the one hand, the bottles on the frame prevent the bike can be easily shouldered, on the other hand, it requires special bottles with protected drinking valves in the terrain. Better than bottles on the frame are at the Bikepacking small Trinkrucksäcke oder  "Hydration Vests", as they carry Trailrunner.

A 1.5-liter hydration bladder complete with tube on the back, two soft flasks, and a plethora of small and easy-to-reach pockets around the torso keep drinks, bars, tools, or electronics close to your body. They're less likely to get rattled, have a hard time freezing in the winter, and are always easy to reach. Another plus: the bike bags can remain closed in the "open field". The contents remain dry and clean.

Tip 5: Avoid heavy backpacks

As tempting as it is to simply stow the heaviest luggage in the backpack on the back, it is so impractical on long bike trips. Because heavier backpacks change the posture on the bike in such a way that quickly muscular problems occur, even if the backpack feels good.

In addition, heavy backpacks can limit mobility. For fast sections, they also prevent aerodynamics, as they make a strongly bent position impossible. And: the back hardly gets any ventilation off when riding with a backpack.

A good compromise can be here ultralight backpacks without carrying frame.

The most important basic rules for bikepacking

The one method to load the gravel bike, there is not. However, some basic rules prevent nasty surprises on the road:

  • First rule: seat position and pedaling movement must not be changed for the luggage. If something is in the way, it must give way to the driver.
  • Attach a maximum of about one-third of the luggage to the handlebars and fork, so as not to interfere with the steering.
  • Load as low as possible to keep the center of gravity dynamic.
  • Before each start briefly check for tight fit. If one has taken something from a bag, for example, this can be more unstable and protrude into spokes, brakes or crank run.
  • The heavier an item is, the closer it should be attached towards the center of the wheel. Even inside a bag, it is important to pack massive items towards the center.
  • Be aware of width. Gravel routes can go through narrow rock or brush passages, wider than the handlebars should not be the bags.
  • Watch out for handlebar bags on the gravel bike: If the bag is too wide or not tightly lashed, the fingertips can be squeezed or the brake levers blocked.

Packing list: What must, what must not? 

The more variable individual items are, the less must with. Arm and leg warmers plus rain jacket with removable sleeves make a jersey set a universal dress.

The following equipment you should think when bikepacking packing list:

  • Clothing for all likely conditions
  • Tools and repair materials, especially for tires and chain
  • small bandages and for long tours buttocks cream and sunscreen
  • Compact toiletries such as a microfiber towel
  • (Emergency) lighting and or reflective clothing in case the schedule ever goes off the rails
  • Money bag, preferably waterproof or in a zip pouch with ID, emergency contact, cash card, cash depending on the region and coins e.g. for vending machines or the (self)-wash
  • For bike maintenance is enough an old toothbrush and so-called dry lubricant (collects less sand than oil)
  • Attention: Gravelbikes often have "tubeless" tires, which require special pumps! Helpful is also an adapter from Sclaverand valve to car valve to refill at gas stations.

Useful gadgets:

  • Multitool with bike tools
  • Cable ties/tape
  • Powerbank incl. cable
  • Long gloves for protection against brush and in case of ground contact
  • Sunglasses with interchangeable lenses
  • 2 - 4 lightweight lashing straps
  • Bicycle lock (depending on accommodation)
  • Water-soluble mini-drinks, in case there is "only" water
  • on the road.
  • Emergency bars or gels against hunger pangs
  • A map with rough route plotted in case electric navigation fails
  • A whistle for emergencies in remote places

Preparing for a bike trip requires careful execution of bikepacking tricks. By following the basic rules, you will be able to avoid difficulties while traveling and have at hand everything that is really useful on the way.

Share article
Timo Dillenberger
Topics in this article