An Impromptu Overnighter

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It’s fairly uncomplicated to gather some provisions, lash some dry bags to a bike, and disappear into the woods for a couple of days. Read Logan’s account of a last-minute decision to go bikepacking back in 2013. Plus, a how-to starter kit for an easy overnighter.

Upon returning from my first long distance bike tour, I was already anxious to get back out on my bike. Truth be told, I had been dreaming up an off-road wilderness bikepack while I was still on that trip. I’m reminded of the old adage, “Don’t start thinking about dinner while you’re still eating breakfast,” but this was different. We began our trip through Mexico and Central America on paved roads with heavy kits in tow, but as we worked our way south, we sought out gravel and dirt roads that would take us beyond what was accessible from the paved byways. I knew my next trip would be different. I would be on my mountain bike… on trails… and in the forest.

  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Pisgah
At that point, I didn’t have any proper bikepacking gear, just a rack and panniers that wouldn’t work on my full-suspension rig. The bulk and load of that kit was too much for where I wanted to go, and my touring rig wouldn’t be capable on the trails I wanted to ride. Having a background in both mountain biking and backpacking, I was intrigued with a more minimalist approach to wilderness bike travel.

That Friday, I made a last-minute decision to tackle an ambitious overnight ride in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. And, by last minute, I mean less than half and hour before walking out the door. I called Dustin, my riding partner for the weekend, on the drive up to Brevard and proposed a change in plans.

“How about we strap some stuff to our bikes and make it an overnight campout ride?” I asked.

“Can we do that this late in the game?” Dustin replied. “What all do I need?”

Bikepacking Overnight, Pisgah

  • Bikepacking Overnight, Pisgah, Buckhorn Shelter
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags

I assured him a couple of dry bags, a change of clothes, straps, a sleeping bag, and a spoon would suffice. So we quickly cobbled together our kits and concocted a route that would link several of our favorite descents in the Pisgah Ranger District with an overnight stop at the shelter on Rich Mountain. We set out on from Mills River and quickly found ourselves on the long climb up the Laurel Mountain Trail. After topping out, we made some great turns down Pilot Rock, followed the Pilot Cove Loop, and then made the trudge over 1206 and up Mills River.

  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags

Backpacker huts and shelters make great spots for bike overnights. Fortunately for us, the Buckhorn Shelter was a much needed respite from a couple inches of rain that blew in that evening. We settled in with a single can of Dale’s Pale Ale, a small box of Cabernet, and a meal I’d quickly made out of a pouch of Trader Joe’s chana masala. I fell asleep on our wooden platform after marinating for a while in the deep, dark forest glow, hoping the resident mouse within the three-walled structure wouldn’t try to make a home in my beard.

As is the magic of bikepacking, the next morning we got to wake up and ride our bikes again. We capped off our mini-journey with a climb up Clawhammer Mountain and made the legendary descent down the Black Mountain Trail. And, of course, as we made the last few turns back to Dustin’s car, my mind was already wandering and scheming up the next trip.

Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags

  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Pisgah, Buckhorn Shelter
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Pisgah

A Starter Bikepacking Kit

From The Complete Guide to Bikepacking Bags

There is quite a bit of gear built specifically for bikepacking, but a quick overnight can be done with minimal equipment and a few minutes of preparation. A comfortable daypack teamed with dry bags lashed to your handlebars and seatpost makes a good barebones approach. This is especially true for overnight trips, or summer trips that might not require heavy gear to keep you warm. If you’re new to bikepacking and just want to try it out, plan a short 20-40 mile trip punctuated by a campsite or shelter somewhere in the middle. This starter kit is a great way of discovering the wonderful world of bikepacking.

  • Bikepacking Hacks - Tape Cage Mounts
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • bikepacking drybag seatpag

Seat ‘Pack’

Use a 5-7 liter dry bag clipped around the seatpost and cinched to the saddle rails with a webbing strap. Store a change of clothes and a few other odds and ends in it. It helps stabilize it if there’s something stiff within the bag, such as tightly rolled clothing.

