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Bike Touring Pack List

I got in touch with Robert from theslowlane.com because I wanted to see his packing list. After checking out the mileage this guy has racked up, I knew he'd have a great answer to the question "what to pack for a long bike tour?"

Below is his list (sent to me via email, Copyright Robert)

Packing for a bike ride is different from camping or backpacking because there are usually stores, bike shops and places to eat along the way (depending on where you're going!).


  • Helmet
  • Sunscreen
  • Light sleeping bag
  • Small tent
  • Sleeping pad, ridgerest and/or self-inflating sleeping pad. Usually I bring both. (Ridgerest is light and other pad offers more thickness.)
  • A lot of socks. Maybe 7 pairs or so.
  • Underwear [ed: how many pairs?]
  • 2 changes of shirts and pants. I like long-sleeve to protect against sunburn. This means less surface area to put sunblock on.
  • Warm jacket or sweater
  • Wind breaker for riding in cool mornings and/or a light rain coat and/or something bright like a reflective vest to be seen by traffic. [ed: one article of clothing can fulfill all 3 requirements]
  • I put many clothing items in a cloth sack and then that doubles as a pillow at night.
  • For water proofing, I have some garbage bags to put things in and then put the covered items in panniers. Most days are dry so the garbage bags aren't needed. They can be folded up into a small space.


  • 1 or 2 spare tire tubes
  • Small patch kit for redundancy and for fixing a gash in the outer tire, if I get one on rare occasion.
  • Tire irons
  • Pump
  • All-in-one type tool often found in bike shops. It usually has several allen wrenches and two screw drivers, regular and phillips head.
  • Pocket knife.
  • (optional) Spoke wrench and small crescent wrench.

Other items:

  • Toothbrush/floss/bandaids
  • Camera
  • Radio. I listen through speakers rather than headphones. Also good for use during camping. I love listening to different stations as I travel through the areas.
  • I even have a big AM antenna booster called the Select-A-Tenna. Boosts fringe AM signals and isn't too heavy. Most folks would feel it was unnecessary.
  • Last few trips, I brought an MP3 player with energetic music for hill climbs. I only use one ear piece. Not both, so my traffic-side ear can hear traffic. I don't turn it up too loud. Sometimes I cut off second ear piece, or just use something to hold it to cord so it doesn't flop around.
  • Prepaid cell phone that I buy minutes for just before trip. I don't normally use a cell phone, but it is great on the trip.
  • Sheet of paper with contacts, addresses and so forth for people you wish to be in contact with.
  • Bank card. Also I bring a checkbook. Some campgrounds want exact change and there is no one around to make change and no park ranger handy. Just a self-pay box. Then I write a check if I don't have exact change. Most campgrounds take checks.
  • Some folks bring a laptop computer for taking advantage of Wi-Fi connections to check email.
  • Red rear blinker in case you ride at night.

Other tips:

  • Stop at laundromats to do laundry along the way.
  • Put Green Slime tube sealer in the tire tubes. [ed: I've read mixed reviews about products like these]
  • Tools can be heavy and there are often bike shops along the way. The big crescent wrench needed to remove peddles before putting your bike in a box (e.g. to take it on a train) is available in most bike shops.
  • Your LED bicycle light can be removed from the handlebars and doubles as flashlight.
  • Buy snack food such as apples and cartons of chocolate milk along the way.
  • Don't cook or bring much food. I eat in a lot of restaurants along the way. [ed: this would save on weight but at an added expense...on the other hand, it might be worth the cost to taste the local flavors along the way]
  • If you don't bring a laptop, one can find computer access in many public libraries. Libraries in small towns can keep limited hours.
  • Get maps along the way.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
Whaaaat - where are you going??? I've always wanted to do a bike trip... I think it would be the best way to see a place. Motorbike = second best. If you can smell the air while you're traveling, you're 10 steps ahead of most people.

Check this site - it's awesome: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/

It's like LJ for long distance bikers.

