A Beginner’s Guide to Bikepacking: How to Roll and Where to Go

bikepacking off road
Sam Marx

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 on foot. Bikepacking options range from singletrack, rails to trails, forest service roads, and sometimes even paved 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 weight 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.

Bikepacking Essentials

  • Bike (obviously)
  • Helmet
  • Extra tubes and tire repair kit
  • Multi-tool with chain tool
  • Padded shorts and gloves will make the ride more comfortable
  • Bike light or headlamp
  • Hydration pack or multiple water bottles
  • Want to take your touring to the next level? Invest in saddlebags and carry all gear you’ll need from point to point on your travels.
bikepacking bicycle gear
Patrick Hendry

Best Bikepacking Trails

Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and C&O Towpath

This trail combination connects the two major cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. 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 its 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 2,700 miles from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico along the United States and 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.

For more inspiration, check out the best long-distance bike trails.

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