Bike touring essentials

Bike Touring Essentials | Your Ultimate Bikepacking Gear Checklist

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Bike touring is one of our favorite ways to explore a new country. Hitting the open road, breathing the fresh air, and viewing incredible scenery is a rush that’s hard to explain. We’ve had the lucky opportunity to complete bike tours in some of the most beautiful places on Earth and gained practice prepping for epic cycling adventures

Preparing for a cycling tour is no easy task, but we’ve learned which bikepacking gear is essential. From roadside tools to camping gear, we have a solid list of bike touring essentials we always pack. You may need to adjust your specific bikepacking gear based on the country you’re touring, but our guide covers the basics and a bit more. 

If you’re stuck on what gear, tools, or clothing to pack, refer to this ultimate bikepacking gear checklist. Many items have been lifesavers, and others made things easier on the road. When you’ve finished packing for your bike tour, check this list twice to make sure you’ve got all the bike touring essentials so you are ready for anything

Our Biking Background

Our first big cycling adventure was a 3-month cycling tour in Iceland. We tackled the Ring Road but also pushed ourselves in the harsh conditions of the Icelandic Highlands. Cycling in Iceland was TOUGH as we camped in the wild without a shower, filtered our own drinking water, packed food for 10 days, and even crossed FREEZING COLD glacial rivers. We had a terrifying moment where I almost drowned if Kelly had not paid close attention to save my ass. 

We also completed a 3-week cycling trip in Switzerland, and this bike tour was much easier. Roads were paved, modern campsites included warm showers, and we crossed several villages each day to buy food. Switzerland also had the luxury of trains if we didn’t feel like climbing a mountain pass. The scenery for this cycling tour was jaw-dropping, like Iceland, but didn’t have as many challenges. 

We always use Ortlieb panniers to pack our bikepacking gear, and these 100% waterproof bags are the best. They stored our cameras and laptops when crossing glacial rivers and survived unscathed. It’s one of our bike touring essentials for whichever country we decide to explore. 

Bike Gear

When packing your bikepacking gear, these are the bike touring essentials you’ll need for any cycling tour.

1. Touring Bike

For the obvious, you want to pick out the touring bike that’s right for your specific needs. The key is selecting a bike that’s comfortable, reliable, and durable for long distances. You’ll also need to consider the road surfaces and the bike best fit for the terrain on your tour.

2. Water Bottles & Holders 

Staying hydrated on the road is crucial, and you always want water on you. If you’re cycling in desolate conditions, we recommend a filtered water bottle.

3. Panniers

These nifty bags attach to the front or rear racks of your bike and contain lots of storage space. Ortlieb panniers are the brand we recommend, but you’ll find cheaper alternatives. 

4. Head & Rear Light

You absolutely don’t want to be cycling at night without lights to guide you. This helps you spot road hazards and also lets other vehicles know you’re there. It’s also good to use the lights during the day, for extra visibility. 

5. Helmet 

This should be a no brainer. Safety first to protect your head if you tumble off your bike.

Also Read: The ultimate Swiss biking holiday guide

Repair Tools

Try not to go overboard with repair tools since packing too many items will add too much weight. A tube repair kit will usually do the job until you reach the next bicycle repair shop. But before starting your tour, give your bike a thorough inspection to ensure no repairs are needed. If you’re preparing to cycle rough terrain, we’ll list extra bike touring essentials you should consider packing.

6. Tube Repair Kit

An essential packing item for inner tube repair or patching a damaged bike tube.

7. Tire Levers

Makes removing and installing tires much easier without damaging your bike.

8. Mini Pump

A lifesaver when you need to inflate a flat tire.

9. Grease 

Helps reduce friction to keep your mechanical parts in working order. Before your cycling tour, ensure the grease is adequate for the specific weather conditions you’ll encounter.

10. Duct Tape

An alternative to patching an inner tube if you’re close to a repair shop. Duct tape can also be used for emergency rim tape, holding food packages together, or to temporarily repair broken gear.

