Do You Need a Lock While Bikepacking: Keeping Your Bike Safe

How do you make sure that your bike is safe while you are bikepacking, do you keep it in your tent, and do you lock it up when you go to sleep? We asked a group of bikepackers what they do to find out.

Most people take a lock on their bikepacking trips to lock up their bike while sleeping in their tent at night or if they need to go into a shop. However, not everyone uses a lock. The main factor in deciding if you should take a lock with you is the location that you are bikepacking in.

65% of people surveyed used a simple cable lock to keep their bikes locked up. While these locks are very easy to cut through, their main aim was to stop opportune thieves from walking away with the bike while they weren’t looking and appeared to be for peace of mind as much as anything else.

It’s clear though that there is still some debate about which lock to take, with 20% of our surveyed group taking a much heavier D-lock with them on each trip.

A graph showing the most popular type of lock that bikepackers use on their bikepacking trips

The most important factor in deciding if our bikepackers should take a lock was the location they were visiting. If they were in a remote area with very few people around, they were much less likely to take a lock than when they had to travel through urban areas such as cities and towns.

Reasons you should take a lock bikepacking

A man locking his bike up on a bikepacking trip

There are many useful reasons to take a lock on your bikepacking trip, first, it stops your bike from being taken by opportune thieves, especially if you need to leave your bike unattended for any reason. Even if you aren’t planning to make a stop in a town or urban area, you never know why you might have to look away from your bike for just one minute, and that’s all a thief might need.

Even in remote and rural areas, there will be long periods of time when your bike will be unattended. After a long day of cycling, having the peace of mind that your bike is more protected while you sleep can make a big difference, especially if you’re new to bikepacking and need all the rest you can get!

While some locks can be very heavy, the majority of responses we received used lightweight locks such as cable locks (or even snowboard locks). This helps to provide a level of protection without adding too much to the weight that you have to carry.

Reasons that you might not need a lock

A picture of a bike locked up to a fence on a bikepacking trip

Often trips will take you many miles from the nearest person, let alone one who wants to steal your bike! The chances of having your bike stolen overnight are slim, and so some people choose to take the risk and save the space the extra weight for other gear or food.

Another problem with taking a lock for bikepacking is that there isn’t always somewhere you can lock your bike up. If you are camping in the woods you might be able to use a nearby tree, but in some areas such as large open fields, you will have to get more inventive. Finding somewhere to lock your bike might not always be possible.

The most popular mini D-lock sold this year weighs 1.4kg, which while lighter than much of its competition, is still quite a lot of weight to carry, especially if you don’t end up using it. That’s the same weight as some gravel bike wheelsets!

Which lock should you use for bikepacking

Of the bikepackers we surveyed, the most common type of lock was a simple cable lock. Cable locks are a good compromise between weight (this one weighs 430) and having something that can add an extra level of security to your bike.

Another great alternative is using a snowboard lock such as this. These are even lighter than bike cable locks and can pack down into an even smaller pocket or bag.

Finally, if you want a compact option that doesn’t compromise on security, the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7 is the mini version of one of the most popular D-locks.

Other ways to keep your bike safe while bikepacking

A picture of a small bike locked to a lamppost

It’s easy to focus on a lock when thinking about bike security, but there are a few other key tricks you can use to help keep your bike and bags as secure as possible.

Firstly, don’t leave your bags or bike unattended. If you need to go into a shop, ask the shop owner if you can bring it in with you. If they say no, then as a worst-case, ask if they can watch it for you while you’re inside. If you’re going inside without your bike, try to take your bags in with you.

Another good tip while camping is to wrap your bike in a tarp. This will hopefully make your bike less conspicuous, and also will alert you if someone is rustling under your tarp to get to your bike. As an added bonus this will also keep your bike dry overnight and save you from a wet saddle in the morning.

If you aren’t planning to take a lock, consider using any extra guy ropes from your tent or hammock and tie those to your bike, this adds another level of security to someone coming to take your bike while you are sleeping as you should feel them tugging on your shelter.

Finally, consider getting a bike alarm or bike bell. These will help to make a noise if someone is moving your bike and alert you, especially if you try to keep your bike nearby to your tent or sleeping system.


While taking a lock seems to be a personal choice, the majority of people take a simple cable lock with them to help keep their bikes safe when unattended and to help them get a good night’s sleep. While this might not always be necessary (such as when in a very remote area), a majority of the riders we spoke to still took one with them on each trip, no matter where they were going.

Joe Dalloz

Hi! I'm Joe a 30-year-old doctor, cyclist, and bikepacker who's spent thousands of hours in the saddle and written hundreds of articles about riding bikes!

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