Author Topic: Backpacking vs Bike Touring  (Read 3158 times)

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Offline KathyE

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Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« on: June 12, 2021, 12:31:27 am »

Hi everyone,

I'm transitioning from backpacking to bike touring and I'm already having space issues. I started with my camping gear and I seem to have had more room in my 60L backpack than I do in my panniers and I don't know if this is normal. Are there better options other than what I use for backpacking? 

Big Agnes Tiger Wall Ultra Light Bikepack 2 Person tent
EE Convert sleeping bag
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad
Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow

The sleeping bag and pad especially seem to take a lot of room.


Kathy
Retired
Novice bike tourer
Sending positive vibes to 'A'
Kathy
Retired
Novice bike tourer
Sending good vibes to 'A'

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2021, 06:23:51 am »
Use four panniers and a handlebar bag.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2021, 07:11:35 am »
You generally need less stuff for bike touring in my experience.  Food in particular can and should be bought daily or at least often rather than carried far.  I always found that when backpacking any distance food was a major portion of the volume of the load.

Things all don't all even need to fit in your panniers, some large bulky items can go on top of the rear rack.  Also you could add a bar roll.

How much people carry can vary pretty widely but a lot of people get by on way less than 60 liters and there are panniers setups that carry more than that.  So there are a wide range of solutions.  My preferred one is to figure out how to get the gear down to a smaller lighter package, but if you want or need to there are large panniers for front and rear and places to add more gear.  I even have seen someone use 4 big panniers stuff on top and a fully loaded trailer, but I don't recommend that at all.

My personal preference is to go with a style similar to ultralight backpacking where I use a 45 liter pack even when I have to carry a bear canister with 4-5 days of food (the first day doesn't all fit in the canister) and can get by with 30 liters or less for a weekend with no canister.


Offline BikePacker

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2021, 07:51:57 am »
My style, Kathy, includes the sink from the kitchen which requires of me:
> Four panniers.
> One handlebar bag.
> Rear rack onto which much gets strapped* on high
> 3 water bottle cages (and another BIG water container if conditions necessitate : ).
What all dat is in Litres is beyond my paygrade.
Your backpacking knowledge is invaluable in your transition/execution into touring;
however/meanwhile, allow me to offer 2 precautionary cents -
try to not use any bungy cords
(which you are probably backpacking accustomed to using a lot)
in a fashion whereby one could break apart and get tangled in your spokes while you are in motion....
resulting in your motion changing in a non-desirable manner...
try to use only non-elastic *straps.
I would encourage you to keep posting your questions to our forum....
A thousand years ago when I moved into bikepacking the helpful advice I received thru this forum
saved me incalculable 'on the road/trail' downtime due to
just stuff I would not have otherwise figured out in advance on my own.
Let us know how the fun of touring unfolds for you?

Offline GrnMtns

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2021, 08:04:15 am »
"Normal" varies but I put the tent, sleeping bag, air mattress and pillow in one pannier, clothes and any food in the other.  Front bag for hat, gloves, and phone.  Back when tents and sleeping bags used to take more room I'd strap them on the rear rack.  You'll work it out - happy travels!

Offline donald.stewart.92

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2021, 08:48:43 am »
I use 2 panniers and a bar bag. I strap things on top of the rear rack. If it doesn’t fit then I don’t need it. 30 lbs without water.


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Offline TCS

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2021, 09:07:59 am »
"The really successful lightweight camper is one whose pack shrinks every year and whose enjoyment increases in ratio with every vanished ounce." - Brian Walker, 'Bicycle Camping', Mother Earth News, July-August 1971

500 fully loaded touring bikes:  https://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/fullyloaded

Pictures of folks generally packed much lighter:  https://bikepacking.com/bikes/rider-and-rig/
« Last Edit: June 12, 2021, 09:36:59 am by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2021, 09:19:57 am »
Kathy -

Backpacking is a general term and pack weight varies greatly. When I thru-hiked the AT I actually carried less weight then I tend to carry for a weekend or week long trip. Not sure why but I figure it is a matter of planning. The other thing is a matter of supply, resupply, laundry, etc. When I first started touring with my wife I carried a lot more stuff to make sure that she was comfortable and learned to love the sport. As we got more into touring together she got her own panniers and boy has her packing style changed. We also brought a weeks worth of food and clothes with us on our first trip together. When I thru-hiked I lived in the same 2 pairs of shorts and 2 shirts, 3 pairs of socks for just over 5 months - sure I smelled like crap after 5 days in the woods but so did everyone else.