11. Tie wraps

Comes in handy to fix a broken luggage rack for example. We would be in huuuuge troubles if we didn’t have some tie wraps with us while cycling in the middle of nowhere in the highlands of Iceland.

12. Bicycle Multitool 

A must-have that has all the needed tools to adjust or make repairs to mechanical parts on your bike

On-the-Bike Clothes

When you set off for your adventure, make sure you’re equipped with the following bikepacking clothing essentials.

On-the-Bike Clothes

When you set off for your adventure, make sure to add the following bikepacking gear to your bike touring clothing essentials.

13. Cycling trousers or shorts

Whether you prefer shorts or something longer, you want full freedom of movement on your bike. This will reduce friction and moisture while you’re on the road. Before your cycling tour, try many different styles to ensure you find the one that fits your body right.

14. Arm warmers

These come in handy to keep your arms warm and to protect your skin from sunlight. It’s easy to start your day when you might still feel a little cold. Usually, you warm up in just a couple of minutes, and it’s easy to ditch the arm warmers without having to stop to unzip your jacket or pull your hoodie over your head

15. Bicycle jersey

A quality cycling jersey helps you stay cool and comfortable on the road. The material absorbs sweat from your skin and moves it to the outer surface to keep you dry. This also helps you regulate your body temperature more efficiently.

16. Cycling shoes

Cycling shoes are designed with stiff soles to keep your feet rigid while pedaling. This increases efficiency by making it easier to push through each pedal stroke. You can also use click-system shoes for extra control while pushing through frequent climbs.

17. Waterproof jacket & pants 

Don’t let a sudden rain shower cancel a part of your cycling tour. With waterproof cycling clothes, you’ll remain dry and comfortable to face a light rain or downpour. Read our review of the Fjällräven Keb Eco Shell jacket to check out one of the top rated waterproof jackets. 

18. Waterproof shoe protectors 

If you want extra protection from the elements, waterproof shoe protectors keep your feet dry on the road. Cycling with soaked shoes feels disgusting and slipping on covers will protect you from the cold, rain, and wind.

19. Cycling gloves & socks

For extra warmth and comfort (and style), add gloves and socks to your list with bike touring essential.

Off-the-Bike Clothes

Here are some clothing recommendations when you hop off your bike for the day and do other activities.

20. Warm vest or sweater

After a long day of sweaty cycling, you want something dry that will keep you toasty at night. Make sure it protects you from wind and cooler temperatures you’ll often experience at night.

21. Relaxed trousers

If you’re not on your bike, then have spare trousers to give your legs a chance to breathe. It’s not healthy to wear tight-fitting clothing all the time. Depending on the weather, you can bring long, short or both types of trousers to relax after cycling.

22. Short & Long-Sleeve shirts

Similar to trousers, you want to pack clothes to give your upper body a chance to breathe. Loose-fitting t-shirts give you a chance to air out after wearing your cycling clothes all day. You can pack a variety of short and long-sleeve shirts based on the weather at your destination.

23. Socks

Pack enough pairs of socks to keep your feet dry when you’re finished cycling each day.

24. Warm hat

Bring a ski cap to keep your head and ears warm durings stops or while camping at night. Body heat escapes from your head, and a cozy hat will help you stay warm during rest breaks.

25. Swimwear

In case your destination has swimming holes, hot springs or simply a swimming pool, pack swimwear that’s ideal for a refreshing dip.

26. Comfy shoes

When you’re not cycling, give your feet a chance to stretch out with cozy sneakers. Your cycling shoes are specifically made to increase efficiency on the road and likely won’t provide comfort while walking around.

Also Read: The Greatest European Bike Tours of All Time

Camping Gear

When you’re cross-country cycling, don’t expect to find cozy hotels everywhere on your route. Even if there are hotels, they may not have space to accommodate you or your touring bike and gear. That’s why we prefer camping and include these bikepacking camping items in our list with bike touring essentials.

27. Lightweight Tent with Vestibules

Pack a tent that doesn’t weigh you down on the road and keeps your stuff dry at night.

28. Sleeping Pad/Bag

Keep yourself warm and comfortable each night to ensure you’re well-rested for the next day of cycling.

