Bike Touring Packing List

 
Our Senior Editor Brandon Lampley will guide you through his bikepacking gear packing list explain what is in his lightweight bike touring system.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Our Senior Editor Brandon Lampley will guide you through his bikepacking gear packing list explain what is in his lightweight bike touring system. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

You do not have to spend a pile of money to experience your first few bicycle tours. I've spent almost 10 months in the last two years crossing the USA by bicycle. Here’s what I’ve learned about bike touring essentials and how to keep bike touring affordable. A bicycle, clothing, camping gear, and the luggage to carry it are the essentials to a bike touring packing list. This is a packing list for overnight bike touring. Included are my favorite tips for bikepacking on a budget, plus the rationale for our gear recommendations. Have fun on your next bicycle tour!

Looking for a touring bicycle? See our Best Bicycle for Touring story for our recommendations and how to choose. 

If you’re looking for camping gear for your trip, check out our Best Lightweight Tents guide, Best Sleeping Bags, and Best Sleeping Pads stories.


Touring Bicycle and Bike Luggage

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Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Read why→

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Bike Pedals

SPD Shimano M324

Read why→


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Topeak Explorer MTX

Read why→

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Ortlieb Back Roller

Read why→

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Rack Bag

Roswheel Bike Rear Seat Bag

Read why→

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Frame Bag

Revelate Designs Tangle

Read why→


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Light & Motion Rando 500

Read why→

rearviewmirror

EVT Safe Zone Bike Mirror

Read why→

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Aardvark Reflective Yield

Read why→


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Bike Stem Bag

Opamoo Waterproof Top Tube Bag

Read why→

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Handlebar Bag

Ortlieb Ultimate 6S Plus Handlebar Bag

Read why→

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Bike Seat Bag

Planet Bike Little Buddy

Read why→

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Bike Bottle Cage

Salsa Anything Cage

Read why→


Bike Electronics

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GPS Watch

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

Read why→

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Protective Phone Case

Otterbox Defender

Read why→

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Portable Charger

TravelGo Portable Charger

Read why→

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4 Port USB Adapter

Lencent 4 Port USB Adapter

Read why→


clothing

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Bike Gloves

Bontrager Anara

Read why→

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Bike Rain Jacket

Showers Pass Syncline Jacket

Read why→

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Bike Rain Pants

Showers Pass Transit Pants

Read why→



Cooking and Camp

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Snow Peak 450 Single Wall

Read why→

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GSI Outdoors Pinnacle

Read why→

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Sea to Summit Collapsible

Read why→

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TOAKS Long Handle Spoon

Read why→

 

Bike touring gives you the freedom to see the country at your own pace.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Bike touring gives you the freedom to see the country at your own pace. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Bicycle and Luggage 

This gear group includes your bicycle and accessories, safety gear including lights, luggage, and tools. 

Of the four gear groups, this is the one where you should not skimp. These items will impact the comfort and enjoyment of your ride more than the others. Aim to get the highest quality you can afford. 

For people who are already geared up for hiking, camping, and backpacking, this is where you should spend your money. Chances are the gear you already have will work for the other categories.



If you’re looking for more information about backpacking tents, check out our Best Backpacking Tents guide.

 

Brandon with his fully-loaded bike touring system at the Missouri border.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Brandon with his fully-loaded bike touring system at the Missouri border. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Touring Bicycle

Surly CrossCheck

Chances are the bike you have will work for a short tour or three, as long as it has attachment points for a rear rack. We prefer a steel bicycle frame, with lots of lug attachment points, for touring.

I ride a Surly CrossCheck, which is sort of the little brother to Surly’s award winning Long Haul Trucker and Disc Trucker bikes.

If your current bike doesn’t have an attachment point or you want a dedicated touring bike (they also make great commuter bikes) we go into detail about how to choose and what to look for in our review of The Best Touring Bicycles, where these two Surlys won awards. The Cyclo Cross is getting harder to find new, but we list a link to show you its specs. If you’re on a budget, read that story and set yourself a Craigslist alert -- bikes are one of the items on this gear list you can find used for a great price.

 

Surly Cross Check

 

Tires

Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x38

Just about any tire will work for touring, but the higher volume the better. A higher volume tire means you can run a lower pressure, which is more comfortable. Since I just plain hate flat tires, the nearly flatproof Marathon Plus is my choice. Yep, they are heavier, and have higher rolling resistance, but I'm approaching 10,000 miles with ZERO flats on Marathon Plus tires. Seriously. Knock on wood. Make sure your frame and components have the clearance for the tire size you mount, and that they play nice with your wheel width. Consult your local bike shop if you're unsure of compatibility.

