So you've decided to head out on your first bike tour, but don't know where to start?
Don't worry we do.
When you're planning what you need on a bike trip, the most essential element is packing light. Think Marie Kondo, but 100x more minimalist. The bare essentials are truly all you need, and you'll be frustrated when you find you've packed items that you don't regularly use. Literally, every ounce counts. You'll feel the same way after a couple hours on the road.
Here's a breakdown of the most important gear and personal items you'll need (apart from your touring bike and bike gear).
You probably have a cool tent that is great for car camping, but do you really want to carry a 10 lb. tent on your bike? Probably not. Get a light weight tent for one or two people (depending on your party). You will find as you go that you really don't need that much space, and your time in your tent is going to be minimal outside of sleeping. We use MSR gear, and we love the Elixir 2 tents. They're compact, easy to use, and fairly light, weighing in under 6 lb. (about 2.5 kg.). Next, you need a good sleeping pad. This is going to be your mattress for the duration of your trip, so make sure it's super comfortable! We love Therm-a-rest, and we supply the NeoAir Trekker mattress with our outfitting kit. Next up is your sleeping bag. Depending on where you are going, you will need a sleeping bag that will keep you warm enough at night, but not too warm. On the West Coast, it generally doesn't get too warm on the coast, so a three season sleeping bag is our go to.
Next up is your cookware. Make sure you have a light weight, easily packable stove, gas canister, cooking pots, cooking utensils, bowls, mugs, cutlery, cutting board, chopping knife, matches or lighter, washing kit (please use biodegradable soap), kitchen bag for easy storage, and don't forget spices and oil. To ensure you get everything you need, we recommend the MSR Cookware. We supply our riders with the Quick 2 System, but they have many options for 1-4 people. We also love their Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set, which has pretty much every kitchen utensil you could need, but they also have other great kitchen kits that are more minimalist.
Lastly, bring a headlamp or flashlight, pack a couple bungee cords so you can strap your tent onto the top of your rack if it doesn't fit into a pannier, and don't forget a First Aide Kit! Better safe than sorry.
Once you have all these camping essentials, you are ready to start packing your own clothing and personal items.
Bike touring is minimalist by nature, so packing minimally is critical. Here's what we recommend as essentials on a bike tour:
Bike Shorts (2-3 pair)
Bike Jerseys (2-3)
Rain Jacket (1)
Down or Fleece Jacket (1)
Biking Gloves (1)
Long Sleeve Layer (1)
Long Athletic Pants (1)
Biking Shoes (1)
Waterproof Sandals (1)
Bike shorts, jerseys, underwear, and socks can be washed nightly and dried during the following day. This way, you should always have a dry, clean set of clothing to wear. We personally pack 2 of each, but if you want a buffer set, it doesn't hurt to have a third outfit.
These items are not to be forgotten!
Keys (so you can get back home)
Notebook & Pen
Eye Mask (it get's light early in the summer)
Ear Plugs (so you get a sound[less] sleep)
Luggage/Locker Lock (some campgrounds have storage lockers for food or electronic storage charging units)
Quick Dry Towel (a must for your shower! Also, we like PackTowl)
Getting clean and fresh after a long ride is an amazing feeling. Make sure to bring what you need, but no more! Toiletries are heavier than you think, so just bring small amounts or travel sized products. Don't forget:
Toiletry Bag (to stay organized)
Brush/Comb (for those who need)
Deodorant (or go au naturelle! We hear you can get a lot of toxins out that way, but we haven't tried it ourselves)
Sunscreen & Lip Sunscreen (must haves for sunny riding!)
Insect Repellent (for places with big mosquitos)
Tweezers (for slivers at picnic tables)
Tissues and Wet Wipes (believe us, they come in handy)
We think it's generally best to disconnect, but having some way to connect to the outside world can come in handy. Music and photos are pretty great to have around too. Here is what we recommend you bring with you:
External Battery (super handy when you don't find a plug all day & your maps are on your phone!)
Headphones (we don't recommend using these while riding, but it's great when you want to relax at the campsite at the end of the day)
If you do have some extra room and can handle the extra weight, here are some items that are often useful:
Casual T-Shirts (1-2)
Casual Shorts (1)
Casual Pants (1)
Sports Bras (2)
Warm Hat (1) - really nice to have at night!
Warm Gloves (1) - ditto!
Neck Warmer (1)
Biking Cap (1)
Pair of Waterproof Booties (1) - If it rains, it's nice to know your shoes will be mostly dry.
Pair Cycling Sleeves (1)
Casual Shoes (1) - If you do bring a regular pair of shoes, make sure they are light weight!
Organizing Bags (2-3) - This can help you keep your clothing and personal items organized in your panniers. We find this is very helpful when you get to camp and need to find something quickly. We love Eagle Creek, and use it all the time.
That's it! Once you have all this, you are ready for the road. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
Note: None of the gear mentioned in this blog post was paid advertising. The gear we use is because we love it and it holds up.