In general, cycling goes hand in hand with nature. It is about feeling the wind in your hair while soaking up the landscape. But I think bikepacking is the ultimate fusion with nature. While the road biker’s first thought is about hairpins and steep ascents and mountain biker’s about technical sections, the bikepacker’s first goal is to become one with nature and disappear for hours or days at a time. And I think this has to do with a more and more definite way of dressing that specialized clothing companies are starting to call “all road”.
I fell in love and embraced it a while ago. At first, I just didn’t even know I was following a trend. I think I got inspired by those amazing pictures I have seen of American bikepackers riding the never-ending gravel roads and I just felt it clicked with me.
I am talking about the way of dressing that looks more casual but is actually not that casual. In fact, everything is very functional, featuring high-tech materials combined with more standard ones to pull off a leisure look while still performing well under rough conditions. Because of this, just to give you an idea, you could find alchemist-like combinations of 77% polyester, 16% wool and 7% elastane on the labels. Colours and materials are also chosen with keeping the beloved nature in mind. You will rarely see, especially in the States where I believe this trend has started, a bikepacker dressed in fluo colours that brutally stand out among the surrounding trees and rocks. Vice versa, they will wear natural colours that reflect the surrounding environment.
Last but not least, bikepackers generally want to be sustainable and, whether they are aware of it or not, to be part of a movement called ‘Slow Fashion’, which advocates for apparel manufacturing with respect to people, the environment and animals. And that’s also why bikepacking clothing tends to look more casual than regular cycling clothes. Because slow fashion is a mindful way of shopping that tries to reduce production excesses by having clothing that can be used for more purposes versus having specific clothing for every occasion. I wear the same t-shirts and shirts I use when bikepacking to go to the office.
But let’s see some of the most iconic bikepacking clothes in detail.
The down feather jacket
Patagonia has always been an extremely sustainable brand and therefore very popular among bikepackers. I also looked at their offer when I first needed to dress more casual while riding. Among many nice products, one of the most iconic is their Nano Puff jacket. When I was riding in the States, I was shocked to see that almost every bikepacker had one in their bag. It’s packable, light, warm, windproof, water-resistant, made of 100% recycled polyester, and produced using reduced emissions. And makes you look cool even if you use it to go to work. What more can you ask for?
The button-down shirt
I am a big fan of flannel shirts and I couldn’t be happier when I found out that there are some out there specifically made for cycling. I come from the MTB scene and back in the days, I even moved to Lake Garda, one of the most iconic European bike locations, in order to be able to ride world-class trails every day. So I was very pleased when I found out that a brand from the area produces one of the finest bikepacking shirts on the planet and it is called Cascada. Their Land Wool shirt is a masterpiece, both practically and aesthetically. It looks like a normal shirt so it can be worn nearly anywhere but it is made from a breathable wool-polyester blend so it offers thermoregulation, odour control and insulation even when wet. The details are also amazing such as the front placket with press studs, the little slot on one of the front pockets where I can put my sunglasses, and elastic cuffs.
The loose T-shirt
Functional T-shirts are the new bike jerseys when it comes to bikepackers. They are designed with a soft and relaxed cut, and made of materials that dry quickly, which makes them very versatile. I have tried many and my current favourite is the Kyoto Gravel T-shirt by PEdALED. It is super pleasant to wear and has a stylish design.
The trucker hat
Trucker hats are part of the American culture and they made it even to the realm of bikepacking clothing. Although a hat will never substitute my helmet, I always have one attached to my bags that can be easily grabbed and worn. Like thousands of other bikepackers out there, I like to wear one when off the bike. For sure, it has to do with style but sometimes, after many days in the saddle and nights around a campfire, my hairstyle is not exactly socially friendly and a hat helps with that.
Merino base layers
Here comes the king of bikepacking – the merino base layer. Merino is almost a magical material that helps to regulate body temperature during cold days while it’s cool and breathable in hot seasons. So, everywhere I go, I have a base layer with me. They are the most versatile pieces of bikepacking clothing I know. I have tried firsthand and can vouch for the Endura merino line called Baabaa, I happily use their base layers and neck warmers. I also have a Cascada short sleeve baselayer as I wear a short sleeve most of the time. Some people like riding with a merino jersey but I rather have a merino base layer underneath a functional t-shirt so I can combine them according to the conditions.