How to Bikepack

3 Different Styles

Broadly speaking, there are three bikepacking genres to choose from – Multi-day Mountain Biking, Ultralight Race & Gravel, and Expedition & Dirt Touring.

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Multi-day Mountain Biking

Bikepacking - Multi-day Mountain Biking - Salsa Pony Rustler

Multi-day mountain biking is bikepacking at its core: carrying only the bare necessities, on a bike that’s light enough to explore the trails you’d seek on a day ride. Routes may vary in length, from a 40 mile sub-24 hour overnighter (S24O) to a multi-week jaunt spanning several hundred miles. They may begin close to home and be logistically straightforward to organize, utilizing both favorite rides and trails unknown. Or they may require planning and travel to destination locations to ride established bikepacking trails.

Almost all mountain bikes can be made into capable bikepacking rigs. This said, your bike of choice may well impact on the type of route you’ll enjoy most. On the dirt roads of The White Rim, for instance, almost any rigid bike will do. But on the technical singletrack of The Appalachian Beer Trail or The Colorado Trail, full-suspension makes more sense. In snowy, coastal, or sandy conditions, such as the Camino Diablo, fat tires may well be a necessity.

Salsa Pony Rustler - Bikepacking


The Pony Rustler can tackle a variety of surfaces, with confidence. Similar in design to the Horsethief, its plus-sized tires raise the bar for how hard it can pushed through corners, and monster truck down chunky descents.

Rivendell Atlantis - Bikepacking


The best bike to use for bikepacking is the one sitting in your garage. If you already have a mountain bike that works for you on the trail, chances are, without modification, it will be the perfect option for strapping on camping gear and setting out on your first bikepack. Just ask J. Poppi Kuuhl who bikepacks with a fleet of vintage mountain bikes.

Surly Krampus - Bikepacking


Surly’s Krampus innovated the 29+ platform. 3in tires on 50mm rims provide massive amounts of traction and comfort, without the complexities and cost of active suspension. A chromoly frame and slack geometry ensures it rides like a beast too! .

Ultralight, Race, & Gravel

Bikepacking - Ultralight, Race, and Gravel - Salsa Cutthroat Drawing

Self-supported ultra-racing was popularized by the The Tour Divide, a 2,745 mile bikepacking race from Banff, Canada, to the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Since then, races have sprung up all over the country, and increasingly, around the world. This style of bikepacking typically involves the use of a lightweight mountain bike - be it full suspension or a hardtail - complimented with an efficient, ultralight gear kit. Race routes are typically 200+ miles over a mixture of surfaces and terrain that often includes gravel and some pavement.

So what makes the perfect bike for ultralight bikepacking and racing? Terrain and surface conditions vary between routes. This changes the requirements of a bikepacking rig. For example, the GDMBR is known for its long stretches of gravel, while the Huracan 300 has plenty of sand and singletrack. Here are three different versatile examples; each has its own niche:

Salsa Cutthroat Review - Jay Petervary, Bikepacking Tour Divide


A fast, efficient bikepacking steed designed for racing the Tour Divide and other doubletrack epics. This dirt speedster is as light as they come, and yet simple, tough and reliable too: ideal ingredients for long distance events.

Borealis Echo - Bikepacking


If you thought fatbikes couldn’t be raced, check out the Echo. A feather light carbon frame and intuitive race bike handling make it ideal for competing on both dirt and snow alike. The Echo is a favorite for multi-day bikepacking races, where keeping weight to a minimum is a priority.

  • Review & Build Coming Soon
Salsa Spearfish - Bikepacking


Tailored to technical bikepacking, the Spearfish is a great weapon for more challenging courses. It’s no secret that suspension can reduce fatigue and increase comfort - aside from being a barrel of fun when bouncing down a rocky descent.

  • Review Coming Soon

Expedition & Dirt Touring

Bikepacking - Expedition, Dirt Touring - Surly ECR Drawing

Traveling overseas by bicycle has always been an incredible way to connect with people and experience cultures, unfiltered... even more so when your itinerary explores low traffic, unpaved roads, and involves unearthing rugged and remote places seldom seen. Which is exactly where a bikepacking-inspired setup comes into play, rather than the more cumbersome, traditional four pannier setup that has long been favoured by cycle tourists.

This list of three bikes below is a little one-sided; each has the ability to run larger volume tires than would be considered usual for long distance touring. But there is rationale. Fat tires add comfort and suspension, without requiring the maintenance typical of an air shock or fork. And they facilitate floatation, which opens up more terrain such as sand and snow. The frames we’ve listed are also all chromoly, which is both repairable and better suited to being slung on the roof of a bus, or boxed for a flight.

Note that these bikes may not be for everyone; if your intended path leans more towards pavement and gravel roads, there are other options. In many situations, a standard mountain bike with a 2+in tire will certainly suffice. And given recent technological developments, wide rims and 2.4in are also a great option, that won’t necessarily require dedicated frames. But give midfat and fat bikes a chance. From experience, we’ve found that larger volume tyres encourage explorations along the road less travelled, opening up horizons previously unconsidered. Teamed with a lightweight packing mentality, the world will really become your oyster...

Salsa Deadwood Review - Bikepacking, Bedrock Bags


The Deadwood is tailored to the nomadic expedition cyclist. It takes the elements of Salsa’s Fargo - a classic drop bar bikepacking steed - and adds the cushion, traction, and the go-anywhere prowess of 29+ tires.

Surly ECR - Bikepacking


The ECR is Surly’s long-distance workhorse that thrives on unpaved tours. Its long-haul friendly geometry, coupled with all the braze-ons you can shake a stick at, make it a great option for cross continental odysseys. And it’s Rohloff-friendly too.

Surly Pugsley - Bikepacking


The venerable pugs is a fatbike classic. Its frame features all the details expedition cyclists seek, while the offset design means readily available parts will keep it up and running, wherever you find yourself in the world.

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