Magical is the word that comes to mind when describing the remote Paparoa mountains and the trail that is embedded in them. The Paparoa Track is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” that allows shared-use mountain biking and hiking. Located on the stunning West Coast that is renowned for its remoteness, exotic nature and extreme weather. It is always a privilege to voyage to this special part of New Zealand, and even more so to do it on a mountain bike.
Photo: Callum Wood
I was fortunate enough to complete this trail recently, one of great magnitudes that takes you through dense New Zealand rainforest, alpine tops, limestone landscapes with breath-taking views of the ocean on one side and forest on the other. Here, you are literally following in the footsteps of the old gold miners from the early 1800’s who first wandered these ridges.
Bikepacking has to be one of the greatest methods to nourish your soul, connect with nature and get back to basics with yourself. When prepared and done right, you will become empowered and want more. There is no better time than now to get out of towns, cities and your day to day life and into nature to breathe some fresh air.
Photo: Callum Wood
If you haven’t bikepacked already, it can be extremely overwhelming preparing what gear to bring. Give yourself plenty of time to pack and get everything together. It takes a few trips to master the art of minimalist packing- just remember your pack gets extremely heavy when you have to carry it all day uphill.
Every trip will slightly vary in regards of what you pack, make sure you do some homework beforehand to avoid forgetting something important or hauling something unnecessary. Here is what I packed for the Paparoa track, a 54km overnight trip in a Department of Conservation hut.
Let’s get packing.
- Riding kit- 1x set (bottoms, top, socks, chamois). Reuse your previous days riding kit, air it out at the hut or around the campfire. I only ride in my Mons Royale merino wool clothing, as it doesn’t smell when I wear it two or three days in a row!
- Rain jacket (Goretex if possible) – compulsory!! I can’t stress this enough, even if the forecast looks good, it can be volatile and change in minutes.
- Tights/leggings. I bring my Mons skiing bottoms. It gets cold in the mountains, even in summer, and they keep you safe from mosquitoes.
- Extra pair of socks. Dry socks at the hut make you happy!
- Hut Crocs. Function over fashion.
- Small puffy jacket that reduces to nothing. Great to have for emergencies, or to wear in your sleeping bag if you are prone to the cold, like me.
Just some of the gear needed, prepped the night before in our rented weatherboard cabin.
Once again this depends on if you are camping or going to stay in a hut. For the Paparoa track the huts supply mattresses, gas and stove.
- Sleeping bag. Usually anything that accommodates for -10 degrees will suffice.
- Lightweight mug, bowl and spoon.
- 20-30L pack with good hip and chest straps.
- Bin bags – remember to pack out what you bring in. These also double up as pack liners.
- Multi-tool, including chain brake.
- Quick links
- Spare tube and puncture repair kit.
- Hand pump
This is the bare minimum for bike tools. If you are in a large group, communicate before leaving to spread the load. Always make sure your bike is in top shape before leaving to ensure no niggly mechanicals that can be prevented.
The most important part of any trip – not only to keep you functioning but as part of the experience. ‘Real’ food is best, but sometimes to save weight you need to resort to dehydrated or freeze-dried food, which is really delicious! Some options:
- Pre-made peanut butter and jam sandwiches, they keep well in tinfoil.
- Dehydrated mashed potatoes. They taste so much better when bikepacking. And the carbs are totally necessary.
- Trail mix. Spice it up with M&Ms.
- High protein granola bars.
- Dark chocolate. No explanation needed.
- For breaky, porridge with some raisins and nuts. The warmth will get you going on those cold mornings
- Coffee. Obviously. Bring a few extra sachets for your friends!
Snacks and coffee shared around for all.
A few other top-tips:
Remember to adjust your suspension accordingly, usually the uphills and descents require adjustments due to being longer than your average trail ride.
It can help to have a watch or bike computer to keep tabs on your mileage! This can help with gaging your energy, when to eat or morale!
Bring zip lock bags for your electronics.
Although heavy at the time, a can or two of craft beer at the top will never go a miss. Alternatively, cask wine (or goon in New Zealand) always goes a treat and can be shared around the group.
Photo: Callum Wood. One of my favourite parts of staying in huts is filling in the intentions book and looking back on the others who have enjoyed the trail.
Take it easy while bike-packing. Be mindful that it is not a race, you are in the middle of nowhere, away from amenities and emergency services. It is about the experience and journey. Bikepacking is one of the most satisfying and wholesome feelings, especially when sharing with others.
Bikepacking takes you to unique places that are often out of the ‘norm’ in everyday life
What I love about backcountry riding is that it attracts all sorts of riders from all walks of life. The lycra donning die-hards, 60-year-old ‘Dads’ on hardtails, groups of girlfriends, families and more. The track is a melting pot, something everyone has in common for a brief moment in time, that brings us together.
All with the same purpose – for the love of it.
Photo: Callum Wood
Kelsey completed her bikepacking journey on her Pivot Switchblade.