This is an example for bicycle touring gear for 3-seasons. It is my equipment for the year 2016 and will accompany me through over a dozen countries. I hope this show & tell will offer some perspective, comparing your personal gear, traditional touring gear and this bikepacking setup.
– Apidura Handlebar roll, 20L
– Apidura Accessory bag, 4L
– Apidura Saddle bag, 17.5L
– Apidura Top Tube bag, 0.5L
– Apidura Bottle bag, 1L
– Montbell Versalite pack 20, 20L
As you can see I use no pannier bags, instead opt for frame bags. A relatively new system for bicycle touring, these lighter, smaller bags fit the gear closer to the frame, reducing drag and the need for a rack. That means they fit on any bike, regardless of attachment points you might or might not have.
The handlebar roll will carry my clothing and camping gear, the accessory bag my hygiene stuff and some smaller items I use often, the saddle bag most of the rest, the top tube bag the camera and snacks, the bottle bag a bottle and the backpack my laptop and a few lightweight items I use often.
To sort my gear inside my bags, I use a few extra containers. The two yellow ones are dry bags 20L and 10L, the white in the top left is a IKEA Dimpa bag, green is a mesh bag for my electronics, white bottom left for hygiene articles and the small black one will hold tools and spare parts.
– 20L Drybag will go into the saddle bag, making it fully waterproof.
– 10L Drybag will go into the handlebar roll, keeping my clothing waterproof.
– IKEA Dimpa bag is my bike bag. I travel with a folding bike, which fits into this bag. I can use it on trains, busses, airports, etc.
– Green mesh bag hold electronics and goes into the saddle bag.
– White hygiene bag goes into the accessory bag up front.
– Black tool/spare parts bag goes into the saddle bag, at the very bottom, because it’s heavy.
This is all the clothing I’ll take for a year. Shoes, flipflops, 3 sets of socks, underwear, tops and trousers, windbreaker, rain gear, down insulation, cap, gloves, buff. That’s it.
– Bike gloves
These things go into the easily reachable accessory bag up front. Gloves against abrasions and vibration (aka more comfort), the cap against the sun and the merino wool buff acts as scarf, sun protection, towel and more.
– Bike jersey
– Bike shorts
Good bike shorts are super important for a comfortable ride, since they cushion your butt. The jersey is more a psychological addition: It’s like putting on a uniform, clearly marking yourself as cyclist. It also allows better venting than normal shirts due to it’s full length zipper, and the three back pockets can carry enough gear for a day trip.
Downside is the slightly heavier weight than a normal shirt and the fact that the seams on the back pockets might rub on your skin when you wear a backpack for too long.
Clothing (civilian non-bike)
– Short-sleeve shirt
– Long-sleeve shirt
Lightweight, quick-dry clothing, one set long, one set short. Both pants have integrated belts and zippers on the pockets, both extremely useful for long tours. I always fluctuate in weight when doing big bike trips (belt) and carry my money or camera in my trouser pockets when walking around (zipper).
– 3 pairs of underwear
One wool, one synthetic, one are officially swimming shorts. Important is just that they are comfortable and do not have the same model/seams. You sit on them every day, so it pays to take different types to avoid chafing.
– 3 pairs of socks
2 pairs are short cycling socks, mostly chosen for their smaller size and weight, the third pair are gore-tex socks filled with merino wool lining. These are water and windproof and keep your feet warm a lot better. Since I’m using light, relatively open shoes that don’t offer much protection against wind, these socks are my main source of insulation.
It’s much smaller, lighter and cheaper to alter your insulation and warmth that way, instead of taking a light and a heavy pair of shoes.
– Bike shoes
– flip flops / thongs.
One pair of light SPD cycling shoes (haha, light, yeah, 975gr for the pair) and simple flip flops. The bike shoes have a vibram sole, which is the main reason for their high weight. They double as hiking shoes.
Clothing (rain gear)
– Rain jacket
– Rain pants
Both are waterproof and breathable, as far as this is possible. 2.5 layered gore-tex like material, both come with a small pack sack. I keep them apart from my regular clothing, which is stored in a drybag. That way I can get to them more quickly in case of rain. Since both are also windproof, they are my first pick as outer layer when it gets cold.
– down anorak
I only carry one piece of cold-weather gear, this 180gr down anorak. It’s easily warm enough for temperatures around freezing and has a hood, which means I don’t need to pack a hat. It also improves the rating of my sleeping system when worn in the sleeping bag a lot.
I don’t expect to use it often on the bike tour itself, but it allows me to access higher altitude in mountain ranges, for example when hiking or mountaineering. Without it, I’d have to pass these up.
Very thin, light and breathable, this small wind breaker is kinda overkill considering that I already carry a proper rain jacket, but it’s much less warm. I’ll have it more readily available and will use it when temperatures shift in early morning or late evenings.
This is how I’ll transport everything. Civilian clothing in the drybag, flipflops, buff, wind breaker and rain gear next to it, but more easily available, and the bottom left clothing is worn on the body when I ride the bike.
All in all it’s 1.5kg worn on the body, 2kg carried in the bags.
Spare parts and tools
8 brake pads
2 tire levers
1 allen key (large, for pedals)
1 spoke key
4 spare screws
12 tire patches
2 vulcanizing fluid tubes
1 leatherman style ps (plyers, scissors, file)
1 topeak rocket ratchet (ratchet, allen key bits, chain remover)
12 zip ties (small and large)
1 black bag to hold it all
Everything fits in here, 720gr / 25oz in total.
In addition to these I also carry spare spokes, which will be taped to the frame.
I’m the first to admit that I might have exaggerated here a bit. 4.6kg / 162oz. Most of it due to luxury articles, not necessary gear.
