Plan for the unplanned
The beauty of Bikepacking is that you can never plan everything through 100%. There are always elements you can’t control, such as the weather. There is a saying: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Ever wondered what to bring on a Bikepacking trip? Here are Felipe’s insights from his first ever Bikepacking trip. Learn about what he brought, the best experiences as well as unexpected turns.
Packing List - what you will find in my bike packing bags
For sleeping we each brought a sleeping mat, at least Luca and Flo did, I thought I could survive without one but halfway through our trip I decided to buy one as my back could not take one more night sleeping on the floor without at least some cushioning. Other than that we each packed a sleeping bag but decided not to bring a tent as there was no rain forecasted, and with the heat, it was fine just sleeping under the stars. For eating, we all packed a set of cutlery (fork, knife, spoon) and Flo provided all of us with a foldable bowl, which could also be used as a cup or small plate, but we ended up never using it.
We decided against bringing a gas cooker, so most of our meals consisted of foods that did not need to be cooked or heated. Clothing-wise, we each had our set of bib shorts and jerseys, of which I luckily packed a second set, as the zipper of my original jersey broke halfway through our trip. Our swimming trunks also turned out to be essential, as we jumped into a river or the ocean almost daily. Other than that we each packed one set of normal shorts and a normal T-shirt for the times we weren’t sitting on our bikes, which was mostly only when we were sleeping.
Of course, we also all packed a rain jacket and a down or fleece jacket, because you never know and in the mountains, the weather can turn on you instantly, in which case we did not want to be caught out unprepared. The equipment we divided up more or less equally.
Flo carried medical supplies, Luca was in charge of the camera equipment and I packed spare bike parts, tools, and a headlamp. We also each brought power banks and solar charges so that we wouldn’t have to find a cafe daily to charge our phones, bike lights, GPS computers, or the batteries for the camera. But when we did get the chance to charge up, it always looked quite funny with all the devices hooked up to a single outlet.
I also packed a card game, which I insisted on playing at least once so that I wouldn’t have packed it for no reason but it turned out that it did save us from boredom on the last night. Of course, there were some other items that we packed as well, such as a toothbrush, a small towel, and other hygiene articles, but those are all minor things.
Best Experience - what I enjoyed the most about bike packing in Corsica
It’s hard to pick just one best experience since the whole trip was so amazing. I would categorize the whole trip as one of my best experiences this year. It was my first ever Bikepacking trip, my first time in a while sleeping outside under the stars, my first time in Corsica, and many other firsts.
It was amazing to land in Corsica, build together the bikes after the flight, pack our bags and just head out, with no idea of where we would sleep at night. Of course, we had a certain route in mind but as John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans”. And that is exactly what happened to us. The first night it was a real struggle to find a safe place to sleep as we were in the middle of a larger town and generally wild camping is not allowed or at least frowned upon in Corsica, so we had to find a public campsite to spend the night (we did not plan to spend money on accommodation but at 1 A.M. it was the right thing to do).
The next day luck also was not on our side. Luca suffered three flat tires and we barely covered any of our planned distance. The following days went much smoother though and we did manage to cover quite some distance and especially plenty of mountains. The views, the scenery, the food, everything was amazing. And even though Luca had mentioned that the people in Corsica tend to be a bit unfriendly towards tourists, we experienced plenty of hospitality throughout our trip (only on the day of the three flats we were faced with some unfriendliness, which was unfortunately at the bike shop… but we managed).
Another great aspect of our trip was that we went through all kinds of nature. One day we’re at the ocean, the next we’re in the middle of the mountains with almost alpine vibes, and the next day we’re somewhere in the dry plains. As mentioned, we did have a certain route in mind but in the end, we decided to actually ride a bit longer and also go back through the mountains instead of taking the train back as originally planned.
While this may sound like a bit of a ramble, that’s because it was. So many things happened during those 10 days in Corsica and I experienced so much that it’s hard to condense all those thoughts into a text.
Worst Experience - why you should bring a set of cards on your Bikepacking trip
Overall the trip was a great success and I find it hard to pick out some (really) bad experiences but if I had to, our last night, which we spent in the parking lot of a supermarket, comes to mind. To be fair we could have known from the start that we would spend the last night of our trip in a parking lot.
Since our plane was scheduled to leave quite early the next day and we had to deconstruct our bikes and pack up everything for the flight back, we would not have time to ride much on the day of our flight back. So we rode as close as possible to Bastia on the second to last day but did not think about finding a place to sleep. And since Bastia is a rather large city on Corsica we could not just sleep somewhere on the fields as we would have been very visible and probably would have been fined. So we decided to buy some food at the supermarket where we had stored our bike boxes for the past ten days and then after dinner decide what we would do.
Naturally, none of us felt like moving much after having eaten so we decided to just stay in the parking lot of the supermarket. We could not just sleep right there and then though because first of all we would have been kicked out and second of all we somehow had to guard our bikes as they could easily have been stolen, alongside all of our things.
So we decided to take shifts staying up. I took the first shift from around 10 to 11, while the others slept for an hour. We then decided to stay up together for a while and play some cards to pass the time. Around 1 A.M. Flo went back to sleep, while Luca and I stayed up. We wandered around the parking lot, built some “sculptures” out of random wood that we found, and wandered around some more. Around 3 A.M. Luca then also went to sleep and while it was Flo’s turn to take a shift, I decided to just stay up a little while longer, as I had had plenty of caffeine for dinner which kept me awake.
At some point though I also got tired and decided to lie down. I think this was around 4 A.M. at which point the entire parking lot was empty and I thought it would be safe if no one kept guard for a while. Around 5 A.M. the lights on the parking lot turned on again and people began arriving for work so the sleep that we got was very much in bits of 10 to 15 minutes at most before being woken up and having to fall asleep again. We managed to snooze until around 7 A.M. I think at which point the sun started burning down again anyways and it was impossible to sleep any longer.
We then started packing our things, collected our bike boxes, and eventually, the longest night of our trip had also passed. While it was very uncomfortable at the time I now look back and smile when I think of that night in the parking lot as it was a very silly “mistake” that we made and somehow in hindsight even that was fun.
Check out Felipe's bag set-up and let us know if there are any other essentials you would pack!