Bike travel is an exciting way to explore new places, whether you’re going on a short weekend getaway or an extended bike tour across the country. Packing the right gear can make all the difference in keeping you comfortable, safe, and prepared on your cycling adventures.
This comprehensive packing list has everything you’ll need to pack smart and travel light for a successful bike trip. We’ll go over must-have cycling clothes and gear, camping and cooking equipment, tools and spares, personal items, first aid supplies, and more. With tips from seasoned bike travelers and packing checklists for tour and day trips, you’ll be ready to hit the road.
Key Things To Consider When Packing
Packing for bike travel requires some special considerations compared to regular travel. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind:
Pack light – Weight and bulk are your biggest enemies. Only bring essentials and versatile layers that can be mixed and matched.
Aim for durability – Your gear needs to withstand wear and tear from long distances in the elements. Focus on quality over quantity.
Consider weight distribution – Pack the bulk of the weight low and centered near your body to avoid unbalancing the bike.
Choose puncture-proof bags – Panniers and bikepacking bags specifically made for cycling are a smart investment.
Prepare for all weather conditions – Bring gear for sun, rain, wind, and temperature extremes so you’re covered in any conditions.
Plan for longer days – Have supplies for snacks, tools/spares, first aid, and electronics to be self-sufficient while riding.
With the basics covered, let’s get into the nitty gritty of exactly what to pack for bike trips!
Clothing And Cycling Gear
Having the right apparel can make or break your riding comfort and enjoyment. Focus on versatile layers that offer sun protection, breathability, and weather resistance.
Padded bike shorts are essential for preventing chafing and soreness during long hours in the saddle. Bring 2-3 pairs so you can rotate as you wash them. Popular options include:
- Lycras – Snug-fitting spandex shorts with a moisture-wicking chamois pad. Great for road cycling.
- Baggy shorts – Loose over-shorts with a detachable liner short underneath containing the padded crotch insert. Ideal for mountain biking.
- Bib shorts – Cycling shorts with shoulder straps instead of a waistband to prevent pulling down or chafing. Excellent for long distances.
Jerseys designed for cycling have handy features like zippered back pockets, silicone grip around the waist, and UPF protection. Bring at least 2 jerseys suitable for the weather.
Jacket And Layers
Pack versatile layers you can add or remove as the temperature fluctuates:
- Windbreaker jacket – Thin, lightweight, and packable while still blocking wind and light rain.
- Insulating layer – Fleece or down jacket to retain warmth in cooler weather.
- Base layers – Moisture-wicking fabrics like merino wool help regulate body temperature.
Thin, snug-fitting socks without bulky seams can help prevent blisters on long rides. Bring a few pairs and switch them out to keep feet fresh.
Proper stiff-soled cycling shoes distribute pressure evenly and connect securely to the pedals. Road bikers should pack their cleated shoes while mountain bikers can opt for flats or clipless.
Padded cycling gloves protect your hands from numbness and blisters caused by road vibrations. Fingerless options offer ventilation for hot weather.
Safety comes first. Be sure to pack:
- Helmet – Provides crucial impact protection in case of falls. Make sure it fits properly.
- Sunglasses – Shield eyes from bugs, sun glare, and debris. Choose sports sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection.
- Knee and elbow pads (mountain bikers) – Take the sting out of inevitable spills on rough terrain. Soft padding also prevents joint irritation.
Camping And Cooking Gear
Unless you’ll be staying in hotels every night, camping gear for cooking, sleeping, and essentials will be part of your bikepacking loadout. Prioritize lightweight equipment.
Tent And Sleep System
A comfortable place to rest your head at the end of a long day.
- Tent – Compact solo tents are ideal for bike travel. Focus on quick setup and low weight.
- Sleeping bag – Get a compressible, weather-appropriate model that packs down small. Consider a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth.
- Sleeping pad/mat – Provides cushioning and insulation from the ground. Inflatable pads offer the best comfort-to-weight ratio.
- Pillow – Small inflatable models provide welcome luxury without taking up much space.
Cooking nutritious camp meals requires only minimal equipment:
- Camp stove – Portable canister or liquid fuel models are easiest for bike travel.
- Pan and pot – A small pan and pot are sufficient for preparing basic meals. Nest them together when packing.
- Utensils – A spoon, fork, and spatula are the essentials. Avoid knives to reduce weight.
- Lighter/matches – Don’t forget a way to ignite your stove! Waterproof matches are a smart pick.
- Cup, bowl, plate – Mess kits include these basics or you can opt for solo pieces.
Water Storage And Purification
Staying hydrated is key when exerting yourself all day.
