Bikepacking can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t need to be. A bike alone can cost well over £3000, but we wanted to prove how you can go bikepacking on a budget. We appreciate that £500 is still a lot of money, but considering that this is less than the price of most people’s yearly holiday, we feel that this is a great investment for a bikepacking setup that will last you for many years of fun!
The Gear List
|The Carrera Vulcan||£350|
|The Alpkit Hunda||£49.99|
|The Nitestar Alpha 350||£39.99|
|The Forclaz Foam Folding Mattress||£14.99|
|5 Liter RockBros Frame Bag||£27.99|
|The Fire Dragon Burner Stove||£1.99|
|A spare inner tube||£3.99|
|A set of maintenance tools||£17.99|
|A camping cup||£1.07|
|A water bladder||£4.99|
|A set of dry bags||£10.99|
|A set of bungee cords||£4.19|
|A first aid kit||£3.49|
As you can see, we’ve managed to really stretch our budget! Getting everything from the bike, all the way down to the spare inner tube and first aid kit.
You will still need a few items that most people have lying around at home, such as a backpack and a fork! But apart from a few specific items, everything you need for your first bikepacking trip is in this gear list.
The Bike – The Carrera Vulcan (£350)
Coming in at 70% of our total budget, the bike is the most expensive part of our set-up, and even then, we are having to get a very budget option for a bike. However, for such a budget option, it has great reviews and many features we look for on a bikepacking bike.
The Carrera Vulcan is a “Hardtail Mountain Bike”, meaning it has suspension on the front but not at the back. Hardtail mountain bikes are a very common choice for bikepacking and are often suggested as the best choice for a beginner. This is due to the great value of components you get in addition to the advantages you gain from the front suspension.
The Carrera Vulcan comes in at 15kg, which while quite heavy, is reasonable for a bike with its price tag. And after all, it is still very close to the average for a bike of this kind, it has nice wide tires, and even comes with hydraulic disk brakes.
It does have some drawbacks though, the 9-speed cassette it comes with isn’t going to be as fun on the inclines as the 11-speed option we would normally recommend, and the tires it comes with as standard have only average reviews. In Bikeradar’s 5-star review of the Carrera Vulcan, the only other flaw that they noted was the rigid ride it had when compared to other budget hardtails. However, overall this comes in as a steal for only £350.
The Shelter – The Alpkit Hunda (£49.99)
We weren’t able to find a tent that would allow us to stay within budget, but that wasn’t going to stop us. A great budget option for a bikepacking trip is a bivy. Not only are bivies a great budget option, but they also have many advantages over a tent. Bivies are better for stealth camping, are lighter, and pack down into a smaller space.
The Alpkit Hunda is a great option for a bivy, even ignoring its budget price tag. It comes in at 330g and is suitable for anyone up to 6’1 (if you’re taller than this you’ll have to look at the XL version).
The Alpkit Hunda may not have all the bells and whistles of the most expensive bivvys, such as a hooped end, but it does what it’s supposed to do. It keeps you warm, it’s waterproof, and remains on budget. I bought this bivy myself as my first venture into bivy camping and I still use it today.
The Sleeping Bag – The Nitestar Alpha 350 (£39.99)
When looking for a sleeping bag for your bikepacking trip, you want something that will keep you warm but also something that can pack down and doesn’t weigh too much. Having all three of these is hard on a budget and so we’ve prioritized warmth and packability.
The Nitestar Alpha 350 is a 3 season sleeping bag (meaning it should be suitable for camping in all conditions except for the middle of winter). While it is a little heavier than some of the other options (2kg) it will keep you warm for most trips, with a comfortable sleeping rating of down to -1°C (30F).
There have been very few times in my bikepacking life that I’ve been grateful to have saved 500g on a piece of gear instead of going for a warmer or more durable option. This would however be one of the first pieces of gear we would consider upgrading from this list, specifically looking at a more lightweight option that will fit more easily between your handlebars.
The Sleeping Mat – The Forclaz Foam Folding Mattress (£14.99)
While some may consider a sleeping mat optional, we would suggest that a sleeping mat is a necessary part of any bikepacking kit. The mat will help to keep you warm overnight (insulating you from the floor) as well as cushioning the floor to make sleeping more comfortable.
Not only this, but a sleeping mat has many other uses. It’s a place to sit when cooking and an area that you can use to lay out your gear when packing in the morning. And when you can find options as good as the Forclaz for only £15 then it seems like a no-brainer.
