The Ultimate Bikepacking Gear List
If you’re a complete beginner or even a seasoned vet, you’ll always benefit from having an ultimate bikepacking gear list. Having a master bikepacking gear list on hand that you can reference at any time will help you with getting those last-minute weekend trips sorted or even 4 month round the world adventures.
Keep a printed copy of this bikepacking gear list stuffed into one of your bikepacking bags or save it as a bookmark on your phone so that you can reference it quickly.
Organizing your gear into like items can be a great way to remember to pack what you need:
- Bike gear: Bike, helmet, bags, front and rear lights, bike lock
- Shelter: Tent, tarp, bivy or hammock.
- Sleep system: Sleeping bag or quilt and pad, pillow. Guy lines, stakes, and ground sheet.
- Cooking: Stove, fuel, lighter, mug, pot, and spork.
- Water: Water filter, purification tablets and a water reservoir or bottles.
- Clothing: Clothes for riding; padded cycling shorts, jerseys or t-shirts, socks, rain pants and jacket, arm and leg warmers, buff, or bandana, cycling gloves. Clothes for sleeping, wool layers, such as underwear, long sleeve shirt, loose fitting pants, a warm hat, and a puffy coat.
- Navigation: GPS and/or smartphone. A printed map in case either of these fails is never a bad idea.
- Hygiene/toiletries: Sunscreen, lip blam, toothpaste, toothbrush, hand sanitizer, biodegradable soap, baby wipes, prescription meds, chamois cream, and toilet paper.
- Bike repair tools: Spare tubes, patch kit, pump, tire levers, small bottle of tubeless sealant, spare chain link and chain tool, chain lube, spokes, spoke wrench, duct tape, zip ties, multi-tool, knife, and a small cleaning rag.
- First-aid supplies: Bandages, antibiotic cream, alcohol wipes, pain pills, Benadryl, emergency blanket, gloves, blister pads, and tweezers
- Miscellaneous: Food, headlamp, extra batteries, or battery cache, sunglasses, camera, Spot tracker, permits, zip-lock bags, ID and credit cards
Yeah, this is probably the most obvious piece of equipment you’ll need but what’s not so obvious is what kind of bike you should use. What’s the best bike for bikepacking? This is probably the most asked question those who are new and it’s understandable because there are so many options.
You may be able to get by with the one you already have just by simply strapping a few dry bags with your gear to your bike and heading out on a trip to your local campground.
If you find yourself wanting to seek out bigger and harder rides after some experience, at that point consider upgrading. I could continue on and on about what bike would be best, but I’ll leave that for another post. If you’re on a budget take a look at this blog post on the Best Bikepacking Bikes Under $1000.
It’s a wise decision to ride with a helmet and most would agree however there are a few that feel that while they are in the backcountry they don’t need to be worn. I feel it’s all situational. I have ridden deep in the forests without one, but that was on a relatively smooth dirt road with no traffic to speak of. However, if I were on rougher terrain or even single track, I would wear one. Just be safe out there people.
The bread and butter of a bikepacking gear list. These are the bags that set bikepacking apart from bike touring set ups. There are gravel/bikepacking specific pannier from companies like Ortlieb, Porcelain Rocket, and many others. They are well built and meant to take the abuse that your typical bike touring panniers wouldn’t handle very well. The point is to find a set up that works best for your needs and have fun.
Here are the staples to most any bikepacking gear list.
- Frame Bag – Generally triangular to fit nicely into the main triangle of the frame. This is usually the first pack most people buy for their setups and you can check out my list of the top 10 budget friendly frame bags here. The frame bag is the ideal location to store your heavier items such as tools, food, water, cooking gear, and the like. Packing your heaviest gear in the frame bag helps keep the center of gravity lower on the bike which in turn makes the bike easier to handle.
- Saddle Bag – This is the monstrosity of a bag that hangs out from under the seat of the bike. They come in several different sizes depending on your needs, I’ve seen some able to store up to 17L! The lighter ones are generally a one-piece design that stays strapped to the seat post and saddle. There are a few that incorporate a two-piece design that allows for a separate dry bag to be inserted into a holster that is fixed to your seat rails. I suggest going with the ladder as they are easier to pack and unpack.
