Jill Homer

Article Summary:

Here's a rundown of everything you'd ever want to bring on any length of a bicycle camping trip.

What to Take on a Long Distance Bicycle Tour

Bicycle touring is different in many ways to other modes of self-contained travel. Here's a rundown of everything you'd ever want to bring on any length of a bicycle camping trip:

  • Panniers: Two full-sized in back, two smaller in front, and one handlebar bag. Many recommend putting most of your weight in the front for stability, but I found it more comfortable to keep the bulk of the weight in back.

What to carry in front panniers:

  • Camping pillow: ( a necessity if you ask me - you can buy these at Wal-mart for $4 and scrunch them into the pocket of a jacket if needed.)
  • Sleeping bag: small synthetic bags rated to 15 or 20 degrees are most ideal. Look for bags that weigh 3 pounds or less.
  • Sleeping pad: Therm-a-rest makes a 3/4 length, 1/2 thick self-inflating pad that can also fit into a jacket pocket when rolled up.
  • Clothing: No matter how long your trip, keep it light. Also, keep in mind that even on a two week trip you're likely to encounter rain, wind, snow, sleet, dust and even ice. Here's what I found to be useful:
    • three nylon or lycra short sleeve tops
    • two pair padded lycra cycling shorts
    • one pair synthetic fabric long johns
    • one pair nylon zip-off pants that convert to shorts
    • four pair synthetic fabric socks
    • one polar fleece jacket
    • one water-proof parka with hood ( I used my winter coat shell)
    • one pair water-proof gloves (I brought ski gloves)
    • one pair bicycling gloves
    • face/ear warmer
    Some purists would even consider this meager amount of clothing to be excessive. On my trip I encountered weather that ranged from 27 degrees and snowing to 90 degrees and dry with 30 mph headwinds. I used every single thing on this list, and was thankful to have it.
  • Rain suit: I bought a yellow plastic jacket/pants combo at a sporting goods store for $10. Take that, Gortex.

In the handlebar bag:

  • Tools:
    • An Allen wrench
    • two spare tubes
    • spare rubber for patching tires
    • screwdriver
    • leatherman multi-tool
    • pocket knife
  • Energy bars: This is my cover-up term for Skittles and gummy bears.
  • Sunglasses
  • Pencil and paper, for quick notes
  • Sometimes money; however, I keep my wallet on my body at all times.
  • Weather radio. I also use a CD/radio headphone set. Use of headphones on the road is unsafe and I can't recommend it, but blasting Jimmy Eat World while climbing has pushed me over multiple hills. Just remember that you're taking a big risk - you can't hear traffic.

Stuff in the back panniers:

  • Water: Those that travel in the eastern United States often don't carry as much. I found myself carrying up to two and a half gallons in various water and gatorade bottles. I also strap a 100 oz. Camel Pack to my back, which would make purists cringe, but I'm willing to endure am occasional shoulder cramp for easy-to-access water. Plus, it leaves more room in my panniers for food.
  • Tent and tarp: Small backpacking tents are ideal. Remember that dome tents don't actually keep out any water. We used a L.L. Bean two-person tent. Weight = 6 pounds. The tarp is for covering bikes when it rains.
  • Camping stove: we used a primus single burner camp stove that utilizes those propane/butane disposable canisters. It's worth it to carry enough fuel for two weeks of travel - you never know where you're going to find more.
  • Aluminum backpacking pot: works as a pot, plate, bowl and cup.
  • Frying pan: we carried a full-size, 13 inch aluminum pan. Excessive, maybe, but wonderful to have for pancakes.
  • Collapsible fishing rod and lures: allows you to catch your own dinner, and nothing's better than fresh trout fried in a full-sized frying pan.
  • Sunscreen! I'm forced to use SPF 30, and easily go through a 4 oz. bottle in a week. Others are blessed with more sun tolerance than I am, but if not, it's probably to most important thing you'll carry next to water.
  • Bug spray: When it comes to keeping misquotes away, I'm not opposed to the most toxic thing on the market. Give me 100 % DEET over natural citrus rub any day.
  • Other toiletries:
    • toothpaste
    • toothbrush
    • camp soap - which works as shampoo, dish washing soap, hand washing soap, and laundry soup.
    If you ask me, these three things are all you'll need, though I admittedly carried excess stuff. My theory - if it makes you comfortable, bring it.
  • Two to four days worth of food: the things that travel best are
    • dried beans
    • rice
    • soft tortilla shells
    • pasta
    • cans of pasta sauce
    • carrots
    • onions
    • potatoes
    • apples
    • oranges
    • peppers
    • dried soup packets
    • chocolate
    • cheese(double wrapped)
    • pancake mix
    • oatmeal
    • bagels
    • mixed nuts
    • tuna fish.
    These are the basics, and there's always room for creativity.
  • Ziplock bags, all shapes and sizes. These act as waterproofing for stuff when it rains, garbage bags, and food storage bags.
  • Headlamp: I use this as a flashlight in camp, and as a double headlight on night rides.
  • And, of course, the optional stuff that makes a traveler complete
    • camera
    • notepad
    • sketch book
    • laptop computer
    • pencils
    • pens
    • magazines
    • novels

Never take what you don't need, but never leave behind what makes you happy.

Jill Homer is a graphic artist and freelance travel writer currently residing in Tooele, Utah. She specializes in outdoor adventure writing. For more information please visit www.biketoshine.com or contact jill@biketoshine.com.

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