This mat is a budget version of the very popular Thermarest Z lite. It has an R-value of 2.1 (a measure of the insulation it will give you from the floor) and weighs only 370g.
The main disadvantage of this mat is the shape. More expensive sleeping mat options are inflatable and as such pack down to a smaller size. This sleeping pad was predominately designed for backpacking or hiking and so is designed to fold up very nicely into a compact rectangle.
While great for strapping to a large rucksack, this shape is less good for attaching to a bike, so will have to be one of the items you carry in your backpack.
The Bike Bag – 5L RockBros Frame Bag – (£27.99)
In our round-up of how much bikepacking bag space you need for your trip, we found that the average bikepacker takes 30-40 litres of bag capacity. While this is traditionally made up of a saddle bag, frame bag, and handlebar bag, when working on a tight budget we have to be a bit more flexible.
We feel that of these options, the frame bag is the most important. It sits centrally on your bike, has a large carrying capacity, and is easy to access while cycling.
The RockBros Frame Bag, while small as frame bags go, will add a large amount of carrying capacity to your bag. It makes the central space on your bike, the frame, a suitable place to store gear, and other necessary items.
While we haven’t personally used this Rockbros bag, we have used other gear made by the company and can vouch for its value for money. If you want a more in-depth review of this bag, take a look at this Reddit post reviewing the bag over 1500km of cycling.
While we’ve only included one bag on our gear list, this isn’t going to be able to carry all of our kit. We’re getting around the extra expense of further bikepacking bags (such as a saddle bag) by suggesting you take a backpack on your bikepacking trip and attaching the larger items such as your bivy and sleeping bag directly to your bike with bungee cords (more on this later).
The Cooking System – The Fire Dragon Burner Stove – (£1.99)
When it comes to ultra-budget cooking systems, your best options are solid fuel or alcohol stoves. As well as being slighter cheaper than our favourite budget alcohol stove (The Trangia Alcohol Stove), the solid fuel option we’ve gone for here doesn’t have some of the restrictions that alcohol stoves suffer with.
If you haven’t seen them before, solid fuel stoves burn solid fuel…duh. This fuel comes in cube form, the most popular version of which is called “Esbit cubes” (one of the reasons these stoves are sometimes called Esbit stoves).
These cubes can be lit with a match or lighter and burn for around 12 minutes each, giving you time to boil 2-3 cups of water.
These types of bikepacking stoves are a great option, they are lightweight, and each cube of fuel can boil 2 cups of water in 8 minutes. This means they are very easy to pack and ration as you can plan a cube of fuel for each meal you plan to cook.
While Esbit cubes are the most common, there are some less well-known solid fuel options, for example, these Fire Dragon Solid Fuel Cubes, which perform very similarly but cost less than the Esbit cubes.
If you are looking to spend a little more, I would suggest going for the Trangia alcohol stove. I personally prefer the feel of the larger flame they produce, they boil water a little more quickly and don’t give off the same “fishy” smell that solid fuel stoves do.
If you plan to upgrade to an alcohol stove, please check if alcohol stoves are allowed in the area you plan to bikepack. In certain areas of the USA, specifically, those near large national forests, you are not allowed open flame sources such as alcohol stoves due to the risk of fires.
The Extras – Miscellaneous (£52.70)
A spare inner tube (£3.99)
The old biker saying “never leave home without a spare inner tube” still goes when bikepacking. We appreciate that this might be your first time bikepacking, but you should make sure to learn how to fix a flat tire before you leave!
There’s no worse feeling than being 20 miles from town, with a bike full of gear, and realizing you have a long walk ahead of you. Not only can it be a tough journey, but being stuck this far from home without the ability to fix a flat tire can be dangerous.
A spare inner tube is a necessity on a bikepacking trip, enough said.
For the same reason as the inner tube, having a small set of maintenance tools can be very helpful.
The set we have found here comes with the tools required to change an inner tube, a bike pump, a set of Allen keys, and even comes with a top tube bag.
If you don’t want to buy this for any of the “boring reasons”, consider getting it for the top tube bag alone. This is a great little additional bit of storage that can be used for a phone, other valuables, or snacks.
A headtorch (£5.99)
While there are only a few bits of dedicated camping gear we feel are a necessity on a bikepacking trip, a head torch is definitely one of them.
