In this June 23, 2009 photo provided by Scott Morris, Lee Blackwell and Chad Brown are shown bikepacking a segment of the Arizona Trail, south of Flagstaff, Ariz. (Scott Morris via AP)

Bikepacking adds a dose of fun to backpacking

  • Apr. 4, 2017 12:30 a.m.

PHOENIX — Backpacking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with the added bonus of getting a little exercise. Those packs are not light and it involves walking most of the time, so you definitely feel it at the end of the day.

The two-wheeled version of backpacking adds a more technical dimension.

An outdoor activity growing in popularity, bikepacking offers the same get-in-touch-with-nature vibe as its two-footed cousin, yet with an added physical challenge as you try to navigate a bike through the woods.

“It’s just fun,” said Scott Morris of “It’s not really an adrenaline rush where you’re doing big jumps or whatever, but there’s still the aspect of being challenged technically where you’re riding rocks and it’s a question of whether you can cross a section or not. Hiking is just walking.”

Bikepacking is a bit like bike touring, but is usually done in the dirt and more lightweight.

Touring bikes usually have large racks and brackets on the back to hold large bags, with bigger bikes to handle the load. Bikepacking bikes are lighter — usually 10 pounds or less — and not nearly as wide, so they can move through narrower areas.

Bikepacking can be traced to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, an off-pavement cycling route that follows the Great Divide from Canada to Mexico. Riders who race the route or just do it as a challenge began to create lightweight bags for carrying their gear, and many of the major bicycle companies started to catch on, making bikepacking-specific bags.

Bikepacking got a huge boost in popularity in 2015, when Outside Magazine said it would replace backpacking as the primary means for moving through and camping in the backcountry.

“That was a big turning point, when it started getting real big,” said Logan Watts, of

The idea of bikepacking is essentially the same as backpacking: Pack as much as you can into your pack while making it as light as possible.

While backpacking usually involves one pack, bikepacking has three main bags. One attaches behind the seat, another along the frame behind the handlebars and another roll bag on the front.

Though there are specialized bikes made just for bikepacking, most of the bags can be attached to any mountain bike.

“The bags are designed so you can ride through rugged terrain fairly easy,” Morris said. “You can’t have big bags if you’re going to try a tighter space.”

Some hiking trails are not designed for bikes or even allow bikes to be ridden on them. Bikepacking can be done on single-track mountain-bike trails, but as Morris puts it, “You may end up carrying your bike more than you ride it.”

Riders will often hit established trails, but also will follow dirt and gravel roads, where they can pick up the pace and cover more mileage. It also allows them to go into a town or find a gas station for food or medical attention, if they need it.

“You have the ability to bail out and get to towns to resupply,” Morris said. “It’s nice knowing that you can get to the next town if things get bad and get somewhere if you need to.”

Even when riding established trails, bikepacking can get technical. Hikers have to watch where they’re walking to avoid twisting an ankle, but bikepackers must pay attention to what’s on the trail and also what’s overhead, because impediments can come up quickly when you’re on two wheels.

“A lot of people who have been riding mountain bikes for a while already have that skill set, and are using it to ride into deeper terrain or use it to travel elsewhere,” Watts said. “But you can travel on dirt roads, gravel roads or trails and see different parts of the country, too.”

Just Posted

Mothers Against Drunk Driving hold candlelight vigil

Four-and-a-half years ago Marilyn Rinas’ husband was killed in a collision with… Continue reading

Thousands expected at memorial for fallen police officer in Abbotsford, B.C.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — The streets of Abbotsford, B.C., will be lined with… Continue reading

One person dead, five others injured in early-morning crash in Kingston, Ont.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A man who was checking the damage on his… Continue reading

Gus is a special, collaborative art exhibit inspired by motherhood

The portrait display by mother and son is showing in Red Deer

Robotics challenge sparks student interest in Red Deer

Student-built robots compete in fun challenge

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Semi collides with vehicle on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

Members of the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit dealt with a call on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

After 70 years, Red Deer veteran still remembers his traumatic war experience

Frank Krepps feels lucky to have survived the Second World War

Merritt Mountie charged with assault

Charges are in relation to an incident in May at the detachment, B.C. Prosecution Service said

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month