A Basic List of Things to Take on a Bicycle Tour

By John Roberson

John Roberson’s List of Stuff to Bring on a Bicycle Tour

After many, many years of bicycle touring, I’ve come up with my own basic list of gear that I use when I prepare for a trip. My list has five basic categories: camping gear, clothing, food, tools and personal items. Please know that I’ve never taken everything on the list, but most of what’s there goes with me on every tour.

Like a lot of folks here in Utah, I should begin by saying that I really like to ride my bicycle. I enjoy using my bicycle to get around, and I ride for lots of different reasons. I ride a bike to and from work, and when I’m doing my around-town chores. I like that it’s easy on both the atmosphere and my wallet, and that it helps keep me healthy and fit. It’s nearly always a lot of fun, too!

Cyclists everywhere realize that a bike allows them to move around at an efficient pace while simultaneously giving all their senses a wonderfully direct connection to the environments they experience as they ride. By riding our bicycles we can literally smell the flowers as we ride.

Bike touring tent Utah West Desert
Under the tarp tent on a misty, Utah desert morning.

As any savvy traveler knows, it’s usually a good idea to be well prepared before heading out on a trip. Bicycle tourists know this, too, and we know that some circumstances require a higher level of preparedness than others. For example, an extended, self-supported mid-winter tour of the Colorado Plateau would seem to call for more thorough planning than a short, credit-card-oriented summer cruise through Utah’s northern valleys. There’s a lot to think about when planning a trip, but sensible touring bicyclists always consider the weather and temperature, the season and terrain, the company they will be keeping and the availability of resources along the way. I have found that being well-prepared minimizes unnecessary stresses and allows me greater freedom to relax and enjoy the journey.

Many bicycle tourists start the trip planning process with some kind of a list. If they have experience touring they probably have a list of their own. But if not, bike trip equipment lists can be found in abundance on the Internet and in some of the excellent guides to the state that are available. (I strongly recommend Dennis Coello’s 1984 classic BICYCLE TOURING IN UTAH.) No two lists are exactly alike, but they all have a great many things in common.

Bike Touring Gear
A picture of the things my bicycle carries for me.

After many, many years of bicycle touring, I’ve come up with my own basic list of gear that I use when I prepare for a trip. My list has five basic categories: camping gear, clothing, food, tools and personal items. Please know that I’ve never taken everything on the list, but most of what’s there goes with me on every tour. It all depends on the time of year, the length of the tour, the riding conditions or whether I’m riding alone or with friends. Everything I take fits into front and rear panniers or rides on top of the front and rear racks. Other than the clothing I wear, I carry nothing on my person. My total load (bike and gear) generally weighs between 70 and 90 pounds when I first start out.

I print up a fresh copy when I begin planning each trip and add notes to it as I go. It isn’t perfect, by any means, and I usually make some slight change to it after every tour, but overall, it really works quite well for me. The list below has a few notes attached for the reader’s benefit and is missing a few of the more personal items on my own list. Otherwise, it’s good to go. Enjoy!

Camping Gear

shelter: a tarp tent or small tent with fly

ground cloth

sleeping bag and a waterproof bivy sack

pads: a full-length, closed-cell pad and a tiny, self-inflating Thermarest pad

water bottles: 3 on the bike frame and 2 to 4, 1-liter bottles in my panniers

water filter

small thermos (especially nice in hot weather!)

stove, fuel canister(s) and lighter

small kettle

small, sealable Tupperware bowl and lid

insulated drinking cup and spoon

pocket knife

dish soap and sponge

dish towel

lots of spare Ziplock-type bags of varying sizes

candle or night light (for camp zone ambiance!)

headlamp (task lighting)

a simple GPS for marking camp sites (and relocating old ones!)

Clothing

rain cape (or rain jacket)

cap with a brim

cool-weather cap and gloves

comfortable shoes, flip flops

spare socks and undies

handkerchiefs/bandanas

baggy cotton shorts with lots of pockets

padded riding liners

shirts: cotton, wool; short and long sleeved

riding “tights”, long johns

wool vest and sweater

neck gaiter

cycling gloves

snow gaiters

down or synthetic-fill jacket

windbreaker

high-visibility safety vest

Personal Items

sunscreen & bug dope

small camera, batteries, tripod, lens paper

monocular, hand lens

radio or MP3 player & tiny speaker (for campsite use only!)

phone

spare batteries

medicines/supplements/first aid

toothpaste & brush; TP; personal hygiene items

money, credit card, ID

pencil & notebook

maps & see-thru case, highlighter, waterproof pen

addresses, stamps, postcards

sunglasses, wristwatch

small book

Food

java, filters, tea bags

instant oatmeal, dried fruit & nuts

bulk soups

freeze-dried meals (I love the MaryJane’s brand!)

energy bars, chocolate, apples

olive oil, dried salami, hard cheese

“trail” mixes: fruit, nuts, rice crackers

spices: salt & pepper, herb mix, Spike

crackers, bagels

tinned or packaged fish: sardines, tuna, herring

whiskey!

powdered drink mixes

trash bags

Tools

spare tubes, spare cables, patch kit, tire levers

reliable air pump and CO2 cartridges

light-weight cable lock

chain tool

basic wrenches & hex keys

a few cable ties

small Vicegrips

chain lube & rags, latex gloves

duct tape, wire, spare bolts and washers

bungee cords

flashers (front & rear)

short length of line

seat cover

panniers (front and rear)

small stuff sack

Bike gear utah west desert
An open camp in the west desert of Utah.
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