The Marathon Plus tires are tough enough to take abandoned roads and overgrown pavement.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

The Marathon Plus tires are tough enough to take abandoned roads and overgrown pavement. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

Marathon Plus Tires

 

A pedal with clip on one side, flat platform on the other allows you comfort to ride in your bicycle shoes or short rides in sandals to jump in the river . . . and then make a quick get-away.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

A pedal with clip on one side, flat platform on the other allows you comfort to ride in your bicycle shoes or short rides in sandals to jump in the river . . . and then make a quick get-away. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Pedals

SPD Shimano M324

Mountain bike shoes with SPD cleats are the way to go, and the M324 pedals are awesome. Clip on one side, and a flat platform on the other, so you can ride in comfort in any shoes. Win and win. These are the perfect commuter bike pedal also.

Many touring cyclists do not ride with clip in pedals, but I prefer to do so. You have more control over the bike, and the stiffer shoe saves a bit of energy.

Do not use a tour on a loaded bike to gain your first experience with clip in pedals. Practice, practice, practice before you depart, or stick with flat pedals with hiking shoes.

For more on pedals for bike touring, see What pedals should I get for bike touring?

 

Shimano SPD M324

 

You’ll be riding on your bike seat all day. If you can afford a comfortable one, you won’t regret it.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

You’ll be riding on your bike seat all day. If you can afford a comfortable one, you won’t regret it. Photo by Liz Thomas.

Seat

Brooks England B-17

I don't have a Brooks leather saddle, but I really want one. While this isn’t a bike touring essential or a budget pick, it’d go a long way in helping butt issues associated with long bike rides.

The tensioned leather conforms to your sit bones for all day comfort. Ride any saddle that you find comfortable for many hours, but look to the Brooks if you want to upgrade to the holy grail of all day comfort. My Specialized saddle fits me quite well, and I've got many thousands of miles on it. But I covet me a Brooks!

 

Brooks England B-17

 

Rear Rack

Topeak Explorer MTX and Tubus Logo Classic

I’ve been using a Blackburn Mountain rack for a decade, purchased at the same time as my bike. There are stronger racks out there, but this one has handled my moderate loads just fine. The Topeak Explorer racks are very similar to my old favorite.

If you're gonna load up really heavy, or ride a lot of rough, rough roads on tour, Tubus racks are widely considered the burliest, if expensive.

 

Topeak Explorer

Tubus Logo Classic

 

Bike touring past our nation’s capitol.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley

Bike touring past our nation’s capitol. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley

Rear Panniers: Arkel T-42 or Ortlieb Back Roller

My old REI panniers are approaching the end of their life and I'll be looking to replace them soon. I purchased these at a garage sale more than a decade ago.

 

Pro Tip: garage sales, Craigslist, and the bulletin board at your local bike shop are great ways to find bicycle touring gear at incredible prices! Look for panniers there.

 

There are two schools of thought on panniers:

  1. Lots of pockets and compartments
  2. One main waterproof compartment.

Stem bags like mine previously were common, but as paper maps have been supplanted by phone screen navigation, this type of bag has evolved.

Here are the best options I’ve found: The Opamoo Top Tube Bag and the Rock Bros Waterproof Stem Case

 

Ortlieb Back Roller

Arkel T-42

 

Brandon’s handlebar view.   Photo by Liz Thomas

Brandon’s handlebar view. Photo by Liz Thomas

Many touring cyclists use a larger handlebar bag that goes on the front of the bars like the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 S Plus we recommend in our Best Bike Touring story.

I use an older system that was designed around using paper maps (instead of phone navigation, which hadn’t been invented yet). It uses a frame bag plus stem bag combo. If you decide a larger handlebar bag is your style, you’ll have as much storage as my stem and frame bag combined.

I’ve seen many folks using the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 S Plus Handlebar Bag, like our writer Mike Unger, who covered our Best Touring Bike story. People love the Ortlieb Ultimate 6.

One reason is the mount for the Ortlieb bag is easy to detach and tote around with a shoulder strap for when you are in town and off your bike. This can be essential for storage of your passport, wallet, etc.

 

A tunnel along a popular bike touring route.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

A tunnel along a popular bike touring route. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Rack Bag: Roswheel Bike Rear Seat Bag

I use a zippered bag that attaches to the top of my rear rack for my tent. It's convenient for quick access when reaching camp. Tent poles fit better in this rack bag than any of my other luggage. Wet things like my raingear go here too. My small skillet is strapped on top of this bag. I was lucky and found my trusty LL Bean rack bag at a garage sale. The closest I've found is this Roswheel bag.

 

Many folks use a durable dry bag strapped to their rack in the same position. The Sea to Summit Big River 13L is a good choice.

