Bike Touring Packing List
Bike Touring Packing List
There is a reason that people from brain surgeons to rocket scientists use checklists: it’s because they work! Whether you are planning your first bikepacking adventure or bikepacking is a way of life, a bike touring packing list is an essential component of a great trip.
However, there is no such thing as a single list. It simply isn’t possible to inlclude everything you could need, and if it were, you wouldn’t be able to carry it all! Instead, try to consider everything you could possibly need, and then eliminate items that aren’t needed for a specific trip.
And always prepare. Research your trip and route, so you know what conditions to expect, and the situations you might face. When you’ve refined your list for the trip, test packing it and taking it on a ride to make sure it’s balanced and not too heavy. And use your imagination, think about how you would manage some ‘what ifs’. To get you started, here are some of the things to think about.
Bike and panniers
It might seem obvious, but you will be relying on these every inch of the way, and they will carry everything on your bike touring packing list. Make sure that your bike is suitable, and in good enough condition, for the trip you are taking. You can get away with a lot more on a smooth, paved, road, than if you are going off-road, which will test your frame and panniers.
When it comes to panniers, Ortlieb are often mentioned for their high quality, although they come at a high price. It is possible to find cheaper brands, but always make sure you aren’t sacrificing quality. These will be carrying all your gear, and a failure mid-trip could be a disaster.
It’s also worth investing in some waterproof bags. These will keep important items doubly safe, but can also be used to keep any wet clothing you have to carry.
What clothes you take will be dependent on likely conditions and your preferences. Create a long list of everything, then remove items you are unlikely to need on a particular trip.
Your long list is likely to include, waterproofs, a cycling jersey, t-shirts, a fleece, padded shorts (you may be spending longer in a saddle than you have before, and will welcome these), casual shorts and trousers, and, of course, underwear. You may always want to include footwear on your bike touring packing list, especially if you use clip-in shoes when cycling.
Cooking and food
Consider the type of trip you are planning. You might manage with barely anything if your itinerary includes stops where you can eat at local bars or restaurants. Or, if you are thinking about a more self-sufficient tour, you might need a careful meal plan.
Things you might need to include on your long-list will include a stove, fuel, and ingredients for your meals. You will also need to consider how you will carry or obtain water, and purify it if necessary. You should also have basic utensils for eating, but these can be kept to a minimum, there aren’t many meals you can’t eat using just a bowl and spoon (and, perhaps, a bit of effort)!
At a minimum, you should always have some emergency supplies. Whether these are to keep you going if you are flagging, or for a genuine emergency, make sure you have packed some calorie dense snacks that can fuel you when needed.
Cycling might be an analog pursuit, but there are plenty of digital devices that will feature on your bike touring packing list.
Your smartphone should always be included. As well as being a phone to keep in touch or gain assistance, it can be your GPS, camera, torch, guide, and entertainment. But you might always want to take some other items.
A GPS or bike computer may be better as a dedicated device designed for use on bikes. And if you are a keen photographer, you might prefer the results of a proper SLR camera (even with the added weight). Whatever you take, remember to prepare the items. A phone might be a great GPS in normal situations, but is useless if you haven’t got a signal and hadn’t already downloaded maps.
You’ll also need to consider your power needs. An easy way to handle this is using a PedalCell. This generates power from your wheel turns, it barely affects the cycling effort required, and can be disengaged when not in use, but the efficient dynamo will charge your devices as you ride, providing steady power through its USB hub so that, whatever you take, it will always be fully charged.
Camping gear often comes down to personal preference. Some like a tent, while others like sleeping under the stars. Things that you should consider on your long list will include a tent, making sure it’s big enough to contain you and your gear. Alternatively, you might want to consider a bivouac sack to protect you from the elements.
Make sure you have an appropriate sleeping bag, and if necessary, a liner, which can add warmth if your sleeping bag is not quite enough for the cooler night air. You should also consider some form of bedding, like a foam mattress, which is cheap and durable but large, or an inflatable mattress, which is expensive and less resilient, but will take less space.
The things you hope you don’t need
Finally, your bike touring packing list should have all those things that you really should have with you, but hopefully will never use.
These will include a first aid kit, which you should adapt to make sure it’s appropriate for the trip, a tool kit, so you can undertake repairs on the road, and spares, like inner tubes and even spokes.
Then check, check, and check again
There are plenty of resources available on what you should take when bikepacking. But none will have been written for you, or your trip. No matter how comprehensive or exhaustive a list is, it will never compensate for a lack of preparation and appropriate customization. Whether it’s just an overnight trip, or two weeks in the wilderness, you will never regret the time you spend thinking, planning and preparing for your trip.