Ultimate Bikepacking Setup Guide [With Video]

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reviewed by Rory McAllister
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In the past decade, bikepacking has become incredibly popular.

Cyclists are exploring like never before, and the options for bikepacking races are plentiful. However, perfecting your bikepacking setup is something that requires a combination of knowledge, experience, and trial and error.

As a bikepacking expert with a ton of epic trips, elite races, and even a (former) world record under my belt, I’m here to help you fast-forward your bikepacking setup journey!

Over the years, I have perfected my setup and know exactly what works well, what’s definitely worth taking, and what should be left at home.

The key to any great bikepacking trip is having the right bikepacking setup for your adventure so you can be as comfortable and as light as possible.

In this article, I will share everything you need to know to find your perfect bikepacking setup. We’ll be covering:

  • What Bike Should You Use For A Bikepacking Trip?
  • How To Choose The Right Bikepacking Bags
  • What Should I Take In My Bikepacking Setup?
  • Robbie’s Video Walkthrough: Ultimate Bikepacking Setup Guide

Let’s dive in!

Ultimate Bikepacking Setup Guide: Title Image

What Bike Should You Use For A Bikepacking Trip?

The most important part of a great bikepacking setup is the bike.

It’s vital that you are riding the correct bike for the job so you can complete your adventure or challenge with ease. Here’s how I go about picking the right bike, by asking myself these three questions:

#1. What Terrain Will I Be Riding On?

The first question you need to ask yourself is about the terrain you will be riding on.

If you will be on the road, you will want a road bike (or a conventional touring bike). If you are going to be going off-road, a mountain bike will be perfect. For a mix of both, a gravel bike or a hybrid bike are ideal solutions. 

A bikes rear cassette.

#2. Is The Bike’s Gearing Low Enough?

In all my years of bikepacking and entering races, one of the biggest mistakes I have seen bikepackers make is needing lower gear ratios.

It’s vital to ensure that you have lots of options on the low end. 

This is because not only does it help you tackle steep hills, but it also helps with the heavy weight of the gear and for when your legs get very tired. 

It might feel like you have enough in training, but adventures are always tougher on the legs.

Put it like this: I have never met a bikepacker who has said at the end of a race that they wished they’d had more high gear ratios!

#3. Does It Have Upright Geometry?

Another big error many cyclists make is using a bike with aggressive geometry for bikepacking.

This means you are lent far over forward, and it will put a lot of pressure on the lower back and can play havoc on the saddle. 

I highly recommend a bike with a fairly upright geometry. This means you have a taller headtube, bringing the handlebars higher and resulting in a more upright position for the rider. It may be less aerodynamic, but it’s much more comfortable. 

So overall, you are looking for a bike correct for the terrain you plan to ride on, with low gearing and upright geometry.

Once you have a bike with all of these, we move on to finding the right bags.

A mountain bike against a brick wall.

How To Choose The Right Bikepacking Bags

The right bikepacking bags go a long way to making the bikepacking setup perfect. Here’s our step-by-step guide to finding a combination that works:

Step #1. Assess The Bike

The first step to finding the right bags for you is to assess the bike and see what is going to fit.

On certain bikes, some bags might not work. A good example is a full-suspension mountain bike, which will struggle to fit a frame bag. 

When assessing the capacity of a frame, I break it down into each section of the bike and rate it on how much space and how well a bikepacking bag will work.

Here’s an example based on my hardtail mountain bike:

Section of BikeSpace Available 
Inside Frame TriangleMedium 
Top TubeLarge
Saddle Medium

So, as you can see above, I have a moderate amount of space on the inside of the frame triangle. If I were to use all of this, I would lose space for my bottles – but would have a lot of space for easy access while riding along.

The top tube space is large, and because it is very low down, I can use a large top tube bag, giving me lots of accessible space for snacks and important items such as a power bank and mobile phone.

The extra wide handlebars offer lots of space for a large roll bag, and because I am not using aero bars, I can maximize this. Also, because I have suspension forks, the bag won’t be rattled around much.

Finally, we have the saddlebag. Although I have a lot of space, I have only marked the available capacity as a medium for the simple fact that it’s a mountain bike, and anything too large on the back will be thrown around a lot and, in time, will come loose and sway.

A mountain bike against a brick wall.

