How I'm Preparing for My Trans-Continental Bikepacking Trip

Ali Becker


Long distance backpacking and bikepacking trips have become increasingly popular as more people are feeling drawn to adventure in nature, explore new places, and push themselves physically and mentally. 

It’s for these same reasons that I’ve spent the last ten years falling head over heels for big bikepacking trips, tackling half a dozen, multi-month odysseys from coast to coast across Canada and throughout the Eastern United States with my partner, Mathieu.



This spring, we are preparing for our biggest bikepacking adventure to date: a 9,000 mile (14,000 kilometer), primarily off-road, trans-continental journey on the recently released Great Northern Bikepacking Route (GNBR) which traverses 400,000 ft (120,000m) of elevation through 10 Canadian provinces and three U.S. states.

I'll let you in on a few of the tips and tricks that have helped me prepare and plan for big adventures like this and how to navigate the inevitable challenges of multi-month excursions. 

Mindset Training 

I’ve come to see developing a grateful, adaptable, and optimistic mindset as an important factor for making the most out of any big bikepacking or thru-hiking adventure (and really, life in general).

Adventure is a leap into the great unknown. I can plan, plot, and prepare to the best of my ability, but most of what happens is outside of my control. Hardships are certain, challenges will appear, and I will absolutely find myself hungry, tired, sore, and worn down.


And yet, in all of those situations, I have the ability to choose my reaction, my perspective, my attitude towards it. Instead of being angry, or resentful, or feeling sorry for myself, I can take responsibility for the situation, remind myself that I’m lucky to be alive, come up with the best solution I can muster, and move forward. 

Of course, this can be easier said than done, which is why I’ve learned that the more I can practice this mindset in my day to day life before getting on the road, the easier it will be to call upon when I find myself knee deep in tough times.

My newest approach to life's obstacles is welcoming these challenges ahead of time, because I know that these very situations help me learn, grow, and become a more capable and resilient human being.

Physical Training 


Most people (my former self included) don’t necessarily think of training for a multi-month thru-hike or bikepacking excursion. My thought process in the past was that I will eventually walk or ride my way into fitness - which is largely true - but it is certainly not the only or best approach. I’ve come to learn that the better my base of strength, fitness, and agility I have going into an adventure, the more likely I am to enjoy all aspects of it. 

For this upcoming trip, my training regime has been a combination of strength training at the gym, high intensity intervals training at the running track to boost my cardio, and a mix of hiking, trail running, walking, and cycling to cross-train different parts of my body to be a better all-around cyclist.

There is no right or wrong way to go about physically preparing yourself for a big adventure. In fact, if I would have waited until I was physically and mentally "ready" to go on my first big bike trip, I would have missed out on the best expedition of my life. That adventure changed me for the better, and I became a stronger, wiser, and more capable person because of it, not before it. This is just my ever evolving approach now, after years of trial and error.

Gear Selection


On my first cross-Canada bike trip in 2015, I did what most newbies do and brought WAY TOO MUCH stuff. I shipped four boxes of unnecessary items ahead to our destination, and was able to acquire anything along the way that I felt I needed but had forgotten to bring with me.

This showed me that it’s okay if you don’t have everything you think you need when you head out on your adventure. You can always get GGG to ship whatever you need "general delivery" to a post office outlet in the upcoming town.  

Going Ultralight

Since most of my ultralight, packable gear from the thru-hiking world translates perfectly into the bikepacking world, it’s far easier for me to bring all the essentials without my bags becoming bulky or weighed down (which even leaves room for a few luxury items). 

Between our two bikes and a few bags, we have our shelter, sleep system, camp kitchen, clothing, bike tools, safety gear, water bottles, and food. Everything we need to live comfortably on the road for five months fits on our bikes, and we like the simplicity of it all.

Planning For The Weather

Since Canada’s climate is so diverse, we’ll be bringing the full spectrum of clothing and outerwear with us so that we can navigate everything from heat waves in May, to frost in July, and hurricane winds on the East Coast come fall. Having the right layers for all conditions makes playing outdoors more fun.

Shelter Selection

Because of the wide variety of weather and terrain, as well as the fact that we don’t bring hiking poles with us when cycling, we’ve found a freestanding tent to be the most enjoyable way for us to spend five months on the road while sharing lots of space together. 

If we decide to stay put on rainy days, we have a home to hang out in, and we can both stretch in the tent at night and sit up and meditate in our shelter in the morning. 


We’ll be bringing our beloved Free Trio tent by Zpacks on this trip. It is made of DCF fabric, which means it is super water-resistant, doesn’t absorb moisture, is incredibly lightweight, and packs down really small.

Gear Maintenance & Usage

Before heading out, we’ll be going through every gear item to make sure it’s in good working order, and for anything new we’ve acquired, we’ll make sure we know how to use it. 

We take pictures/screenshots of the user manuals on our phones, in case we end up somewhere without service and can’t figure out how to work our GPS. We’ll also be sure to break in new items like shoes and saddles ahead of time so we’re as comfortable as we can be when we head out on the road.

Safety Stuff

In the name of doing our best to stay safe out there, we’ll be bringing our Garmin inReach mini along, as well as a recently updated first aid kit (and the wherewithal to know how to use it), and we each have our own Nitecore NU25 headlamp.

We’ve downloaded offline maps of the route and the areas we’ll be passing through, and have two battery banks to keep our satellite communication device, GPS and phones charged up. We pack one Nitecore NB20000 battery bank, and a Nitecore NB10000 battery bank as back up. 

