Pack light where you can, including sleep systems, shelter, and clothing, because food and water will quickly fill your bags and weight the bike. Most riders should be able to pack their gear, food and water into a framebag, seatpack, handlebar system, and several small accessory bags for organization. Add water capacity to the bike via bottle cages under the downtube and on the fork, and pack a folding bladder for expandable capacity. Plastic drink bottles can be sourced along the way for thirstier sections of the route. Small riders may consider carrying a hydration pack as luggage and water capacity may be limited on smaller bikes. Once your everyday equipment is packed on the bike, there should remain a substantial amount of room for food and water.
Modern bikepacking bags are best suited to this kind of riding. We recommend bags from Revelate Designs, widely available through local dealers and online; custom bags from Oveja Negra Threadworks, Bedrock Bags, Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks, Porcelain Rocket, Wanderlust, and Rogue Panda Designs; Bike Bag Dude (AU) and Apidura (UK) are also recommended. Check out my nearly complete list of bikepacking bag manufacturers from around the world.
For a more economical approach, use drybags and gear straps to load equipment to the handlebars, or to the top and sides of a rack. While not as convenient as purpose built bikepacking gear, the total system may be less expensive if you already own the drybag and/or racks. On small frames when space is limited a transverse style saddlebag such as a Carradice Camper or a pair of small panniers may be well suited to expand luggage capacity, along with the method of attaching dry bags to a rack above. However, if selecting panniers, find a pair with a robust mounting system and source two long gear straps to secure them to the rack, running the straps around the belly of the bags and the rack struts for support on rough tracks. Revelate Designs Nano panniers are the best off-pavement touring panniers currently available. Most panniers are not well-suited to off-pavement riding, there is a risk of hardware failure at the attachment points and they diminish the quality of the ride. Front panniers are not recommended.
Lael’s packing tips:
-Use the weather to your advantage to pack as light as possible. Baja is typically warm and dry. Avoid redundancies by considering your total layering system as your warmest and most weather resistant system, and plan to sleep in your clothing on the coldest nights. If you can’t wear all of your layers at once, reconsider the system.
-Rely on one pair of shoes. Platform pedals and flat shoes work well. Clipless shoes should have with rubber soles with some traction.
-Folding water bladders can be packed away when not needed, yet can expand total capacity for longer sections without water resupply. Sawyer or Platypus plastic bladders are cheap and light, available in 1-3L sizes. MSR Dromedary and DromLite bladders are considerably more durable, but cost more and are heavier.
-Mount a Salsa Anything Cage or King Cage Manything Cage under the down tube, use hose clamps on metal frames without mounts. The 64 oz Klean Kanteen or other 2 liter bottles will fit, check front tire clearance especially with a suspension fork. The Topeak Modula XL cage may allow the use of larger bottles when crank clearance is limited.
-Mount bottle cages on the fork, however not all cages are suited to this task as they may easily lose the bottle and become lodged in the front wheel. Salsa stainless cages are good as they hold bottles securely and feature slots for hose clamps. If your fork has threaded mounts, we recommend Salsa stainless cages, the plastic Profile Design Kage, Velo Orange cages including the 32-48oz Mojave cage, and the Lezyne Power Cage. Standard bottle cages are prone to losing bottles on rough terrain, especially when mounted on the fork.
-The King Cage Top Cap Cage Mount adds an easily accessible bottle to the top cap.
-Stem mounted bags such as the Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag accept extra water bottles or other overflow items such as snacks and electronics.
-Top tube bags like the Revelate Designs Gas Tank and Jerry Can expand luggage capacity on smaller bikes, and are a great way to organize gear so that essential tools, electronics, and food are nearby.
-Pack your sleeping bag and pad in a waterproof handlebar roll such as the Revelate Designs Sweetroll, it is best to carry lightweight gear on the bars to reduce the impact on steering.
-Expand the utility of a front accessory bag such as a Revelate Designs Pocket by using it like a sling to provide expandable space for the longest sections of the route without resupply. While a lightweight load from the bars is recommended, it is possible to strap an extra plastic water bladder or bottle under this front bag, in front of the handlebar roll. Test this concept on rough terrain before heading out.
-Pack a modern seatpack as tightly as possible, pushing clothing layers into the base of the bag and rolling the closure as tightly as possible before securing the clips. Finally, tension the bag toward the base, then up toward the saddle to minimize sway and improve the ride. Avoid overpacking the seatpack, which is really only meant to be filled to 2/3 of the apparent capacity.