Over the years my bicycle touring pursuits have swung from heavily loaded road tours to lighter road setups to even lighter dirt touring to enduropacking. The later term is what I am using to describe a fairly minimalist touring setup you can use with an “enduro” full suspension bike that has little to no frame space for carrying gear. The key difference for me between a standard “bikepacking” setup and an “enduropacking” setup is the ability to ride the bike like it was essentially unencumbered.
At some point on the spectrum between carrying only gear for a day ride and carrying enough stuff to be self-contained for a week+ you have to start riding to protect the bike and yourself from the extra abuse and loss of agility due to the additional weight of your stuff. That means you are getting off to walk up or down steep techy sections you’d ride unloaded and you skip jumps and “features” that normally would be fun to play on. You’ll move slower and it will sap more energy from you.
Going light and minimal has quite a few additional benefits. Less gear means being more immersed in the ride. There is simply less to futz with. When you get to camp and have no tent to setup or meal to cook you literally have more attention for your surroundings. Bringing less means less gear to buy, store at home and to maintain. Less stuff and riding day-to-day trail bikes means most of your friends could head out on a trip with you without the need to amass all sorts of specialized gear. Carrying less on the bike means fewer mechanicals and more ground covered in a given day.
When I am planning a bike tour I get excited about the riding part of the trip not the hauling camping gear part. Anything that makes the riding more fun is a good thing in my books and less gear always makes the riding more fun. When I look around at my friends every single one has a full suspension enduro/trail bike vs. one or two having a bikepacking friendly hardtail. So it’s far easier to get people rolling on trips when they can ride what they already own without the need for fancy bikepacking bags or a bunch of special gear.
There are some downsides to enduropacking. You can’t bring along a ton of luxuries. If you have to have fresh clothes for camp at night and need to grind beans for your espresso in the morning you’ll find going minimal a drag. If you like buying gear and deploying it on a trip whether it’s needed or not this style of touring provides far fewer opportunities to get your gear-whore on. Enduropacking is the enemy of the faux-peditioner. If resupply is a week apart and/or weather is cold and unsettled you’ll struggle to carry the food you need and enough clothes for all the potential conditions. Epic storm winds and Noah’s Ark level precipitation make sleeping under a tarp less than appealing.
That said there are many routes where a light fast bike and minimal gear will make the ride far more pleasurable and enhance your camping experience. I know I’ll be looking at my pile of gear for future trips with a much more critical eye. Reducing the crap I carry is not something just for times when I ride a full suspension bike with no frame bag space. I’m going to use the same approach when I ride my Krampus. It will just be even easier to fit my enduropacking load aboard with a decent sized frame bag.
I’ll close this post by saying thanks to all the folks that I’ve run into in person or online that bikepack with less than I do. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like your gear is at the bare minimum even though it’s not even close to that level. Seeing other folks make it happen with minimalist setups has made me realize there is a lot more potential to unlock from my mountain bike touring. My touring is about riding bikes not owning/carrying gear! 🙂