While the weight of your gear is a big focus in certain sports such as backpacking, bikepacking tends to focus on it less. I’ve always tended to ignore the weight of my set-up, but a recent post on Reddit got me thinking about how much gear I’m taking and how much it all weighs.
The average bikepacking set-up is 48lb including the bike, gear, and supplies. However, the gear and supplies only make up 21lb of this weight. Apart from the bike itself, tents and water took up the largest proportion of overall weight.
Some bikepackers carried a total weight of up to 72lb, with the main factors that impacted how much weight a bikepacker needed to carry being the length of their trip and where they plan to sleep each night.
While 48lb is the average weight for a bikepackers full loadout, there is a range of different factors which impact how much weight you should take on a bikepacking trip. And if you’re looking for ways to cut down on this weight, I’ve found the best value-for-money ways of doing just that.
How much weight does the average bikepacker take?
We asked a group of bikepackers how much they took on their last bikepacking trips to see how much the average bikepacker takes. From those we spoke to the average bikepacker took 48 pounds in total (including the weight of their bike).
If you excluded the bike, then the average bikepacker carried 21lb of gear and other items with them on their trips.
We were also able to work out the average weight of a bikepackers bike which was 24lb.
What items weighed the most?
Of the items that bikepackers took, there were a few key pieces of gear that made up a large proportion of their packing weight.
First of all, and as expected, came their tent and sleeping system. On average our bikepackers allocated 8.1lb to their tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat. The heaviest item was the tent which came in at an average of 3.5lb. It is important to note that this average weight also takes into account some bikepackers taking bivvies on their bikepacking trips and so if you take a tent, you are likely to come out above this figure.
Other items that made up a large portion of bikepackers weight were their water and clothes.
Water weighs 2.2lb per litre, and if you consider most bikepackers will take around 2 litres per day, this easily adds up.
Clothes also had a large impact, with people on trips up to 1 week packing the most clothes (people on trips longer than 1 week planned to wash their clothes at hotels whereas people on trips lasting less than 1 week did not).
Factors that impact the weight of bikepacking set-ups
How much does your bike weigh?
As we can see from the breakdown of the different weights for bikepackers, one of the largest factors in your bikepacking set-up weight will be what type of bike you have. Bikes will be made from different materials, people will have different types of bikes, and be running different sizes of tires, etc. All of these will have a large impact on your overall weight.
If you want to see the lightest bike materials take a look at my article on the lightest bikepacking bike materials.
How often do you plan to resupply?
Another key factor will be how often you can resupply. If you are planning to cycle through a town each day on your trip, the amount of food and water you have to carry will be a lot less than if you are cycling through a desert for 3 days.
Linked to this is the location you will be bikepacking in, if you will be in very remote areas where you could not return to civilization easily, you will have to pack more gear such as tools and spare parts.
What type of gear you are taking?
By your third or fourth bikepacking trip, you will probably have worked out if you are someone who likes to pack all your creature comforts or prefers to be minimalist with the gear you take. Whichever it is, this will have an impact on your overall weight.
I always seem to take more electronics than most other bikepackers, I know by the time I’ve packed my phone, both my portable chargers, kindle, etc, I’m definitely over the 0.7lb average.
The gear you plan to take will also be dependent on the time of year that you are going on your trip. A winter bikepacking trip is going to require you to take more warm clothing and warmer camping gear that will add to your overall weight.
Where you will be staying?
If you are planning to camp in campsites or wild camp each night, you will have to carry much more gear than if you are “credit card bikepacking”.
“Credit card bikepacking” is where you cycle from hotel to hotel instead of camping each night. In these cases, you don’t need to carry any cooking equipment or shelter and you can often wash your clothes at the hotel you are staying in, significantly reducing the amount you need to carry.
This is one of the main advantages of this type of bikepacking, and a reason many will choose to do it.
How long will your trip be?
Finally, the length of your trip will play a large part in how much weight you carry.
