As an avid hiker and outdoor man, I think there are many similarities between hiking and bike-packing, but also some differences.
When you hike for a long time, you don’t want to bring too heavy equipment, but when you hike, you strain your joints, but the pack volume is not extremely important. For bike-packing, however, the pack volume gets more important because saddle bags, frame bags, and bar bags are all quite small in volume. The weight is still important, but you have to consider volume too.
Three for Three
In the hiking world, many refer “three for three” to the weight for the three heaviest things you carry; the backpack, the tent and the sleeping bag, and that they together should not weight more than three kilograms.
That’s a good start for bike-packing as well, but as you don’t use a big backpack, and as the volume is more important than when hiking, it’s more important to look at the tent and the sleeping bag.
During bike-packing in summertime, you don’t need a heavy and bulky tent made for winter expeditions.
Rather you want something that is not bulky, something that does not fill up your valuable space. Nowadays, there are a lot of lightweight tents on the market such as the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo or the extremely light and expensive tents from Hyperlite Mountain Gear, made in Dyneema Composite fabric (former Cuben fiber).
These tents weigh significantly below one kilogram and do not take a lot of volume in your packing. Some of them come with a bug net, and that is mandatory in our region. There could be quite a lot of mosquitos
If you plan to visit us during June and July, you manage with a sleeping bag with a comfort temperature around 0-5°C. Most nights will be warmer but have in mind that we are an arctic destination north of the arctic circle, so the temperature could drop, especially at the beginning of June or late July, and especially if you are closer to the mountain region. The altitude is also important because the temperature drops around 0.9°C every 100 meters of altitude.
In August, especially late, it could even snow in the mountain areas. And the same for May; depending on altitude and how close you are to the mountains, these months could be quite chilly and offer some snow.
I use myself a Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag with a comfort temperature of -1°C, but early and late, I’ve had to use a down jacket the coldest nights.
As pack volume and reasonable warmth are important, I would recommend a good down sleeping bag with a high fill power. There are a lot of good alternatives from manufacturers such as Marmot, Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends, Sea to Summit, Pajak, Cumulus, to name a few. Unfortunately, light and warm down sleeping bags are expensive, but you can use a quality sleeping bag for many years if you take good care of it.
I would certainly choose an inflatable sleeping mat, and I have also used an Exped Synmat the last couple of years, but there are many alternatives. They are quite light and have a small packing volume compared to a traditional sleeping mat. The sleeping comfort is also a lot better than with a conventional sleeping mat. The downside is that you can get a puncture, so bring some stuff so you can fix a puncture.
As we saw, it could be chilly even during the summer, so after a long day in the saddle, it could be great to put on a warm jacket. As with sleeping bags, the lightest and warmest are down jackets, and the lightest weighs under 200 grams and packs extremely small.
Besides a warm jacket, you also want a hat and gloves to put on chilly nights and maybe long underwear in merino wool and warm socks.
I would also recommend bringing some light rain clothes.
A light jacket or smock could also shield you from cold wind if riding on a chilly day. Rain overshoes, or even insulated neoprene overshoes, are also something I recommend to bring, as well as bike gloves. A pair of “Mechanic gloves” are actually great, and they are also cheap to buy.
Food and stove
If you intend to bring a stove, I would recommend going for a small top-mounted gas stove such as an MSR Pocket Rocket, Soto Amicus, Primus, or something like that. I have used a Primus Micron Ti with an MSR Titan kettle for many years. Perfect for boiling water, but nothing for serious cooking.
In all cities in our region, there are groceries and petrol stations, and they are almost always open during Sundays too, so you don’t have to bring more food than enough. The water quality is overall excellent, especially in streams in more remote areas. Boil if you feel uncertain and avoid it if it smells strange. Most people you meet do not mind you fill up your bottles, either if asking politely