Step #2. Work out the capacity you need

Now it’s time to find some bags to match the space available on your bike.

So the next step is to estimate the bag volume to carry all everything we need according to the length and style of our bikepacking trip.

Here’s a rough guide for reference:

Length/Type of TripEstimated Packing Volume
Day Trip10 liters
Multi-Day Hotel Usage20 liters
Overnight Camping30 liters
Three Day + Camping40+ liters

I plan to go on an overnight camping trip, so I need 30 liters to be comfortable. Now we’ve established the packing volume we need for our bikepacking setup, it’s time to ensure we have enough equipment space in our bags.

A bikepacking mountain bike against a bench.

Step #3. Find Bikepacking Bags To Match Your Requirements

For my mountain bike bikepacking trip, I need roughly 30 liters of packing capacity.

Looking back at my assessment of the space available around my bike, I can now make a plan of what volume to fit where, and find appropriate bikepacking bags.

Here’s how I planned out my 30 liters of capacity:

Packing LocationBikepacking Bag Brand & Volume
Frame Bag8 liters (Custom)
Top Tube Bag2 liters (Apidura)
Handlebar Bag 14 liters (Dry Pak)
Saddle Bag8 liters (Rhino)
Total32 liters

It’s now time to order the bags. We highly recommend first ensuring they are going to fit by checking their measurements against your bike. Waterproof bags are also strongly advised!

Although there are many budget options, we highly recommend either going for bags from top-rated companies such as Apidura and Restrap or well-regarded products reviewed by trusted people who have tested them personally.

A bikepacking mountain bike front on, laying on a gravel trail.

What Should I Take In My Bikepacking Setup?

Now you have your bike set up and all the bags equipped, we need to start thinking about all the kit we will take on our adventure!

I have made this list by how I would pack them on an adventure where they are going to be most efficient. 

It’s important to mention that depending on the trip you’re going on, the bike and bags you’re using, and your personal preferences, there’s a good chance this list will have some differences.

We recommend using it as a starting point and adapting it further for your own use.

Frame bag

A bikepacking frame bag in black.

Let’s start with the frame bag. Here, you should keep items you will need throughout the day but only need to get to rarely.

Frame Bag
Inner Tubes 
Patch Kit or Plug Kit, Tire Piece
Tire Levers
Spoke Key
Chain Lube
Spare Hanger
Bike Lock
Rain Jacket
High Viz Vest
Food and Water
Hydration Tablets
Water Cleansing Tablets

Top Tube Bag

An Apidura top tube bag on a bikepacking mountain bike.

Next, we have the top tube bag.

Being very accessible when stopped and when riding, it’s an ideal place for bikepack setup items you are going to need access to regularly, such as a phone and power bank.

Here’s what I recommend keeping in a top tube bag:

Top Tube Bag
Power Bank
Money and Cards
Charging Cables

Handlebar Bag

A mountain bike with a bikepacking front roll bag.

Next, we have the biggest bag I have on my bike: the handlebar bag.

Much like the saddle bag, it’s best to store objects you will not need very often here. I personally like to keep all the sleeping and night goods in the handlebar pack.

Handlebar Bag
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Mat
Bivvy Bag
Down Jacket

Saddle Bag

A medium size bikepacking saddle bag.

This is a great place to store large objects you’re unlikely to need throughout the day.

When it comes to bikepacking setups, I like to keep items such as spare clothing and hygiene products in the saddle bag.

Saddle Bag
Spare Clothes
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Toilet Paper
Insect Repellent 
Arm and Leg Warmers
Camp Shoes or Sandals
First Aid Kit
Mains Charging Outlet


A Garmin GPS unit on a bikepacking bike.

Finally, we have accessories. These typically don’t go in bags but are vital for a bikepacking trip, and they will sit on the bike instead.

Here’s what we recommend taking as far as accessories go:

Bike Lights
GPS Device (Navigation)
Reflective Tape
Insulation Tape
Hydration Rucksack (if you don’t have bottles)

Robbie’s Video Walkthrough: Ultimate Bikepacking Setup Guide

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

Now You Know How To Perfect Your Bikepacking Setup…

Bikepacking is a lot of fun and can take you to places you might never have known existed.

Going with the right setup and equipment is vital to adventure success. We hope you enjoyed our article and now know what bikepacking setups you need for that epic bikepacking trip!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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