An Introduction to Bikepacking - What you need for a sub 24 hour bikepacking trip in Northeast Ohio

An Introduction to Bikepacking  - What you need for a sub 24 hour bikepacking trip in Northeast Ohio

June 11, 2024

What is bikepacking? A purest would claim that it is like backpacking but on two wheels. You, your bike, and the wilderness with only singletrack or gravel fire roads in front of you. It sounds lovely, but around here, it’s difficult to find those types of routes without driving to PA or WV. I highly recommend doing that, but there’s nothing like walking out your front door, getting in the saddle, and finding adventure nearby. In northeastern Ohio, we have to expand our definition a bit and incorporate a bit of bike touring into it as well. With this in mind, a trend in bikepacking is known as the sub-24-hour trip. The idea is rooted in creating a route that is short enough to leave Friday night after work and be home around dinner on Saturday. 

There is a fantastic opportunity for a sub-24-hour trip right here in our local Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Now that the Ohio Erie Canal Towpath is more accessible throughout Cuyahoga County, you can find many access points to hit the trail and find adventure basically in your backyard. Within CVNP there are some mountain biking trails that you can detour to include some single track. Creating a safe route is an important part of the trip. Finding road corridors that are less traveled and have infrastructure that supports bicyclists is essential. Bike Cleveland is a local advocacy group that has some great resources to get you started. The Backpackers Shop and other local bike shops can also offer support in finding or creating a route.  Being visible is also crucial to your safety, be sure to invest in bright bike lights and a quality helmet. We carry both Goal Zero and Nitecore products to keep your lights and devices charged. Once you have chosen your route and made you and your bike highly visible on the road you should consider safety and pack for emergencies. A good starting point to reference is our backpacking gear checklist to ensure you have the essentials.  Also bringing along a bike repair kit that can handle at a minimum fixing flats and adjustments to brakes and derailers. 

There are essentially two options when it comes to getting your bike set up. You can go with a combination of a seat, frame, and handlebar bag. This is what is traditionally considered a bikepacking setup. The weight is distributed evenly along the frame. It is balanced and more maneuverable than a traditional pannier setup. With this setup, space is at a premium, so planning and packing are important. The other option is a classic rear and front rack loaded with panniers. When I use this setup, I really feel like I can “glamp” and bring all the camping bells and whistles—even a chair!

A sub-24-hour trip is a great way to get started acquiring the pieces necessary to have an enjoyable time and the experience to decide if you want to expand into multi-day trips. You can find everything you need at the Backpackers Shop. Clothing will depend on personal preferences. However, a few key items are necessary once you make it to camp. A Merino Base Layer, Jacket, Camp Shoes and Socks. Changing into dry clothing will help keep you warm at night and give you the chance to air out your riding gear! I like to pack a raincoat because it takes care of keeping me warm and dry if needed! If you are doing this in colder months, the classic Patagonia Nanopuff is a great addition.

Eating nutritionally on the go is easier than ever now! All you need for prep is a Stove and Spork. The Jetboil Minimo can accommodate your warm beverage in the morning as well as your evening meal after setting up camp. Visit us at the shop to choose from a full range of adventure food from Good To-Go and Trailtopia. Another component to consider are water sources. A route in CVNP gives you plenty of places to refill, however they do shut down the fountains when the weather turns too cold, if you like the solitude of winter adventures, pack extra water.

A sleep system is a big part of what you will pack. We carry both Big Agnes and Nemo bikepacking tents. They are different from backpacking tents because the poles pack down into smaller portions that can fit in a handlebar bag, and they have some different features focused on bicyclists' needs. A handlebar bag can be made very simply with a Sea to Summit compression dry bag and straps. Stop in; we would be happy to demonstrate how to do this. Once the tent is set up, you need a pad, a sleeping bag, and maybe a pillow.  We offer a wide selection of both synthetic and down sleeping bags to fit both your comfort and budget. Both options have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it can be hard to determine which is best for you. Our knowledgeable and experienced staff can help inform your purchases so you are well prepared and have a great time on your adventure!