- Water bottles – Bring at least two large bottles for your bike’s cages. Insulated bottles keep liquids cool longer.
- Water bladder (bikepacking) – Hands-free hydration systems carry a high volume of water conveniently.
- Water filter/purification – Remove bacteria and viruses from natural water sources with pumps, drops, or tablets.
Bikepacking systems allow you to strap gear securely to your frame for off-road adventures. Consider frame bags, seat packs, and handlebar rolls to distribute weight effectively.
Personal Care And Hygiene
Maintaining good hygiene while bike touring prevents health issues and illnesses.
- Biodegradable soap – Environmentally friendly for washing in streams and rivers.
- Antibacterial wipes – Quick clean-up when water sources aren’t available.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste – Essential for dental hygiene.
- Toilet paper/trowel – Bury solid waste properly when going off-grid.
- Sunscreen – Protect exposed skin from sunburns.
- Insect repellent – Avoid bites from ticks, mosquitos, and other pests.
- Quick-dry towel – Useful for washing up at campsites. Lightweight and compact.
- Hand sanitizer – Kill germs without water when washing isn’t possible.
- Menstrual supplies (women) – Pads/tampons, liners, and cramps medication as needed.
- Contraception – Condoms and birth control if sexually active.
Tools And Spare Parts
Carrying a few bike-specific tools and spare parts can be a lifesaver if breakdowns or flats happen far from bike shops.
A basic toolkit tackles most minor bike repairs:
- Multi-tool – Contains commonly used tools like hex wrenches, screwdrivers, chain tool, spoke wrenches.
- Tire levers – Needed for removing and installing tires.
- Pump – Portable mini-pump inflates flat tires.
- Lubricant – Keep your chain running smoothly with a small bottle.
- Rag – For cleaning dirty components during repairs. An old t-shirt works well.
- Zip ties – Temporary fix for broken parts. Handy in a pinch.
Carry vital spare parts that can’t be patched up on the go:
- Tubes – Bring at least 1-2 extra inner tubes if getting a flat tire would derail your trip.
- Tire boot – Used to temporarily patch tears too big for a normal patch.
- Patch kit – Adhesive patches and glue for repairing small punctures in tubes.
- Chain links – Allows you to rejoin a broken chain.
- Derailleur hanger – Essential if your derailleur/hanger get bent or broken.
- Brake pads – Easy to replace when worn pads reduce braking power.
- Zip ties – Secures broken parts temporarily.
- Spare bolts and nuts – Replace loose or lost bolts that could cause components to detach.
Electronics And Navigation
Today’s tech gadgets allow you to stay on course, charge devices, and keep connected on the go.
Cycling computers track speed, distance, cadence, and other metrics. Options like GPS enable navigation.
Recharge phones, GPS devices, bike lights and other electronics with portable powerbanks and extra batteries. Consider solar powered options to charge while cycling.
Adapters and chargers
Don’t forget compatible chargers and plug adapters for the countries you’ll pass through.
Bright LED headlights and taillights improve visibility and safety when riding at night or in low-light conditions.
Deter theft attempts with compact wheel locks or U-locks. Cable locks provide minimum security.
Cash and cards
Carry local currency, a concealed money belt, debit/credit cards for en-route expenses. Inform your bank of travel plans.
First Aid Supplies
Being far from hospitals and medical facilities means you must be prepared to treat minor injuries and ailments. Pack:
- Bandages – Assorted sizes for cuts, scrapes
- Gauze pads and medical tape – Protect deeper wounds
- Antiseptic wipes – Disinfect cuts and scrapes
- Antibiotic ointment – Prevent infection in broken skin
- Pain relievers – Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin
- Antihistamine – Allergy relief from insect bites, plants
- Antidiarrheal medication
- Electrolyte tablets – Replenish nutrients lost from dehydration/diarrhea
- Antacid tablets – Alleviate upset stomach
- Sunburn relief spray/gel
- Antifungal cream – Treat ringworm, athlete’s foot
- Hand sanitizer – Kill germs without water
Don’t forget small creature comforts to make time off the bike more enjoyable:
- Sunglasses and hat – Shield from sun
- Comfortable footwear – Flip flops, sandals, or slip-on shoes for camp
- Swimsuit – For swimming in lakes and rivers
- Sarong or towel – For changing or drying off
- Book/e-reader and playing cards – Entertainment during downtime
- Earplugs and sleep mask – For blocking noise and light in shared accommodations
- Notebook and pen – Jot down thoughts and trip details
- Watch – Keep track of time without relying on your phone
- Portable battery charger – Recharge devices
- Headlamp or flashlight – Illuminate campsites at night
What Not To Pack
Avoid bulky, heavy, and unnecessary items that eat up precious space and add extra pounds to your load. Leave at home:
- Cotton clothing – Absorbs sweat instead of wicking it away
- Jeans – Heavy and restrictive for cycling
- Laptops – Use a tablet or phone for connectivity
- Big camera gear – Smartphones take great photos these days
- Extensive makeup and toiletries – Limit yourself to the essentials
- Multiple pairs of shoes – You only need one off-bike pair
- Paper books – Use e-readers to save weight
- Valuables – Secure documents, jewelry, cash in your home safe
- Excess tools – Only bring what’s needed for basic repairs
- Oversized camping gear – Opt for compact and lightweight options
Use these handy checklists to ensure you don’t overlook any critical items before your bike adventure. Photocopy and check off items as you pack them.