Take Less, Do More

Just like with a hiking pack, I’ve found that the smaller my bikepacking bags are, the less stuff I am able to bring, which has been a fool-proof way to downsize my gear list (so long as I avoid becoming a professional dangler). 

On this trip, I’ll have my lightest set-up yet, making me more nimble, and meaning I have less to pack, organize, maintain, charge, wash, and keep track of. It’s simple, efficient, and, for me, makes bike travel much more enjoyable.

Setting a Budget 

Multi-month adventures are big investments, so I try to go into them being aware that equipment issues will pop up, emergency situations may happen, and stretches of bad weather could have us fleeing for the warmth and shelter of the great indoors. Then, I can plan accordingly.

I’ve figured out our trip budget based on an average of our daily expenses, so even though we often wild camp, I always throw in a cost for accommodation, so that way, when we do pay for a comfortable bed, or a simple square tent pad, it’s all accounted for.

Since there are two of us, I’ve broken down the budget like this in Canadian dollars: 

Food cost for one day = $50 x 150 (amount of days on trail) = $7,500

Accommodations budget for one week = $250 x 20 (amount of weeks on trail) = $5,000
$12,500 CAD

I include any bills we’ll be paying, like our Garmin inReach subscription and phone plans, as well as a buffer we factor in for things like bike maintenance, gear repair or replacement, extra accommodations expenses, emergencies, extra travel, etc.

$1,000/month x 5 months = $5,000 CAD

= $17,500 CAD

This gives us a pretty good idea of what the trip will cost us.

Route Planning 


Up until last year, Mat and I always planned our own bikepacking routes. We’d pull information from numerous navigational apps like Ride with GPS, Google Maps, Garmin Explore, and Strava heat maps, as well as gather local intel via Facebook and scour online forums to piece together what we felt like would be a fun, remote, and scenic way to go.

This year, however, GNBR creator, Matthew Kadey has done all the hard work for us and laid out the entire route on Ride with GPS, complete with waypoints for grocery stores, restaurants, and resupplies, as well as bike shops, camping spots, and indoor accommodations.

Knowing all the resupply spots allows us to pinpoint where and when we’ll need to stock up with a few extra days of food and where we can get away with carrying a bit less.

Since the GNBR is new and still in beta mode, we're going in with back up maps for navigating roadblocks, washouts, and any other surprises that pop up. We always download the route for offline use in Ride with GPS and have an offline map of the area in Google Maps and Garmin Explore.

Route Research

Although the route is pre-planned, we do our best to identify any obvious challenges or hazards ahead of time so that we can go into the ride as prepared as possible to navigate things safely. With an early May departure, we know we might run into snow at higher elevations, which allows us to plan our travel for those zones accordingly, making sure we leave bright and early and give ourselves lots of extra time. 

As mentioned, you can do your best to plan and be prepared, but with five months on the road, so many unknowns will present themselves. We find the best way to truly be ready for anything is to be willing to embrace the hardships and be flexible to change and adapt on the fly. 



One of the biggest changes we are making to our nutritional approach this year is focusing on getting 80% of our calories from whole foods. In the past, we’ve found that our otherwise healthy eating regime starts to slip on the road, and our moods, rest, and recovery suffer as a result.

We’ve been spending more time researching, planning, and testing out new food items that we’ll be eating on the road, so we can ensure that we enjoy eating and riding with them, and that we’ll be able to find them on the road. 

There are a few remote stretches along the route, but between the two of us, we are able to carry three days of food, so we will purchase packable, and not so perishable food items for those stretches. This is also where the 20% flexibility with the diet comes in.

We will be traveling without a stove, as we prefer the simplicity of not cooking, and the fact that we don’t need to bring as many kitchen items with us. This has encouraged us to get more creative about which foods we eat.

Our current menu includes things like canned/packaged fish, hard cheeses, mixed nuts, cured meats, dried and whole fruit, veggies and dips, plain yogurt, soaked oats, nut butters, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, maple syrup, and, my personal favorite, rotisserie chicken from the grocery store deli. 

As far as calorie intake is concerned, we get to eat quite a bit during a long day of bike travel, and our aim on this trip is to really balance our macronutrient intake so we are getting a sufficient amount of all the essential things like good fats, proteins, and carbs.


Lucky for us, there are plenty of fresh water sources along the GNBR route, and we’ll be bringing our Katadyn BeFree 3.0L Gravity filter with us, so we can purify large amounts of water at one time. 

We learned the hard way last year, that not all clean looking water sources are free from contaminants, which led to an uncomfortable week long set back on our bikepacking trip, and took Mat a month to fully recover from. 

Final Thoughts

One of the most important things I’ve learned with getting ready for big trips, is to remain flexible and open to new approaches and new ideas. You never know who has something valuable to share with you, that could make your life a whole lot better. Best to not stay stuck in our ways.


Alas, there is something I find so exhilarating about setting out into the great unknown with everything I need strapped to my bike and facing the inevitable challenges and triumphs that adventure always sends my way. 

I can hardly wait to set out on the journey, but for now, we’ll keep planning, prepping, and watching the winter months fold over into spring. If you have any ideas or suggestions that you’d like to share, feel free to drop them in the comments, and if you’re so inclined, join Mat and I on our grand adventure along the Great Northern Bikepacking Route this summer at @triplonger on Instagram. 

We’d love to have you along for the ride.


Ali Becker is a freelance writer and adventure storyteller who spends half the year backpacking and bikepacking and the other half sleeping in strangers' beds as a professional house sitter. She and her partner, Mathieu, share their ups and downs on their IG channel at @trip.longer and hope to inspire others to get outside, adventure in nature and find their own freedom. You can learn more about them here:

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