What to Pack
Now that you’ve put some thought into the variety of bikepacking bags options, let’s walk through what goes inside them. We’ve put together a comprehensive list covering six main categories of gear. This is a good baseline kit that we use for many of our bikepacking adventures. Typically, we carry most of what’s listed here—aside from the alternates—plus a few of the extras, which are marked with an asterisk.
While this list won’t cover all the gear you need for some trips and might be excessive for others, it’s a good starting point. It’s important to research your intended route(s) to help determine exactly what to bring. Understanding the climate and potential weather scenarios will help you decide what clothing and sleep system you’ll need. The frequency of towns, eateries, and resupply points will help you figure out how much space you need for food, and knowing where and how often water sources are accessible will help you plan the amount of water you need to carry.
As you’ll see in this list, bikepacking can be quite gear intensive, but don’t let that stop you. Most folks who are into the outdoors have some basic camping equipment, and if you’re already a cyclist, you probably have a few repair supplies and tools too. Make an inventory and use what you already have. If you’re still lacking the necessary equipment, try to borrow some gear from a friend, make your own, or inquire about gear-share libraries and second-hand shops in your area. Note that we’ve also included resource link lists in each category below to help further your research.
Shelter and Sleeping
The first thing we’ll delve into is the sleep system. Decide which shelter and sleeping gear you need based on temperatures and the environment where you’ll be traveling, whether there are insects and critters, and your personal comfort preferences. Most of us here at BIKEPACKING.com prefer sleeping in a tent with an ultralight quilt and inflatable sleeping mat.
The bulkiest part of a bikepacking gear list is typically the shelter. There are a few variations to consider, and it’s important to keep in mind that there are usually multiple components within a shelter system. We’ve identified the five main types of camping shelters here for reference.
- Tent — ultralight tents are the most common shelter used by bikepackers as they’re fully enclosed to keep out bugs and critters; most double-wall tents consist of five components that can be divvied up into various bags for on-bike storage: the tent body, a rain fly, poles, stakes, and optional ground sheet
- “Fast fly” — a setup that’s possible with some tents using just the rainfly, ground sheet, and poles; it works much like a tarp but is easier to set up
- Tarp — a good, lightweight solution if bugs and critters aren’t an issue; tarps come in a variety of sizes and can be set up in a variety of configurations
- Hammock — another option for solo bikepackers; requires trees to set up and a separate underquilt for colder temperatures
- Bivvy — an ultralight, water-resistant bag that’s often the choice of minimalists and ultra-endurance racers
One stumbling block that newcomers often have with camping is getting a comfortable night’s sleep. If you’re planning to invest in new sleeping gear, do your homework first, considering a few factors. Are you a side sleeper? If so, you might want a thicker inflatable mat and a large pillow. Do you toss and turn a lot? Consider a quilt, which is a little easier to move around in than an enclosed mummy bag. If you’re not sure, try borrowing gear to get a feel for it.
- Sleeping bag — down or synthetic with a temperature rating to match or exceed the nightly forecasted temperatures of the locations you’re planning on bikepacking
- Quilt — a great ultralight alternative to sleeping bags; the biggest difference is they don’t have a back or zippers and rely on the insulation in the sleeping pad
- Sleeping pad — there are many options to choose from in both inflatable or closed-cell foam styles; make sure that your sleeping pad has a sufficient R-value (insulation rating) to keep your back warm
- *Sleeping bag liner — an accessory to increase the temperature rating of your sleeping bag
- *Inflatable pillow — a worthy addition, but some folks prefer to just stuff clothes in a dry bag to use as a pillow
Food and Water
The equipment needed for preparing and hauling food and water can vary greatly between routes. On average, it’s a good rule of thumb to have the capacity for 2-6 liters of water storage and space for 2-4 days’ worth of food, although these numbers can change substantially based on the trip. Remember, since you’ll be cycling, you’ll need quite a few more calories than you would otherwise.
When assembling your camp kitchen, try to plan it so that most (if not all) of the different components can nest within the cooking pot. This saves space and keeps things organized.
