Tips on your first remote bikepacking trip

Planning your first remote bikepacking trip can be particularly daunting. I know that from first hand experience. From my experience, the more remote a bikepacking trip has felt, the more rewarding my trip has been. If you are planning your first remote bikepacking trip, read on! I have compiled a few points to be aware of so your trip can run smoothly. For the purpose of this blog post, I define ‘remote’ as the feeling that you are extremely far away from any civilisation or where getting help would require calling the authorities rather than your buddies. Kia B 🙂

Track 3 (the highly infamous “baby head” track) on the backside of Mount Buller – Taungurung Country.

Daily kilometre expectations
It is one thing to do an unloaded day ride and smash out some distance. However, it is another thing all together to do it on a loaded bike on trails you have never ridden. You are going to go slower and get tired more easily. It is important to keep this in mind when you are doing your daily kilometre planning for your remote journey. You might be biting off more than you can chew on a loaded bike in remote areas.

Fainters Track at Falls Creek – Jaitmatang Country. Strap your handlebar bag on tight and properly otherwise it will look like mine.

Go tubeless immediately, if not sooner!
If you haven’t gone tubeless already, what are you waiting for? Going tubeless is the biggest game changer and will reduce chances of flats/heartbreak in remote areas. You will also be able to run lower PSI and be able to absorb additional rocks and tree stumps (like the technical and rocky MTB track Fainters in Falls Creek). Most punctures can be fixed very easily and with minimal crying using a dynaplug. Flats are definetly still possible so always bring a spare tube just incase. The micro dynaplug is a crowd favourite here amongst the staff members at Commuter Cycles. It is TINY and fits all the necessary components within it. It is wild because it is ONLY 43 grams and contains 5 x Tire repair plugs, 2 x Insertion tube, a Micro-knife, a Air stopper, a Pipe cleaner and a Micro Pouch. Amazing!

Refreshing swim/hydration session with my Life Straw

Water purification
I love the water purification tablets. You literally just drop it in your bottle and wait half an hour. There are also options like the Katadyn or Life Straws. The Katadyn Be Free bottle 1L only weighs 63 grams and collapses therefore it is super easy to pack away. It also protects you from micro-organisms, bacteria, cysts and sediment. Not only do Life Straws protect you from bacteria, but in summer you can use it while swimming. Straight from the source.

Managing risk
If you are going remote, you need to be more vigilant with your decision-making. Particularly if you are solo. If you are with others, you may have more wiggle room to send it on a descent, however if you are solo in remote areas you should be more conservative and action more caution. An example of when I managed risk was when I rode the Howqua Feeder Trail. It is a 10km cliff face single track along the Howqua River (famous among Vic Divide riders). I was experiencing serious issues trying to clip out of my pedals. It was quite dangerous. I made a decision to walk a lot of the sections because I did not want to risk it on the Howqua Feeder Trail as I was by myself in a reasonably remote area. I was happy with the way I managed risk. I was probably only a couple kilometres per hour slower than I would have been if I was riding it (I’m slow at singletrack) and I didn’t fall off a 20 metre cliff face because I couldn’t clip out in time. When you are bikepacking in remote areas you need to make smart decisions and manage risk appropriately. It is also worth keeping in mind that if you do have a problem, it is likely a volunteer SES worker or similar service (who probably have much better things to do) that would need to pick you up because you made a bad decision.

Safety tracking device
You shouldn’t go on your first remote bikepacking trip without some sort of tracking/safety device. If you just want people to know where you are and have the ability to send a couple of pre-loaded messages, a Spot tracker works well. However, if you want the ability to send two-way messages, then the Garmin InReach is for you (I know I would prefer this option in remote areas). Both devices allow you to send an alert to Emergency Services if something life threatening occurs on your remote bikepacking trip.

