Sleep, bike, bike. Repeat!
Bikepacking is for everyone. It is often labelled as very adventurous, while it is accessible to everyone. You can easily organize a multiday biking trip without camping in the wilderness. Of course camping has its charms, but this is not a precondition for a nice bikepacking trip.
Do you need some luxury or are you a more avid camper?
There are many possibilities for a qualitative, bike-friendly overnight stay at a reasonable price: hotels, youth hostels, bed & breakfasts, etc. It is interesting to look for bike-friendly places to sleep. Somewhere to hold your bike safely for the night.
If camping gives you the ultimate feeling of freedom, then it is best to buy some lightweight compact camping material. Be aware that every country has its own rules on camping. For example, in Belgium, it is not allowed to camp next to the road or in some random forest. You have to search for an official camping spot or ask some friendly farmer to sleep on its private land.
“If you camp out in nature, it is very important to be respectful towards nature and the environment. Please leave the camping spot in a proper clean way, so you do not pollute the surroundings.”
When you prefer to camp then of course you have to think about a number of things. For example, it is important to buy compact lightweight camping gear. A festival tent seems easy and straight forward to set up, but is very unpractical to bring with you on a bikepacking trip. There are many types of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, cooking gear, and so on that can be easily carried on a bike. Originally these were developed for hiking, but are now also very useful for bikepacking. In this article we discuss different possibilities.
A roof over your head
In the summer, it can be very pleasant and adventurous to sleep under the stars. Yet many people like to have a roof over their heads at night. The feeling of having some protection to the elements makes them sleep better, and a good night’s sleep is important on a multiday bike tour. You can choose to work only with specifically designed tarps or really go for an enclosed tent. As always, this is of course very personal.
“Here in Belgium, in my opinion, it is best to bring along a tent. It often happens that the weather turns, and you can expect a rain shower. Then you are more comfortable in a tent anyway.”
A tarp or sail has the advantage of being flexible and easy to install. Moreover, it is very light and compact. However, it exposes you more to the elements and insects or other animals. It withstands rain, but wind can always blow some water in. A tarp is therefore especially useful in temperate climates with warm and dry seasons.
A tent, on the other hand, is more suited to colder and wetter climates. There are different types of tents on the market. To choose the right tent, it is best to answer some questions first: are you travelling alone or with your partner and/or friends? Do you want a lot of luggage space in addition to sleeping space? Do you want a double walled tent? In what season and climate are you riding?
In addition to a tarp and tent, you can also go for a bivy or bivouac bag. This is not really a ‘roof over your head’ but rather a rain cover that you slide around your sleeping bag. In this way you keep yourself dry easily, but there is no space left to cover your luggage. It is possible to combine the bivy with a tarp.
Keep warm at night
A bikepacker always looks for the most convenient and lightweight option for his or her equipment. Nevertheless, comfort also remains an important element in the equation, especially when we talk about sleeping bags and mats. After all, a good night’s sleep is certainly important if you want to be back on your bike the next day.
Sleeping bags generally come in two types: the quilt and the mummy. The quilt is designed to eliminate every unnecessary part of the mummy sleeping bag. A mummy works most efficiently when there is an insulating layer of air trapped in and around you. When you lay down, this logically disappears. A quilt doesn’t have this problem. You can compare it with a blanket. You cannot wrap yourself up in it and there is no hood or zipper. Unlike a sleeping bag, a quilt is not closed at the feet.
So in what way is a quilt different from a blanket? A tightening mechanism is often provided at the level of the shoulders and the neck. In addition, they are also provided with a cord system to secure the quilt to the sleeping mat to provide additional closure. You should consider the quilt as a whole with your sleeping mat. A well insulated mat can raise the temperature in a quilt considerably. So you should definitely pay attention to this.
Surely the big advantage, besides the gain in weight, is the flexibility of the quilt. After all, it also leaves room to move around more, as well as to put on multiple layers of clothes, when temperatures drops fast at night. It is certainly a useful system when camping both at high altitude one day and in the valley the next. By putting on a few additional layers of clothing, you can still sleep comfortable at high altitude.
The mummy is traditionally the best-known sleeping bag. Especially for hiking and bikepacking, outdoor equipment manufacturers have tried to make everything lighter and more compact. After all, it has much more to it than a quilt, as explained above. It has a hood, zipper and fits all around the body. One of the biggest advantages that argues for the mummy sleeping bag is the fact that warm air doesn’t escape so easily. This along with the sealed hood and feet makes it more comfortable during cold temperatures.
To sleep like a rose on your biking trip can do wonders, especially after a full day in the saddle. It is important to give some comfort to your tired body. A good sleeping mat can not only provide the necessary comfort but also additional insulation during cold nights. Especially in combination with a quilt, a sleeping mat makes all the difference. As with much outdoor equipment, there are a hundred and one different mattresses on the market, with different weights, sizes (rolled or unrolled), durability, inflation capabilities and the additional ‘R-value’, that indicates the degree to which the product can retain warmth.
“With a pile of clothes you can easily create a pillow, but this quick fix isn’t always soft enough. That’s why it’s best to bring an inflatable pillow. For the weight or the space you should definitely not leave it at home!”
If you need a pillow to get a sleep at home, it is probably interesting to find a solution for this during your cycling vacation. You can opt for a pile of clothes, but an inflatable pillow, on the other hand, can greatly increase your sleeping comfort. Moreover, it hardly takes up any space and weighs nothing.
Single pot cooking on the road
If you prefer camping to a warm bed in a hotel, you have to prepare your own dinner at the camping site. It won’t be a gourmet dinner, but you can cook a tasty and nutritious meal with a minimalist set-up.
The main thing you need is of course a fire, which you can provide for in different ways. Most people are used to small gas burners, but it is also possible to work with alcohol or wood. Much depends on the chosen destination and how long you are on the road. In some more remote parts of the world there is not always the necessary fuel. Usually a gas burner is preferred for a multi-day trip.
“At the end of a long day in the saddle, it’s not always fun to cook your dinner, let alone figure out what to prepare. That’s why it’s best to provide some basic recipes for the road that are both delicious and nutritious.”
But what can you prepare with a single fire? You have to be creative, because in addition to a tasty and satisfying meal, you also want to get enough energy to recover from the long day of cycling and be ready for the next stage. On our website we post some tasty and nutritious recipes for you to get started.