Alan Brown’s Top Ten Bikepacking Tips


Heading off with a tent and a stove strapped to your bike is very much in fashion at the moment. Some people insist on calling it ‘bikepacking’ if any of your ride is off-road but really it’s just cycling and you don’t need any fancy kit or a special bike. Nor do you have to go to the Alps or Patagonia. Most of us have a canal or a riverbank or a stretch of coastline near us just crying out to be explored and camped on. Here are some things to take into account before you set off:

1. If it’s your first time, go in summer. The idea is to have fun and there are no prizes for suffering or survival. In fact there are no prizes

Lochan Uaine by Alan Brown

2. You can use any bike, but do get it serviced. Nobody wants to be fixing their bike in the middle of nowhere or worse, pushing it home in the middle of nowhere.

3. The one thing you might want to think about changing on your bike is a set of chunky tyres. Road tyres can struggle with a loaded bike on loose ground. If chunky tyres don’t fit on your bike it’s maybe not the best for bikepacking.

Abernethy by Alan Brown

4. Pick a destination and route you like. There are no rules – you don’t have to ride a hundred miles or break any speed records.

5. Make sure you’re allowed to ride and camp where you plan to go. That’s easy in Scotland because you can go on pretty much any open ground and track but in the rest of the UK you’ll want to check the rights of way and the attitude of land owners.

No road markings by Alan Brown

6. Take a map. Maps aren’t just for navigation they’re for browsing before and during your trip to give you ideas and to understand the place you’re in.

Glen Noe by Alan Brown

7. Take your time. The joy of bikepacking is to spin along in a low gear and to stop whenever the fancy takes you. Smell the flowers and hug the trees. Chat to everyone you meet.

Ford by Alan Brown

8. Eat. Eat plenty and eat well. You are burning calories quicker than you think. If you’re only out for one night you don’t need to just survive on NATO ration packs you can do some proper cooking in advance and take it with you to heat up on a stove. Wilderness gastronomy is the next big thing and you heard it here first.

Tent by Alan Brown

9. Take your time pitching your tent. Good sleep is invaluable so have a lie down on the ground first to find any lumps and bumps hidden in the grass. Think about where the sun will be in the morning and what view you want when you open the tent flap in the morning.

Loch Etive by Alan Brown

10. Unless you’re into the whole sobriety thing take a couple of beers or some wine or whatever mood enhancer works for you. There are few things more satisfying than being slightly tipsy while you watch the moon come up with a wee campfire on the go somewhere wild.

And there we have it. Cycling on rough paths is for everyone. You don’t need body armour or a hipster beard. And don’t worry about how old you are: this is for folks from eight to eighty eight (apart from the not being sober thing, obviously). It’s cheap, it’s fun and it can transform your life. Just respect the land you’re riding and camping on and don’t worry about getting lost or doing it ‘wrong’.

Have fun out there.

-Alan Brown

Overlander £9.99

Overlander: Bikepacking coast to coast across the heart of the Highlands by Alan Brown is available to buy now for £9.99.

How to Stay Safe On Your Gap Year


Whether you’re a young person setting off on your first overseas adventure, a career breaker, or a silver traveller heading out to discover a new destination; we all need to look after our personal safety and security. After all, we want our travel experience to be memorable for all the right reasons. No matter how experienced you are, Lloyd Figgins, travel risk expert and author of The Travel Survival Guide provides practical and cost effective advice on how to stay safe

Read More How to Stay Safe On Your Gap Year

Robin A. Crawford’s guide to mapping the peatlands

In his book Into The Peatlands, Robin A. Crawford explores the peatlands of the Outer Hebrides over the course of the year, explaining how they have come to be and examining how peat has been used from the Bronze Age onwards. In describing the seasonal processes of cutting, drying, stacking, storing and burning he reveals one of the key rhythms of island life, but his study goes well beyond this to include many other aspects, including the wildlife and folklore associated with these lonely, watery places. Read More Robin A. Crawford’s guide to mapping the peatlands

Pisa’s “Il Gioco del Ponte” – the game of the bridge

There is more to Pisa than its leaning tower and its easy travel connection to the UK. There are some really nice parts of the historic centre and the sweep of the river through the town is pretty spectacular. Also, through June each year there are a series of public parades and spectacles. Passing through Pisa airport on our way to the coast we saw the posters promoting “Il Gioco del Ponte” – the game of the bridge – held on the last Saturday of June and we decided to go.

Read More Pisa’s “Il Gioco del Ponte” – the game of the bridge

Going to Budapest? Make sure you visit the Schiffer Villa

Annabel Barber, Editor of the Blue Guides tells us about Miksa Schiffer and urges us all to add the Schiffer Villa to our places to visit in Budapest: Read More Going to Budapest? Make sure you visit the Schiffer Villa

Stanfords Staff Selects: London Fiction

Here at Stanfords we sell maps and books from all over the world, but sometimes there is no place like home. We currently have a buy one get one half price offer on a selection of our favourite London books, gifts and guides. To give you a real taste of this wonderful city, here is some of our favourite London fiction: Read More Stanfords Staff Selects: London Fiction

5 Reasons Why Mountain Huts Are Special

Huts are more than just shelters. They can be meeting places for climbers. They can be staging posts for trekkers on a multi-day tour. Or they can be somewhere to visit on a there-and-back day’s hike from a valley base; somewhere to stop for lunch perhaps, to sit outside in the sunshine, enjoy the view, and then move on. In The Mountain Hut Book, author Kev Reynolds draws on his vast experience of mountain exploration, giving examples of huts throughout the Alps,  outlining his favourites and suggesting hut-to-hut routes. Here he tells us why mountain huts are so special: Read More 5 Reasons Why Mountain Huts Are Special

A cartographic taster from the National Army Museum

We asked Robert Fleming, the Templer Study Centre Manager at the National Army Museum to give us a few tasters of some of the fascinating collections related to survey and cartography held at the museum. Read More A cartographic taster from the National Army Museum

5 mind-blowing places in Wales that you’ve probably never heard of

 

Wild Guide Wales is Daniel Start’s new compendium of adventures, from the best-selling Wild Guide series. The guide contains over 1000 hidden places to explore. Here he highlights five reasons to explore Wales this summer, and five iconic adventures that few people know about. Read More 5 mind-blowing places in Wales that you’ve probably never heard of

5 Reasons Why Travel Safety is the New Cool

To celebrate the launch of his book The Travel Survival Guide, our go-to guy on all matters of travel safety, Lloyd Figgins gives us five reasons why travel safety is the new cool. Over to you Lloyd:

There was a time when people would glaze over when I told them what I did for a living. Being a Security Expert for people travelling overseas was tantamount to being the fun police. Nowadays however, I have seen a remarkable turnaround. I’ve even been asked if my work is like being James Bond. Well, it’s not quite Bond, but it can be exciting and I am responsible for keeping people safe when they travel to some of the most interesting places on the planet, which makes it very rewarding. So why is travel safety becoming so chic? Read More 5 Reasons Why Travel Safety is the New Cool