As I ready myself for a short tour, I figured I’d use this opportunity to jot down the gear I tend to carry – for my own recollection as much as general knowledge. I’ve noted a few comments where appropriate, and mentioned upgrades I’m anticipating.
As with all packlists, it’s in no way definitive. It’s what works for me, and takes into account my umbilical chord of electronic gizmos. For now, it’s versatile enough to tide me through frosty nights and toasty days alike. Various items shuffle this way and that, depending on the likes of water hauling – often an issue in the US South West – expected temperatures, the camera I’m carrying and whether I burden myself with a laptop.
Although my setup is hardly minimal compared to the likes of hardened Great Divide racers, I pack lighter than most long distance cycle tourists I meet on the road. Choosing to travel light inevitably involves compromises and works better with some destinations than others. Ultimately, it means deciding where your priorities lie. Do you carry extra food, or ride longer distances? More luxuries, or simpler living? For my part, I streamline gear to make off road travel more enjoyable (and sometimes possible), even if this means forgoing a more comfortable safety blanket in return. There’s a nice knock on effect too: less weight = less wear and tear. And a lighter bike is invariably more fun to ride.
I have a ‘wishlist’ in mind, both gear and places to explore, which I’ll post soon.
1-2 x baggy bike shorts. Sometimes I carry a second 3/4 length pair in lieu of trousers. (The only trousers I like are jeans, and they’re too heavy to haul.)
2 x quick drying boxer shorts. No need for padded shorts these days.
2 x thin Smartwool long sleeve layers, one with a zip.
1 Patagonia synthetic puff jumper for round the camp. I’m coveting the equivalent in down, for extra coziness and packability.
2 x wool socks. One thin, one thick. So I always have something dry.
1 pair of wool ‘ankle warmers’ purchased in Peru. Teamed with wool socks, they plug the missing trouser leg gap.
1 x thermal leggings. I’ve set my eyes on a merino version.
1 x Turtle Fur neck gaitor.
1 cycling t shirt – generally cotton, and cut off. Cotton is comfy but doesn’t wick sweat well – so not to be worn with a backpack. I have a Rapha merino blend cycling jersey I sometimes bring instead. A thin merino T might be ideal.
1 spare t-shirt. For socializing purposes.
1 shirt. On longer tours, donning a shirt is an effective ploy for negotiating officialdom (applying for visas, border crossings etc…). A collar goes a long way.
Bike gloves. Mitts if it’s warm, long fingered otherwise. I find mitts more practical for using a camera.
Seirus Xtreme softshell waterproof glove. I don’t tend to suffer from especially cold fingers, so these do fine for me. If it’s especially frosty, I’ll supplement them with some mitt shells.
Sunglasses. Mine are Sunclouds. $50, with comparable optics to pricier sister company Smith.
Wool bobble hat. Fits under my helmet.
Buff. Multi-use, nice under a helmet in the morning, or across the face in dusty conditions.
3/4 length Endura waterproof trousers. I prefer 3/4 over full length. I don’t overheat and they cover the parts that need protecting. When it’s been particularly snowy or wet, I’ve worn short gaiters too.
Fake Crocs for campsite lounging. Or, Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves for hiking and running.
Giro Reverb bike helmet.
Vango Venom 300 sleeping bag. Not the warmest, but it’s what I have right now. A Western Mountaineering bag is on my wishlist.
Vapour Barrier Liner. Packs tiny, yet boosts the efficacy of my sleeping bag for light winter use. Rivendell have a new one in stock for $25.
Old 3/4 length Thermarest. Not as comfy as the Neo Airs, but quick to inflate and works well enough. Due for an update.
Tarptent Moment. Light and freestanding – but not so packable.
Tyvek groundsheet. Cheap and very light.
Trangia/Cliksand denatured alcohol stove and support
.9L Evernew titianium pot
1 x ti Snowpeak spork
Fold-flat camping bowl. Doubles as cutting board.