- Handlebar bag – Just as the name suggests, this is a log shaped roll that attaches to the front of your handlebars. Invest in one that isn’t going to move around too much, this will greatly affect the handling and steering of your bike. You don’t want to end a day feeling you just got bucked off a bull. Just be sure it will fit between the hoods of your levers if you’re running drop bars
- Top tube bag – The top tube bag sits directly behind the stem and on top of, you guessed it, the top tube. They are fairly small and perfect for storing anything you want to have quick access to throughout the day. Things like snacks, wallet, phone, sunglasses, etc. Dirt Bags makes one called the Burrito Hauler and mine has lasted me two years, top notch quality materials.
- Stem bag – I like to refer to these as grub bags. They are essentially large cup holders that fit on either side of the stem. I utilize two of them on my bike, one for my water bottle and the other for bear spray or my GoPro, just depends on the environment I’m riding thru. Checkout Dirt Bags again for these.
Take a look at my blog post on the Best Inexpensive Bikepacking Bags for some budget friendly options.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be riding in the dark its best to be prepared with a taillight and head light. I have been caught out later than I thought I would be a few times and having the lights made me feel a lot safer.
A lock isn’t something that everyone is going to have on thier bikepacking gear list, it’s meant for those that plan to be out for weeks or even months. You don’t need a heavy duty one. A simple lightweight one will do the trick while you quickly run into a store to reload on food, don’t forget the gummy bears.
Roll with the tent you already have. Much like using the bike you already have, once you get out a few times for shorter trips you’ll learn about what you like and dislike about your current setup and will be able to make more informed purchases later. A quality tent will be one of your bigger purchases, so you want to be able to get the right one the first time. Be sure to get one that is fully waterproof, waking up by water dripping onto you might make you feel like you’re in Guantanamo Bay. Check out this post for the top budget friendly bikepacking tents.
These are for the true minimalists. Pack up a lightweight tarp with some guy lines and your good to go. They are simple and quick to setup, but they do have a few drawbacks as well. Just using a tarp means you are more exposed to the elements, including all the ground critters.
A bivy sack is a ridiculously small personal waterproof shelter. They were originally designed and used by mountain climbers on multi-day expeditions. They are usually extremely lightweight compared to a full-sized tent. The basic reason for using a bivy is to add a thin waterproof layer over your sleeping bag while you sleep.
Hammocks are amazingly comfortable. In its most basic form is a large piece of fabric hung by two straps on either side hung between two trees. They are great to have around and an awesome option for warmer summer nights.
Much of the same gear that backpackers use can also be used for bikepacking and your sleep system is going to be just that, taken from the backpacking community. Full mummy sleeping bags are great if you plan to be riding in colder climates vs using a sleeping quilt. You primarily have two options here with down or synthetic filling to keep you warm at night. We’ll get into down vs synthetic in a later post because that’s a whole other topic that needs to be discussed in great detail.
Sleeping quilts are pretty much the same as sleeping bags go except for the fact that quilts are more like blankets. They provide adequate insulation for warmer climates while allowing them to be a little lighter than a traditional sleeping bag. By ditching the zipper along with the material you normally sleep on you lose a few grams, the material you sleep on when in a sleeping bag does nothing for keeping you warm so cutting that extra weight is always a good idea.
Good sleeping pads will be able to pack down to about the size of a water bottle and still be able to keep you off the ground when inflated. The Big Agnes AXL is an excellent option that I take on all my adventures.
Yeah, some people in fact take pillows, I just use my jacket with some clothes wrapped up inside of it but inflatable pillows such as the Klymit are also good options.
Used on some tents, bivys, and tarp shelters, if your sleep system requires them be sure not to forget them.
There are a few freestanding tents out there like the Nemo Dragonfly that don’t need tent stakes to be set up, but it would be wise to take a few in case of high winds. I once had mine go floating off into the distance in an unexpected gust. Had to use a few sticks and rocks to keep it down that night and ever since then I always pack the minimum needed to keep it nice and planted.
