I have to confess I really don’t like the packing part. It gives me anxiety and I always crowdsource to a point that is probably unnecessary. But that said, when I do have this help, or find other gear lists that folks have so helpfully laid out for me that anxiety lessens. So I want to do the same for you. Better yet, I actually met up with my good friend Perry Eising, a fellow cycle tourer, to compare notes, which actually made it fun for me, and I hope for you too.
Perry is also a much more organized person than I am and so actually had a Google spreadsheet. I generalized it a bit and suited it most specifically for my own trip but it should be a pretty damn good overview for anyone. So here’s a view only link to it so you can copy it and make your own more suited to your needs. It’s good to have a place to start. If you don’t have a Google account here’s it is in Excel spreasheet form: Bike Touring Packlist
First let’s start with the basics, what you’re going to carry your stuff in. Perry uses Axiom typhoon lx panniers and I have those ubiquitous Ortliebs. Both are waterproof. If you choose ones that aren’t make sure they have rain covers.
Neither of us currently uses front bags, but who knows, if I pick up a lot of stuff in Europe, maybe I’ll need to get some. But I’d also have to install a front rack, which is why I am hoping to get by with just this older style Bontrager waterproof handlebar bag. I have so far (top right in the picture above).
Next is regular camping items and shelter. I suppose you can skip this part of you’ll only be staying in hostels or hotels but I’m guessing most folks on bike tours will want to at least the option to camp. Someone might even invite you to camp in their yard!
Basically you just want lightweight sleeping bag, pad and tent. Perry uses an REI stratus quarterdome tent and an REI sleeping pad and an old down sleeping bag from Germany. I have an old “Camp Inn” inherited sleeping bag, a Red Canyon pad that I will upgrade to borrowing Vanessa’s Neo-X-Lite, and that gaudy Poler tent that everyone loves but is really too heavy to be useful.So I’m going to borrow a friend’s 1 person tent in France. I don’t know anything about it but crossing my fingers its easy to set up and lighter than mine.
Basically use whatever you want, the lighter it is the happier you’ll be, but anything that fits in your bags works. I strap the tent to the top of my rack with a mesh bungee (directly below the Bontrager bag in the photo above) that can be good for other uses as well (like strapping in my solar charger to face the sun).
Some sort of portable gas stove and pot system. I’ll have a pocket rocket and the GSI Pinnacle Soloist which has a stove with a lid with holes (for draining water for pasta etc), a bowl/cup, a retractable spork, and a carry bag that can double as a container for washing. You can fit the stove and a small fuel canister inside. Only other thing I need then is a pocket knife and lighter/matches (technically you don’t need these with a stove that is a self starter but there are soooo many reasons to bring some along in case). Depending on where you’re going you may also want water purifying tabs and or a filter. I always keep at least 2 water bottles going my whole trip but that’s with the knowledge I have drinking water often so you may want to bring a lot more than that depending.
Toolkit & Electronics
Everyone’s tool kit will look slightly different but here are the items in mine: pedal hex wrench, spoke wrench, nuts and bolts, chain tool, tiny multitool, zipties, spare tube and/or patch kit, travel pump. I’m sure some with argue with me but I don’t think brands are very important; just go to a bike shop and ask. If you’re a little intimidated by that I don’t blame you, but that’s why women owned and friendly shops are great places. See my intro post for PDX recs.
Most people are going to bring a phone and that has largely replaced maps but either is going to work. I also have a holder that can keep my phone in front of me on my handlebars as I bike. Super useful for turn by turn directions or if you want to glance down at map directions every so often, or even if you want to listen to music. I don’t favor a particular brand. I had to get this last minute for my trip last year after my previous one broke. One random thing to keep in mind if you’re riding on a sunny day, however, is that you don’t want your phone to overheat. Direct sun in a plastic case has done this to me. It just turns the phone off and as long as it cools down again it should be fine though I’m sure repeated exposure isn’t great for the parts. Sometimes you might just have to keep it in a pocket or throw a bandanna over it to keep it from the sun. You won’t be able to see the screen any more but you can still here it if you have auditory cues and don’t want to use headphones.
Maps are obviously never going to have a battery die on you so if you’re relying on your phone for navigation I would definitely bring a backup battery as well. I use one that can also charge in the sun. Though it really doesn’t charge very well in the cloudy Pacific Northwest when I kept it out all day on the bike it did gain a bar. But more importantly you can leave it charging in a campground bathroom without worrying about it like you would a phone.
The solar doesn’t add much weight so I appreciated the little extra boost it could give. And if you’re riding sunnier places than me it might really be worth it. (Sun giveth and the sun taketh away huh?). I also opted for an add-on to my dynamo hub, that charges my phone. It was a little pricey but so worth it as I don’t have to worry that I am checking directions too much, or that I shouldn’t make a call if I’m trying to preserve battery life. You wouldn’t think your own legs could produce much power, and it’s not like plugging into to wall, but I thought the charge was pretty damn good while I wasn’t also running the light. So charge while you’re riding during the day.
Most people will have their headphone wherever they go but, lest I forget myself, make sure they’re in here. Some folks might want an e reader (Perry uses a Kindle Paperwhite) or, gasp, a book or magazine and writing journal.
I also usually just rely on my phone for pictures as cameras have gotten pretty good on the iPhone and I can’t really justify the extra weight of good equipment. But if you’re a real photographer you might want to check out this post on affordable camera gear.
