How to Bikepack

Three Different Styles

Broadly speaking, there are three bikepacking genres to choose from: Multi-day Mountain Biking, Ultralight Race & Gravel, and Expedition & Dirt Touring.

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Multi-Day Mountain Biking

Bikepacking Bike Full-suspension

Multi-day mountain biking is bikepacking at its core: carrying only the bare necessities on a bike that’s light enough to explore the trails you’d seek out on a day ride. Routes may vary in length, from a 40-mile, sub-24-hour overnighter (S24O) to a multi-week jaunt spanning several hundred miles. They may begin close to home and be logistically straightforward to organize, utilizing both favorite rides and unknown trails. Or, they may require planning and travel to destinations to ride established bikepacking trails.

Almost all mountain bikes can be made into capable bikepacking rigs. This said, your bike of choice may well impact the type of route you’ll enjoy most. On the dirt roads of The White Rim, for instance, almost any rigid bike will do. But on the technical singletrack of The Appalachian Beer Trail or The Colorado Trail, full-suspension bikes make more sense. In snowy, coastal, or sandy conditions, such as the Camino Diablo, fat tires may well be a necessity.

Salsa Pony Rustler - Bikepacking


The Pony Rustler can tackle a variety of surfaces with confidence. Similar in design to the Horsethief, its plus-sized tires raise the bar for how hard it can be pushed through corners and monster truck down chunky descents.

Surly Karate Monkey

Michael's Karate Monkey

It's hard to beat a hardtail mountain bike for bikepacking. Check out Michael Dammer’s Surly Karate Monkey in this Rider and Rig, as used on the Colorado Trail, plus its awesome farm-made leather framebag.

Surly Krampus - Bikepacking


Surly’s Krampus innovated the 29+ platform. Its 3" tires on 50mm rims provide massive amounts of traction and comfort, without the complexities and cost of active suspension. A chromoly frame and slack geometry ensures it rides like a beast, too!

Ultralight, Race, & Gravel

Bikepacking Bike Gravel

Self-supported ultra racing was popularized by the The Tour Divide, a 2,745-mile bikepacking race from Banff, Canada, to the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Since then, races have sprung up all over the US, and increasingly, around the world. This style of bikepacking typically involves the use of a lightweight mountain bike – be it full suspension or hardtail – complemented with an efficient, ultralight gear kit. Race routes are typically 200+ miles over a mixture of surfaces and terrain, often including gravel and some pavement.

So, what makes the perfect bike for ultralight bikepacking and racing? Terrain and surface conditions vary greatly between routes, which changes the requirements of a bikepacking rig. For example, the GDMBR is known for its long stretches of gravel, while the Huracan 300 has plenty of sand and singletrack. Here are three different, versatile examples. Each has its own niche:

Salsa Cutthroat Review


A fast, efficient bikepacking steed designed for racing the Tour Divide and other doubletrack epics. This dirt speedster is as light as they come, yet simple, tough, and reliable, too. Ideal ingredients for long-distance events.

Chumba Stella Ti

CHUMBA Stella Ti: Speed and Toughness

At a time when the bicycle industry thinks everyone needs to be pedaling a hot rod with super slack geometry, the CHUMBA Stella Ti delivers a breath of fresh air. With a stable, fast, and light platform, the Stella designed to rip singletrack and quickly get you to Antelope Wells on the Tour Divide.

Norco Search XR

Norco Search XR Carbon

Norco’s Search XR Carbon gets the latest "all-road" standards, meaty 27.5 x 2.1” tires, and mounts to carry up to five water bottles. We tested the Force 1 model and took it on some rugged desert tracks (and beyond) to see what a top-of-the-line "adventure road" bike can do.

Expedition & Dirt Touring

Bikepacking Bags and Packs

Traveling overseas by bicycle has always been an incredible way to connect with people and experience cultures, unfiltered... even more so when your itinerary explores low traffic, unpaved roads, and involves unearthing rugged and remote places seldom seen by other travelers. And that's exactly where a bikepacking-inspired setup excels, rather than the more cumbersome, traditional four-pannier setup that has long been favored by cycle tourists.

The list of three bikes below is a little one-sided, as each has the ability to run larger volume tires than would be considered typical for long-distance touring. But there is rationale behind it. Fat tires add comfort and suspension without requiring the usual maintenance of an air shock or fork. They also facilitate floatation, which opens up more terrain like sand and snow. The frames we’ve listed are also all chromoly, which is both repairable and better suited to being slung on the roof of a bus, or boxed up for a flight.

Note that these bikes may not be for everyone. If your intended path leans more toward pavement and gravel roads, there are other options. In many situations, a standard mountain bike with a 2" or larger tire will certainly suffice. And, given recent technological developments, wide rims and 2.4" tires are also a great option that won’t necessarily require dedicated frames. Additionally, give mid-fat and fat bikes a chance. From experience, we’ve found that larger volume tires encourage explorations along the road less traveled, opening up horizons previously unconsidered. Teamed with a lightweight packing mentality, the world will really become your oyster.

Trek 1120 Review

The New Trek 1120

The Trek 1120 follows in the same 29+ tracks that many bikepacking-specific rigs forged ahead of it, but this bike cuts its own trail with an innovative front rack, a thoughtfully designed rear harness system, and surprising trail prowess, all at a lighter weight than we expected.

Surly ECR - Bikepacking


The ECR is Surly’s long-distance workhorse that thrives on unpaved tours. Its long-haul friendly geometry, coupled with more braze-ons than you can shake a stick at, make it a great option for cross-continental odysseys. And it’s Rohloff-friendly, too.

Tumbleweed Prospector

EXPEDITION FAT: The Tumbleweed Prospector

The Prospector is the Tumbleweed's flagship fat/plus/Rohloff do-it-all expedition bike. With a well thought out design, remarkable attention to detail, and infinite options, the Prospector is a bike that instills confidence to go just about anywhere.