The Lazy Bikepacking Packing Strategy…

3 06 2013
The Lazy Rig...

The Lazy Rig…

My bikepacking setup has proven to be versatile and capable for my Vancouver Island adventures. I’m using Porcelain Rocket softbags attached to the bike plus a backpack on my body. Some people prefer to ride without a backpack, but I find it adds a lot of flexibility to the mix and if you don’t overload it there isn’t much comfort penalty.

Frame Bag

I use the frame bag for as much of the heavy stuff as I can. This keeps the weight centred and low on the bike in the bag that is most securely attached to the frame.

  • bike tools
  • pump
  • spare tube
  • paper maps
  • TP + hand sanitizer + lighter
  • F/A kit
  • pot + stove + fuel + spork + windscreen + stove stand

Top Tube Bag

I use little TT bag for small items I want easy access to and items that would get lost in the bigger frame bag.

  • chap stick
  • eye drops
  • water purification drops
  • power bar
  • headlamp
  • mini-leatherman

Bar Roll

The main bar roll carries light and bulky items.

  • sleeping bag inside a 10L OR dry bag
  • spare clothes stuffed on either side [items I don’t generally want to access while riding]

Front Pouch

The front pouch is a where I put snacks I want to eat while riding and other items I want to get at during the day that would get lost or damaged in the frame bag.

  • cell phone [or in pack]
  • spare GPS batteries
  • snacks [nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, etc…]
  • tent poles carried between front pouch and bar roll

Seat Bag

The seat bag is also for bulky light items and I tend to stuff a jacket in there that I might use on and off during the day since I find accessing this bag pretty easy at a stop.

  • sleeping pad
  • tent pegs
  • tent body & fly
  • jacket [soft shell, puffy jacket or rain jacket depending what’s going on]
Getting ready to camp...

Getting ready to camp…


I use my backpack for carrying food primarily. I also use it for holding extra water on a particularly hot day or stretch where resupply is not easy. I’ll either carry a 2L folded up water bag for that purpose if I know it’s going to happen a bunch or I’ll just buy a plastic water bottle of the needed size at a gas station, used it and then get rid of it if the extra water is just needed for a portion of the trip.

Generally my backpack is not full and I try to keep the weight down for comfort. This means I have extra capacity if something happens or I need to haul more than I planned on for a bit. Since I carry food in the pack and sometimes extra water I know that this bag will usually get lighter and lighter on a trip.

When I camp I transfer all my food items from the frame bags to the backpack for the night and then do whatever is needed with respect to animal food safety. A backpack is great for this purpose.

If I end up in a town or want to go for an off bike hike I can transfer items from the backpack to the bike and vice versa so I have a daypack to use.

I carry my camera either in the pack [DSLR] and/or a point-and-shoot on the waist belt in a pouch which is uber convenient and keeps the camera insulated from a lot of the vibration a camera on the bike would experience. I also keep my money, cell phone, credit cards and ID in my pack. That way I can jump off the bike and not leave anything too valuable on it. I will sometimes pop off my GPS and stash it in my pack on these occassions.

I size the pack for the trip based on how much food/water I’ll need. If I’m carrying the DSLR I’ll upsize for that as well.

  • food [besides snacks for day]
  • extra water in water bag or recyclable plastic bottle
  • ID, cash, credit cards
  • cell phone if not using it for something during ride
  • extra stove fuel if needed
  • tooth paste + brush
  • any other toiletries [usually none]

Two benefits of carry food/extra water in a backpack are:

  1. your bike bags aren’t always over stuffed which makes accessing them and pulling out what you need easy. This is also kind to the zippers and other attachment points.
  2. when you have to hike-a-bike carrying some of the weight on your back is nice when the terrain is loose/steep/challenging.


Running out of water is no fun, but carrying too much water is a heavy tiring mistake as well. Ideally I a carry just what I need between resupply opportunities plus a bit extra as a safety margin. I always ride with a water bottle on the stem. That is very easy to access so I drink when needed as I ride. I’ve got a 1.5L bottle attached to the dowtube which I decant into the stem bottle as needed. I will carry a water bag in my backpack or a plastic water bottle depending on what the specifics of the tour are.

I always have water purification drops with me and refill bottles as they empty and I pass a water source – usually a fast flowing creek. Cycling through my bottles allows the purification process to happen while I ride and I always have water that’s ready to go.

If I really need a ton of water on a tour I can attach water bottle cages to each fork leg and throw a 2nd water bag into the pack. At the moment I can’t imagine needing more than 7.6L of water between resupply stops.

  • stem mounted bottle [0.7L]
  • DT mounted bottle [1.5L]
  • water bag in pack [2L]
  • 2nd water bag in pack [2L]
  • 2 water bottles on fork [1.4L]

Of course I always use the water in my backpack to replenish the stem mounted bottle so the weight on my back decreases as fast as possible.

I haven’t toured with a hydration bladder in my pack. On a really hot tour I would consider doing so and using the bladder instead of one of the water bags.

OMM rack on my Krampus...

OMM rack on my Krampus…

Rear Rack and Panniers

I’ve got a trip planned for this summer that requires I carry food and stove fuel for a long stretch for myself and a few other people. My backpack strategy is fine for a solo effort, but doesn’t work so well when the load gets heavy. So for those situations I attach a rear rack and panniers.

There are downsides to using a rear rack and panniers, but the benefit is you can haul a lot of stuff on the bike easily. Since this extra weight is mostly food and stove fuel it will get lighter as the trip progresses mitigating a lot of the negatives of running with a rack.

In the picture above I’m test fitting an Old Man Mountain Cold Springs rear rack to my Krampus. I didn’t bother attaching the front struts, but they will go on no problem using p-clips on the seatstays. I’ll be using Ortlieb panniers with the OMM rack.

I don’t expect to use a rear rack much for bikepacking trips, but it’s good to know it works and is available when needed.