Mountain biking and camping are classic matches like peanut butter and jelly, or Minion DHF’s and DHR’s, they just go together perfectly.
But, whenever you combine two activities, packing can get a little complicated, and nothing sucks more than ending your ride at your campsite, only to find that you forgot fuel for your stove and you’ll be eating cold oatmeal for dinner.
There’s a subtle art to packing for a mountain bike camping trip, and we’re here to help you master it.
Before You Start Packing
Before you even start throwing gear into duffle bags, there’s a little bit of planning you can do that can save you a whole lot of grief later.
The first thing to decide, is which activity are you doing first? Are you planning to go for a ride before you set up camp? Or are you going to camp a night, and then ride from camp?
The answer to that question will affect how you pack. If you’re planning on taking a ride first, pack all your riding gear last, in an easy-to-access place. That way you can pull up and get ready without having to dig through all your camping gear.
Once you’ve figured out that part of your plan, it’s a good idea to make a rough itinerary with where you plan on camping and the nearest food and mountain bike shops to that area. Every campground has different amenities, and it’s helpful to know how much you’ll need to pack.
Does your campsite have potable water or do you need to bring your own? What’s the toilet situation? And if you have a mechanical issue with your bike, where’s your best bet for someone to help fix it?
A little bit of research beforehand goes a long way, especially since many campsite and riding areas have spotty cell service.
Once you’ve figured out your rough plan, it’s time to pack. There are two main strategies that people employ here: either you overpack and bring everything you could ever imagine needing, or you try to get really strategic and think through what the bare minimum of equipment is.
In reality, your best choice is a hybrid approach. Think through how many nights you’re planning on camping, and how many rides you’ll go on, and then work backward from there. Look at average temperatures and the weather forecast for your destination, and make sure you have enough warm clothing to deal with overnight lows.
You don’t need to overpack and bring everything including the kitchen sink, but it’s a good idea to leave yourself a margin of comfort over the bare essentials that you’ll think you’ll need.
The same goes for bike gear. What parts of your bike are old and nearly worn out? What sort of mechanical issues do you often run into? It’s a good idea to have a shop that specializes in bike repair give your ride a once over before you even leave.
That way they can replace any worn parts, and warn you about any potential issues. Ideally, you won’t have to work on your bike once you’re on your trip, that’s usually more expensive and cuts into riding time.
Bring any spare parts you think you might need. Things like derailleur hangers and brake pads aren’t universal, there’s no guarantee that the shop near your destination will have the ones you need. So better to bring some extra parts and tools you don’t end up needing than to not be able to ride because you left them at home.
Also, consider what types of riding your destination has. If you only have a hardtail, and the trails are going to be rough and technical, it might be a good idea to consider a bike rental. Local shops will have bikes that are well-suited to the type of terrain you’ll encounter, and renting will help keep wear and tear off your own bike.
Often it’s easy to pack carefully at home, making sure every piece of gear has its place, but as the trip progresses things get messier and messier as you just throw gear into the car.
Taking a little time to repack intelligently and carefully will save you a lot of hassle later. Make sure everything you bring has a place and put it in that place every time you use it.
That way you won’t be running around camp unable to find your helmet as your buddies get ready to ride off without you.
There are few experiences more special than waking up in the woods and heading out for a great mountain bike ride from your camp.
But, there are a few small things you can do while you’re packing for your mountain bike camping trip that will save you a lot of time and frustration later and guarantee you a better experience.
So, what are you waiting for? Pull out those maps and start looking for campsites near great riding.