Bikepacking means freedom, nature, and: minimalism. “Less is more” is the motto, as it’s easier to ride that way and you can focus on what really counts. However, there are few things you can’t do without if your bike trip is going to be a complete success. Our ultimate bikepacking packing list highlights what you absolutely must have in your bike bag, and what you can safely leave at home.

First things first: the “ultimate” bikepacking packing list is not a definitive thing—what is essential and what is completely superfluous depends on what bikepacking means for you.

First off, you should ask yourself some questions like: 

  • Will you be away for just one weekend or several days at a time?
  • Do you like camping, sleeping in the open air, or are you more drawn to hotels?
  • Are you fairly hardy or do you get cold easily, for example?
  • Are you going on your own or together with others? There are many things that you don’t need two of (e.g. tools, camping stoves, tents...)

Sure, you’ll have your own ideas and priorities, and you can of course expand your personal packing list to suit you and your trip. The most important tip we can give you is therefore:

As you pack each item into your luggage, ask yourself the question: does that really need to come along?

Because one thing is clear: anything you don’t absolutely need, you’ll end up carting around for nothing. And ultimately that consumes energy, and your riding pleasure will suffer as a result.

We’ve been on many bikepacking trips and forgotten to take lots of things with us—but we’ve also needlessly schlepped a lot around with us. The result of our experience is this packing list, which also served us well when preparing for our tour of Scotland. On our North Coast 500 tour, we were traveling for five days in the wind and rain, staying in hotels, bed & breakfasts, and also in a tent. You will find everything we had with us to have a good time on the new Road Rage in our packing list.

Under the heading “Nice to have” we have also listed a few things that aren’t so important, but which are still worth thinking about. To help you prepare perfectly for your bikepacking trip, our packing list is available to download here as a PDF. Simply print it out and check off each item once it has made its way into your bikepacking bag.

Here we sum up everything you’ll be wearing while you’re on the road. Much of it is pretty logical—you’re hardly likely to go on a grand tour without your cycling shorts. But a lot is also easily forgotten, such as your Buff or rain jacket if the weather’s nice when you set off. If this had happened to us on our Scotland trip, we would have had a real problem: we were met with nothing but rain for the first four days. For this reason, we also stayed in B&Bs more often than we’d originally planned. At least that allowed us to dry our drenched clothes in the evening.

Must-Haves:

  • Helmet
  • Bike glasses
  • Buff or neck warmer
  • Base layer (appropriate to the weather)
  • Jersey (appropriate to the weather)
  • Cycling shorts (appropriate to the weather)
  • Socks (rainproof, if necessary)
  • Cycling shoes
  • Overshoes (depending on the weather)
  • Rain jacket (also works as a wind jacket and for the evenings)
  • Gloves

nice to have:

  • Beanie

Other than the panniers, there wasn’t much that we mounted on our bikes. Little detail: In order to be able to carry a camera tripod on the frame, Martin mounted his two water bottles on the front of the fork, which is conveniently equipped with attachment eyelets for that purpose.

Must-Haves:

  • Two large water bottles
  • Lighting (if night cycling is planned)
  • Holder for sat nav or smartphone

Here, we made a clear decision in advance: if possible, we would stop at restaurants or supermarkets on the road, or eat in our accommodation in the evening. That saved us a huge amount of packing stress. However, we still packed a few energy bars and a few packs of outdoor instant food for emergencies, which proved to be very useful: when we arrived in Laide, all the stores had already closed and we were really glad that we could cook up some tasty noodles on our camping stove.

Must-Haves:

  •  Water in the drinks bottles
  • Bars, gel, or other snacks
  • (Pocket) knife
  • Spork (“spoon/fork”)

nice to have:

  • Pot
  • Gas stove
  • Camping dishes
  • Cups
  • Instant food or prepared food in Tupperware boxes

There are lots of different preferences here. Some swear by hammocks, some are happy to lie on the concrete of a bus stop in an emergency, while others plan from the outset to spend the nights in the comfort of hotels. Your own personal preferences will decide what needs to be packed and what doesn’t. Obviously, if you are going to be sleeping in a hotel, your sleeping bag is just dead weight. We wanted to be flexible and in a pinch simply pitch our tent somewhere that took our fancy. And even though we slept outside much less than we had planned, it was absolutely the right thing to do to take a tent and the like with us.

Must-Haves:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Hammock/camping mat (depending on your preference)
  • Change of clothes (for nights, T-shirt, underwear, pants, possibly a sweater or other warm clothing depending on the weather)
  • Warm jacket (alternatively: use your rain jacket)

nice to have:

  • Tarp/tent
  • Slippers/sandals
  • Earplugs
  • Extra socks

Hygiene is something else that means a different thing to different people when it comes to bikepacking. If you are sleeping outdoors in particular, it will be difficult to avoid a more “interesting” smell working its way into your layers of clothing after a few days. The incessant rain on the first few days of our NC500 tour gave us a very singular fragrance. It didn’t bother us—stinking a bit is all part and parcel of bikepacking, right? And you don’t need all that much for a basic level of hygiene...

Must-Haves:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Lip balm (in cold weather)
  • Sunscreen (if it’s sunny)
  • Tissues/toilet paper
  • Medications (e.g. allergy drugs)

nice to have:

  • Mosquito/insect spray
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand towel

In our opinion, less is definitely more here. After all, we’re riding outside in glorious nature—a bit of a digital detox is just what’s needed. Nevertheless, we had our smartphones and sat nav as well as power banks and all the necessary charging cables as this makes a journey much more pleasant and easier to plan.

Must-Haves:

  • Sat nav
  • Smartphone
  • Power bank
  • Cables for devices

nice to have:

  • Headlamp (very helpful when pitching a tent in the dark, for example)

“Miscellaneous” sounds a bit like “not so important.” However, some of the most important accessories that might make your life on the road much easier are listed under this heading. Chain lube, for example. There’s nothing worse than a squeaky, rattling drivetrain. An unoiled chain is not only annoying, it also actually costs you energy. If you’re traveling alone, a little bike lock can be a true blessing. For example, if you want to stop by the supermarket, you can lock up your bike outside and pick up your supplies without worrying. And speaking of grocery shopping: a small cloth bag is ideal for this. It takes up hardly any space, but it’s really handy for carrying your supplies from the supermarket to wherever it is you’re sleeping in the evening. And once you’ve done that, you can stuff a few pieces of clothing into the bag and it can serve as a pillow at night.

Must-Haves:

  • Thermal blanket/first aid blanket
  • Toolkit (tube, tire lever, pump, multitool)
  • Cloth bag/gym sack (e.g. for shopping, carrying, or as a pillow at night)
  • Cash
  • Most important cards (ID, medical card, rail card...)
  • Cable ties
  • Chain lube

nice to have:

  • (Mini) bike lock
  • Wallet with bank card(s)
  • Mini spare parts set (takes up little space, but can be important: spare derailleur hanger, chain split link, shift cable)

Text: Martin Donat

Photos: Martin Donat, Tim Winterburn

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