Handlebar Roll

A larger 14-20 liter dry bag can be cinched to the handlebars with two webbing cinch straps or Voile straps. Include a small tent (the poles will help keep a straight shape to the bag) and a lightweight sleeping bag. Add duct tape to contact points between the dry bag and cables and/or brake levers. Otherwise, pick up a Revelate Salty Roll for $39 and get two 25” Voilé straps (around $6.50 each).


Chances are you already have a day pack; bike specific models that are 14+ liters in capacity are best. Use your backpack to carry sleeping gear, rain gear, or food and cooking supplies. Start with packing your inflatable sleeping pad and a few dehydrated meals; or you can strap a closed cell foam pad to the outside of the pack. Keep it as light as possible.

Electrical Tape Bottle Cages

In addition to your standard water bottle cage mounts, use about a half roll of electrical tape to add bottle cages to your fork legs or the underside of your downtube. This will reduce the water you need to carry on your back and help maximize the storage space in your backpack. Lezyne Power Cages work well, but most any cage will do. Other space saving tricks include using electrical tape attach a spare inner tube to your bike, such as below the top of the downtube.

Added Utility

Use cord to tie your tent poles onto the side of your bike’s top-tube. In addition, you can use straps to affix your tire pump, a larger water bottle or other items to your bike frame.

  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Pisgah, Buckhorn Shelter
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags

Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags

My quick overnight kit:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 (in fast-fly setup)
  • In green drybag: Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad and Big Agnes Pitchpine sleeping bag.
  • Cooking: Trangia spirit burner; Esbit screen/stand; MSR stainless 1 liter pot; Snowpeak titanium mug; Snowpeak titanium spork; small plastic bottle of denatured alcohol
  • Straps: 2 Sea-to-Summit accessory straps; 1 Surly Junk Strap; 2 Salsa accessory straps
  • Tools: 1 spare tube; tire lever; Crank Bros multitool; zip ties; Leatherman Juice; Trail Map of Pisgah Ranger District; tire pump
  • Other: whistle; line (for bear bag); mountain money; Black Diamond headlamp; Iodine tablets; Mountain Hardware rain jacket
  • Not shown: Fuji X100 camera; spare tshirt, underwear, socks; Osprey Raptor 18 pack

Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags

Dustin’s VooDoo Zobop loaded and ready. He carried an ENO hammock in his ‘Mr. Goodbody’ drybag on the back, and a giant sleeping bag on the front.
  • Bikepacking Pisgah - Ibis Mojo
  • Bikepacking Overnight, Dry Bags
  • Bikepacking Pisgah

Interested in this route? Check out the Appalachian Beer Trail. The section ridden during this bikepacking overnight runs from about mile 64 to mile 92 of the ABT.

  • Vance

    Cool overnight trip! Since you go to Pisgah frequently please come down to Greenville and catch up, we don’t want Ed’s feelings hurt

  • Brevard is just a hop, skip and jump.

  • Michael Viglianco

    I bet that tent smelled nice. I suppose that would be a good situation for a pint of mezcal considering how difficult it would be to carry enough beer.

  • Probably not as good as D’s hammock. Whiskey’ll do in these hills!

  • Michael Viglianco

    I was thinking you guys shared the tent before I read his packing list.

  • D$

    The two of us in a tent, that sounds awful for everyone involved. Especially Logan and we all know why.

  • Nate

    Jesus Logan you’re taking it to the next level. Lots of good procrastination material here. The reviews are solid, too, especially the photo of the Long Haul Trucker. She’s doing well, by the way, in her semi-retirement.

    The bikepacking stuff is pretty inspiring, too. Great idea.

  • Thanks Nate! Don’t let her get too dusty! Yeah, I am enjoying the blogging platform. How are things back in normal world?

  • Joe

    Hey man,

    I just picked up a Viscacha and Handlebar Harness from Brandon at The Hub Cyclery (….they’re running a 10% off on bikepacking stuff and had some old harnesses around and threw one in at a nice discount. Not sure if you know of him – he’s “Mary” from Ride the Divide’s husband.

    I’ve taken both out on fitting runs in the rain and will have them out ‘for real’ tonight at the Pisgah campground.


