Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off-road Bikepacking List - FULL

Okay, so you want to go on a bike tour? After about 7 years of touring (half of that with a child may get me bonus points) I have compiled a list for people wanting to undertake a bike tour.  This is just a list, and I will follow up this post highlighting each section and talk about specific brands and the like, but for now, this is just a copy, paste, print style list of things to bring on a bikepacking tour.

The thing to remember is you don't have to be fancy, just creative; and you can never have all of the gear because :

1. There's always new technology coming out that's lighter, faster, better
2. It would cost a fortune if this is your first rodeo, so borrow, scour thrift stores or Craig's list, check the web for DIY's, etc.
3.  You learn as you go. You won't know what your perfect set up is until you've done it...a lot.  Just get everything together enough to be safe and well-supplied and over the years, you'll accumulate the gear that's right for you.

There are lots of bike DIY options like these kitty litter panniers.

So here it is, my list (which does not discriminate against bicycling with a baby) :


  • Bike - Pick one suited for the terrain; consider frame material, style of brakes, gear ratio, eyelets and tire width capability
  • Racks - Front, rear or both depending on how long you will be out and how much you want to carry
  • Panniers - 2 panniers or 4 panniers
  • Top tube bag or saddle bag - for quick access to bike supplies 
  • Handlebar Bag - I think a necessity for any kind of touring.  You can put your map on it and always have access to where your going, hands-free AND you can pop the bag off easily and keep all of your valuables close
  • Water bottle cages - put as many of these on your bike as your bike/setup will allow
Um, this one seems a little small, refer to bike picture at top.

  • Front end dry bag holder - for lightweight off-road touring, can be used in lieu of rack/pannier setup
  • Triangle bag - also popular among lightweight mountain bikers doing the GDT
  • Trailer - if you have a child, or road touring.  I wouldn't recommend for off-road touring (sans child), as you want the weight to be as close to your bike as possible.

Cjell has a typical GDT lightweight mountain bike set-up.  And the bike, he made it.

  • Spare tubes - have 2 for each style tire you have (ex. my bike is 26" and the trailer is 20" so I carry two of each size)
  • Bike pump
  • Multi-tool
  • Tire levers
  • Patch kit
  • Front and rear bike lights
  • Bike bell - good to let both humans and wildlife alike know your coming
  • Helmet
  • Extra M5 bolts - these are the bolt size that your eyelets are, and attach your racks and cages to your bike.  On bumpy terrain, they will come loose, so bring extras in case any fall out before you get to them.
  • Zip ties of all sizes- trust me on this one
  • Duct tape/electrical tape - I like electrical tape because it doesn't leave a residue

Standard bike multi tool...with a broken handlebar bag clamp.

OUTDOOR (basically the same list as a normal camping trip)
  • Tent and fly with extra stakes
  • Sleeping bag - appropriate to the weather.  I use a 30 degree bag and Neva uses a 20 degree bag.
  • Ground pad
  • Stove and fuel
  • Lighter
  • Compass
  • Safety whistle
  • Some robe - for clothes line, to hoist food, tie things down, etc.
  • Knife
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Camping towel
  • Headlamp
  • Mace/pepper spray/bear spray - depending on the area you are in

  • Chapstick
  • Desitin - for those of you who have issues with chafing 
  • Neosporin
  • Pain killers
  • Slow release iron supplements
  • Anti-histamine
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-flu - Day AND Night-time 
  • Band aids
  • Safety mirror
  • Sting relief
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Super glue
  • Scissors

So much beauty and sooo much pollen!

  • Water bottles - as many as you can fit on your bike
  • Extra water bladder - depending on local resources available
  • Water filter
  • Bowls/Utensils/Mess kit
  • Energy bars
  • Emergen-C's - or other powdered electrolyte

Clean water is important, even if you have to work for it.

  • Chia seeds
  • Oatmeal pre-mixed with raisins and brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Packets of mustard, mayo, and other condiments you like
  • Tuna - packets if you can get them, they're lighter than cans
  • Oil - sealed very well
  • Powdered hummus - just add water and oil
  • Pesto and pasta
  • Flat bread
  • Packaged Tasty Bites Indian food
  • Cous cous - it's lighter to carry than rice and cooks in about 5 minutes

CLOTHES (all of this depends on weather you'll be in and how many days, but this list shows clothing for 3 days - 2 weeks worth, and in temperatures from 80 degree highs to 40 degree lows)
  • 6 underwear
  • 6 socks 
  • 2 riding bike shorts
  • 2 riding bike shirts
  • 1 sleep outfit/long underwear
  • 1 lightweight rain coat
  • 1 buff - or something to cover your neck and head to protect from sand, cold, smog, etc.
  • 2 pairs sun sleeves
  • 1 around people outfit - I choose a dress because it is only one clothing article
  • Around camp sandals
  • Comfy all hike/bike shoes
  • Biking gloves
  • Lightweight gloves - if necessary
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Swimsuit - optional, I usually will wear my bike gear
A good balance of comfy, layered and lightweight is a good idea.  Fight the urge to overdress, but be prepared for local weather.

  • Toilet paper
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Diva cup - this one applies to women only
  • Wipes - I know, very mom-like, but these things really can come in handy
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Comb
  • Hair ties
  • Nail clippers - You'd be surprised how fast your nails grow on the road

As they say, keep your sunscreen close and your toilet paper closer...no, that's not it...

