When I was young, free, and single, I would never have thought about writing ‘safety tips’ for any subject. Let alone safety tips for riding your bike and camping. After all, what’s the worst that could happen…
Well it turns out that quite a lot can happen. It could be an injury like when my mountain bike and I parted ways at speed – don’t worry though, there was a big rock there to catch me! It could be a mechanical issue that leaves you without transport, an emergency at home that can’t wait 8 hours for you to ride back, and unfortunately we also need to consider that sad possibility that you’re the victim of a crime. What a shame it is that I even have to write that last one.
So with all that being said let’s dive into the small, easy, and practical steps you can take to keep yourself a little bit safer when you’re out exploring the world on your bike.
Technological Tracking – Where Are You & Where Are You Going?
Now with modern day phone technology, and bike trip computers coupled with phone apps, it’s relatively easy to plan a route. I’ve just posted an article on how to do this so if you’re new to route planning click here for a beginners guide!
A route that is planned is a route that can be shared. Share it with your husband or wife, share it with friends, post it on your social media if you want. The more people who have access to it the more people who are aware of your intended route should you drop out of contact for some reason. As you can see in my bikepacking routes article I use Komoot. When I’ve planned an overnight route I send it to my wife so she knows what my plans are.
A Planned Route – Share It!
Once I’ve settle for the evening and set up camp I always try and call home. Not just to reassure my family but I want to see Arthur and hear about his day. Ideally you will be camped somewhere where your mobile phone has some sort of signal. If it does I highly recommend the app – What 3 Words. It provides three words based upon your current location that are unique to exactly where you are within metres! I give these to my wife. With all that done I’m happy that people know where I am for the evening.
These are simple, free, safety tips that can be done from your phone. Plan a route, share it, pitch your tent, send your what 3 words location to your loved ones. Easy as that. If you’ve not got this setup currently then go and do it right now!
Safety Equipment & Spares
Going to alone, the self sufficient solo, the lone ranger – whatever you call yourself when heading out with just your own company, we all need to be prepared.
Having the correct equipment to start with is a must, and having spares and the necessary tools to keep your equipment functioning properly should anything happen to that equipment is equally as important. If you are on that gravel road to the middle of nowhere and a flat tyre stops you in your tracks then, hopefully, that’s an easy fix for a bikepacker.
But what if it’s a little more severe? Let’s say you rip the tyre and get a puncture. Did you just pack a basic puncture repair kit or did you remember those emergency boot patches that you thought you would never need?
I could make up all sorts of scenarios here to explain the importance of spares and tools but the point I’m getting across is this:
“It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”
I’m not saying take every bit of bike gear you own but it’s easy to bikepack and be underprepared. There is a future post in the making regarding what spares I carry so keep your eyes peeled for that!
You are Bikepacking – not moving house!
One final tip, which I read somewhere else but feel it’s worth passing on, is that if you’re travelling for a long time and through various countries consider having a spare wallet. This wallet will be your fake wallet. Throw a a small amount of currency in there and maybe a few leaflets to bulk it out. Should the worst happen and you find yourself in a position where you’ve met some unsavoury characters then this fake wallet might help you out. Keep the real wallet tucked well away!
This section is all dependent on where you have chosen to camp. At least it is in my experience. If I have chosen somewhere secluded, quiet, and off the beaten path then I tend to find I’m not as concerned about where I put my bike and my belongings overnight. I usually pop most of my gear in one of my Ortlieb bags and secure it up to keep everything dry. This saves me a bit of room in my tent. Check out my Ortlieb bikepacking bag setup here!
However, if I’ve decided to camp somewhere with a view then, for obvious reasons, these places are more in the open and there’s more chance people will be able to see me or potentially pass by my campsite. In this scenario I like to have all my gear in the tent with me. Thankfully my tent has a little porch area where I can keep these bags without encroaching on my sleeping space. If you have not read my article on what sleeping gear I use then click here to take a look.
My bike will be close by and if there’s somewhere to secure it to with my little lock I will do that. If not I will lie it down next to the tent and run a couple of my tent guy lines through the frame / wheel. Occasionally I’ll use a cable tie to secure the crank to the frame.
All of these things aren’t going to save your bike from a determined thief but what they will do is act as a deterrent and slow them down. Anything to make sure your primary mode of transport is safe is worth it!
It’s easy to lie in your tent at night and worry about what might be going on outside but this is when it is important to remember this:
99.99% of people don’t mean you any harm and aren’t that fussed about what you’re doing!
Nowadays the majority of news is about bad or upsetting topics – war, crime, politics, how bad the weather is due to global warming etc. Don’t let this fool you into being over cautious of everywhere and everyone. I still like to think that most of humanity can be good to one another. Enjoy your chance encounters, make friends along the way, share your stories and experiences.
Trust Your Gut Feeling!
With all that being said we still, unfortunately, need to be vigilant of that 0.01% of people who do want to take our things and ruin our adventures. We’ve all had that feeling that something isn’t quite right, that feeling deep in your stomach that says you should probably leave this place or not engage with this person. Trust those feelings! If it doesn’t feel right in that shop, talking to that person, or camping in that area then it’s easy to do something about it – leave. Simple.
After all, we travel on a bike so put some pressure on those pedals and find somewhere else. Put distance between you and whatever was giving you that funny feeling. After a long day on the bike you might be hungry and tired but those feelings can be solved with food and sleep. The anxiety you might feel from being in a place you don’t trust can’t be solved as easily. Just move on and reset.
First Aid Kit
The most basic of things to take but it still baffles me how many people think this isn’t an absolute necessity. You can buy first aid kits easily online and they can be relatively small so they pack away nicely. We all hope we’ll never need to open it but as I said earlier – it’s better to have it and not need it! I have this little one that is pretty cheap and fairly comprehensive – click here to have a look. I would always add a few extras to this such as painkillers and eye drops (I wear contact lenses you see).
An Absolute Necessity!
Just buy one or make one but no matter which option you choose make sure it’s in your bag before you leave on your solo adventure!
GPS Devices – Very Remote Areas
Now this is something I’ve spoke to my friend Josh about. Check his hiking / camping Instagram photos out here. I have never used one of these devices as I’ve not had the need. However, if you’re going out into the deep wilds where no phone signal will reach you then you might want to consider a GPS device.
I’m no expert in this area and my limited knowledge comes from Josh and Google. However, in simple terms a GPS device will allow you some sort of communication via messaging or phone no matter where you are. No phone signal? No problem. These devices run off networks like the Iridium Satellite Network which allows you to send messages from anywhere in the world.
They might cost you a little bit of money but if you really are going off grid and you have loved ones that you need to keep in touch with for safety reasons etc then devices such as the Garmin inReach Mini 2 should be considered.
So there we have it. A short article but I hope you have taken away a few ideas for your own Bikepacking trips. If travelling alone doesn’t sound like something you would enjoy or makes you worry then don’t cancel all your plans! Try and find someone to join you on a trip. An adventure shared is equally as enjoyable and it also has other perks such as being able to divide up the types of spares you are carrying. After all, you don’t need two bike pumps etc.
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