August 28, 2010
While you can usually fit all of your touring gear in panniers, or a trailer, we see many people adding a small backpack into the mix. For some riders, this incorporates a hydration bladder that either replaces water bottles, or adds some hydration range between refill stops. For others, it can sometimes replace a set of panniers, if you're in between the need for two and four panniers. I like to haul a small pack along to keep some small items on hand for quick, off-the-bike excursions, such as my camera, wallet, some food, maps, and a book.
Whatever your reason for a backpack may be, there are some good features and techniques to be aware of that can make hauling it around a little easier. In the area where the pack comes in contact with your back, it can be really nice to have a built-in mesh frame that holds the pack an inch or so from your back, allowing air to circulate across your back, keeping you cooler, and preventing a great deal of sweat buildup.
Having a lot of adjustment options is also very important when cycling with a backpack. This will help you fine tune the fit to distribute the weight properly over your shoulders and back. Look for straps to adjust the height of the bag on your shoulders, as well as hip and chest straps.
Your riding position too can play a large role in your overall comfort, and this is an area where touring bikes have a great advantage. The lower your back on the bike, the heavier the pack will feel, so having a more upright position on a touring bike can help increase comfort. If you are experiencing back pain, perhaps you need to raise your handlebars.
As far as weight is concerned: know your own personal limits, and then knock a few pounds off of that.
Photo by Sarah Raz.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.