There is no official definition for what bikepacking is, but the loosely accepted one is:
Bikepacking is basically the combination of cycling and camping.
Unlike normal touring it’s generally off-road and the bags mount directly to the bicycle. Usually bikepacking is done ultralite and riders cover large distances. Such races as the Tour Divide, Trans AM, Colorado Trail, and more are common testing ground for bikepackers.
A classic touring set ups rely on rigid racks that are mounted to one’s bicycle. As a result these add weight, need to be customized for different frame types. Their also another component that could possibly break (especially with the added weight and road vibrations). The classic touring set up also has bags positioned on the sides of the bicycle, making them too wide for single track use. Rigid racks and today’s full suspension frames simple are not compatible.
A bikepacker relies on carrying less gear and rather than rigid racks they use soft bags directly mounted to the bicycle. A normal set up may include: handlebar bag, 1-2 top tube bags (sometimes called a Gas Tank, front and Jerry Can, rear), seat bag, and a frame bag. Some use small bags that fit next to the stem behind the handlebar. Depending on one’s load you might also wear a hydration pack for added carrying capacity. In addition, water bottles and small bags have been known to be mounted to fork blades.
I plan to use a hardtail mountain bike for the Tour Divide and hopefully switch to a full suspension for the Colorado Trail and Arizona Trail. As I don’t like to carry a hydration pack on long rides I’ll be carrying the bare necessities and going ultralite. My thru-hiking experience will help me with what I need and don’t need but I still need to figure out each piece of gear’s position on the bike.
I should be announcing which bike I’ll be riding soon. Stay tuned.