 

 

Roswheel Bike Rear Seat Bag

Sea to Summit Big River

 

Frame Bag: Revelate Designs Tangle

 

Adding the Revelate Designs Tangle frame bag to my system was a big upgrade to my packing style last year and I love it! My mini pump, wind shirt, arm and leg warmers, spare gloves, buffs and warm hat all fit inside. It lives on my bike for town commuting and gravel riding also.

 

I don't like to wear a little backpack when riding, and the Revelate Designs Tangle in Medium is perfect for everything I need for a day out. My frame bag and little seat bag never leave my bike.

Frame bag and bike cages along with insulated water bottles.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Frame bag and bike cages along with insulated water bottles. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

revelate designs tangle

 

The Light & Motion Rando light doesn’t need to be big and heavy to let out a lot of light.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

The Light & Motion Rando light doesn’t need to be big and heavy to let out a lot of light. Photo by Liz Thomas.

Front Bicycle Light

Light and Motion Rando 500

No matter your bike touring budget, lights are the place to invest well. Safety first. Being visible at all times to cars, trucks, and other roadway and trail users is your first line of defense for safety on tour. We prefer a front light that's plenty bright for night riding, but also has a low power daytime mode that's highly visible.

The Light and Motion Rando 500 is a perfect touring front light. Durable, with multiple modes, super bright, and USB charge. It can even charge while turned on for folks running a dynamo hub (a front hub electricity generator on your bike). It also has unique side lenses for max visibility in traffic. I run this light in daytime pulse mode all day!

I’ve never had anything stolen while I’m on bike tour, but I always hide my lights before I step away from my bike. Most of the time, I’m taking them with me to charge indoors.

 

Light & motion rando 500

 

Rear Bicycle Lights

Cygolite Hotshot 100 and Bontrager Flare 1

Never ride in traffic in low light without a rear red light. Full stop. Your safety is your own responsibility.

No amount of gear you carry can completely protect you from danger, but lights, helmets, and reflective materials will go a long way.

I ride with two rear facing flashing red lights. Mounted on the back of my left pannier is a Cygolite Hotshot 100. They have multiple flashing modes, each dimmable, and work great for all day use. I’d like a bit more battery life, but it's good for the price.

Dawn, dusk, or in the dark, I turn on a flashing red light mounted on the back of my helmet as well. Because it moves with my head, I feel it more readily catches drivers attention in low light and darkness.

An inexpensive little red light for the helmet that uses AAA batteries, also means you can always pop in fresh batteries even if you’ve not been on top of your USB charging regime. Two rear lights gives me redundancy. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I got my second light at a gas station. For safety, I would recommend everyone uses two rear red lights.

Brandon mounts his rear red light near his coffee can.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

Brandon mounts his rear red light near his coffee can. Photo by Liz Thomas.

 

cygolite hot shot

 

A rear view mirror increases your bike safety quotient significantly.   Photo by Brandon Lampley.

A rear view mirror increases your bike safety quotient significantly. Photo by Brandon Lampley.

Rear View Mirror

EVT Safe Zone

You will be so much safer when you know what's on the road behind you. I've tried all flavors of mirrors over the years. There’s handlebar mounted mirrors, sunglasses mounted mirrors, and helmet mounted mirrors. Hands down the best is a helmet mounted mirror, of decent size. Efficient Velo Tools makes a great one.

Similar to driving a car, keep a general awareness of what's coming from behind on the road. The large majority of drivers are aware and courteous. Rental RVs and pickup trucks with trailers are the two that gain my close attention when they approach. These drivers don't always have an understanding of how wide their vehicles are.

 

efficient velo tools safe zone rear mirror


Bike touring may take you places you wouldn’t otherwise visit in a car where visibility is even more important, like this construction zone.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Bike touring may take you places you wouldn’t otherwise visit in a car where visibility is even more important, like this construction zone. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Safety Placard

Aardvark Reflective Yield

A bright, reflective triangle is a general ‘I'm a slow moving vehicle, pay attention’ sign. Mounted on the back of my rack bag, it moves a little in the wind to gain more attention. Be careful how you mount it, so there is no chance it gets into your wheel or drivetrain. Safety pins are your friend.

Helmet

Rounding out the safety gear is a well fitting bicycle helmet with a rear view mirror (more on that above).

Many tourists prefer, and we recommend, a mountain bike style helmet with a sun visor. The visor helps a lot in the rain. Find one that fits well and is very comfortable, because it'll be on your head all day.

We are not linking to a specific model of helmet, because you absolutely must try them on for fit and comfort. Go to your local bike shop. They’ll be happy to help with the fitting. I just completed my tour with a road-specific helmet, because it’s what I have, and it was fine. I wore a bike cap with brim underneath.