Bike touring tends to give you far more access to services. There are some remote places with limited services, but most touring by bike have daily and frequent access to potable water and food. When I thru-hiked I was hauling 3 liters of water (6.5 lbs.) starting out in the morning unless I was sure there was a reliable water source ahead, I hiked in a drought year. I also carried at least 3 days of food (2.5 lbs. per day), a spare fuel canister, etc. With access to water you can wash clothes out almost daily, grab a snack at a gas station, buy a meal if your fuel canister runs out, hitch hike if injured rather than a zero day in the woods eating pack food waiting for an injury to heal.

From the partial gear list you presented it sounds like you lean to the lighter side of back packing. My pack dry tended to be around 25 to 28 pounds when I through hiked.  I packed so I knew where everything was and kept certain gear on top for rainy days. Bike touring gives you a mechanical advantage to haul the extra weight. Your bike rig may top the scales over 50 lbs. but the weight in not sitting on your hips and shoulders and impacting your knees directly.  I use 4 paniers for organization - I want to know where the stuff is to set up camp versus the stuff I want inside my tent. I want to keep my food away from my in-tent stuff for bear country. If you think of your bike as a pack frame (like the ones the AMC uses to resupply huts in the White Mountains) then you can "strap-on" all kids of packing options to suit your particular needs - Just weigh it all when your done because you still have to pedal the weight uphill, mechanical advantage or not.  ;D
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline KathyE

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Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2021, 10:43:03 am »
Thank you for all the responses!

I don't feel so overwhelmed now but I think I need to start small and expand from there. I'm going to camp tonight with only a basic load of things like camping gear, rain gear, water and biking necessities. I was lucky enough to get one of the last Trek 520's still available (after much searching) and I'm still getting used to the new bike. I'll start off with old panniers but I'm sure will want to upgrade at some point.

With respect to backpacking, I started off in May with plans to do a thru-hike on the AT but my knees did not like cooperate. I'm hoping biking will be much kinder to me.
Kathy
Retired
Novice bike tourer
Sending good vibes to 'A'

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2021, 11:25:52 am »
With regard to knees, stay out of the big ring as much as possible and spin, spin, spin. I tend to pound the big ring, jump out of the saddle on hills, and ride more like a sprinter when I ride locally. That does not cut it doing long trips with a loaded bike and it is tough on the knees, not to mention the dozen of rear wheels I destroyed until I started building my own. When doing back to back long days sit back on enjoy the ride. I find a higher cadence in an easier gear much easier on my knees. Learn to accept the hills and the headwinds and not fight them, the ride is more important than the destination.

Also, loading your bike takes some practice, much like loading your pack. Side to side balance is one thing, but if you add front and rear panniers you may have to adjust for handling, steering, and wobble at various speeds. Avoid loose flapping things, you are not walking at 3 MPH but can be descending at 50 MPH and have a jacket sleeve or strap tangle into your spokes at that speed can be deadly, aside from the annoyance of flapping gear when you ride. it his better to have things inside of packs or bags then hanging from the outside (in my opinion).
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline ray b

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2021, 12:42:21 pm »
You'll like the bike.
All good advice. Keep those rpms up.
With your taste in ultralight equipment, you're going to do well.

Recommend a quick read that might fit your style - Ultralight Bike Touring and Bikepacking by Justin Lichter and Justin Kline. With your experience, philosophy is probably more important than instruction.

I pack different bags for different trips. I currently have the bike set up for bikepacking off-road with front portage rack and small rack bag which holds stuff I need quickly and toiletries. Rear rack bag holds my sleep kit, tent, and mattress (similar or identical to yours). I usually round out with a couple small panniers for clothes and parts. Use of a full or partial frame bag for tools and food depends on whether I want water in bottles or MSR Dromedary and how much distance I'm looking at between towns. A couple of liter bottles sit on the forks.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2021, 06:35:26 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline LouMelini

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2021, 04:39:44 pm »
Kathy:  When thru hiking the AT (2016) I used a 60L pack, but I was thru hiking with my wife Julie (55L pack)-I carried the tent and "kitchen", she carried the sleeping bag. When we did the TransAmerica (2018) we each had 75L capacity, but I had a lot of extra room most of the time (my handlebar bag is for valuables such as hearing aides, wallet, extra prescription glasses, etc.). We carry differently when we backpack (i.e. 2-person tent vs. a 3-person when on the bike) We carry camp chairs when we bike tour, never when we backpack. We try to go light weight, but also prioritize comfort. As you have learned in the backpacking world, "Hike your own hike", you will also learn to "bike your own bike tour". With your background in backpacking, I am sure you will do fine. Knees: As HikeBikeCook said; spin, spin, spin. I try to consistently spin at 80+ rpms in most terrain.

