After his second foray into overnight bikepacking Jack came back with a few essentials for a summer adventure.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

My mate Pat and I are gravel bikers now. While we haven’t become lycra-clad, smooth-legged cyclists, our padded bib shorts and search history dense with frame and saddle bags reveals signs of bikepacking fever.

With new bikes, it wasn’t long until we were off with a handful of mates experiencing the freedom that comes from going back to basics; of strapping everything you need for a night onto your bike, and pedalling away from your front door.


I Went Back To Basics On My Murray River Bikepacking Trip – Here’s What I Learnt, bikepacking, cycling, camping, two black bicycles leaning against a duck egg blue brick wall

Two trusty steeds about to hit the trail


Our avid bikepacking mates loaded up the route onto fancy bike computers, took the lead, and we complained about each hill as if they’d piled the dirt themselves.

Following the horrors of peeling my grubby self out of a sleeping bag and getting a whiff of the unique concoction of sweat, dirt, and Clif bar crumbs that sunscreen had bound to my skin, we began talking about the next adventure, and its need to be near swimmable water –  like all refreshing summer adventures should be.

As we neared home, the current adventure still ongoing, the next trip had been conceived. The date was set for a couple of weeks time, too short notice for everyone else, but Pat and I stuck to our guns and locked it in.

With newfound confidence we made a loose plan: ‘It’s getting warmer, let’s ride near the water and follow the Murray River.’ On Ride with GPS the red line followed the river somewhat closely and with the freedom that came with two wheels and bikepacking bags, we figured, ‘there’s heaps of camping along there too.’

Having now completed this overnight pedal along the Murray River on the lands of the Ngangaruku and Ngarrindjeri Peoples, I returned with a few things I’d deem essential to a summer adventure.

A Date – Just Pick One and Make it Work

As we drove up the freeway to Murray Bridge, we chatted about how surprised we were that we were actually doing it, and that it hadn’t run the short course of usual ‘plans’ discussed at the pub and then left behind like an empty pint glass.

Normally, it’s ‘oh such and such can’t do that date’ or ‘I think Greg was doing birthday drinks, not sure though’.

Everything gets in the way, whereas when you set a date, see who’s free and then commit to going anyway, you end up making it happen. Sorry Greg.

Loose Plans Require Loose Expectations

‘It looks like we just duck down this road and then we’re back on the track that follows the river.’

We quickly agreed, giddy to descend down the long, winding bitumen road toward the glinting water, unbeknown to us, we’d been squinting at the detour on a satellite image taken before the recent Murray River flooding.

The flooding had completely washed away the track, leaving other nearby roads closed. All we could do was laugh, pull back out the phone and reroute via the highway.

After a few kilometres of highway bitumen, we came to a crossroad where the champagne gravel I’d imagined lay before us. After a couple of kilometres of rhythm, we were cruising now, hard-packed gravel, and then as quickly as we could say, ‘How good is this!’ the ground sank before us. Sand.


I Went Back To Basics On My Murray River Bikepacking Trip – Here’s What I Learnt, bikepacking, marmot, cyclist riding through sand with trees lining the path

A lesson that loose plans may result in loose sand


Frustrated, pushing my bike, thinking this wasn’t the beautiful riverside, cool-breeze ride I’d expected, it suddenly clicked. We couldn’t have a rough, ambiguous plan that we were barely following anyway, and have everything go as expected. Loose plans require loose expectations.

Pack Minimal, Pack Well

Arguably, we’re not complete idiots. While we may have had a loose plan, it doesn’t mean that we weren’t prepared.

We had everything we needed to pull up where we pleased for the night, and an adequate amount of chamois cream to get us there.

When packing for these trips, I love to pack minimally – my bikepacking bags don’t allow for much choice. But while I forgo a spare tee, I want the essentials I do bring to be things I can trust.

This is something I quickly learnt, as my ‘trusty’ lighter decided to cark it at dinner time. Pat and his lighter became essential.

As we turned in for the night, the temperature had dropped to about 5 degrees, and tomorrow’s headwinds were already howling, so I jumped into my Marmot Hydrogen 30° sleeping bag and was able to get a toasty night’s sleep without fear of the Tungsten Ultralight 1-person tent flying away.

The Marmot tent and sleeping bag are light and compact, combined they’re less than two kilos, allowing me to shove them in my handlebar bag. While there are some things I’ll leave behind or compromise on (like lighters, apparently), a quality shelter and warm night’s sleep aren’t negotiable.

A Mid-Adventure Swim

There’s something about that feeling of diving into a body of water. Add tight muscles, a body grimy with adventure, and a flowing Murray River, and that feeling is second to none.

As I duck-dived in, looking back at our roadside, yet riverside, camp, I realised it was exactly how we’d initially envisioned. It was the reason we’d hatched this loose plan in the first place.

If you’re adventuring overnight this summer, make it near a body of water, and add a towel to your list of essentials.


I Went Back To Basics On My Murray River Bikepacking Trip – Here’s What I Learnt, bikepacking, cyclist taking a swim break in a lake

This is a non-negotiable treat

Food – You’re Not Saving Money on Fuel

While you’re not pulling up to the unleaded bowser at the servo, there’s still a need for fuel and at least with this kind there’s only minimal methane as a byproduct (maybe more if lentil curry is on the menu).

I’m talking about food and the need to fuel yourself! Luckily, we’d mapped out the towns on the way and got across the country town closing times. This will save you from having to carry lunch on your bike and gives you a guilt-free excuse to pig out.

After silently battling headwinds into lunch at the Mannum takeaway shop, we were much more vocal and ready to tackle the afternoon as we crossed the river on the ferry and continued to pedal back to our starting point.

Don’t forget, on human-powered adventures, you are the engine.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!


I Went Back To Basics On My Murray River Bikepacking Trip – Here’s What I Learnt, bikepacking, stop off at mannum takeaway shop in south austalia with soft drinks and chips

Basically, great trips are made from many little treats along the way

Embrace Type 2 Fun

As the headwinds amplified to a point where any less pedalling would see us roll backwards, even the descents didn’t provide any joy.

All I could do was laugh – I think Pat thought I’d gone mad.

Maybe this was an adventurous awakening? If I was realising I was having type 2 fun as it occurred, was it still type 2 fun?

I think I was laughing at the ridiculousness, knowing that the only way through was to keep pedalling and that we’d be laughing about it over post-adventure choccie milks soon enough.

A Moment to Yourself

Sure you may hike, or ride, by yourself at moments, but there’s something beautiful about being still, mid-adventure, and taking in your surroundings.

For me, that was the moment of lying in the tent first thing in the morning. It was cold on my face, but with the Marmot sleeping bag keeping my dirty body warm, I unzipped the fly and just stared out at the river from the comfort of my tent.

I was grateful to be doing the thing that I longed for during the week, often in the midst of an envious Instagram scroll.


I Went Back To Basics On My Murray River Bikepacking Trip – Here’s What I Learnt, bikepacking, camping, tent, view from green marmot tent looking onto a river

Non-verbal time is important

A Little Bit of Research

While our trip was filled with re-routes, highways, and hike-a-bike, we’d got out on a weekend ride that involved water. As we drove back into Adelaide, happy to have a windshield between us and the headwind, we tallied it up as a great success.

Turns out The Lavender Cycling Trail runs right near here, a beautiful well-known South Australian gravel riding track, I guess we’ll save that for next time.