Bike Touring Packing Checklist (Weeklong+)
- Bike shorts – 3+ pairs
- Cycling jerseys – 3+
- Jacket – Windbreaker and insulating
- Base layers – Long and short sleeve
- Cycling socks – 5+ pairs
- Cycling shoes
- Cycling gloves
- Cycling helmet
- Skin/knee protection
- Cycling computer
- Headlight and taillight
- Phone, charger, batteries
- Water bottles – 2
- Handlebar bag/panniers/bikepacking bags
- Tent, stakes, ground sheet
- Sleeping bag, sleeping pad
- Camp pillow
- Camp stove, fuel
- Cookset and utensils
- Biodegradable soap
- Toothbrush/paste, trowel
- Towel, toiletries, hygiene products
- Bike pump
- Tire levers
- Spare tubes and patch kit
- Chain lube
- Bike lock
- Cash, cards, documents
- Powerbank, chargers, adapters
- First aid kit
- Snacks and food
- Personal medications
Day Trip Packing List
- Cycling jersey
- Cycling shorts
- Cycling shoes
- Cycling socks
- Cycling gloves
- Cycling computer
- Phone, charger, battery
- Water bottles
- Tire levers
- Spare tube
- Patch kit
- Bike pump (or CO2 inflator)
- Bike lock
- Light jacket
- ID/emergency contact card
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
General Packing Tips
- Start packing at least 1 week in advance so you have time to acquire any missing gear without last-minute stress.
- Make a master checklist so you know exactly what to bring each trip. Tweak your list as needed based on experience.
- Pack clothes that offer sun protection, even when hot out. UPF clothing blocks UV rays.
- Roll clothes tightly rather than folding them to optimize space in your bags.
- Use packing cubes, stuff sacks, and quality bike bags to keep items organized and compressed.
- Weigh your packed panniers/bike bags to ensure even weight distribution on both sides of the bike.
- Place heavy items low in panniers near the bike’s centerline to improve stability.
- Write your name, phone number, and other ID details on luggage tags in case items get lost.
- Check all zippers, fabric, straps, and buckles for defects before a trip in case gear needs replacing.
- Apply seam sealing solution to tents, tarps, and rain gear to prevent leaks.
- Waterproof your bags or line them with durable trash compactor bags to keep contents dry.
- Attach high-visibility reflective tape to bags/gear to improve nighttime visibility.
- Pack a couple of large garbage bags and zip ties – handy for improvising emergency shelters and repairs.
- Bring a spare supply of zip ties on long trips. They temporarily fix a variety of broken bike parts and gear.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I pack things on a bike tour?
Distribute weight evenly across panniers/bikepacking bags on both sides. Pack heavy items close to the bike frame’s centerline and bottom of bags. Use compression straps to prevent shifting. Wrap fragile items in clothes. Keep frequently accessed items on top.
Can I use a regular backpack for bike travel?
Backpacks are not ideal since the weight sits high on your back and can affect balance and steering. Off-road cyclists should opt for bike-specific packs like hydration backpacks. Touring cyclists are better off with traditional panniers.
What are the best materials for bike touring clothes?
Aim for synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and spandex that wick moisture and dry quickly. Wool is also an excellent temperature regulating material. Avoid cotton which retains dampness. UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing blocks UV rays.
How much should I plan to spend on bike touring gear?
You can start bike touring for $500-1000 if you already have a bike and camp gear. $2000 would allow high-quality gear. Beyond $3000 provides luxury options without significant benefits. Focus budget on bags, camping equipment, tools, and apparel.
Planning your packing strategy is an important part of preparing for a memorable bike travel experience. Use this comprehensive guide to select only the most necessary clothing, camping, tools, and accessories to meet your needs while minimizing excess weight. Taking the time to organize gear systematically will set you up for a smooth, stress-free bicycle tour or adventure.