The fall weather in Bend means more dirt, more miles and more mountain biking fun.

Contributed by REI Co-op experts Andy Outcalt (Austin, Texas) and Rene Costales (Kent, Wash.)

Part backpacking and part bike-touring, bikepacking is a fun choice for cycling buddies, couples, and families who ride together. It lets you cover more miles than hiking, plus you can access dirt roads and trails that are inaccessible to other vehicles. Rides range from local overnighters all the way up to epic cross-country trail rides.

Many local bikepacking destinations are reached via Central Oregon’s many Forest Service roads and singletrack networks like Phil’s Trail, so a mountain bike makes an ideal choice. But virtually any bike that can mount racks and/or storage bags can be used. New handlebar grips or bar ends can be added to increase comfort for long days.

Avid bikepacking enthusiasts may tailor their bike for riding style or terrain, but most upgrades aim to minimize maintenance or maximize comfort.

The ideal for many: a rigid (no suspension or a suspension fork with lockout) 29er or 27.5 mountain bike with mechanical disc brakes and a multi-position handlebar. Internal gear hubs are popular, too, as they minimize maintenance (downside: They are harder to deal with when repairing a flat). While nice, such a setup is not required to have fun.

Bikepackers carry the same gear as backpackers plus spare bike tools and tubes. Fortunately, you have more places to carry it on a bike.

Unlike backpacking, you don’t want to carry a lot of weight on your back. Instead, most of the weight should be placed low as possible on your bike. This improves bike handling and your riding comfort.

A typical gear setup for beginners:

  • Daypack: Good for light, bulky items or anything sensitive to vibration.
  • Dry bag secured to a rear rack: Holds heavier items.
  • Handlebar bag (or dry bag lashed to the bars): For light to moderate items (e.g., tent, pad, clothing).
  • Water bottle cages: Keeps water weight low and centered.
  • Panniers: Optional for heavy items (e.g., water, food, stove).

As far as finding routes,,, and REI in the Old Mill District are all great resources!

Bikepacking in Central Oregon

Photo: Courtesy of REI