1 green mesh bag (carry everything but the laptop)
1 white plastic bag (waterproofing the laptop)
1 laptop bag (protection against dust, vibrations, etc)
1 laptop, a MSI GS60 Ghost + cables
1 gaming mouse
1 ebook reader + cable
1 in-ear headphones
1 adapter for indian-style plugs
1 multi plug adapter (turns one power outlet into two)
1 audio multi plug (allows to use two sets of headphones on one audio outlet, good for 2 people watching a movie, sharing music etc)
1 head torch
1 red rear light
1 external 2TB hdd
Spare sd cards, regular size and micro sd
Spare batteries, 4x AA
Spare in-ear covers
Now this section is a little controversial, because most of the weight is the gaming setup. Since I will write, program and play games, I invested heavily into the hardware and I’m willing to pay the price of the high weight.
All the other items are small and lightweight, this is my one splurge. 😉
Green bag goes into the saddle bag, the white trash bag holds the laptop in it’s protective case, which goes into the backpack. It’s the only thing I carry in my backpack, I want to save the laptop from vibrations and have it in sight.
Personal hygiene stuff
Not much to say here…
– tooth brush
– tooth paste
– insect repellent
– sun lotion
– shower shampoo
– razor + blades
– nail clipper
– pill bottle with aspiring, paracetamol and antibiotics
– Pack of Q-tips
– Bag to hold it all
Pretty heavy with 500gr / 17.6oz, but that’s mostly due to liquids like shampoo, tooth paste, sun screen and insect repellent. If you go on a short tour, it makes sense to use smaller packages, either the trail packages you get in shops or DIY, but for long tours this sadly does not work. You’d only run out quicker and have to buy a full-sized version at the next shop anyway.
Additional hygiene articles
– Quickdry sports towel
– Toilet paper
First Aid Kit
A very basic kit for emergencies. It’s not a cure-all extreme-edition travel apothecary, it’s just to patch you up in case of a crash.
10 strips of band-aids
2 blister band-aids
2 flat bandages
1 pair of latex gloves
1 pair of tweezers
1 safety pin
1 bottle of disinfectant
1 plastic bag to hold it all
130gr / 4.5oz.
It’s stored in my titanium mug, that way it doesn’t take up any extra space and it protected from anything that could puncture of rub open any of the antiseptically packed seals.
– down sleeping bag
– inflatable mattress
– titanium mug, 600ml
– titanium spoon
– titanium butter knife
There is some space for improvement here, especially when it comes to weight. A tarp, quilt and foam mattress would probably safe up to 500gr / 17.5 oz, but I do like the water/windproofness of a double walled tent, in addition to it’s full mosquito net.
The mug I carry mostly for hostels or to eat muesli from, but I could potentially build a alcohol stove and use it as pot to make tea, coffee, ramen, soup, etc. Spoon and knife are to eat yogurt etc from supermarkets and make sandwiches. 😉
I’m not a great cook, so I rely on restaurants about once per day for a warm meal. That not only allows me a stop in a usually shaded spot with access to food, water and electricity, but also allows me to support local businesses and get to know the local cuisine a lot better than if I were cooking pasta bought in the next market.
You’ll always end up with odds and ends here and there. These items are mostly carried in the smaller pockets of my backpack.
– sun glasses
– case for glasses
– passport, vaccination booklet, credit card
– 2 pens
– chess board
A note on the two novelty items, the chess board and umbrella: Chess is a game that is known everywhere and it’s very easy to find players, either other travellers or locals. The best part is that the rules are the same world-wide and you do not even need to speak a common language. It’s also a welcome brain teaser, once you find a good opponent.
The humble umbrella is the most breathable rain gear in existence. I know that it makes little sense to carry it, because A I already have a rain jacket and pants and B I’m on a bicycle, but I will also spend the rain season in India as a backpacker, living in the southern area for a bit.
Since it’s very warm and humid, and monsoon season means that it rains every day, a couple of times for a short while but with enormous force, a rain jacket is an ill fit. It’s too stuffy, not breathable enough and does not protect against heavy rain. That’s where the umbrella comes into play.
It does add 165gr / 5.8oz though.
Gear that goes on the frame/bike
A few left-over articles that are not stored in the bags themselves.
2 750ml bottles
1 bike lock
1 bike pump
1 lightweight saddle
2 bottle cages
1 gps holder
1 reflective band (protects right lower trouser leg from your chain)
1 pump holder
Most of these items are pretty straightforward. I picked a combination lock because it’s impossible to lose the key, got some lightweight carbon bottle cages, a titanium/carbon saddle, and a simple cateye speedometer. I only use it for current speed and daily distance.
The straps I use on the sleeping bag and down anorak as compression straps, but they are multi-purpose and I can use them to strap anything to the frame or bags I own. I can even build a harness to carry my bike bags on my shoulders with them.
Everything packed up:
To the left: Worn clothing, shoes.
Center, top: Handlebar roll with camping gear and clothing.
Center, middle left: Backpack with laptop and small items. Main compartment is empty, about 15L left for food.
Center, middle right: Accessory bag with hygiene articles and documents, Top tube bag with camera and space for snacks.
Center, bottom: Bottles, 2x 750ml.
Right, top: Saddle bag with electronics, tools and spare parts, first aid kit, sleeping bag and down anorak.
Right, center: Bottle bag for 1L bottle, GPS and speedometer.
Right, bottom: Lock with frame attachment.
~3kg / 105oz in the backpack, which I’ll wear while cycling.
~1.5kg / 52oz clothing worn on the body, most of it is the shoes.
~4kg / 141oz on the handle bar.
~4kg / 141oz in the saddle bag.
~1.5kg / 52oz on the frame.
For comparison, everything unpacked. All the gear I will be taking into Asia for the year 2016.