Getting started with bikepacking on the cheap
Updated: Apr 17, 2019
A couple years ago a few friends gathered in a campsite one night at Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo. I knew 2 of them and had only recently met the other. None of us had been camping in years and all felt the pull to get outdoors for a guys weekend. We decided to take a late hike in pursuit of catching the sunset over the canyon and deliberately finishing up with lights on the trail. The next day we did more hiking and enjoyed some relaxation around the campfire. At least in my case - this weekend was gasoline on an already smoldering fire. I was hooked.... again.... this time as an adult. Growing up I was pretty comfortable with the outdoors. We went skiing, boating, camping, and in general spent most of my childhood outside. As early adulthood responsibilities started to appear, I lost touch with outdoors activities. This trip changed all that.
Within a year I had purchased my first 'real' bike.... meaning it wasn't a hand-me-down or didn't come from a big box store. I think I spent around $400 which to me at the time was enough to make me seriously think about it. I started riding the dirt road around our town and was having a blast. One evening while in the google rabbit-hole I had a thought. "I like camping and hiking, and I like riding bikes, I wonder if you could do both at the same time?". A few searches later I was slapped with a world that already had existed for some time. I discovered bikepacking. Several sites, blogs, and social media pages later, I wanted in.
Fast forward a couple months. I bought everything I needed to get started on Amazon and the local sporting goods stores. Let me be proof that you can get started very affordably. What you see in the photo probably wasn't much more than $500, bike included. Tent, bike bags and sleeping bag were all super cheap (in every sense of the word). I didn't care, I just wanted to go. I set my sites on a local state park and somehow talked a friend into riding along with me. He didn't have anything other than a road bike at the time but he took the opportunity to go for a 40 mile bike ride from our starting point to the park.
I slept horribly, ate terrible food that was undercooked, and wasn't in good enough shape to even finish the 40 or so miles back out the next day. I was cold, sick to my stomach, dehydrated and rode out with a giant grin on my face.
I started upgrading each piece of gear one at a time. I bought used 'but better' gear on ebay and slowly started building a kit that worked for me. I will say though that is a never ending addiction.
Main point is this. If you are considering getting into it and you have the heart for exploration and trying new things, go for it. Don't worry about getting all the expensive gear or the ultralight equipment. Get out there with what you have and what you can get and go experience it. I still remember that trip and honestly have had a hard time beating that experience.