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99 Bikepacking Lifehacks  February 16, 2016 – 03:15 am

Not much, but if you do this to ten straps you’re looking at more ounces than a titanium pot.You can read blogs and websites all day, but nothing truly replaces first-hand experience. That’s not going to deter me at all from trying to replace your first-hand experience with as many bikepacking lifehacks as possible.

I learned a lot of these from simply making mistakes, but many other people had a hand in this list. Vik, the crazy European who cycles in Crocs, was my gateway into ultralight touring, and I honed my skills through the Backpacking Light community. I learned volumes through resources like,, the MTBR forums, this magazine, and the people I’ve met on the road and the trail. This list is also heavily subject to my prejudices; I like to travel fast, and I like streamlining things to save time, so some tips may seem arbitrary or obnoxious (something, something, cut the handle off your toothbrush…)

This list is not my list; it’s a working record of everything I’ve picked up so far, and full credit goes to the innovators.

  1. Reynolds Turkey-cooking “Oven Bags” are lighter than trash bags and more durable than regular zip-locks. They make perfect bag liners for waterproofing clothing.
  2. Baby wipes are excellent for bikepacking, and for every other day out of the year. Toilet paper is barbaric by comparison.
  3. Spare spokes (I don’t carry them, but some do) can be taped to the inside of a chainstay or inside your seat post. Make sure you mark your spoke length or mark what side and wheel they belong on.
  4. Laminate a photocopy of your passport, driver’s license, and social security card and slip it into your bike’s seat tube, or better yet, top tube. It can be used to identify your bike in case a thief steals it and files off the serial number. It can also get you out of an international jam if you lose your passport.
  5. If you’re bikepacking in an area with nearby bike shops, your emergency tube can be several sizes smaller than your tire size.You can pack hundreds of small birchbark “hairs” in a film canister for firestarting. It’ll inflate to make up the difference and, while it won’t last forever, it will last for a while until you can get a larger tube or re-seat a tubeless tire.
  6. A small pair of locking pliers like the Leatherman Crunch can replace all of your individual crescent wrenches. Since they lock to the bolt-head, the size can vary and you can still put down as much torque as you would with a regular wrench (grip strength alone is not enough most of the time, so normal pliers won’t work).
  7. Coat your tubes in baby powder (corn starch) before installing them to reduce the chance of a pinch flat.
  8. Cut down any excess straps and melt the ends with a lighter to prevent fraying to save a small amount of weight.
  9. If you’re out at night and you’re worried about encountering an animal, just sing while you set up camp. This tip doesn’t work if you’re Snow White.
  10. A 32mm or smaller cyclocross race tire with a folding bead, high TPI and thin, supple sidewalls will roll up to the size of an apple. Makes a much more efficient spare tire in areas that warrant a spare tire than having a big fat Marathon. You can strap two rolled tires, stacked, in a Salsa Anything Cage. Just replace with a burly tire at the next bike shop.
  11. If a bolt keeps vibrating out, loop a piece of string around the thread right where it meets the bolt-head and soak it in superglue.
  12. A few zipties can replace pannier or framebag mounting hardware for at least 600 miles without fail, in my experience.max3 They’re one of the most versatile pieces of repair kit in existence.
  13. Dryer lint mixed with petroleum jelly is an amazing firestarter. When was the last time you cleaned out the lint trap, anyways?
  14. Take a piece of dry birchbark and strip it with your fingers into very small strands.
  15. Pare down your first aid kit by thinking about the injuries you’re likely to sustain. I got rid of all insect sting reliever because I can just deal with a bee-sting. I don’t need more than a couple of small bandages because most small cuts and scrapes can just be left alone. Any large cut will need two things; wound closure strips and an ace bandage. Neosporin prevents infection. So, that’s basically my whole kit- just large-wound stuff, Neosporin, and painkillers. Maybe there’s a couple of antihistamines too…
  16. Body Wrappers Ripstop Pants are a fantastic wind and bug pant, weigh 4 ounces, and cost $20. I got a size large and it fits me great, and I’m a 32 waist. Great alternative to carrying regular 13+ ounce long pants in the summer for bugs and unexpectedly cold nights.
  17. A windshirt makes a great bug shirt, too. Tight nylon weaves make it harder for them to suck your blood.
  18. Merino Wool won’t develop a stink from body odor. The fibers are antibacterial. You can wear a wool t-shirt for day after day. Just rinse it out and let it dry on your body occasionally to get the salt out. I wear wool bike shorts and socks, too.
  19. Sea to Summit drybags are not waterproof. They’re very rainproof, but I went river rafting and my Ultra-sil bag leaked like a sieve. Don’t count on anything to be completely waterproof. If you really need to protect something, like a computer or camera, use a plastic bag inside your drybag for redundancy.
  20. Your local hardware store sells 3M ear plugs...
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