Bikepacking 101: Exploring the Coon Fork Overnighter Route
pack your bags and explore the woods on two wheels
words & photos by Josh Rizzo
Looking for a way to explore the great northwoods and love the freedom and speed that comes with bike travel? Of course you are, and bikepacking might be just what you need. Before you hit the trail, though, you’ll need to pack wisely and find the right gear to take with you. Let’s start with the basics of bikepacking and then introduce The Coon Fork Overnighter, a local bikepacking route in Eau Claire County that’s perfect for your first trip.
What is Bikepacking?
Bikepacking is a form of self-supported, multi-day bike camping where riders carry all their necessary gear on their bikes so they can travel off-road and explore remote areas that would be difficult to reach by car or foot. Unlike bike touring, which refers to overnight bike camping via paved roads and bike trails, bikepacking typically involves unpaved gravel roads, ATV “double track” or mountain bike trails.
What Gear Do I Need for Bikepacking?
If you own a bike and have ever been backpacking, you probably already have everything you need for bikepacking. The only difference is that there is usually less room for carrying gear on a bike than in a ginormous backpack (I once went backpacking with an entire carton of eggs, bacon, and english muffins. That’s not quite as easy on a bike) which makes ultralight gear a significant advantage. Back to the original question. You’ll need a tent (or hammock if you’re trendy, unlike me), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, plus all the obvious things like a helmet (if you like your brain), water (if you like not passing out), and a blinky light (if you like not getting run over by a dirt-happy Chevy Suburban during your evening sunset ride to go for a quick dip in that one river over there).
Now that you’ve got your gear, the tricky part is figuring out where to put it on your bike. This can be hard. But fear not; the ol’ internet is full of DIY ideas to help you with this one. I usually strap my sleeping bag and sleeping pad right to my handlebars. Then I take more straps and attach some kind of dry bag to my seat. You can also use a traditional rack and panniers but be warned that gravel and ATV roads are a lot bouncier than pavement and my buddy Jeff once hit such a gnarly bump that both panniers sprang right off the rack and flew onto either side of the trail.
Try Bikepacking the Coon Fork Overnighter in Eau Claire County
If you think this sounds cool and are now bikepacking-curious, you’re going to want to grease that rusty chain and then head over to TheNxrth.com to check out The Coon Fork Overnighter, a ready-to-ride route and plan with everything you need try local bikepacking on your own.
The Coon Fork Overnighter is a perfect place to try bikepacking because it’s just a 40-minute drive from Eau Claire, has relatively low daily mileage, and gives you a sample of all the best parts about bikepacking.
This route straddles the Eau Claire County and Clark County Forests which both allow dispersed camping with permits. With ample options for wild camping spots among the mixed vegetation, along waterways, or at one of several established campgrounds, you can easily customize this trip to your own taste.
For even more Coon Fork Overnighter camping ideas, places to stop, and must-know tips for taking on this bikepacking route, head to TheNxrth.com//post/coon-fork-overnighter-wisconsin-bikepacking-route. And hey, adventures are more fun with friends so why not get the band back together and make 2023 the year for an unforgettable adventure.
Josh Rizzo of Eau Claire is an avid, year-round biker and founder of TheNxrth.com, which covers gravel, fat, and bikepacking in the Northwoods of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the U.P.