A Beginner’s Guide to Bikepacking–How to Roll and Where to Go
Simply put, bikepacking is a combination of backpacking and biking. It is a great choice for individuals, families, and groups that want to cover greater distances than they could while hiking or backpacking. Options range from singletrack, rails to trails, and forest service roads.
What to know before you roll:
- Choose a bike capable of handling your trail of choice or choose a trail for the bike you currently own.
- Be realistic about the distance you plan to cover. Nothing can ruin a great adventure quicker than unrealistic expectations.
- Travel light. Since you will be carrying your gear with you on your bike, select gear that will allow you to place as much of the gear on the frame of the bike to keep the center of gravity low.
Selecting the right gear can be as simple as starting off with what you already own. While shopping for new gear can be exciting, starting small and using items from your current gear closet may save you time and money in the long run.
- A bike (obviously)
- Extra tubes/tire repair kit
- Multi-tool with chain tool
- Padded shorts and gloves will make the ride more comfortable
- Bike light or headlamp in the event you get caught in the dark
- Hydration pack or multiple water bottles
Trails to get you rolling:
Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)/C&O Towpath
This trail combination connects the two major cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. The Great Allegheny Passage follows the old rail bed from downtown Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland where it joins the C&O Towpath. The entire trail is greater than 300 miles in length and can be done in sections or in it entirety. This is a perfect trail for beginners as riders can choose to travel light with nothing more than a light hydration pack and elect to stay at varied lodging options along the trail.
Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR)
This is the holy grail of bikepacking routes. This trail crisscrosses the Continental Divide and runs approximately 2700 miles from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico (along the US/Mexico border).
Trans North Georgia (TNGA)
Looking for something more formidable than a rails-to-trails, the TNGA is a perfect mix of singletrack, forest service roads and old jeep tracks. This trail careens 350 miles through the southern Appalachians from South Carolina to Alabama.