 

aardvark reflective yield

rei bike helmets

 

Stem Bag:

Opamoo Waterproof Top Tube Bag

Rock Bros Waterproof Stem Case

I love my stem bag. It has a clear map window if I am using a paper map. I rarely have paper maps these days, but National Parks in the US still hook you up with a sweet paper map brochure on entry. Inside I keep snacks, sunscreen, eye drops, lip balm, nail clippers, and my wallet fits too.

Stem bags like mine previously were common, but as paper maps have been supplanted by phone screen navigation, this type of bag has evolved. Here are the best options I’ve found:

Opamoo Top Tube Bag and the Rock Bros Waterproof Stem Case

A stem bag can be designed for using paper maps, but also can store sunscreen, eyedrops, lip balm, or anything else you are likely to want close at hand.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

A stem bag can be designed for using paper maps, but also can store sunscreen, eyedrops, lip balm, or anything else you are likely to want close at hand. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

Brandon keeps his tools loaded in his inexpensive Planet Bike Little Buddy seat bag.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

Brandon keeps his tools loaded in his inexpensive Planet Bike Little Buddy seat bag. Photo by Liz Thomas.

Seat Bag

Planet Bike Little Buddy

My small seat bag is my dedicated tool box. It stays on the bike for town and trail use when all my other bags and rack come off. Pick one that holds all your little tools plus one tube.I use this inexpensive model from Planet Bike, the Little Buddy

Bottle Cages

Specialized Roll Cage Salsa Anything Cage

Pretty much any cage that holds your bottles will work, but if you’re using a half frame bag like I do, you'll need side entry cages. The Specialized Roll Cage works great for the two in the frame bottles.

 

 

If you want to place two more bottles on your front forks, you’ll need cages there too. Some forks have lugs for a cage, but many don't. Consult your local bike shop on how to mount two cages on your front fork. There are lots of little specialty clamps that will do the job, specific to the shape and material of your fork.

 

The Salsa Anything cages are also a great front fork option. One liter Nalgenes, small stuff sacks… ‘anything’ can be carried. Keep the load on the front forks balanced, and strap it tight with no loose ends.

 
 

rock bros waterproof stem case

opamoo waterproof top tube bag

planet bike little buddy rear bag

 

To keep your costs down, use the Camelbak Podium for chilled water and gas station plastic bottles for your other water needs.

To keep your costs down, use the Camelbak Podium for chilled water and gas station plastic bottles for your other water needs.

Water Bottles

Camelbak Podium

If you are into carrying water bladders, bring a Platypus bladder water carrying capacity of 4 bottles, about 3-4 liters. If you'll only have 2 bottles mounted on the bike, we recommend a 2L bladder in addition.

The Camelbak Podium bottles are amazing! Insulated and with a reliable open / close function, they’re available in a couple sizes to fit in your cages.

For example, I can fit the larger Podium Big Chill in one of my frame cages, but I need a shorty bottle for the other. Trust us, carry at least one insulated bottle on tour. The Podium Big Chill filled with ice and fluid gives about 4 hours of icy drink even in hot weather. On my forks, I use screwtop one liter water bottles.

I always carry a dropper bottle of chlorine bleach so that filling up from clean streams is an option.

 

salsa bottle cage

camelbak podium bottle

 

Tools

Not a lot to say here, except you should carry at least the tools you need to change a flat tire. Twice. Your best line of defense is to start your tour with a well maintained and adjusted bike.

Before you head on your trip, you'll want a tuneup at your local bike shop.

A mini tool with a variety of Allen keys is great for checking that all your rack, bottle, and luggage bolts stay snug. A chain tool and master link is a good idea too.

Even if you are a competent mechanic for basic bike adjustments, treat yourself to a workshop or course from your local bike shop.

I learned from the ‘school of hard knocks’ while touring. I’m a handy guy and still spent some frustrating roadside hours tinkering with derailleur adjustment.

Take a class… your future self thanks you.

Bike shops along major touring routes are happy to help you with major and minor repair.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Bike shops along major touring routes are happy to help you with major and minor repair. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

About once a week, I clean and lube my drivetrain. I prefer Muc-Off products

I carry small bottles of both Wet lube and Dry lube.

This brush works great for cassette cleaning.

I carry these tools at minimum:

I also run these heavy beasts in my tires.
 

topeak multi tool

mcduf wet lube

topeak mini morph pump

mcduf dry lube


The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus makes keeping track of distance, speed, heart rate, and where you are easy—without draining battery from your phone or requiring a bike computer.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus makes keeping track of distance, speed, heart rate, and where you are easy—without draining battery from your phone or requiring a bike computer. Photo by Liz Thomas.

