Bike Touring Essentials to Pack
Bike Touring Essentials to Pack
The great thing about bikepacking is that you can do it with almost nothing. You can head off on a bike with a credit card and, assuming you are always near to civilization, that will be enough. But for most people, bikepacking isn’t about sleeping in hotels and eating in restaurants. So, what are the bike touring essentials that you have to pack?
Assuming you aren’t an ultra-minimalist, here are some things to think about to get you started. But remember, this is just a suggestion, think carefully about what you might need and even more carefully about what you can do without. As bad as it can be to realize that you’ve carried equipment you didn’t need for hundreds of miles, it’s even worse to get stuck in a situation where the one thing you do need is still at home.
Beginning with the bike touring essentials, you need a bike! While there are plenty of stories of people having adventures on old and beat up bikes, make sure your bike is suitable for the terrain, and that everything is in working order. One tip that many learn the hard way on their first trip is to have a good, comfortable, saddle. Leather is usually considered the best material, but it will need breaking in before you go.
Then, on the bike, you will need to ensure you have good panniers. These will be carrying everything you take, so make sure they are robust and waterproof. Prices can range enormously, but because you need them to keep your belongings safe, resist the temptation to skimp.
Finally, there’s a range of must-haves that you will hope you never actually use. Make sure you have a first aid kit, tools, and spares. Adapt these to your trip, bearing in mind how far you might be from help. You can probably do with a minimum if you are never far from urban areas and shops where you can get supplies. But if you are spending extended time in isolated areas, then you need to make sure you can fix your bike, or yourself, if you need to.
Food and water
Although arguably a must-have, after all, you would rather not starve or die of thirst, these may be less essential. After all, you can cycle through pangs of hunger and thirst to the nearest town, but not if you have a broken chain or flat tire.
When working out what constitutes the bike touring essentials, think about where you will be. If you can buy food as you go, it not only means you have fresher supplies, but also have to carry less weight. Likewise, think about how you can top up on water, or whether you will need to have some form of storage or even the means to sterilize it.
However you source or carry your food, you will need to cook it. There are plenty of lightweight, portable stoves available, but you choose the right type. Canister stoves are reliable and good for cooking, but mean you need to carry the canisters. You might prefer the flexibility of multi-fuel stoves, then you can even use dry wood you find if you are in a pinch.
Setting up camp
You will require some way of camping. Much might depend on how much comfort you want or need. Small tents are lightweight, but if you really want to get down to the bike touring essentials, you might want to just sleep under the stars. If this is the case, it’s worth using a bivouac bag, which will keep you dry if there’s overnight rain, or even protects you from any early morning dew.
You should also be careful about the sleeping bag you choose. There is no such thing as a year-round bag, so make sure you have one that is suitable for the season, and invest in some sort of mattress. Although foam mattresses are cheap and durable, it’s probably worth the investment for an inflatable mattress. These take less space in your gear and are more comfortable, both factors you will be grateful for when you’ve on the road the next day.
Again, if you are getting right down to essentials, then you might wonder if you even need a change at all. In practice, you’ll want at least one complete change of clothes, and likely more changes of socks and underwear; a sweaty day in the saddle is not conducive to a sweet aroma.
You should also consider clothing for a range of conditions. That doesn’t mean something for every eventuality, but for variations. Would you want different clothes if it was slightly cooler one day, or slightly warmer the next, or would you be happy just adapting your speed to maintain temperature?
The modern essentials
Having minimized everything else, it’s time to think about the bike touring essentials for the modern age. It might seem strange to include gadgets when much of the attraction of bikepacking is about getting back to basics. But today many devices are essential. Why pack a map, compass, notebook, and guidebook when it’s all on your phone? Or, if you are keen on capturing and sharing your trip, you might want a dedicated camera and tablet to post your adventure online.
It’s hard to see a smartphone as anything but essential, but there might be other things that you simply have to have. Don’t forget that you will need to keep them charged too. Make sure you have a good power bank or, better yet, a method of charging like a PedalCell. A PedalCell will take some of the energy of cycling and convert it into a steady supply to its USB hub, meaning you’ll never need to worry about low batteries again.
The final thing, that you can’t pack, but is an absolute must, is preparation. Think about your trip, how it will work, and what you might need. You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but you can for most, and spending some time planning and preparing is the single best way to make sure that you have all your bike touring essentials and a great trip.