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10 Tips to Begin Your Bikepacking Adventure

Bikepacking is pretty much backpacking on two wheels — a bike. I think it’s a gem of a way to experience the world, as it tends to take you off the well-trodden path.

“It’s any adventure that involves riding your bike and staying overnight.”

white mountain bike leaning up against rock formation
Start your adventure by getting a bike. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)

Bikepacking: getting started

So if you’ve never been on a bikepacking adventure, where do you start?

1. Get a bicycle.

2. Set a date — you may never feel 100 percent ready, but just pick a date, stick to that date, do what you can in between, and that’s enough.

3. Invite a friend.

4. For longer trips, a spot GPS (tracking messaging device) automatically sends emails to your mom or sends for different levels of help if activated when there is no phone connection.

5. Pack light — bring a small tent, sleeping bag and mat, cooking utensils, lightweight waterproof clothing, matches, camera, and harmonica or other small instrument.

6. Take care of your body and your bike. Pack food, water, a first aid kit, and a bike repair kit.

7. Wild camping is good — you are braver than you think. This is the best way to learn new things about the world.

8. Listen to your body. If you push yourself too hard, you might end up doing damage to yourself, which may set you back. Pace yourself — you may even see more wildlife this way.

9. You are only lost when you want to be somewhere else.

10. Your adventure is your own — there is lots of advice online to draw from, but every trip is unique, so learn as you go.

dirt road entrance to fish creek wash
It is essential take plenty of water. Entrance to Fish Creek Wash. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)

California Dreamin’: famous bikepacking trail

Here are some photos from a bikepacking route in Southern California that follows the path of a famous ride called the Stage Coach 400.

Mountain bike in rocky landscape.
The spot GPS keeps a log of your position that is loaded on a web server for friends and loved ones to see. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)
The landscape shows channels left behind by underwater mountainous regions.
It’s hard to believe this was once the bottom of an ocean. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)

Part of the trip goes through the high desert and used to be an ocean, the Gulf of California. The landscape shows channels left behind by underwater mountainous regions.

stratified rock wall
Stratified rock walls rising up to occasionally impressive heights. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)

You can see fossils of reef and petrified forests. It’s a geological dreamscape.

bike packed lightly with bags
Packing light is key to a good journey. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)
View looking towards Whale Peak, Anza Borrego National Park, dusty light brown soil mountains dry shrubs
View looking towards Whale Peak, Anza Borrego National Park. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)
tent in desert
It’s not 5 star, it’s billion star accommodation. (image: Raffaele Giordano)
cholla cactus
Cholla cactus, delights of the U.S. desert. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)
american road with no cars and mountains in background
The wide open road. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)

Think local

If you can make your bikepacking adventure as local as possible, that’s a step in the right direction for reducing your carbon footprint, and you’re getting fit at the same time.

 Anza Borrego mountain view
Make time to rest and enjoy the view. Anza Borrego with Granite Mountain in sight. (Image: Raffaele Giordano)

With so much of my time these days spent in front of a computer, there is nothing better than disconnecting from technology for a while to refresh your batteries. By choosing something physical, challenging, inexpensive, and out in nature, I find I really gain perspective.

Remember, you are more brave than you think.

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  • Jessica writes about films, and occasionally gets to direct them. Music, photography, art, poetry, reading and travel are pretty good too. She has a love of silent films, they are the closest she will ever get to "time travel."

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