This is a question people often ask me when I talk to them about our bicycle tour. It has made me realise that perhaps many people are not aware what bikepacking or bike touring actually involves so this week I am writing about it in more detail.
What is bikepacking or bike touring?
Both forms of travel are self-supporting where the riders carry all they need on their bicycle tour. That includes a tent, sleeping bags, cooking equipment, clothes, the lot.
The length of the journeys can vary from just camping for one night to journeys of several years. Take Ben and Linda, for example, who are planning to spend the next seven years cycling the world!
On our bicycle tour across Europe, we will spend most of our nights in a tent. There’s no way we could afford to sleep in hotels, or even hostels, for almost three months. Also, the essence of bike touring for us is getting as close to nature as possible which means camping.
There will be times when we will sleep in a proper bed. For example, when we stop over at my sister’s summer cottage or spend a night on the ferry from Finland to Sweden. When we stop in Copenhagen and Berlin, we’ll stay in hostels to make exploring the cities easier. For the rest of the journey, unless we meet some kind strangers who want to give us a bed for a night, we will lay our heads down in our tent.
What is the difference between bikepacking and bike touring?
The main difference is the setup. Bikepackers use more streamlined bags that attach to the frame of the bike and on the back instead of panniers.
Bikepackers often carry lighter loads which makes riding in rough terrain with steep inclines less demanding and easier to navigate. Since the bikepacking set up is narrower, it is better equipped for narrow off-road tracks.
The benefit of panniers, especially if you opt for both front and back panniers, is that you can carry more with you. Of course you still don’t want to load them full of heavy gear as it will make climbing much more challenging.
What to pack for a bicycle tour?
We are spending HOURS watching bicycle tour videos on YouTube. There is a wealth of information on different setups and essential gear.
Different cyclists have different preferences regarding gear and the panniers vs bike bags question. However, they all point out that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Aside from the necessary gear of a lightweight tent designed for cyclists, sleeping bags and mats, cooking equipment and a first aid kit, we are travelling as light as possible. This means thinking carefully about clothing and electrical equipment we want to carry with us.
I definitely want to take a laptop with me so I can update the blog on the road. Which means I need a new laptop. This one I use now is nearly ten years old, big and heavy and only works when plugged in. Luckily there are lightweight options.
Clothing-wise we will only take a few things to change into after a day’s riding. But of course we need to think about different weather clothing and prepare for hot and cold days as well as rain.
Essential non-essentials that we will take with us on a bicycle tour
I’m calling these items essential non-essentials because they are not key for survival when on a bicycle tour. However, they are items I would not consider travelling without.
- My Lumene CC cream – I mentioned in a post I wrote in a collaboration with my friend Michele that if I could only take one item from my makeup bag on to a desert island, it would be this.
- Moisturiser for the face – I get dry and tight skin on my face easily so definitely want to keep it moisturised. Going to opt for a 24-hour cream rather than separate day and night creams.
- 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner (beard option for Justin) – I’m cutting my hair short again before we leave to make it easier to maintain, but will still need to wash it.
- Mineral sunscreen – I would not dream of setting out for hours on the road without protecting my skin. Especially because following my treatments, my skin is more sensitive and I get heat rash. I also have a slightly increased skin cancer risk because of Lynch syndrome. Therefore, a sunscreen with a high SPF is a must.
I’m sure there will be other non-essential essentials that we come to think of. Once we have sorted out our gear, I will share it in a post.
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