- Stove — decide on the type of stove you’ll need depending on fuel availability where you’re traveling (isobutane canisters, alcohol, or diesel/petrol)
- Fuel storage — isobutane canisters, alcohol, or diesel/petrol in the appropriate container
- Pot — 0.7-1.5 liter capacity; titanium is ideal for weight savings and durability
- Mug — a titanium mug is nice to have; if you want to be ultra-minimal, a 600 to 700ml pot can double as a mug
- Spork — a handy minimalist utensil; the Snowpeak Titanium Spork is our favorite
- Bandana — or small cloth
- *Folding knife — you can also use the one in your Leatherman tool (see below)
- *Salt and pepper — a mix in a small pill bottle is a good way to carry it
- *Coffee maker — pour-over, instant, and Aeropress are good options
- *Spice mix or hot sauce
On average, it’s good to plan for 2-6 liters of water capacity, although you may need much more for some desert trips or only a single bottle and filter in wet and watery environments. Make sure to study your route to see how frequently water stops or filtration points are available.
- Standard bottles, oversized bottles, a bladder, or a combination
- Water bottle cages
- Water filter or purification tablets
- *Steripen — for longer trips abroad, a Steripen is often a good addition to the kit for “zapping” tap water as it kills both bacteria and viruses
Repair Kit and Spares
Putting together a proper bikepacking repair and spares kit can be a meticulous task. Any number of potential mechanical issues could arise, and being ready for all of them would require a lot of tools and spares. Ultimately, it’s all about balance and forethought. A basic assortment of tools and spare parts can get you out of most sticky situations, keeping you rolling instead of pushing or carrying. We’ve assembled this repair kit list based on what we use to handle real-world mechanical issues.
Repair and Maintenance
Here’s a list of essential bikepacking repair kit items. This should be considered a starting point; adjust your bikepacking repair kit based on the specific equipment you’re using and the location of your trip. Note that these are relatively heavy items that are best stored at the bottom of the frame bag if possible.
- Multi-tool — be sure that it has all of the Allen and Torx bits your bike requires
- Chain breaker — in the event of a broken chain
- Master link pliers — another essential item for chain repair
- Leatherman-type tool — with pliers and other specialty tools you might need
- Chain lube — a small 1oz bottle is usually more than adequate for a two-week trip, although that could change in wet or dusty environments
- Duct tape — a few winds around your mini-pump for various repairs and patches
- Zip ties — can come in handy for a variety of repairs to everything from a loose cable to a broken tent eyelet; it’s always good to stash a few in a tool roll
- *Pipe clamp — having a metal pipe clamp around your down tube or top tube is never a bad idea for a tubing malfunction or emergency
- *Shock pump — a good accessory if you’re running suspension on a longer trip away from bike shops
This list assumes you’re running a tubeless setup, which we highly recommend.
- Mini pump — high-volume for bigger tires; we like the 100cc OneUp EDC
- Tire plugs — some smaller plugs and some oversized plugs
- Extra sealant — 2-8oz for most trips; we like Orange Seal Endurance
- Spare tube(s) — 1-3 depending on the duration of the trip and location
- Tire lever(s) — Pedro’s are our favorite
- Curved needle and nylon thread — for stitching up a torn sidewall
- Tire boot(s) — one or two tire boots in case of a badly torn sidewall
- Super glue — to help secure a plug or stitched area
- Patch kit with rubber cement — in case you have to resort to a tube
- *CO2 and nozzle — not necessary but helpful to reseat tubeless seal
- Master links — aka quick links; make sure they match your chain
- Derailleur hanger — hangers are usually made from alloy and can easily be bent or broken; best to bring a spare
- Brake pads — 2-4 pairs, depending on the length of your trip
- Bolts and hardware — make sure to determine the various bolt sizes used on your bike; we usually carry a spare seatpost bolt and a few others on bigger trips
- *Spare cleat(s) — if you’re using clipless/SPD shoes
- *Spare cables — brake and shifter cable for longer and more remote trips
- *Extra spokes and nipples — for longer trips, you might consider bringing a spare spoke or two; make sure to account for different lengths of spokes in a single wheel
To further your planning and research in these topics, here are some cornerstone articles on the site with loads of information:
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