  • Very nice! I just got my Handlebar Harness and Viscacha in the mail 2 days ago and I’m itching to get back out there! Let me know how they work for you…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great post – I love the soulfulness of the pics.

    I think you’re going to have a long of fun with your handlebar pack and seatpack. As you say, strapping stuff on works ok short term, but well-designed bikepacking gear lets you forget about the bike, and just enjoy the ride.

  • Thanks for the compliments Cass! I have been having a lot of fun with my X100 lately. Definitely looking forward to doing another light overnight or two on my Ibis with those bags… but I think I’ll need a steel triangle to also fit a framebag for an upcoming longer adventure…

  • “CHIEF”

    I just got through a hut-to-hut adventure from Durango, CO to Moab, Utah. I’m local to Pisgah and know all the spots mentioned and pictured above and have experimented with similar overnight set-ups. I ride a custom FortyFour Bike and suggest that you take a look at their website ( as the owner builds purpose-built adventure bikes. Well any type of bike I suppose, but you get the point. Also, fortunately for me I was able to procure some prototype front and rear bags to test out in CO and they worked well. Seeing how he’s venturing into matching custom bags to his bikes, especially if you look at his Flickr feed, and supports what you’re setting out to do yourself, it seems as if the two of you would be a good fit. Bike, bag, or just conversation. Whatever. Look him up. His name is Kris Henry, nice guy, and tell him Chief recommended him. I really don’t think you’ll be let down and chances are you’ll end up learning some cool tricks too.

  • Thanks Chief. I’ll definitely check him out!

  • Lucas

    Hi Logan,

    I’m looking to get in touch with you regarding a contribution to Bunyan Velo but I don’t have a Facebook account to message you. Can you send me an e-mail at



  • Hi Lucas, Thanks for getting in touch… check your inbox!

  • Jack Nolan

    Well done. I like that you use what you have. The surly strap works! I’m also glad to see you using a FSB. I’ve been trying to tell myself it will be too heavy, but I’m just going to suck it up and do it.

    Thanks for the great article.

  • New series: Quick’n’Dirty Chronicles

  • Romain Clement

    This is utterly brilliant!!

  • Thanks!

  • Tracy

    I would like to tent camping, camping, bike-packing but I do not have a lot of experience with living outside. How do you seasoned outdoors folks deal with mosquitoes, biting flys, mice, snakes and critters in general?
    I have not seen any discussions on how to cope with insects and critters.

    Thanks, great site, love this.

  • Leah

    Here’s my take – I’ve done a lot of backpacking and other camping, so that’s where my experience is from.

    Mosquitoes: There’s only so much you can do. Pick a bug repellent, try mosquito-repelling clothes if you want (I’ve never used them but I know people who have), bring some anti-itch cream if the itching stresses you out. Mosquitoes are most active around dusk, so sometimes you just have to retreat into your tent/hammock/bivy after the sun goes down to avoid them. If they’re too intense while I’m hiking, I just try to minimize the amount of exposed skin on my body and tough it out – there’s definitely a psychological aspect, where you just have to accept that you’ll get some mosquito bites and you’ll have to live with it, haha.

    Biting flies: Haven’t had to deal with this too much myself. I don’t know where you live, but in most places I’ve been backpacking there aren’t many biting flies, and when you encounter some you kind of just have to move past that place and then you’re free of them.

    Mice: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a mouse backpacking, actually. Maybe a glimpse of one scurrying away through the grass, but not much more – I see a lot more chipmunks than anything.

    Snakes: I only see snakes occasionally, and they usually slither away pretty fast. The vast majority of them are harmless to humans in any case. Just keep your distance from rattlesnakes and you should be fine, unless you live in an area with more dangerous snakes that I’m not familiar with.

    In general, the main thing you have to worry about when it comes to animal encounters is your food. I’ve never had a bear steal my food, but I have had chipmunks get into bags of trail mix, raccoons try to steal dinner off the table, etc. Things to keep in mind are 1) don’t bring food inside your tent, 2) keep your food bag within sight during the day, and 3) secure your food before going to bed (in a bearproof container or locker, or by hanging from a tree – check the regulations and recommendations for the area you’re going to).

    I think that covers it! Have fun getting outside! :)