GPS Watch: Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

A GPS watch is a luxury item, but is convenient while bike touring. I use my Fenix to log my rides for Strava and this saves my phone battery. And rather than a bike computer, all the metrics I want are tracked and displayed on my watch face.

We go into detail in our GPS Watch story abou the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus that I use and other GPS watches.

To read our comparison of the most popular four models of GPS watches, read our Guide to the Best Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass and GPS Watch Guide.

 

garmin fenix 5x plus

 

iPhone with Protective Case

iPhone XR Otterbox Defender

Most smartphones will work fine for Bike Touring, but if your trip is an excuse to upgrade, read our story on the

Best iPhones for Adventures. We rate the newest phones by criteria that are important for bike touring like waterproofness, temperature sensitivity, and battery life.

Regardless of your phone maker, we recommend using a protective case. Chances are you are already using some kind of case. But if you’re looking for a tough waterproof option for this trip, I like the OtterBox Defender Case.

With a little creativity, and some zip ties, you can handlebar mount your phone case clip for on the move navigation. The clear window of a stem or handlebar bag is designed for a phone. But, I have found on sunny days, that overheating in the stem bag can be an issue. I've had better luck mounting my phone on my handlebars. Exposed to the wind and upright, the phone is able to stay cooler.

 
Otterbox Defender

Powerpack Battery

TravelGo Portable Charger

About 10,000 mAh storage and two USB outlets make my preferred backup battery. This external battery balances price, weight, and usability.

 

Charger: Lencent 4 Port USB Travel Adapter

When I find an outlet, I charge my lights, battery, watch, and phone all at once. A 4 USB wall charger is a game changer for quick charging.

 

Cable Lock: OnGuard Terrier

While I don't worry much about my loaded touring bike when I walk away from it while in town, I still always carry a simple cable lock. Most often I simply lean my bike against a building or tree, lock the front wheel to the frame, remove and stow my lights out of sight, and walk away.

A combination lock means you don't have to worry about losing a key. The OnGuard Terrier

is a simple and affordable choice. Other folks worry more about the security of their bike and luggage. If that is you, upgrade to a burlier lock if that means you’ll sleep better. And consider bicycle insurance if your ride is expensive. Also, check if your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance covers theft on tour. That said, I've never met a touring cyclist who had their bike or luggage stolen on tour.

For more on insurance or the National Bike Registry, see our section on

How Can I Deter Bicycle Theft?

Headlamp

You’ll want a headlamp for camp. See our

full review of headlamps.

To prevent against theft, some bicycle tourists will choose seats at restaurants that look out on their bikes.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

To prevent against theft, some bicycle tourists will choose seats at restaurants that look out on their bikes. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

iphone xr

lencent 4 port usb travel adapter

onguard terrier lock

otterbox defender protective phone case

 

bike touring Clothing: On the Bike and Off

 
Brandon Lampley reaches the Missouri border.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Brandon Lampley reaches the Missouri border. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

I have a riding clothes selection that works when it's cold and rainy, but is comfortable when the weather is hot and sunny too.

In camp, I want to be prepared for freezing temperatures, even if uncommon while summer cycling.

Most of my warm camp clothes are dual purpose: if I need to ride when it's quite cold, I layer using my ‘camp’ clothes. This is how I minimize my on-bike “clothing closet.”

If you are looking to save money on your bike gear, clothing is the best place to find deals. Read our suggestions below on what to look for when choosing bike touring clothing. Then see if anything you have already meets your needs for bike touring or is similar enough to our recommended products. We’ve found many items similar to our suggested items at garage sales or thrift stores. We also suggest looking at our suggested products and sometimes you can find a similar model from last year on sale.  


On the Bike Clothes

Bike Shorts: REI Junction (men’s) and REI Junction (women’s)

Even if your money is limited, you want a good pair of padded bike shorts for bike touring (actually, two pairs to be hygienic). Your butt will often hurt when bike touring. Bike shorts can help.

Choosing bike shorts isn’t just for butt comfort but for safety as well. Bike shorts are designed to be form fitting and most have reflective patches. Any baggy clothing you wear can get caught in the nose of the saddle.

Good bike shorts can help alleviate some pain associated with deep tissue bruising where your sit bones meet the bike seat. Changing into clean bike shorts (plus a birdy bath) helps with some chafing/ skin irritation/and saddle sores.

To help your butt, get both good bike shorts and a good bike seat. If you’re strapped for cash, we’d suggest dropping money on padded chamois bike shorts before a bike seat because you can often find bike shorts on sale.

Brandon reaches the Arizona border.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Brandon reaches the Arizona border. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

If you are a rider who regularly wears bibs rather than shorts, you’ll want to switch to shorts for touring. Getting undressed every time nature calls is a pain with bibs; I know, I've toured with bibs, and hated undressing to poop.

