Shoestring Bikepacking

Your first adventure doesn't need to cost the earth

Bike Choice

You do not need a special bike to go bikepacking.

I'll say it one more time, just to be clear, and despite what anyone might say online... you do not need a special bike to go bikepacking/touring/adventuring (all the same thing.).

The only "special" thing you might need on a bike are some mounts for a bike rack to go over your rear wheels which can make carrying bags more comfortable than wearing a backpack - but you can wear a backpack if you like!

My first adventure on a bike (you can call it touring or bikepacking if you like) was with my battle-hardened commuter bike which had a value of about £50. I was fortunate that I already had a tent which I put in a drybag (like this one) and strapped to the top of my bike-rack. I secured my tent poles with bungie cords to the top tube of my bike (the bit of metal that goes between your legs) simple yet effective, and I managed to cycle across Scotland.

My partner in crime didn't even own a bike at the time, we hired a town-bike and some panniers (cycle bags) from a city centre retailer - stuck it on the train and we went on our merry way.

Route/Destination Choice

In the UK and the EU there are so many good cycling routes, and even in a country as densely populated as the UK - there are still places where you can cycle for hours and not see another human... especially out of season.

It's worth bearing in mind that your choice of route or destination is highly likely to be the most expensive part of your trip (assuming you have or can borrow a bike). That is, getting you and your bikes to the start-line.

Trains in the UK/EU when booked in advance can be cheap and nearly all can carry bikes now. If you are able to take holidays during the off-season and outside of commuting hours you can save a lot of money. Sometimes it might even be cheaper to get a super late train the day before your trip and book a cheap hotel at your starting destination so remember to check the comparison sites.

In the UK it can sadly be cheaper to drive if there are two or more of you, most bikes can fit in most cars if you take the front wheels off and turn the handlebars 90degrees. All you need to do this is a simple bike repair tool or some allen keys which you may already have (usually 4-6mm). Get those back seats down and play some Tetris, I'd suggest 69ing the bikes and put bags in the footwells where possible. You may want to try putting an old towel or bedsheet between the bikes to protect the paint - we never have and everything has been fine.

If, like we did for the first time, if you plan to do no training and you have no idea what your limits are - my top tip would be to pick a route where you have a fall back of being not to far from bus routes or train stations - this way you know you can always get to a major hub and then home.

Aim for approximately 30-50km a day unless you know you are comfortable with more, this gives plenty of time for faff and photos.

Food and Water

You need these things to stay alive, they are also the fuel for your engine. Be prepared to feel more hungry than usual when you stop and make sure to eat more than usual to match your energy needs - your body usually takes care of this for you!

Think about food, shopping and water during route planning before you leave. If you're buying food or drinks at a cafe or pub it's fair enough to ask for some water top-ups - in all my years I've never had someone say "no" to a request for water.

If you know you'll be near a bigger town, get your shopping in a supermarket rather than a small town corner shop, this helps keep your costs down if you are truly on a shoestring. You'll likely have more choice too. If you're only out for a few days then smash the super noodles and add some mushrooms and tomatoes with some bread and eat protein (beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat) wherever possible.

Keep food in reserve just in case, I normally have nuts and haribo at the very least, but usually at least one meal - often porridge which can be as cheap as £1/1€ per kg and easy to cook.



Got one? If you'll fit in it... It'll do.

If not, can you beg, steal or borrow one from friends or family? A lot of people have them collecting dust in lofts or garages.

Test before using! Try putting the tent up in your living room, garden, local park - make sure you have all the bits you need and that there are no holes. Putting a tent up a second time is much easier than the first time, even when you start adding wind and rain into the mix.


You can often get a shower and place to stay FOR FREE through Warmshowers if you are nice and curteous and plan ahead of time.


You know the drill,, Expedia, AirBnB... Try and book direct when you can, often better for both you and the owner.

Let’s work together