Bike touring vs Bikepacking. What’s the difference?

You probably have heard terms like bike touring and bike packing. Many people think it’s same thing. It’s not. I have seen a lot of confusion on the internet so I decided to write an article and explain the key differences between Bike touring and bike packing and Bikepacking so you can decide which system suits you better!

The main difference between Bicycle touring and bike packing is defined by what gear  you are using to carry your stuff using your bicycle.

In traditional bicycle touring cyclists use pannier bags attached to the racks. You can attach up to two racks on your bike, front and rear, so you can have up to four pannier bags on your bike where as in bike packing cyclists use special bags attached directly to the bike frame, seatpost, forks and handlebars. And that’s the main difference.

Each system has it’s own pros and cons so let’s go through them to help you to decide which system is right for you.

Bikepacks attached directly to the frame


Bike packs are lighter than pannier bags and do not require racks which can save you a lot of weight. 4 panniers and two steel racks weigh can weigh about 5 kilos or 10 pounds, where good quality bike packs weigh just a fraction of that. 

Aero dynamics.

Typically bike packs are more aero dynamic than pannier bags so you will go a little faster carrying the same weight.

Off road suitability.

Good quality bike packs stay firmly when attached to the bike frame, where as panniers attached to the racks tend to rattle on unpaved roads. Bike packs are usually attached a little higher on your bike than panniers as well, which gives you more confidence riding off-road.


Cyclists using bike packs can carry a lot less stuff than the ones using panniers. I was once carrying a week’s worth of food with me using panniers, that’s just impossible with bike packs. So for that reason, bike packers sometimes end up spending more money on the road.

Touring bike loaded with 4 pannier bags on two racks


Packing bike packs is not as easy as just throwing things into your panniers. It requires a lot more planning and organisation. Reaching contents of the bike packs can be tricky as well, because sometimes you’ll just have to empty all the bag to reach something in the bottom.


So which one do you choose? Well, there’s no right or wrong here and it all comes down to personal preference, but generally people cycling off road would go for bike packing, as it’s much more reliable option and it helps to keep the weight down.

If you stick to roads and going for a longer tour, panniers can be a good option as it’s generally more comfortable, easier to organise and gives you more capacity, however, if your ride is more performance orientated and riding speed is important to you, choosing the bike packing option is generally recommended.


Recommended products