Introduction to bikepacking – Time for the big adventure

by Andy Amick on September 10, 2011

in Bikepacking, Tips

Another beautiful stretch of the Colorado Trail

Colorado Trail near Denver

This is the final installment of the “Introduction to Bikepacking” series.

I initially thought this post would be more of a ride report, but instead I’m going with an informative post.  The post announcing this series has some links to trip reports.  You can also head over to for more information.

So far, the series has taking you through how to test out bikepacking, prepare and pack your gear on the bike, and the first real trip.  That covers the basics of bikepacking.  From here, the biggest task is finding routes to try and the continual effort to make your gear lighter, simpler, and less bulky.


Bikepacking Triangle of Gear

As I have continued on my optimal gear quest, I realized that the bikepacking world parallels my software development world.  In software development / project management, there is the Project Triangle concept that is pictured as a triangle with Cost, Time, and Features at the corners.  The rule is “Pick any two” for a project because you can’t have a project with a small cost, short timeline, and every feature.

In the bikepacking world, the 3 corners are labeled as Cost, Weight, and Durability/Packability.  (I tried to get the third corner to be one term, but I kept finding parts of my gear that broke the rule.  With both terms included, I think I can stretch the analogy and make it work.  If not, at least I got to improve my graphic skills with a “fancy” triangle and shadow).  The rule still applies that you can “Pick any two” for a piece of gear but it will be very difficult and expensive to get all three.

3 axis of bikepacking gear

Gear Examples

1) Sleeping pad – You can get a cheap blue foam pad that will satisfy the cost and weight corners.  However, the blue pads are not as packable as an inflatable mattress.  If you go the inflatable mattress, you satisfy the weight and packability corners, but your cost goes up.

2) Shelter –  My original tarp was a poncho tarp from Campmor.  This satisfied the weight and cost corners, but the durability corner was not because the construction quality was not great.  I upgraded to a cuben fiber ZPacks Hexamid tarp.  The weight and durability/packability corners were both satisfied, but it came at a much higher cost.

Refining your gear setup is a continual effort with no right answer.  Use the triangle of gear when you are evaluating new gear.  In most cases, you will focus on the same two corners of the triangle, but there will be cases where a different two corners come into play.  Generally, I’m not willing to pay the top dollar to satisfy the weight and durability/packability corners.  My ZPacks tarp is one case where the cost was definitely worth it.  The construction quality is great and I was able to support a small company doing what they love.

I change my mind on gear almost every time that I go out.  That is part of the fun of bikepacking because there are so many options to try.  Let me know if you have any ideas for me.  I’m more than happy to be a guinea pig for new ideas.

Bikepacking routes and races

If you are looking for a longer bikepacking trip, there are several official routes and races that are available.  You can also string together several trails in any area that allows camping.  Personally, I would love to spend a few days bikepacking in Pisgah National Forest or to ride more of the Colorado Trail.  Both of these areas have some of my all time favorite trails.

The links below will take you to where you can get more details on the routes and there are even 3D models of the routes.

Colorado Trail

Tour Divide

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Arizona Trail

Kokopelli’s Trail

List of other routes at

Additional Resources

I have created a page on the blog to keep track of introductory bikepacking information – Bikepacking 101.  The page is available on the top menu of all pages and I will be adding information to it over time.

There will also be additional bikepacking related posts coming up, product reviews, and several MYOG (Make your own gear) posts.  If there is something specific you would like to see, leave a comment or send me an email.

Happy bikepacking adventures,


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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