Offline ray b

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2021, 07:11:09 pm »
Hi everyone,

I'm transitioning from backpacking to bike touring and I'm already having space issues....
Big Agnes Tiger Wall Ultra Light Bikepack 2 Person tent
EE Convert sleeping bag
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad
Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow

The sleeping bag and pad especially seem to take a lot of room.

Kathy
Retired
Novice bike tourer
Sending positive vibes to 'A'
Just noticed, like most backpackers, you focus on your camping equipment. What you have available for bags and therefore space depends a little on your bike - which is now an essential part of your equipment.

If you're going to take the kitchen sink, table, and chairs as do some of my stronger colleagues, then you need a frame, fork, wheels, and tires to match.

So, I should ask, what are you riding? (Or, do you have resource for a herd of bicycles for different purposes.)

I'll expand a little bit on potential knee issues, which also ended my days as a backpacker.

Fit on the bicycle becomes critical, and you might want to check with your physical therapist or a trained bicycle fitter on how to set up your position on saddle, pedals, and bars to avoid injury. Though cycling is fairly forgiving, if, as I suspect, you are a strong athlete, you can still hurt your knees, hips, back, and neck on a bike through overuse injuries.

Also, with knee pain, you'll likely want to minimize the weight of the bicycle and gear as much as possible. There are some mechanical limits to leveraging the mechanical advantage of very low gearing by which one can damage some heavily loaded bicycles while stomping on the pedals up a very steep grade. If you're on back roads or trails in the mountains with a heavy load, you might need to walk the bike up (and sometimes down) the wall. So, you might want to start light, and add luxuries as you see fit. You don't want to strain a knee struggling to walk or pound a heavy bike up a seemingly impossible grade on a rutted road or trail. All will likely agree, the general tendency in bicycle touring is to start too heavy.

Cycling also adds the possibility of "motel camping." Even in the backcountry, towns are not separated by as much time as they are on foot. On the AT, hiking 20 miles off the route to re-supply or shower is a big deal and ~6 hours. That's a distance that can usually be done in a couple of hours on a bike. As already noted, that should lighten your load of food and in some areas, water, but you might also consider how it might lighten your equipment. I have summer trips where I don't take a stove, knowing I can get a restaurant meal (or gas station pizza) whenever I have the urge for a hot meal, at lodges and towns along or near the road/trail.   

I should note, that in addition to the book I mentioned in my prior post, another source of information and philosophy with which you might identify is bikepacking.com - "Brought to you by folks addicted to campfire smoke, chromoly steel & getting lost."

(Parenthetical aside, not quite off-topic. As you might know, the Tour Divide started yesterday. This is a self-contained race where riders eat and sleep where they can. Camping for most is at the extreme of minimalist (a bivy sack and down jacket and pants)  If you need a little bit of inspiration, I see that at this time on the second day of riding, 48 year-old Jay Petervary is already more than 280 miles (>10%) of the way through this 2,450 mile ride that essentially follows the ACA Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.)

Have fun thinking about your future tours, but remember, the best thinking is done on the bike.  :)
« Last Edit: June 12, 2021, 07:46:23 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2021, 01:25:11 am »
I considered backpackers the main source of go-to information for getting the most use from the least gear, and the lightest. Long distance hikers often carry food for three days and longer. In road cycling and touring that is not necessary most places. Between two racks, four panniers, and a handlebar bag, if there is not enough room for packing, you might be packing the way most people tend to do. They look for ways of filling existing space. I used to do transcontinentals in the USA using two medium sized panniers and two small ones. No problem with room to spare. Later I used two large and two medium panniers and they were stuffed full to capacity. CGOAB forum has articles showing cyclists doing transcons with only two rear panniers and a handlebar bag. I once did a tour of thousands of miles with 65 pounds of gear. I could have thrown thirty pounds of it in a garbage can, and not missed or needed it. Just limit gear to what is necessary and nothing more.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Backpacking vs Bike Touring
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2021, 06:37:39 am »
One last comment on the sleeping bag taking up too much room. I use a Sea-to-Summit waterproof compression sack for my Feathered Friends 30 degree (with wide shoulders) mummy and it compresses very small.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966