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Bikepacking: Hand Pump or Co2?

Flat tires happen and it’s good to be prepared. Back in my early days, I didn’t bring an extra innertube or repair kit when going for shorter rides until I had to walk for four hours. It wasn’t just the flat tire, a thunderstorm broke out and which made me question my decisions.

When you put together a repair kit for bikepacking make sure to bring a pump and one or two inner tubes. Though Co2 capsules are lightweight, you can just use them once and have to throw them out. They also just inflate half of your innertube so probably not the best choice but a pair could serve as a backup.

hand pump and co2 canister

Hand pump

Hand pumps consist of a French valve and a pneumatic tire valve so that you can pump up a tire that uses any of these valves. Hand pumps are really small nowadays and still get the job done.

A French valve, also known as the Presta valve, is usually found on inner tubes of mountain bikes and it is completely made out of metal.  It consists of an outer valve stem and an inner valve body. It is a bit narrower than the pneumatic tire valve. It also uses a lock nut to ensure that it is closed, instead of using a spring.  The French valve seals completely based on the pressure in the tube or tire. It does not use a check valve. Because the french valve is narrower, sports and racing bicycles mostly have the French valve.

A pneumatic tire valve, also known as a Schrader valve, is very common and is also used on car tires.  It is stronger than the French valve and it consists of a valve stem into which a valve core is threaded.  A valve core is a spring-assisted poppet valve. It is also wider than a French valve. The pneumatic tire valve has also got a pin on the inside in the middle that needs pressure to be able to let the air into the tube and this is called a check valve.  This type of valve is also usually wrapped in rubber.

Hand pumps are easy to operate and they come in different sizes and shapes. For storage space reasons you want to go with a small one.  they don’t take up too much space and can easily be stored in your saddlebag.

Advantages of using a hand pump

Very easy to operate.  You just attach the pump to the valve and you are ready to start pumping.
You can pump up the bicycle tire any time for an unlimited amount of time. You will never be stuck as long as you have patches with you to fix punctures and a spare if it’s beyond repairs.

I usually just replace the entire inner tube and get it over with. Save me a lot of frustration because somehow I seem to find new holes when I think I fixed it. Be sure to check the inside of your tires for splinters, glass or anything that can cause punctures.


You will need to carry it in your bag if it is not mounted your bike, though many pumps come with magnets these days. It is hard work especially if you are already tired but that’s part of the game. It takes a bit more effort to fill up the tube with air, they are usually small so it takes some time. It can not be used on a tubeless tire because you will need a lot of pressure to fill it up. and lastly, you will not be able to get the perfect tire pressure, but that’s something I don’t really worry about.

Hand pumps can be very useful for bikepacking because you will never be stuck next to the road and have to walk or grab a cab.  If you do not mind that the hand pump is a little bit big and has to be in your bag and that you will not be able to inflate the tires to get the perfect tire pressure, then you will be very happy with a hand pump for bikepacking.  This is also used quite a lot by people who travel long distances between their homes and work on a regular basis.

CO2 canister

In 1989 to be exact, CO2 cartridges were invented by Genuine Innovations.  The very first CO2 tire inflator for bicycles. So how does a CO2 canister work? Just as the name says, it is a very small metal canister that is filled with CO2 (compressed carbon dioxide).  Even though it is very small, it does pump up the tire very quickly due to the pressure of the CO2 in the cartridge.  The tire can be pumped in as little as 10 seconds but not to the fullest.

A CO2 inflator consists of two parts.  The inflator head, also known as the nozzle, and the cartridge.  The cartridge is the part that contains the CO2. The inflator is the part that you connect to the valve of the tire.  You also get CO2 cartridges that you can screw in (threaded) or push in (non-threaded). So, to use the CO2 cartridges when bikepacking, you either push or screw the canister into the CO2 inflator.  You then connect it to the valve of the bicycle tire and push until you hear the CO2 going into the tire, which will then be inflated very quickly.

Just remember that the outside of the canister will freeze when you use it.  So it is best not to hold it with your bare hand. Rather wear a glove otherwise you might burn your fingers.

It will also be a good idea to go bikepacking with a nozzle and a few CO2 canisters just to be sure that you have enough CO2.

Well, now that you know exactly what the hand pump and the CO2 canister is and how it works, let us discuss the advantages and the disadvantages of both.

Advantages of co2 canisters

You would think because of their weight and small size these are ideal for bikepacking. The more room you can spare the better right? They certainly are easy to store and don’t take up much room, but still should function as a backup. They inflate a tired much quicker than a handpump and require less effort.


A CO2 cartridge can only be used once.  If you have more punctures than Co2 cartridges, you will not be able to pump up the bicycle tire. They also don’t inflate all the way, you probably need two to get the job done. It’s not very environmentally friendly and also expensive. You need to keep buying new CO2 cartridges.

Right in the beginning, you were not able to regulate the amount of CO2 after piercing the canister.  But, luckily this has changed. Due to Genuine Innovations, you can now regulate how much CO2 to use by either twisting or pushing the canister to inflate the CO2.

CO2 canisters are a popular pump for bikepacking and especially for races.  It will allow you to quickly inflate the tire and get back on the road. People also like this type of pump due to it being so small and compact and it can easily fit into your bag.

So what about a hybrid pump?

This works exactly like the hand pump but it has got a built-in CO2 canister. Pretty clever I guess?  If you are struggling to choose between the hand pump or CO2 for bikepacking, then maybe rather go for the combination pump.


  • You will always be covered if you have a flat bicycle tire.
  • If you run out of CO2 cartridges, you will still be able to inflate the tire.
  • You can pump a little bit of air into the tube before inserting the tube into the tire.
  • You can reach the perfect tire pressure.


  • It is a bit bigger than the CO2 canister.
  • It is also heavier than the CO2 canister.

Wrapping it up

One very important thing to remember with whichever pump you choose in the end, always carry a patch kit with you as well as a spare tube.

Do your research and ask around which pump people like and why there are many pumps out there that do the job. Some are better than others and some offer more features you probably didn’t think of.