1 x lighter
1 x spare matches
Penknife with blade and can opener.
Hydrapak 2.5l water bladder
Large zip lock bags for food storage.
Bottle of iodine drops or packet of purification tabs. I generally drink local water, so rarely have needed a water filter – though the SteriPEN Freedom would be ideal otherwise.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Small bottle of tea tree oil
Dr Bronner’s peppermint soap, 59ml bottle.
Bottle of iodine. Good for cuts, and for purifying water.
Some ibuprofen. Just in case.
Scissors for beard trimming
My medicine cabinet is pretty light. Most places I tour – Asia and Latin America – has everything readily and cheaply available, over the counter. I’m prone to chest infections, so I sometimes carry some chinese medicine for that, and amoxycillin if things get really bad. Duct tape doubles up well for sealing deep gashes.
Travel documents. Plus photocopies, particularly visa entry stamps. Backups are photographed and stored online too.
Notebook and pen
Printed photos. Good ice-breakers in far-flung destinations.
Abus Combiflex cable lock. Very light. An immobiliser rather than a secure means of locking my bike. When I’m not camping, the bike comes with me into a guesthouse room.
Junk strap. In case any buckles break.
(Although there’s a real appeal in a simple, decent quality Point ‘n Shoot, I enjoy a bit more creative control with my photography, and have invested in good quality lenses over the years. I alternate regularly between two camera setups. The first mirrorless option is light and compact, pretty much ideal for bikepacking. The second DSLR option is bulky and heavy but offers better IQ and in my case, lens variety – based on what I already own.)
Panasonic GH2. 14-45mm f/3.5-6.6 lens (28-90mm equiv), 20mm f/1.7 (40mm equiv) prime and 45-200mm f/4-5.6 (90-400mm equiv). Discreet, small and light. I miss fast lenses for depth of field control, plus the lack of wide angle.
Canon 5D Mk2. 17-40mm (f/4), 70-200mm (f/4) and 40mm prime (f/2.8). Fantastic low light quality, depth of field control and battery life. Extremely unpractical size and weight.
(I’ve long used a Nikon D300, but after years of sterling service, it has finally bit the dust, as did my trusty 17-55mm (f/2.8). Although I prefer my Nikon, it worked out more economical for me to buy an unexpectedly cheap 2nd hand Canon 5D Mk2, now that it has been superseded by the Mk3. I already owned a couple of nice Canon lenses.
Eventually, I plan to sell my DSLR gear and invest in something like an Olympus OM-D. My dream lens lineup would thus stand as follows: Olympus 9-18mm (18-36mm equiv), Olympus 12mm f/2 (24mm equiv), Lumix 20mm f/1.7 (40mm equiv) and Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 (700-200mm). This setup would offer the variety and most of the optical quality of the Canon/Nikon, without the ridiculous heft – despite the number of lenses. It’s a significant investment though. That’s one advantage of established DLSR brands like Canon and Nikon – cheap second hand gear is easy to find.)
Spare CF or SD cards.
Card reader and extra short USB cable.
Lens wipe and Giotto Air Rocket Blower.
iPhone 5, plus cable. Wifi, music, Googlemaps, backup camera, guidebooks and a whole lot more.
iPod Shuffle, in-ear headphones and X-Mini 2 speaker. I like my music.
Garmin eTrex 20 when needed.
Spot Tracker when needed.
Mac Air 11in. Svelte, light and amply powerful for photo editing. Homemade padded case.
WD My Passport 1TB. A reliable hard drive for backups, stored in water tight zip lock bag and padded sleeve. I choose my favourite shots and back these up onto a 32GB flash drive, hidden in my framebag, sending copies home when possible or uploading to Drop Box.
Petzl head torch and rear bike LED.
(All my fancy electronic gear is masked with electric tape for both protection and a worn in, logo-free look.)