Clothes & Shoes
Bike shorts will change your life. You can get slick road bike shorts, super casual baggy mountain bike shorts, or wear them under your regular shorts but they’re really a must for any long ride. So is some sort of chamois cream. I use Chamois Butt’r but everyone’s body is different so just give them a try until you find what you like. For a big bottomed girl like me I will use it every day, but I hear from skinny folks that everyone needs it after a few days. Take heed.
In general I would say take 2 pairs of shorts, or 1 short and 1 long padded pant, 1 T and 1 sleeveless. Basically any technical fabric will do although products that are bike specific will have features like pockets, zippers, grips on the bottom and slightly longer shirt backs since you’re in a downward riding position. I had super cheap used shirts from Next Adventure last year and they totally worked fine but I decided to upgrade a little this year so my stuff is just a but cuter and more useful.
I also wear this DZR shoes that do have clips for the bike but they are recessed, making them shoes you can also walk in. They’re plain black and cute as regular sneakers so I’m just going to throw some insoles in them and use them as my primary shoes except some Tevas for water and/or at camp. I have special pedals on my bike that flip so that you can use the clips on one side while the other is flat and can be used with any shoe. To be honest I only use the clips maybe 25% of the time but it’s nice to know they are there if I have long stretches where I need them. It’s even more comforting to know I don’t have to use them. If you hate clipless pedals, or toeclips, that’s ok. They can be useful but in my opinion you can absolutely do long days without them. I once met an older couple that switched to clipless for their bike tour for the first time and hated them and then were stuck. Don’t let anyone pressure you into using them. But having the choice is great!
Oh also a helmet, duh, you need it on a long ride for sure. I use this Bern because I liked that you can switch out the liner for a soft padded winter one or a sleek vizor when it’s hot. But just use whatever you have access to.
You also need socks, bras, underwear for whenever you’re not in the shorts, any regular or going out clothes (try to keep this to a minimum of course), sleepwear, some sort of fleece or performance hoodie, and a warm hat. Oh and sunglasses. If you anticipate rain, a rain jacket and pants. I’m taking an ultra light Marmot Precip on this trip but going to chance it without my ShowersPass Club Convertible pants. Year round in the PacNW I really can’t live without them. They were worth every penny. But I have limited space on this trip, won’t ever be wearing regular pants to ride in and am partially just taking my chances. If I have to stop in a little Belgian cafe and wait out a storm a couple times so be it.
Perry likes to use fingerless gloves with padding, Pearl Izumi Gel Elites. I usually only use full waterproof gloves in the winter but I may change my mind after days of a numb hand so I’ll keep you posted if I pick some up.
Clothing is its own rabbit hole so maybe I’ll do a whole post on it. Let me know if you all would be interested in that?
First Aid and Hygiene
Ok so this isn’t really any different than any other trip or camping trip but I want your list to be comprehensive so I’ll just pop in our list from the spreadsheet. Maybe you wouldn’t have thought of some things or maybe only cyclists who might get a lot of sore muscles and bruises will need to take Arnica everywhere, you know?
Anyway, on my list is: bandaids, disenfectant wipes, pain meds, tweezers, needle, bug spray, deodorant, toothbrush/paste, soap/shampoo, sunscreen, cham cream, ear plugs, hand sanitizer, floss, blister pads (Moleskin or Compeed), nail clipper, Arnica, detergent, diva cup/tampons, prescriptions. Sidenote about the diva cup, haven’t decided if I will use it or tampons. I switch back and forth at home because there are pluses and minuses to each and I’m sure that will be true on the road as well, though slightly different ups and downs. I don’t know what’s going to turn out better but I’m guessing I’ll talk about it when it happens.
Here’s Perry’s full emailed list with a few prices and brand names and their packing layout pic:
REI stratus regular sleeping pad (new, $80)
REI quartwrdome 1 tent bought used off ebay
No-name old ass German down sleeping bag
Inflatable pillow off eBay that works great
Axiom typhoon lx panniers
Used ortlieb mudracer seat post bag, size L
Axiom streamliner disc rear rack
Dejo ultralight knife
Msr blaxklite pots (scratched to shit)
Msr ultralight stove
Park tools spoke wrench
Random nuts and bolts zipties, chain tool tied into an old sock so they don’t rattle
Pro tools mini pump
CamelBak podium extra cold water bottles (2), 24 oz, 1 bought, 1 taken from lost and found
Suvivor water bladders 2 X1 liter
Pearl izumi gel elite gloves
Endura baggy shorts women’s (bought used for 8)
Wicking layers bought from the super Goodwill for a few bucks in bright colors
High viZ vest bought at Ikea for $3
Specialized body Geo shoes
Giro socks bought on clearance
Specialized echelon II helmet that I should replace
Cycling cap by pace bought used at next adventure
Enamel camping mug
Tiny hygiene kit with bronners, toothpaste, travel deo, sunscreen
Packtowl mini towel bought used at next advemture
Pdw headlight, planet bike rear light, also some other no name front and rear lights
Salsa vaya 3, 2012. Bought used for 700, fixed up, added cross brake lever, new tape.
Brook’s C-17 touring saddle.
Marathon original 2″ tires, but intend to switch to schwalbe optima? 40mm
Planet bike plastic fenders
Dimension spacer bell
Shimano touring pedals
I’d like a handle bar and/or top tube bag, ideally with map pouch.
Samsung Galaxy S7 phone, case, easyAcc charger brick.
Kindle Paperwhite, headphones journal, pens.