What to Pack for Bikepacking + Finding Campsites
I absolutely love biking both in the city and beyond. Before COVID-19 hit, I was riding my bike every day for 20 miles a day as I biked to work from my Brooklyn apartment to Midtown Manhattan. I could have a bad day at the office and biking back home cleared my head. On the weekends, I’d head out to explore by bike, often getting in over 80 miles.
When March 2020 came along, everything changed. I was stuck in my 500 square foot apartment working over 12 hours a day on a reality show that no one watched. I was miserable and depressed and felt trapped in both my apartment and my routine.
As the summer waned, I realized how much I missed my family, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas. I started planning this trip – bikepacking from NYC to Rochester – as a way to visit them all safely and make up for all the missed adventures of the past few months.
What to Pack
Let’s start with my bike, it’s not your normal bike. It’s an adventure/gravel bike that’s meant for long overnight trips.
Here’s my set-up:
- 2019 AllCity Gorilla Monsoon
- Pizza rack in the front
- Large handlebar bag (Road Runner Jumbo Jammer)
- Two panniers (Ortlieb Gravel Pack Panniers)
- Half frame bag (Revelate Designs Tangle)
- Rear saddle bag (Swift Industries Zeitgeist bag)
- 3 water bottles
On the rack:
- Small camping chair (REI)
- Small hatchet
- Tent (Big Agnes)
- Feed bag for snacks and cellphone
I like this set up so I can have most of the weight in the front to keep it stable while riding on dirt roads and can “push” the weight rather than “pull” it, especially on the big uphills.
- 5 non-cotton shirts
- 3 pairs of bike shorts
- 1 pair of hiking pants
- 1 pair of shorts
- 6 pairs of underwear
- 6 pairs of socks
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
- 1 microfiber bath towel
- 2 face masks and 4 bandanas
- 1 ultralight sleeping bag
- sleeping pad
- sleeping pad manual pump
Packing (frame bag):
- folding saw
- bike lights
- AAA batteries
- Leatherman knife
- 2 bike tubes
- bike pump
- chain link tool
- tube patch kit
- extra Voile Straps
- spoke repair kit
- extra brake pads
- 1 extra bike cable
- bike tire levers.
Packing (handlebar bag):
- First Aid Kit
- Personal toiletries
- Rain Jacket
- Bear Spray
- Food & Beverages:
- Dehydrated camping meals
- Nuun & Clif Bars
- 2 cans of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
- Sony a6500 DSLR
- Extra lens
- Battery power bank
- 2 battery solar power banks
- GoPro Batteries
- Camera/Phone cables
- SD card case
- Backup LACIE Hard Drive
Packing (Rear Saddle Bag)
- cooking gas
- cooking pot with burner
- cutting board
- “kitchen” knife,
- solar power lantern
- Joby Gorilla Tripod
- warm hat
- fire starter
I always wanted to bike from the city to my home town of Webster, a suburb just outside of Rochester in upstate New York. My original plan was to ride North along the Eastern side of the Hudson River and then West along the Erie Canal Trail. This route would be 7 days, 407 miles and 10,600 feet in elevation.
Like all good plans, this one was interrupted by work, which limited me to only 5 days of riding. Even though I hadn’t been riding my bike often I knew if I wanted to get to Rochester, I’d have to plan longer days and a different (hillier) route straight through the Catskills.
My new route included 5 days of riding, 4 nights of camping, 423 miles, and 13,300 feet of vertical.
My first step was finding campsites:
Here’s some great news for fellow bikepackers: you’re allowed to camp at some of the canal locks on the Erie Canal Trail! Most of the locks will have water and a bathroom of some type. According to the NYS Canal Corporation, you can camp without a reservation at selected areas including:
- Waterford Canal Visitor Center in Troy, NY (Albany area)
- *For Waterford – If you like access to showers, bathroom and water, you must arrive before 6pm for the key.
- Lock 15 – Fort Plain
- Lock 20 – Utica
- Lock 21 – New London/Rome
- Lock 30 Macedon
- Lock C5 Schuylerville – Hudson River/Adirondacks
You can camp at other non-designated locks along the trail but it’s a case by case. You must contact the lock operator in advance to camp at non-designated locks. They also may not have water or a bathroom.
My route & selected campgrounds:
- Start in Brooklyn, ride through Manhattan to the Bronx.
- Take the Old Croton Aqueduct trail to the Mario Cuomo Bridge in Westchester.
- Cross the Hudson to Harriman State Park.
- Night 1: Beaver Pond Campground at Harriman State Park – Stony Point, NY
- Take the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail to the Catskills
- Night 2: Allaben Campground at Shandaken Wild Forest – Phoenicia, NY
- Cut through the northern Catskills to meet up with the Erie Canal Trail along the Mohawk River in Fort Plan.
- Night 3: Erie Canal Lock 15 – Fort Plain, NY
- Take the Canal Trail along the Old Erie Canal through Utica and Syracuse.
- Night 4: Green Lakes State Park – Fayetteville, NY – Near Syracuse
- Continue on NY 31 thru the farm lands of Wayne Country
- End the trip in the Flower City of Rochester