What is bikepacking?

220's resident bikepacker Kate Milsom explains all you need to know about bikepacking, including why you should do it, how it can improve your triathlon fitness...and how to get started

What is bikepacking

So, what exactly is bikepacking?

Bikepacking refers to a typically minimalist form of multi-terrain adventure travel where you cycle with bags attached to your bike in order to be self-sufficient. Bikepacking.com defines the sport as “the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping”. The minimalism comes in at least in part because you don’t want to be lugging loads of heavy gear across technical terrain and steep inclines! But bikepackers also cite the sport as a form of freedom, adventure and a unique way to experience the natural world.


What do you need to be a bikepacker?

Known for its inclusive and can-do ethos, the bikepacking community carries the claim that you don’t need any fancy gear or equipment to get started, just the desire to ‘have a go’. That being said, a sturdy bike that has the capacity (lugs) to attach a pannier rack will go a long way. This can be any bike; steel, carbon, composite, though we’d recommend a pair of thick tyres to withstand a variety of terrain. A pair of durable panniers will also be a worthwhile investment, or for the more aerodynamic-conscious: a decent saddlebag (attaches to your seat post), top tube bag, frame bag and bar bag. Aside from that, the sport encourages carrying minimal gear, including light-weight camping and cooking kit. Above all, for a prospective bikepacker, the desire to travel, explore and have adventures is the only prerequisite.

How is bikepacking beneficial for triathletes?

Firstly, there are obvious physical benefits, these include increased stamina and endurance ability. But first and foremost, bikepacking can instil the ability to suffer – something incredibly useful in the arduous sport of triathlon. That is not to say that bikepacking is a miserable experience, far from it! Being out in the elements on your bike day in, day out, can be a life-changing experience but it also primes an athlete with mental strength. It’s raining on race day? No problem, you survived a week of torrential rain and sleet in the stunning Swiss Alps, this is a breeze. Entered a particularly hilly race? Easy, you pedalled your way across the Spanish Pyrenees on your last trip.  In short, aside from being an adventure in itself, bikepacking can really widen your perspective on what you believe you are capable of, while also improving your fitness, and strengthening your mental and physical resolve.

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Our expert writer: In the weeks leading up to her first Ironman, 220’s editorial assistant, Kate, cycled the infamous LE JOG, bikepacked the length of France, and bikepacked along the French Med solo. She has since bikepacked across Europe solo, and recommends the sport to all and anyone looking for a life-chaging adventure.