ELECTRONICS (Most of these are optional depending on your lifestyle and the type of tour experience you're looking for)
  • Phone/phone charger
  • Camera/SD card/battery
  • Tripod
  • GoPro/Battery
  • iPod/headphones/charger cord
  • Netbook/charger - Optional, good if you download photos often, write, or watch movies. Probably not necessary for short tours
  • E-reader/charger - They're lighter than books

Neva biking with a Go Pro attached to a DIY GoPro belt.

  • Small pad of paper and pen - Handy for taking down fun tips from locals and phone numbers from people you meet
  • ID/money/cash - Keep these with you at all times. Always carry cash if you're going through small towns.
  • Measuring tape - In case something breaks and you need a bike measurement
  • Extra bag that packs in on itself - Even just a small canvas shopping bag works for when you're buying a small amount of groceries, or just walking around town for a day.  I have a backpack that folds down smaller than the size of your fist
  • Ear plugs/face mask - Both cities and nature can be loud, if you biked hard, the sounds probably won't matter as much, but if it's really cold or you're at high elevation and you want to sleep in, you better use the mask so that you won't get woken up by the 5am dawn sunlight.
  • Neck coolers
  • Reuseable hankys - There's pollen in nature.
  • Microfiber cloth - For your sunglasses/prescription glasses/camera
  • Carabiners - it's always handy to be able to attach something like sandals to the outside of your bags 

Neck coolers are a must in warm climates in the southwest and were a life-saver on RAGBRAI

FOR FUN!!! Yes, after biking and eating, you may wish to do other things while you're enjoying your time in the woods.
  • Hammock
  • Book/e-reader
  • Photography
  • Binoculars for bird watching or general wildlife viewing
  • Movies on lap-top
  • Instrument
  • Writing
  • Fishing pole (remember to get a local permit!)
  • Drawing
  • BLING - You'll want to spruce up your ride with a few trinkets along the way.  Neva acquired some dutch ceramic shoes from a couple driving a Model-T around the world, some Smokey the Bear stickers from some fire fighters, and some oragami birds for her trailer flag.  Give your rig your own flare
  • Toys - We can't forget about baby toys!

Sometimes socks with rocks works.  This was a Neva invention.

Okay, I think that's the list.  Oh wait.  I forgot one thing.  Remember to include EXTRA SPACE!  You will meet so many fun people who will want to give you things, you'll see strange things that you just have to have, and maybe you want a bike shirt souvenir.  You can always mail stuff back to yourself too, so it's okay to overload a little bit and adjust to unforeseen climate, terrain, or wackiness later.  

Like pie. Always make room for more pie from the Pie Lady in Pie Town.

I hope this is a good start for any beginners out there who might be overwhelmed with touring details.  I'm here to remind you that you can do it, and it's easy to figure out details along the way.  Get out and ride and you'll be fine!  I'll follow up this blog detailing each section of this list with brands, preferences, and personal experience.  Let me know if there's anything you prefer to ride with.  Is there a special trinket you keep with you on tour?


  1. Wow. It is amazing how many essentials there are and you can carry them. Iron Lady!

  2. Thos tasty Bite quick meals are a hit in Australia too! Thanks India!

    Are you still cycling with the Sngletrailer?

  3. Hey James, thanks for taking an interest! Actually, I am not cycling with the single-wheeled trailer currently because the spokes broke and the wheel tacoed within a mile of getting onto a very rocky surface. I think TT may have outsourced their wheels, as there is only a meager 16 spokes (compared to the 28 spokes per wheel on the Chariot CX1 I normally use which has gone over 10,000 miles total, 1000 of which were on the GDT). I contacted them letting them know the issue, and have not heard back yet. A 2nd review is in the works for how the SW held up on tour.

  4. Interesting that you say that. I was reading anotehr posting on this blog:
    http://evilmoose.me/?p=5142 and they had their whole wheel fall off. Not sure of the details but a very important thing to get right that wheel. Judging from your site activity I'm sure plenty of people are interested in your experiences with both the Cx-1 and the singletrailer. A shame you couldn't get a good stretch in to really test things out.

    The weight aspect really is appealing - which is why some familes might choose a Chariot Cougar over a cx-1 perhaps. Not having access to either at this stage I can only go on other peoples notes.

  5. Thanks so much for your comments on that James. The initial wheel install on the trailer definitely has some warnings to make sure the bearing is tightened down correctly. I wonder if anyone else has had broken spokes.

    I've ridden with the Cougar as well as the CX. I actually switched to the CX because when riding in warm conditions (Nicaragua in February) with the trailer trunk filled and back netting with camp gear in it, Neva got heat rash on her back because there wasn't any air flow. The CX has side to side air flow with the zip off windows which was an important feature for us and how we ride. The hand brake is also nice when you're in an airport with a fully packed "stroller". You can set the brake and sit down and not worry about it rolling away.

    There is only a 5 pound difference between the Cougar and the CX, because the weight of the drum brakes on the CX adds an additional 5 lbs.

    That's a quick synopsis. Grad school homework calls for now, but I'll try and post at least once a month to keep up on questions and all. You have brought up some great questions and comments which I'll definitely use in future posts. Thanks!