Bikepacking 202 – Pack Only What You Need

by Andy Amick on December 12, 2013

in Bikepacking, Camping

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

– Albert Einstein

For bikepacking, this can be interpreted as “pack only what you need, but nothing you don’t”.  Of course, it’s much easier said than done.  For analytical thinkers or tinkerers, solving this puzzle is one of the lures of bikepacking because it’s an ever changing puzzle and the solution requires continual experimentation.

bikepacking gear puzzle

The puzzle is never really solved due to different types of trips, different weather conditions, and our own evolving preferences for gear.  Another tricky part of this puzzle is the fact that every person has a different set of needs and what works for some will not work for others.  It has to be a personalized set of gear that goes bikepacking with you.

This post is free of any gear pictures for specifically this reason.  Previous posts have detailed sleep system gear and clothing options if you need some starting points. However, it’s good to step back from specific gear options to think about individual goals for bikepacking and what type of gear setup can help meet those goals.


Experiment, ride, then experiment some more.  Over time and with lots of trial and error, a solution to the puzzle starts to take shape in the form of an optimized set of gear.  This results in less gear to organize on the bike and less total weight to carry.  A lighter weight setup is a nice side benefit, but the real goal is a simpler and more efficient set of gear. Everything gets used during a trip and nothing is extra.

To get started, here are a few questions that can help refine a bikepacking gear set:

  1. Are there any redundant items that can be removed?
  2. Is it possible to use a rain jacket as an extra layer for warmth rather than packing an extra long sleeve shirt?
  3. Which cooking items never get used?
  4. Are there tools in a repair kit that don’t fit any bolts or parts on the bike?
  5. For a summer trip, can a lighter sleeping bag/quilt be used?
  6. What clothing items will not be needed for the expected temperature range of the trip?
  7. If new gear purchases are an option, is there a less bulky option for an existing piece of gear?


The ideal way to experiment with less gear is to make 1 or 2 changes for each trip.  Don’t go hog wild and use a radically different setup between trips because too many changes can result in a system that doesn’t work and leaves you unprepared for conditions.  Instead, be somewhat methodical with gear changes.  Maybe work on clothing for one trip and then food on another trip.

The goal is a gear kit with as few items as possible, but not too few.


Less gear is easier to organize and pack up each morning.

Less gear is also lighter which makes fully loaded riding easier.

Easier camping and riding leads to smiling faces.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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