2 x 29” tubes w/removable cores, Topeak multitool w/chainbreaker, Leatherman Squirt (includes pliers and scissors), 2 x water cage bolts, chainring nut and bolt, spare SPD cleat and bolts, tire boot material, patch kit, extra patches, tyre lever, gear cable, brake cable, 2 sets of BB7 brake pads, Fiber Fix spoke, 1 spare spoke of each length, around 6 extra chain links and 2 extra Sram Powerlinks, a few zip ties, Gorilla tape wrapped around pump, Topeak Master Blaster pump. Small bottle of lube. Rag.
(If I’m using my Rohloff, I carry 2 spare Rohloff torx bolts, a TX20 key and a Rohloff sprocket removal tool. I’ll also pre-cut 2 gear cables to the correct length and dab the ends with superglue, to save sourcing a high quality cable cutter.)
1 x emergency tyre for longer trips or extended road sections. The light, folding Marathon Dureme 29 x 2 is perfect.
Porcelain Rocket custom frame bag. A key component to travelling without panniers, especially if you have a large frame.
Porcelain Rocket top tube pack. Perfect for a multitool and snacks.
Porcelain Rocket front handlebar roll bag. Within, a 10L Outdoor Research waterproof roll bag keeps things dry.
Porcelain Rocket front pouch or Ortlieb bar bag. I’m still dissatisfied with how I pack my camera. An Ortlieb bar bag offers the best monsoonal protection and is easiest to quickly remove from the bike, but it’s bulky and tends to encourage the camera to rattle around over bumpy descends. If I’m using my M4/3 setup, a Porcelain Rocket front pouch works fine, supplemented with a small dry bag when needed.
Carradice Super C saddlebag. I’ve been happily using a Porcelain Rocket seat pack for a while, but I’m currently experimenting once more with a traditional saddlebag, supported by a Bagman 2 Expedition. This setup fits my laptop, without the need to carry panniers or a backpack. The downside is that the Carradice/rack combo is considerably heavier, and isn’t quite as stable – some modifications may be needed eventually.
REI Flash 18. Rolled up while touring. Good for around town, day rides, or to tide me over if extra food is required.
Profile Kage bottle cages. Light, strong and grippy.
Ti Triple bolt King Cage. Holds a 1.2L Kleen Kanteen bottle snuggly.
King Cage Top Cap Cage Mount. If extra H20 is required.
(The Surly Ogre I have been riding includes eyelets on the fork for extra water bottle cages. This has become a valued part of my setup. When these are lacking, I use hose clamps.)
The setup I run reflects the fact that I like to ride backcountry dirt roads, and even singletrack where possible. My gear is distributed across the bike and is relatively light.
However, it only realistically allows me 2-3 days of food, unless I wear a backpack – which I prefer to avoid. Generally this has proved to be ample, but there are times when the ability to carry more cargo is preferred.
If I’m anticipating riding longer distances between re-supplies, I have the option of fitting a rear rack and two small panniers, or puling a trailer. I tend to prefer the latter, despite the extra hardware involved and the associated logistical challenges it can sometimes pose. A single wheel trailer – my favourite is Tout Terrain’s Mule - gives me the capacity to carry ample food and share the payload with a cycling partner. It saves wear and tear on tyres and wheels, and keeps the bike fun and spritely to ride on mountain biking day trips. It’s also especially easy to pack. The Mule handles nicely and I particularly like its kickstand.
I generally team it with a framebag for easy access to snacks/layers/camera lenses and an Ortlieb bar bag. I still pack my soft bikepacking gear for ultralight, mountain biking detours.
A previous post I wrote on travelling Lean and Light.
Joe’s multi-month ultra minimal South American packlist. Yes, it can be done!
Gary’s setup is considerably lighter than mine; some useful notes on tubeless touring.
Scott’s video packlist.
Gypsy by Trade, a proponent of saddlebag bikepacking.
Round the world record holder Mike Hall and his setup.