For shorter trips such as overnighters, people often carry more gear than they need, only cycling for one day means people are happy to carry more creature comforts and often don’t plan to cycle as far.
It is week-long trips that people typically carry the least. Here people slim down their gear as much as they can. This is because, on week-long trips, you can often live without as much stuff (at least that’s what we tell ourselves), but you also have to carry your gear for a considerable amount of miles.
Finally, on those trips that last over a month, people tend to pack many more times than either of the other types of trips. In these cases, many cyclists are treating the trip as a period of their life rather than a holiday, and so take more of their creature comforts and spare sets of clothes, etc. Also on these trips people typically have more capacity to store this gear such as panniers.
Is packing lighter on a bikepacking trip better?
I’ve personally never focused on the weight of my bikes or bikepacking gear. Typically when I’m going bikepacking I’m not worried about extra weight, which is a big contrast to when I’m backpacking.
I personally always found the extra weight being carried by the bike made less of an impact on my trip than I expected, so I stopped monitoring it after my first trip or two.
However, before researching for this article I would have presumed that a lighter bike was much faster than a heavy one. Turns out I’m wrong!
While it’s not the only study of its kind, this study from the BMJ found no measurable difference in commuting time over a 27-mile cycle when using a carbon fibre frame that weighed 30% less than a comparative steel frame.
While bike weight does not have as much of an impact on speed as I expected, there are some key areas where it will make a difference.
Some people find that a heavy bike is much harder to handle than a light one. While this is true I always felt this was played up more than I ever experienced it.
One area I notice bike weight is if I ever have to carry or push my bike while on a trip. Be that through a period of “hike-a-bike” or if I was putting my bike onto public transport etc. In these situations, the extra 20 pounds I’m carrying on my bike is very noticeable and has a large impact.
Another key related area to this is the impact that carrying more gear has on your ability to organize and access the gear you’ve brought with you. There’s no point in taking the kitchen sink if the piece of gear you need is so deep in a bag that you can’t be bothered to get it.
What is the most cost-effective way to save weight on your bikepacking set-up?
So, we’ve established what the heaviest parts of your bikepacking set-up will be, but how do you reduce that weight? And what is the most cost-effective way to do it?
Firstly, we’ve already seen that the tent makes up the largest individual piece of gear on your bikepacking trip. While there are very lightweight tent options out there, these are very expensive. Instead, consider looking into getting a bivvy or using a tarp to make a tent.
If you plan to use a tarp for bikepacking, take a look at our article on what size tarp you need.
A great way of saving weight on your bikepacking trip is to buy a water filter. I often use a water filter on backpacking trips and it took me far too long to start taking them on my bikepacking trips.
While I still carry at least 1 litre of water with me on all my trips, on those routes where I will have access to water sources such as streams or rivers I will take a Katadyn BeFree Water Bottle with me. This lets me filter water on the go and cut my water weight in half.
One of the next heaviest pieces of gear was the sleeping bag. While this might seem like an area where you can cut down on your weight, again this is a very expensive area to focus on. Unless you plan to get a less insulated version or spend $300, you won’t be able to get one that weighs less than 2.2lb.
I find that camping gear in general is an area where you often get diminishing returns on more expensive gear.
What I find easier and more affordable is to just carry less gear. I’ve already explained my addiction to electronics, but if I just packed my phone rather than a phone, portable charger, and a tablet then I’d save more weight than if I upgraded my sleeping bag to the most expensive one I could find.
In this same vein is the idea of actually losing weight yourself. Focusing on the 2 oz that a bike spoke adds to my set-up seems less important when I realize that I am carrying a 175lb man on my bike as well. The same study from the BMJ that we looked at earlier also noted this.
As you can see, the amount of gear that people take when bikepacking is very variable, with some taking up to 72lb on a single trip!
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter how much everyone else is taking, just use this as a guide. Pack what you think you need and review it after your trip.
When I started bikepacking I took so many unnecessary things and forgot so many essentials, but only by trying it out will you work out what you missed (as long as you don’t forget the toilet paper).