Not only can this be used at camp when it gets dark, but can also help to add an extra light source if you get stuck in the position of cycling when it’s getting dark.
This headtorch is a fairly budget option and so would be another good choice of gear to upgrade if you were looking to spend a little more. Make sure to look for a headtorch powered by AA batteries if you are planning to upgrade this.
A headtorch powered by replaceable batteries AA has some key advantages over a rechargeable option. Not only can you carry a spare set of batteries with you for peace of mind, but you can also take the batteries out of the headtorch while cycling to ensure it does not accidentally turn on inside a bag and run the battery flat.
A camping cup (£1.07)
While we presumed you had a set of cutlery at home, we doubted you would have had a metal cup, so we’ve included this in our budget.
A stainless steel cup is what you will use to heat up the water on your stove. This particular cup was the cheapest option we could find.
All stainless steel cups are very similar until you start spending a lot more money on titanium options which weigh less, so go with the cheapest option available for you.
A water bladder (4.99)
On any bikepacking trip, you are going to need to carry water. On the average trip, you will need to carry 2-3 litres with you at any time. Having a water bladder is a great way to carry this in an easily accessible way. You can either put the water bladder into your rucksack or into your frame bag if you find this easier (as many bikepackers do).
Using a water bladder instead of a water bottle is also required with this gear set-up as by using a frame bag, are no longer able to use the water bottle cage attachments that come with the bike, as this is where the frame bag will be sitting.
A water bladder also has other advantages, such as being able to easily take a drink while cycling, especially if you are on more bumpy terrain where you may feel uncomfortable taking a hand off of the handlebars.
A set of dry bags (10.99)
Given we were only able to afford one bikepacking bag (a frame bag) in our budget, this set of dry bags is here to help with packing the rest of your items. The largest of these bags should be able to fit your sleeping bag and the next largest is for your bivy. This allows you to attach the bivy and sleeping bag directly to your handlebars using the bungee cords we’d suggest below.
While you would be able to attach these items without the dry bags, arriving at camp with a wet sleeping bag is not only one of the worst feelings, but can leave you dangerously cold. The rest of the bags can be a great way to store other smaller pieces of kit that don’t have any specific place and can be strapped to your bike in other places with the remaining bungee cords.
A set of bungee cords (£4.19)
A bog-standard set of bungee cords to help with attaching items to your bike. Not only can these be used for the options we’ve discussed above, but bungee cords are a very versatile option on any bikepacking trip and I wouldn’t go anywhere without them.
They allow you to easily strap smaller items such as a raincoat to your bike, which can be much easier than having to stop and put it away in your bag properly.
A first aid kit (3.49)
You need a first aid kit for all your bikepacking trips. This is a very simple kit as there’s no point in taking any equipment you don’t know how to use.
Use this bag to take any other medications you may need. I’d suggest taking some simple painkillers in case you need them, as well as any regular medication you take.
You can also use this to store any other items you might require such as water purification tablets.
What you will need from home
While we would normally suggest using specific bikepacking bags for bikepacking, when preparing for a budget or first trip, a backpack is definitely a doable option! We’ll be using this to carry quite a bit of our gear including food, spare clothes, and our sleeping mat.
Just grab any fork and a spoon from your drawer, no need to go buy a special camping spork!
A bike helmet
When doing any cycling, you need to wear a bike helmet. This is especially the case when doing any form of off-road cycling such as bikepacking.
We’d suggest taking a dehydrated meal for your first trip, these are a great way to have a warm meal with very minimal work or bag space being required. You can buy this pre-made from a camping store (although they can get quite expensive), or instead, take along a pack of cheap ramen.
It’s important to have a set of spare batteries for your head torch, they always seem to run out at the worst time, and it is hard to make a cup of coffee in the dark!
We’d suggest using your phone as your way of navigating on your trip, especially after we realized just how popular using a phone as your bikepacking navigation tool is.
We couldn’t afford to include a portable charger in this list and so you will need to make sure you use the battery sparingly (or take one with you if you already own it).
Matches or a lighter
You will need matches or a lighter to light your stove of choice, we’d suggest taking both if you have them to hand to give you some redundancy in case one of the breaks or doesn’t work!
As you can see, bikepacking is definitely possible on a budget! This gear may be budget, but is absolutely everything you will need for a bikepacking trip!
We’d suggest you practice packing all of your gear before the day of your trip so you can make sure you have an idea of where everything will be going. And remember, if in doubt, more bungee cords!