Investing in an exceptional jacket
If you go up a proper mountain bring a jacket. One with a hood big enough to cover your helmet is the dream. The Arc’Teryx Beta is Goretex and helmet compatible with a wide brim. I trust it in any climatic condition. It’s basically a house you can wear, so reliable. I also recently purchased the Montane Minimus Waterproof Jacket Women’s from Backpacking Light. It packs down TINY, fits over my helmet like a glove and is extremely breathable. It only weights 170 grams. If conditions are extremely wet I would trust the Arc’Teryx Beta however if I want to be ultralight I would bring the Montane. Also get a rain jacket big enough that you can wear a downjacket inside it.

Merino (MeriYES)
If you haven’t jumped on board the merino train yet you need to do it immediately. It doesn’t matter whether it is summer or winter, merino acts as a natural heat regulator. Merino has a very wide useable temperature range and will keep you warm even when it’s wet. It’s amazing because unlike cotton, your clothing will not smell like salty sweat. This is important in remote and long trips because no one likes smelling themselves which is inevitable in cotton. Merino socks are the biggest game changer and I can’t stop talking about them!

Practice using your sleep kit
Making sure you are confident with your sleep system is important when in remote areas. You can practice setting up your sleep system with a backyard campout so you are confident in setting up and packing down your sleep gear.

Gloves

My hands absolutely torn apart on Big River Road (Taungurung Country) from using rubbery grips without gloves

Learn from my rookie mistakes . If you are going long-distances in remote areas, buy gloves otherwise your hands will be destroyed (exhibit A). Especially if you have rubber grips (I love Oury grips but I learnt the hard way they are not ideal for remote and long distances without gloves). Also consider that if you have even small crash it’s pretty easy to cut or graze your palms. Having three days more to ride with the palms of your hands all torn up is zero fun! If it is raining, the Giro Xnetic H20 gloves have been the biggest life saver. They keep my hands water-free. I have descended from mountains covered in snow in them and they have worked like a dream. They are one of my favourite products.

I hope that these tips have been helpful to you. If you are planning your first trip, and you want someone to hype you up, I work Friday and Saturdays at Commuter. Come say hi 🙂 Happy riding. Kia B.


9 comments

  1. Great tips. Thankyou.

  2. Really Good solid sensible advice. Keep up the great work.

  3. Kia, both practical and sensible this blog is becoming a looked-for feature. I love the definition of remote as any place where help comes from the authorities rather than friends and family. When terrain is rugged, that doesn’t have to be far: 60km from the CBD of Canberra where I live can see you with a broken chain, no water and limited mobile reception in 38C heat with nobody around for hours.

    I liked your comment on tyre plugs since many riders don’t know about them. It would have benefited to discuss why not just spare tubes (multi-day rides over outback thorns are a great answer to that question, but there may be others.)

    Regarding filters, for bikepacking I prefer the Sawyer. Good versatility, good flow, slightly more packable, better for refilling bottles. When space and weight matter less I’d go with a Grayl Geopress just for how it handles volume. If a Lifestraw is what I had though, I’d use it.

    Agree on the Garmin Inreach. A great choice for bikepackers with flexible plans, and one per group is a smart idea. Agree on merino for four seasons and the value of gloves — synthetic wicking layers are good too.

    Look forward to future blog posts.

  4. Super useful info, thanks

  5. Hey Belinda 🙂
    So glad you found this article useful. Happy riding!
    KB

  6. Hey Mark!
    Thanks for your response and recommendations. I will have to check out the Sawyer and Grayl Geopress 🙂
    KB.

  7. Hello Andrew,
    Thanks! I’m happy you enjoyed reading this article.
    KB.

  8. Hey Daniela,
    Glad you enjoyed these tips. Happy riding.
    KB

  9. I am attempting to rapidly ingest as much information on Vic Divide as possible and I really enjoyed this post.

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Commuter Cycles acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional custodians of the lands and waterways in the area now known as Brunswick, and pays respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging, as well as to all First Nations’ communities in Australia.