We’ve found the REI Junction Bike Short (men’s and women’s) to be an affordable and durable choice. Plus, they don't seem to hold onto unpleasant odors. The model I wear have been with me for more than 70 days of riding. That may not seem like a long time, but I’ve worn out other bike shorts in far less time. The seams don’t even show the beginning of wear. No fraying or stitching coming apart. I’m pleasantly surprised.

You want two pairs of bike shorts for touring. I prefer black, so that they dry quicker in the sun after I wash them out. Rinse or wash your shorts every night, and rotate to your clean and dry pair the next morning.

 

Pro tip: Several big safety pins or diaper pins let you securely attach your washed shorts and socks to the tops of your panniers to dry in the sun and wind!

In a rare example of women having more options than men in outdoor apparel, women’s bike shorts often come in three lengths. Men’s come usually come in one.

 

junction bike shorts- men’s

junction bike shorts- women’s

 

Bike gloves protect your hands from the sun and keep a better (less sweaty) grip on your handlebars.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

Bike gloves protect your hands from the sun and keep a better (less sweaty) grip on your handlebars. Photo by Liz Thomas.

Bike Gloves:

Bontrager Anara

Pearl Izumi Cyclone

One pair of simple bike gloves, and a second pair of full finger cool weather gloves is key. If you already have gloves, they will work with one caveat: they need to be tight. Any loose material can potentially get stuck in your brake levers.

We like the the Pearl Izumi Cyclone (men’s) and Bontrager Anara Bike Gloves (women’s) bike gloves which have the added benefit of being high vis when you hand signal your turns. I also carry one pair of cheap wool gloves for camp. Wool doesn't melt when you touch your hot pot or stove. Most bike gloves come with a high vis option. If you’re looking for sales, choose one with better visibility (bright color/reflective/etc.).

Jersey: Pearl Izumi

I don't always wear a jersey. Often, my sunshirt or wool top and wind jacket (see below) are more comfy. But, one jersey always makes the packing list: my very bright, high visibility one. Especially on roads near cities, or during rush hour, the extra high vis top is nice.

If you usually ride with a snug jersey for aerodynamics, consider upsizing for more comfort on tour. If you are well adapted to always having snacks or bottles in a jersey pocket, take two. Many Pearl Izumi jerseys are available in blinding bright yellow. I prefer a short sleeve, half zip jersey.

 

pearl izumi cyclone gloves -men’s

pearl izumi cycling jersey

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gloves - Women’s

bontrager anara cycling gloves - women’s

 

Rain Jacket and Pants

Showers Pass Syncline Jacket

(men’s and women’s)

Showers Pass Transit Pants

(men’s and women’s)

Showers Pass makes excellent bike specific rain gear. They have Budget Cycling Rain Gear and also models with the more fancy fabrics.

I ride with the Showers Pass Syncline jacket (men’s and women’s) . The venting, helmet friendly hood, reflective bits, and bright orange color are great.

 

If you already have a rain jacket, it’s not optimal for touring, but is fine for your first bike trip (See our Best Rain Jackets guide for other outdoor rain jackets). As you get more into bike touring, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a bike-specific rain jacket because they are brightly colored, reflective, and more aerodynamic.

 

However, I do recommend all bike tourers pick up cycle specific rain pants. I like the Showers Pass Transit pants (men’s and women’s). The cut is specific to pedalling movement. Velcro on the lower legs cinches down to keep any loose material away from the drivetrain. If you’re trying to save money, a strap like this one will make your hiking rain pants work OK for cycling.

 

Brandon riding in the rain in Arizona.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Brandon riding in the rain in Arizona. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

showers pass cycline jacket

showers pass cycline rain pants

 

Resting off the bike. Still wearing the bike shoes.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley

Resting off the bike. Still wearing the bike shoes. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley

Bike Shoes

I find that Mountain bike shoes with SPD cleats are the way to go for bike touring. Better power and control on the bike, and comfy enough for all your walking around tasks in the daytime. I prefer a well-ventilated black pair. Ventilated to keep feet cool and dry on the bike, and black so they dry quickly when the sun comes out after a rain. For more information, see REI’s How To Choose Bike Shoes article.

I've toured with waterproof shoe covers before, but find that just letting my feet get wet, or putting plastic bags over my socks if it's a cold rain or snow, is less of a hassle than wrestling with overshoes. Search closeout models for a great deal.

SOCKS: SMARTWOOL PHD CYCLE UL (MEN’S AND WOMEN’S)

Two or three pairs for on the bike riding, and one pair of thick, warm wool ones for camp. I mostly ride in the Smartwool crew bike socks (men’s and women’s), but always carry one pair that are knee height. They’re great in cold weather. I found some tall Smartwool ski racing socks (men’s and women’s) on a killer deal a couple years ago.

