The Budget Minded Bikepacker

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#1
With the popularity of bikepacking gaining speed, it's become obvious it's not cheap to assemble a proper bikepacking kit. Because space, weight and efficiency are such critical considerations, many of the go-to products commonly used in bikepacking circles are pretty spendy. A couple of us have been kicking around options for a less expensive kit, but one that doesn't sacrifice too much performance. To quote Keith Bontrager, "Light, strong and cheap. Pick two." We think we've uncovered some products that might defy Keith's quote.

The three major components to a good bikepack system are: Storage, Shelter, and Food/Hydration. That last one is relative to not just cooking and eating, but transporting and treating water on route.

Storage:

Storage has long been the bugaboo of the budget bikepacker. Custom frame, bar and seat bags can run well over $500 for a complete set. We've found some fun alternatives.

Bar Bag - Outdoor Research Lateral Dry Bag, $45
ORBag.jpg
This is a fantastic alternative to a costly custom bar bag.
Cons: Lacks durability. Hard to complain as this was not designed as a bar bag, even though its a fantastic bar bag. It may not be a good long term solution.

Frame Bag - Revelate non-custom Tangle Bag, $70
Tangle.jpg
Hard to believe they've been able to produce these hand-made bags at this price. This is half the price of a custom bag.
Cons: There's a little wasted space as the lower half of the main triangle is unused. It does however, permit the use of your two bottle cages.

Backpack - Camelbak Cloud Walker, $80
camelback.jpg
There are few good hydration pack options below $100 these days. This pack has the capacity and low weight to make it a very viable bikepacking option.
Cons: None that I can see, and I've used previous generations of this pack for many bikepacking trips.

Shelter

This category includes everything you need to survive the elements whether at rest or on the bike. It's tough to save money here.

Bag - Kelty Lightyear 40, $159
Kelty.jpg
At 2 pounds, 2 ounces this 600 fill down bag is a cool $100 cheaper than similar bags from the premium bag makers.
Cons: There are lighter bags available. It's not the smallest $159 bag, but the best quality for that price.

Bivy - Adventure Medical Kit (SOL) Thermal Bivy, $35
bivy.jpg
This barely made our list, and it's still a marginal option. This really would need to be used in tandem with a light tarp, but it is a waterproof fabric. If there a genuine threat of weather, this would be dicey. It's a great product, and worth owning, but it might be sketchy to call this your only shelter in some areas.
Cons: not fully weather proof.

Pad - Thermarest Trail Scout, Med, $45
therm-a-rest-trail-scout-hero_l.jpg
Pretty hard to beat this value. At a pound and a half, it's darn close to it's $150 cousins.
Cons: Slightly bulky. This may present a storage problem for some. It will likely end up on the bars. Pretty darn thin, too.

Food/Hydration
While many riders opt to go without a stove, we've found warm water in the morning can greatly increase comfort with a good cup of joe, oatmeal or tea. Plus, a hot meal can make recovery after a hard day better all around. It's also possible to use freeze dried meals as a means of conserving weight as whole foods can get very heavy.

Stove, pot, fuel - Esbit Stove and Cookset, $35 ONE OF OUR FAVORITES
esbit.jpg
This is another value winner. We've tested this system again and again with surprising results. One bonus - as you burn fuel, you reduce carried weight AND bulk. This system weighs a scant 197 grams for the stove, pot and lid. Each eight minute boil expends one 14 gram fuel cube. That means hot water for a four day trip would only weigh 281 grams with the stove, pot and six fuel cubes. Hard to not pack that. It's not nearly as fickle and delicate as an alcohol stove. We've found this to be far lighter than alcohol once you factor in fuel weight
Cons: Have yet to find one if all you need is hot water. Clearly you can't "cook" on this very well.

Water purification - Aquamira tablets, $8
aquamira.jpg
This is a great alternative to a filter, or a Steripen, which many of us have found to be a great option in certain areas.
Cons: Time. It takes 4 hours to treat your water, so you better plan ahead. The drops are 2 ounces instead of 50 grams, but they're much faster.


Summary of cost and weight:

Cost of the items above: $477
Rough estimate of weight including storage systems: 8.7 pounds

This doesn't include food, clothing, or various bike accessories, but it gives you a good idea what's possible with a smaller budget. Stay tuned for our list of "Price is no factor" bikepacking stuff. You'll be surprised to see the weight is very similar.
 
#3
Did you consider a surplus USGI gortex bivy?? I believe you can pick the woodland camo pattern at a good number of places for about 50 bucks. Not to sure the weight but definantly not to heavy thou and it will take a lot of abuse.
 
