A Guide to Bikepacking Guidebooks
A collection of bikepacking guidebooks has recently hit the shelves. Here’s a roundup of what each has to offer, and which is the right choice for who…
The Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook, AKA ‘ACTH’, was the first bike travel guidebook I ever saw. I ordered a copy from Amazon, plunked it down on the coffee table, and waited for Gin to come home from work. After dinner she sat on the couch, picked up and thumbed through the book, and said, “This looks pretty cool.” And so it all began.
This fall, the ACTH – now considered the bible for bike touring – hit its third edition, its release coinciding with a collection of other bikepacking and bicycle touring guides and primers… our own Bikepacking 101 included. Over the last few weeks, we’ve bookwormed our way through each, and created our own guide to the guides. Here they are, ordered by size, from smallest to largest.
Camping With Your Bicycle
by Limberlost and Blackburn
Camping With Your Bicycle from Limberlost and Blackburn is very much an inspirational primer. With its simple, hand sewn binding and engaging design, this little pamphlet serves more as a bikepacking promotional tool than a how-to resource. It briefly touches on the most essential elements of bikepacking and bicycle touring… the bike, food, water, weather, shelter, route planning, and luggage. While I wouldn’t suggest using it to plan an extensive bikepacking trip, it might be just the tool to get your friends or family inspired for their next chapter of adventures.
- Who it’s for: Folks curious about bikepacking.
- Price: FREE
- Where to buy: Download Link
The Bikepacker’s Guide
by Salsa Cycles
Salsa’s The Bikepacker’s Guide provides a good introduction to the sport/activity. There’s a lot of information packed into this little package. As stated in the intro, “This book is not a substitute for real instruction, a guide, backcountry experience, mountain biking skill, or good judgement.” But, it is a tool that provides enough of the essential details to help mountain bikers set out on their first bikepacking adventure.
“Together with the folks at Salsa Cycles, we recognized the need for a short guide that compiles bikepacking related advice and guidance into one simple resource. The book was in part inspired by our experience teaching this material to Prescott College students in our course Geology through Bikepacking. In addition to chapters on basic gear and logistical planning, we chose to devote an entire chapter to selecting and creating routes, one of the most important but often neglected aspects of delving into bikepacking adventure. We also sought out inspirational stories to include from other bikepackers – ranging from bikepacking with toddlers in South America to the first bike traversal of the Continental Divide Trail. This guide is available for $10 at any shop that orders from Quality Bike Parts and will soon be available as an e-book from www.ultramtb.net.” – Kurt Refsnider, co-author
In 90 pages, authors Kaitlyn Boyle and Kurt Refsnider tackle route, food and water, and bike and gear planning. They also include a section on “Tips and Tricks,” such as how to minimize one’s environmental impact and “Lessons from First-time Bikepackers.” In addition, the guide is full of useful kit lists and charts, such as the Pace Chart which lays out varying mileages and speeds for different types of riders. This concise guide concludes with “Field Reports” from the authors and a few of my own cycling and adventure heroes… Eszter Horanyi, Cass Gilbert, and Casey Greene. All in all, The Bikepacker’s Guide does its job. On its own, it provides enough information to help a beginner successfully pull-off his or her first overnighter. More importantly, though, it lays out a good framework for the issues riders may need to further consider and research when planning a more extensive bikepacking adventure.
- Who it’s for: First-time and experienced bikepackers alike.
- Price: $10
- Where to buy: Jenson USA
Basic Illustrated Bike Touring And Bikepacking
by Justin Lichter and Justin Kline
A Falcon Guide’s Basic Illustrated Bike Touring and Bikepacking is a fairly comprehensive guide to bike adventure travel. It covers a range of cycle travel styles, from ultralight off-road bikepacking to fully loaded paved touring. As inferred by its first sentence, “The sensation of exploring and traveling by bike is like no other,” the guide was created to inspire people to get out on an overnight adventure.
“The ultimate goal of this book is to get more people out on overnight bike adventures, regardless of their skill level or bike setup. While bikepacking has been steadily growing over the past few years, the knowledge base for it still mostly only exists on the web. This all-inclusive published guide is the first of its kind in the market, and I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity to share my passion and inspire more people to travel by bike.” – Justin Kline, co-author
The guidebook is divided into 9 chapters:
- Chapter 1 describes the different “types” of touring… road, gravel road, and off-road touring. Within each of these sub-sections, Lichter and Kline discuss bike selection and component considerations, including “pros” and “cons” for each option.
- Chapter 2, “Carrying Methods for Bike Touring,” covers “luggage,” from racks and panniers to trailers and backpacks. The benefits of ultralight packing and the gear with which to do it are discussed in some breadth.
- Chapter 3, instead of providing specific route planning details, helps readers by posing the questions that riders need to consider in order to plan a successful individualized route.
- Chapter 4 covers the basic logistics of bicycle touring, including what to eat, where to get water, where to sleep, and how to navigate.
- Chapter 5 is dedicated to “International Considerations.”
- Chapters 6-9 are primarily gearcentric. From bike components (brakes, handlebars) to camping gear (tents, sleeping pads, cooking stove, water filtration) and clothing, the basic options are listed as well as their respective pros and cons. Bike maintenance is also discussed, and guidelines for items to include in one’s tool kit are thoughtfully laid out based upon the nature of a specific tour.
Basic Illustrated Bike Touring and Bikepacking does a solid job of covering the basics of bike touring and bikepacking. The information is somewhat detailed without being laborious. The “pros and cons” for gear options helps give readers the kind of food for thought that may help them when they’re faced with making decisions about touring topics that aren’t covered in these pages.
- Who it’s for: The novice or experienced enthusiast.
- Price: $10.27
- Where to buy: Amazon
Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook
Neil and Harriet Pike
The Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook is the definitive guide to bike touring. The first edition of the ACTH (2006) was created by Stephen Lord, and in its most recent iteration (the 3rd edition), Neil and Harriet Pike have taken the reins (or handlebars, as it were). The ACTH is no primer. Unlike some of the aforementioned guidebooks, this resource isn’t really intended for the overnight or four-day bikepacker. Its target audience is the world traveler who is planning a much more extensive and far-flung cycling tour. That’s not to say that this guide doesn’t include invaluable information on the basics. In fact, the ACTH has the most comprehensive section on “Bikes, Clothing, and Camping Gear”. But where other guidebooks start the conversation on tour/route planning, the ACTH covers the topics in extensive and regionally specific detail.
- In Part I, the ACTH covers the practicalities of bicycle tour planning, including budgeting, timing (seasons and climates), passports, health preparation, and money.
- Part 2 covers the gear…bikes and their components, clothing, and camping options.
- Part 3 is a general overview of life on the road, including the transportation of bicycles, navigation, and staying healthy and safe on tour.
- Parts 4 through 6 of the book cover geographically specific route outlines from Europe to Asia and Australasia (Part 4), Africa (part 5), and the Americas (part 6).
- Part 7 of the ACTH, Tales from the Saddle, is a compilation of entertaining and thought-provoking tales from fellow cyclists. Lastly, an appendix of basic bike maintenance tips and tricks adds the finishing touch to this incredible resource.
With the 3rd edition, the Pikes made an effort to dedicate a significant percentage of the ACTH to bikepacking and dirt-road touring. Related entries include Scott Morris’ account of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Kurt Sandiforth’s ‘Touring on a Fat Bike’, Joe Cruz’s example ultralight pack list, and our own contributions, ‘Touring on Plus Size Tires’ and ‘Bikepacking and Dirt Road Touring’.
- Who it’s for: Anyone planning a big trip.
- Price: $17.43
- Where to buy: Amazon
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