29. Cooking Utensils 

A must-have when your bike tour ventures into desolate conditions where you’re far from shops for several days. Check out our camping cooking equipment post for recommended supplies.

30. Headtorch

Have one handy to guide you whenever walking around your campsite at night

Miscellaneous

Although a few of these items aren’t specifically related to bike touring, they’re still essential for general travel. There are some that you can’t travel abroad without and others that come in handy while on the road.

31. Passport

If you’re cycling tour is within a different country, this should be the #1 item on your bike touring essentials list.

32. Money

In case you run into trouble, it’s always wise to have spare money on you. Make sure you have cash in the country’s currency and credit cards that function abroad.

33. Lightweight Towel

Especially when you go camping this is a must-have on your packing list. Lightweight towels pack small, dry quickly and are obviously very lightweight! 

34. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is vital for skin protection when you’re cycling in areas of intense heat, high altitude, or even in the snow. 

35. Sunglasses

You want to protect your eyes from sunlight and ensure you’re not visually impaired on the road. If you wear glasses, investing in prescription sunglasses is an alternative to contacts and regular sunglasses.

36. Toiletries

To freshen up each night, bring essential toiletry items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, contact lenses, hand sanitizer, etc.

37. Underwear

It may sound obvious but don’t forget to pack clean, dry underwear to change into after a sweaty day of cycling.

38. Camera & SD Cards

If you plan on taking pictures, find a safe storage spot for your camera and SD cards. The countries we’ve completed cycling tours had unbelievable scenery, and we captured tons of gorgeous shots on each adventure.

39. Spare Food

Always have spare food packed in your bag for an energy boost. Even if it’s just a few protein bars, you never know when extra food might come in handy.

Things to Keep in Mind

Now that we’ve gone through the bikepacking gear basics, here are other important things to consider for your bike tour.

  • Pack as lightly as possible – This naturally makes cycling easier and lessens the stress placed on your body. You’ll exert more energy with extra weight and spend more time reaching each destination. If you’re in doubt about a particular item, don’t bring it on your cycling tour. You could always purchase that item during your trip in the worst-case scenario. 
  • Check your destination’s weather and road conditions – As your cycling tour approaches, stay updated on the daily weather forecast for your destination. Some countries have unpredictable weather patterns, and you want to prepare yourself for all road conditions. Whether you face rain, snow, or shine, make sure you’re able to adjust your bike gear or clothing.
  • Consider the time of year – The specific season you choose to travel will determine what type of bike touring gear you need. Some cyclists prefer cooler seasons, and others like hot, humid conditions. Whichever season is your preference, this will alter the bike gear, clothing, and camping gear you’ll need.

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We love to hear from you

Thanks for checking out our ultimate bikepacking gear checklist with bike touring essentials you need on any cycling trip. Hopefully, this has provided the information you need to start packing for your adventurous cycling tour. If you have bike tour experiences, or if you have other tips to recommend, please leave a comment below.

Don’t forget to check out our destination pages for other ideas when you cycle around spectacular locations across the globe. For more travel tips and inspiration, check out more of our travel tips

2 thoughts on “Bike Touring Essentials | Your Ultimate Bikepacking Gear Checklist”

  1. Patrick Calmels

    A good list that will help people with little experience.
    Personally, I much prefer platform pedals. Semi open shoe for warmer weather, and low ankle boots for the cold.
    I highly discourage cycling shoes for rough roads that have steep inclines, like so many in Tasmania. If I happen to stall on a steep accent, I can’t get out of the clips fast enough and fall over
    Also, I would include in the list something which is often not mentioned – keeping ones arse clean
    After a poop, I wash. Nothing worse than having skid marks on the chamy
    I use Chamois skin shorts for my long distance trips, not the synthetic ones ☺

  2. Thanks for pointing out that we should pick the right cycling shoes that will keep our feet rigid while pedaling. I will keep that in mind now that I plan to book a bike tour for my husband and I this coming August. We should use the right shoes to ensure that we won’t be in any accident for this tour in celebration of our anniversary.

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