My reaction to his list:
Underwear and socks determine how long you can go without doing laundry. I bring almost everything I have (fewer socks in warm countries, of course).
Layering = good. If I'm going to be traveling a lot (as in, carrying my backpack from one place to another), I make sure to have one set of clothes kept aside that's clean and comfortable that I only put on after I've reestablished and showered. I imagine this would be really important for biking. This is another trick that can keep you from having to do laundry too often.
When I was on a motorbike I always saw the traffic before I heard it (even when it was approaching next to me from behind) so the headphones wouldn't have made a difference except for sirens. In fact, we wore headphones for part of it and we were just fine. This would be different for a bicyclist, I'm sure.
I keep earplugs & flashlight handy, and I always know where my journal and passport are as well.
I've read on that site above that the panniers' water tightness are really important so I was surprised to read that he only covers them with garbage bags. I'd think the panniers are the things you'd splurge on and buy top of the line...
Mar. 10th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
Just doing STP for now, and they have support cars to carry your stuff for you. But I'm just doing some research about a longer trip for maybe some time in the future.
Mar. 10th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
Your clothing demands will depend on your attire. The first time I went long-distance touring I brought multiple pairs of underwear, and never ended up wearing any. I wear lycra shorts with a chamois to ride (protects the lil' fellas), so underwear was unnecessary until I finished the day's ride. Even then, I found that I was sweaty and yuck enough that I wasn't that stoked to be putting any undies back on. Same with "street-wear" pants and shirts; I just never used 'em. A warm change of clothes to put on after dark while lounging around the campsite or to wear out to breakfast was crucial, of course.

For summer touring, I didn't even bring a tent, just two blue tarps. Usually I just sleep on top of a tarp, but if bad weather was forcast I made an A-Frame shelter using my bike as the tall part, and scrounged sticks for stakes. Sleeping bags & pads = good, obviously. A bivy sack might be the ideal.

As far as "entertainment", I don't like riding to music (it's loud enough with the wind blowing in my helmet) so I didn't waste the space/weight on electronics. My cell phone provided all the internetting I needed, and it was fairly easy to steal an hour of juice to keep it charged along the way.

Socks and tubes you should over-pack for. Trying to find a 700c innertube in the middle of rural Oregon is not fun.
As far as tools, I bring a spoke wrench (and spare spokes!), a big bag of zip-ties, duct tape, an extra length of shifter and brake cable, an extra tire, tire changing stuff, a bike-specific multi-tool and a good sharp knife.

Unless you require going super-nerd stlye, you need significantly less stuff when bike touring than you'd think.

Edited at 2008-03-10 11:28 pm (UTC)
Mar. 11th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Great tips! I agree with tools over clothes
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:17 am (UTC)
BTW, tell me more about this chamois. How do you pronounce that word, like "sham-wa" or like "shammy"? Do you also use that creme?

Also, where'd you ride to? Tell me more!
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)
it's pronounced "shammy", and it's the shit. It is a synthetic pad that is stitched onto the inside of the lycra shorts sold virtually everywhere. The shorts are key to long-mileage trips/weeks/lives, as they provide just that little bit of extra cushion on your ass & junk on the bumps and lumps of the road.

I've gone to Astoria, Oregon, out to Ocean Shores, over to Spokane, up to Bellingham, Whidbey Island a couple times, and lots of day-long trips locally around the Puget Sound and Snohomish County
. I've never had enough paid time off or savings to take off for more than a long weekend sandwiched around a holiday. In the next few years, I want to go all the way down the coast, around Vancouver Island, Central Oregon and up into Canada. Maybe one big trip a year if the ish doesn't hit the fan.
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
oh, and I've never used the creme. I have had to use other types of ointments for unmentionably gross (and painful!) ingrown ass-hairs, but the butt-butter has never really appealed to me.
Aug. 16th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
USE THE GROSS CREAM! That's my opinion, at least for the first couple days. I rode across Oregon and, even though I had prepared and wore the chamois, I was pretty raw after just the first day. You can get "individual serving" size packets and four or so should do it, after you ride all day for a couple of days just the bike shorts will be fine.
Another tip is not to plan to cook a lot of food, eating out is a good suggestion, plus you don't know how tired you will be. I can tell you that you will not want to cook after a 10 hour day into 30mph headwinds. Langston is right about not needing much, I carried 45 lbs of crap and needed very little of that, except for clothes... I was very cold when off the bike because i had no jacket or sleeping bag.
anyway, good luck and have fun!
Mar. 24th, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
thanks much
Amazing post.., brother
Mar. 24th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks much
No prob...the real thanks should go to www.theslowlane.com, check out that site for lots more info on bike touring.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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