#5
Is he merely referring to the woodland bivy cover? If it's just the cover, I don't believe it's 3.7lbs

I opened this thread thinking there'd be a list of equipment for a repair kit or something like that?
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#6
I opened this thread thinking there'd be a list of equipment for a repair kit or something like that?
That's a good idea. I'll be the first to admit my repair kit is tiny, and super optimistic. It's one of the advantages of riding singlespeed. I carry a tiny pump (58 grams), a single tool (44 grams), one chain tool (77 grams), patch kit (19 grams), tire lever, spare tube, super glue and three extra chain links. That's it.

airstikslminipump_2_1.jpg ct-5c.jpg mt1.jpg patch.jpg
 
#7
why do people not bikepack with hammocks? they make some VERY nice backpacking hammocks that weigh only ounces, and you dont really need a thermarest, in the summer you can go without anything and in the winter normally a blue foamy is more than enough as you dont need it for comfort just for thermal barrier. and at around $150 you cant really go wrong.

I've been thinking about trying the whole bikepacking thing, i have lots of lightweight gear for my motorbike and own, and have experience with a canvas sewing machine so i can make custom fitted bags for my bike. this could be an intresting thread, alot of this gear is very relavent for motorbiking as well, especially people that explore on lightweight dual sport style bikes.

Hennessy seams to be the goto for hammocks.

 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#8
Hammocks are great. They are light, but you have to be careful as the weight and bulk can add up. The fly, and hammock combo really have much of the same weight and bulk as many small tents, minus the poles. I'm a big fan of the backcountry hammock, but not always for bikepacking. Much depends on the system, time of year, and being in the southwest....trees. I've become very fond of the Eagles Nest Outfitter systems, and think they may have eclipsed Hennessy for innovation.

Great addition to the discussion, though. They sure are an inexpensive alternative.
 
#9
Hammocks are great. They are light, but you have to be careful as the weight and bulk can add up. The fly, and hammock combo really have much of the same weight and bulk as many small tents, minus the poles. I'm a big fan of the backcountry hammock, but not always for bikepacking. Much depends on the system, time of year, and being in the southwest....trees. I've become very fond of the Eagles Nest Outfitter systems, and think they may have eclipsed Hennessy for innovation.

Great addition to the discussion, though. They sure are an inexpensive alternative.
well i am a little spoiled when it comes to trees here on vancouver Island ;)
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#10
Even if the hammock system adds a little weight, in some environments it has one massive advantage - it can be used almost anywhere. I find this to be really nice when trying to maximize daylight. On some of my trips, I've pushed long into the last minutes of daylight or beyond and as long as I was in the trees, felt confident I could stop at any time and just string up my hammock at the last minute. I doesn't matter if the ground is sloping, wet, rocky, or veggie covered. If ground camping, this gets way more complicated. Finding flat, even, comfortable ground isn't always easy. I've spent as much as an hour or more trying to find a place to put even a bivy at times. In fact, I've had to sleep ON THE TRAIL a couple times. That's not much fun.
 
#11
I was referring to just the goretex cover and from what I can find online it should only weigh 1.5 pounds. I have a couple and none of them feel near that 4+ pounds....Also I'm a pretty big guy and I fit easily . So normal size people would be able to store their gear inside the bag with them if it got really wet out!
 
#12
i really think this could be an intresting thread, might be a neat idea doing a Budget Minded Bike thread as well, i used to be up to date with all the new fancy stuff coming out and am very aware at how quickly the price can sky rocket. i use to race downhill and freeride so i have a pretty good idea what lasts and what doesnt. the only bike i currently own that is rideable cost me $200 at canadian tire, while serving its purpose very well i would never dare take it more than a few hours from home because i dont trust anything save the frame from failing, it has less than 100km on it and i am sure i already need to replace the bottom bracket.
 
#14
Maybe not budget minded - but it's my intent this summer to restart my dream of taking 7 days and riding around Lake Ontario in Upstate NY. My method (referred to as Debit Touring in the books I've read) amounts to packing as light as possible, and staying in B&Bs and hotels every night. I'm really looking forward to it. Hope to also recreate another great trip and make a weekend trip up to Lake Placid and back.
 
#15
Awesome thread!

As well, I'd love to hear more about what people pack for clothing. Wool is my go-to fabric, but, in a jacket I'm wondering what's better: Primaloft or Down? I plan on bikepacking the CT in August this year, and threads like these are fantastic. I already have most of my gear, but there are always things that can be improved.

I, too, am waiting to see the "money is no object" list for this same topic.