Getting ready for your first bike packing trip? You’re probably making lists of things you need to pack. The list keeps getting longer and longer as you start to identify potential road problems you might have on the road or trail, situations you may find yourself in or the comfort level you hope to have on the trip.
Make your lists. Put everything on a sheet or a tarp in a pile and lift it up. Do you really want to carry all that? Do you want to pedal up a hill, all day with that on your back or in your packs? The number one piece of advice I can give a first time bikepacker is to reduce weight! The second piece of advice would be to carry items that can help keep you flexible on the road.
I have some suggestions that may help you. Here is a short list of things that you will need, and maybe not need. Not included are the obvious like your bike and a tent. These are the not-so-obvious items that are worth the weight, and the luxury items that you may not end up needing.
WORTH THE WEIGHT
Tarp: A heavy duty tarp and a lightweight tarp will make all the difference. A small lightweight one inside your tent during the rain will keep you dry even if your tent gets soaked. A second tarp can be used to cover gear at night to keep it safe, to be strung up for shade when none is available, to cover your gear and packs while riding in the rain or to put on the ground in sandy areas to help prevent sand and red ants from getting into your space.
Rubber bands & Bungee cords: Condense your gear as much as possible when riding by using rubber bands or bungee cords. A smaller footprint will create less drag, and help you move faster down the path.
Mini-clips: (S-Clips) They just come in handy for hanging a light, your laundry or connecting something to your pack. Find lightweight ones at your local hardware store.
Flip-flops: Worth the space. Let your feet breath after a long day, and use when you come across that campsite shower to prevent fungus!
Electrical & Ducktape: Emergency repairs on your tent, tarp, bike cables, packs etc. You don’t need to print the whole role. Use an X-acto Knife to cut deep into the roll and then pull of a chunk of pre-cut strips. Fold in half. You’ll save on weight and space.
Small locker lock: To use for storage boxes in campgrounds or even on your packs to prevent theft. Zip-ties work in a pinch to prevent opportunity based theft.
Gum: Chewing gum helps keep your mouth from drying out, and a piece of Trident Mint will keep it’s flavor for almost exactly an hour.
NOT WORTH THE WEIGHT
Extra underwear: Extra clothes, in general. Bring clothing that will be versatile, breathable and quick drying. Do you really want to carry that extra pair of jeans all the way just in case you go out to dinner?
Heavy tools*: Pack light with multi-tool and extra tubes, but do some research before you go before packing everything you might need to build a bike. For example, Portland International has a bike building station at baggage claim with all the tools you need. There may be enough bike shops along your route if you encounter major repairs, and in some states REI has set up storage boxes with charging stations & bike tool stands in the hiker/biker sections of campgrounds.
In conclusion, bring the essentials. Make sure there is a true need for each piece you pack, and when possible, make sure each piece can serve multiple functions. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the side of the road inspecting the brakes for rubbing, and the derailleur for damage before realizing the reason you’re not moving that fast because the bike is weighted down like a barge on the Mississippi.