Sandals

An over the top of foot sandal works as your town shoes (something to wear other than your bike shoes). I like over the top “soccer style” sandalsbecause you can wear warm wool socks with them when it's cold in camp. You can also wear them without socks if it’s warm.

A simple plastic model like this is perfect. On a long tour, you can replace them for a few bucks at the dollar store. If you want to be more stylish, a pair of Birkenstocks does the trick, and you may even have a pair of those around already.

The double-sided hybrid bike pedals we recommend work fine with your sandals for short distances. This is great when you’re in town and want to run to the store but don’t want to put on your bike shoes. Or when you’re at peak laziness and would rather ride your bike 80 yards to the toilet instead of walk there.

 

Smartwool Phd Cycle UL


The Prana Caldera Sunshirt is part of Brandon’s biking uniform.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

The Prana Caldera Sunshirt is part of Brandon’s biking uniform. Photo by Liz Thomas.

Sun Shirt

Prana Calder (men’s) and Prana Odea (women’s)

A sun shirt with a hood is the real hero of the movie on long, cloudless days. Size it so that it’s nice and loose, the sleeves overlap your gloves, and the hood goes over your helmet. I basically live in my Prana Sunshirt (men’s and women’s ) on tour. If it's cool in the morning, I layer my jersey over top, and my wind jacket over that. As it warms up, I strip down til comfy.

Wind Shirt

Patagonia Houdini (men’s and women’s)

I use a Patagonia Houdini wind jacket ( men’s and women’s ) rather than a biking specific model. It is part of my backpacking and ski touring costumes also. I use a few small safety pins to secure the rolled up hood for use on the bike. The Houdini packs down tiny, easily fitting in a jersey pocket.

Baselayers/Long Underwear

Size your long underwear to fit over riding shorts. I prefer long underwear to leg warmers or full length riding tights with a chamois because they are more versatile. I can use my long underwear as sleeping clothes when it's cool. You can also wear long underwear in town (though you may get some comments). A medium to expedition weight synthetic fabric is my recommendation.

Wool Shirt: REI Merino Midweight Half-Zip

(men’s and women’s)

On a very cold riding day, my merino midweight half-zip is my baselayer. Most days, it’s also my sleeping shirt. Long sleeve, half zip is nice for versatility. If you don’t already own a wool shirt, this is the bike touring item you are most likely to find at a thrift store or garage sale.

 

Brandon on an East Coast bike tour in late fall/early winter.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Brandon on an East Coast bike tour in late fall/early winter. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Warm Jacket:

Smartwool Smartloft (men’s and women’s)

Patagonia Nano-Air (men’s and women’s)

For my Route 66 ride, I treated myself to one new clothing piece. And it was a good choice. My Smartwool Smartloft Midlayer ( men’s and women’s) worked both on the bike and off. I only used it riding for long descents in cold air, but it was perfect for this.

Admittedly, I’m warmer than most, but the Smartwool Smartloft was a great camp jacket. It’s incredibly comfortable and appropriate for a huge range of temperatures. I also wear it in the morning and evenings in town.

Most folks will want a dedicated warm camp jacket. Our favorite is the Patagonia Nano-Air (men’s and women’s). It’s the only puffy jacket I’ve ever worn that I can keep wearing for really cold weather aerobic exercise. I’ve found it dries off my sweat and moves enough moisture to be fine ski touring in -5 F degree weather, so it’s great for cycle touring.

Warm Vest

Patagonia Nano-Air

I like the Patagonia Nano-Air Vest in hunter orange. As mentioned above, the Patagonia Nano-Air is the only puffy jacket I’ve worn that moves sweat and moisture fast enough to wear during cold weather aerobic exercise, like bike touring.

 

I like lots of options for layering, and the way I get away with the Smartwool Smartloft 120 as my warm jacket is to carry the Nano-Air vest in addition. On a cold evening in camp, I’m wearing both.

 

My orange Nano-Air is also the perfect layer to wear over the top of everything else when I roll into town and want to layer up to slow down and sightsee.

 

 

Wool Hat

You want a dedicated off the bike warm hat. It doesn’t have to be fancy (but can be).

Fleece or wool works. I've been wearing an Arc'teryx one for years.

Sun Hat

Tilley AirFlo

You’ll be getting plenty of sun on the bike, so it's a good idea to make a sun hat part of your standard off the bike costume. Get a sun hat for off the bike protection. I've been wearing a Tilley AirFlo for years. It's great, and will last forever. It also holds its shape incredibly well after being packed and crushed every which way.

