What’s the difference between bikepacking and cycle touring?

Keen to set off on your own long distance cycling adventure but not sure what category you'd fall under? 220's bikepacker, Kate, explains the difference between bikpacking and cycling touring, and just how you can get started...

What's the difference between bikepacking and cycle touring?

What 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. Often this will involve travelling along bike paths, tracks and roads on a point-to-point journey. Bikepackers carry all the gear they need with them, including equipment for cooking and shelter for the night, typically a bivvy bag or tent. Bikepackers often go for a minimal and light-weight set up, as you’ll see with riders in ultra-endurance events. On the other side of the spectrum, round the world bikepackers (yes there is a whole community of these!) tend to carry a fair bit on their bikes, which can be really laden down with worldly possessions.

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What is cycle touring?

Cycle touring is very similar to bikepacking, however this term is typically used to describe a more leisurely or luxurious form of cycle travel, where the rider does not necessary take cooking or camping equipment with them. Though the term can be interchangeable with bikepacking, touring can also describe trips where cyclists have their gear transported separately for them, in support cars, to their accommodation for each night. This in some ways does allow for more freedom, at least freedom of movement, and certainly makes for a lot easier and lighter ride.

Interested in cycle tourism?

Are you interested in giving some rough and ready bikepacking a go, or keen to try out a tranquil cycle tour trip? Be prepared, check out our bikepacking section

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-changing adventure. 

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Top image from Ocar Johann Campos, Unsplash.