Buff

Probably the most versatile small clothing piece, I actually ride with at least two. Neck warmer, face mask, sweatband, skull cap . . . the uses are endless.

 

Buff

Tilley Air Flo


Stuff Sacks

Since I don't use waterproof panniers, waterproof stuff sacks are key to my clothes packing.

The Sea to Summit are a good choice. Light, durable, and even kinda see through when you forget which one has that bright jersey you're looking for. I find 5 L and 12 L to be the most useful sizes.

 

Waterproof Sea to Summit Stuff Sacks


When biking across the country, some city or county parks allow tourists to camp. This is a camping set-up in a local park en route that features all of Brandon’s gear.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

When biking across the country, some city or county parks allow tourists to camp. This is a camping set-up in a local park en route that features all of Brandon’s gear. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Sleeping System

For both the Sleeping and Eating equipment sections, I'll be a lot more brief. Most all of these items are covered here on Treeline Review with in-depth articles. What works great for backpacking and thru hiking also works great for bicycle camping. 

 

Tent

Yes, you want a tent. Your camping spots while bicycle touring are more likely to be developed campgrounds, and you'll be happy with full coverage. A bivy sack is a poor substitute. And a tarp provides little privacy. 

See our Best Backpacking Tent guide for suggestions of tents that will work for your bike tour. 

 

Sleeping Pad and Sleeping Bag

My camping or backpacking sleeping pad is the same as it is for bike touring: the Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite.

 

Read our Best Sleeping Pads story for more details on why. Then, read our Best Sleeping Bags story.

Sometimes when you’re on a long bike trip, you may find non-traditional campsites.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Sometimes when you’re on a long bike trip, you may find non-traditional campsites. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

Cooking and Eating

Our fourth organizational gear group is for eating. Pretty straight forward. A compact, light, and functional camp kitchen to prepare food. Basically the same setup we recommend for backpacking, but add a small skillet!

Many cyclists do forgo a stove and pots on tour, as you’ll often encounter restaurants for hot food. But you will find it much more affordable to prepare your own food. And how do people even function without a proper cup of tea or coffee?


Stove

For ease of use and compact size, we recommend a canister stove. They work great, are fuel efficient, and boil water fast but also simmer. See our Best Backpacking stove story for more details.

Back of the bike kitchen.   Photo by Brandon Lampley.

Back of the bike kitchen. Photo by Brandon Lampley.

Pot Review

One pot is plenty, but two can be nice if you’re a party of two cyclists.

See our Best Backpacking Cookpot story for our recommendations.

Small Skillet

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle

Yep, it's a treat to have more cooking options on the bike. Any light little skillet will work, preferably one with a nonstick coating.

This one is lightweight and sized well for one person.

Mug

Snow Peak Titanium Single Wall

Always carry a mug. You’ll get a discount and avoid making trash at the coffee shop and when other campers offer you a glass of wine, you're ready.

Although the double-walled insulated mugs

keep your coffee hot and beer cold for a long time, they’re no good over a campfire. That’s why I use a single-walled mug.

Spoon

Toaks Titanium Long Handle Spoon

A long handled spoon is killer. Get yourself one!

Spatula

Yep, you will enjoy having one. To scrap the last mac n cheese from the pot, and to make your awesome skillet meals. I like a silicon blade with a wood handle. Mine’s pink and I love him.

Collapsible Bowl

Sea to Summit X Bowl

A collapsible bowl or two has lots of great uses and takes up little space. You can use them for food prep and serving. They also work for dish washing. Use one with warm soapy water for a quick face wash and birdy bath. A Tupperware type bowl with a secure lid is an alternate budget choice, but takes up more room.

Food Bag

Containing all your food in one or two bags is a good idea. I use a Yellow Sea to Summit roll top stuff sack.

 

GSI Skillet

Toaks Spoon

snow peak mug

collapsible bowl


Brandon passes through the town of Brandon on his bike tour.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Brandon passes through the town of Brandon on his bike tour. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

Author’s Expertise

Treeline Review’s Senior Editor Brandon Lampley just completed a bicycle tour from Denver to Santa Monica along old Route 66. During the last two years, Brandon has pedaled more than 7000 miles around the United States, through all seasons of the year. 

We think you’ll be interested in the clothing and equipment Brandon carries on a bike tour. With the goal of touring on a small budget, he carries all the clothing and camping gear necessary to be comfortable in a large range of temperatures and weather conditions. Have fun, sleep and eat well, meet interesting characters--those are his priorities. 

Brandon’s recent month long Route 66 trip included cold rain and light snow, but also sweltering temperatures through the Mojave desert. He camped every night save one. Brandon has refined a lightweight clothing and equipment selection that works well in the large range of weather encountered.