Used to help protect and extend the life of the floor of your tent and I highly recommend them. Some tents include a ground sheet but if yours doesn’t consider making your own from Tyvek. It’s much cheaper than buying one specifically made for your tent, and often times is of better quality.
There are several different types of stoves available on the market today – canister, liquid fuel, solid fuel, alcohol, and wood stoves are among the most common. These stoves have gotten lighter, smaller, and more efficient over the years, so you’ll spend less time cooking and keep your pack weight down. The hardest part is choosing one that works best for you, I recommend the MSR Pocket Rocket. If you’re on a budget the BRS 3000T is a great option.
Pot – Mug – Lighter - Spork
Pretty self-explanatory, one thing I will suggest however is to utilize titanium over other materials. It’s lighter and can withstand a lot more abuse.
Options for carrying water are a bit limited when you have your bike packed up with a full kit of bikepacking bags. I like to carry 2 64oz Klean Kanteens on either side of my fork as well as a 1-liter bottle at the ready that I keep in one of my stem bags. Setups will vary from person to person since each of our demands is different. Some opt to have a CamelBak or other water bladder that they keep stuffed inside the frame bag. Depending on the environment you’ll be in a water filter such as the Sawyer Mini or a SteriPen might be a good addition to your bikepacking gear list. Also be sure to carry a few iodine tabs in case they fail.
Another area where there are as many opinions about what to take as there are about what tires you should be running, but an essential to anyones bikepacking gear list. Again, it all comes down to personal preference and your environment. You’ll see a huge difference in what others on two wheels are wearing, some go for a full bore on a complete cycling kit while others opt for hiking shorts and a t-shirt. Wear what you are most comfortable with, personally I leave the cycling kits for the racers and stick to my Columbia hiking shorts and cheap t-shirts. But whatever you do, stay away from jeans. Only Jerry rides and skis in jeans.
A bikepacking trip should be a balance of comfort, weight, and flexibility. Thinking in terms of layers keeps your options for warmth open. To do that include the following in your bikepacking gear list, base layer, wool warmer layer, rain layer, and a compressible puffy jacket.
The following is a list of the clothing I took on my Great Divide ride summer of 2019.
Underwear (3 pairs) – I thought taking 3 would mean having 1 too many but this was just the right amount. Having 1 pair reserved strictly for sleeping in is a wonderful feeling after being on the bike all day. Having 3 also usually means you’ll have a clean set to wear while you’re doing laundry. Running out of clean clothes when this happens is no fun. Also avoid cotton, I go for wool like the ones here from Icebreakers.
Socks (3 pairs) – Now I put 3 pairs here on the list for you to reference because I am in fact a left leg amputee and only need to bring half that hahaha!! Again here I suggest wool over cotton as it doesn’t absorb moisture and stays relatively odor free. You also want a pair strictly for sleeping in and keep your cycling socks separate.
Gloves (2 pairs) – You’ll want to have one pair of cycling gloves as well as a pair of full finger gloves that you can wear on those cold mountain descents in the middle of June, it happens. The full finger gloves are also nice to have if you find yourself camping in some cold temperatures.
Shirt (x3) – This is largely dependent on how long you plan on being out for but again I recommend Merino wool or a synthetic that dries quickly.
Shorts and Pants (x3) – I bring 2 pairs of Columbia hiking shorts to ride in and a pair of lightweight hiking pants for sleeping in. Hiking gear is engineered to be flexible and move around your body easily, so this is what I go for. There are lots of other options out there and it all comes down to personal preference.
Warm Top (x1) – This is an important part of your layering system and should consist of a somewhat thin Merino wool long sleeve such as this one from Icebreakers. Mine gets used almost daily, in fact I’m wearing it as I type this bikepacking gear list. It’s a very versatile layer of clothing will get a lot of use so invest in one you’ll be comfortable in.
Rain Jacket (x1) – Even if you’re not expecting rain, I would bring one as they are more useful than just keeping you dry. This is another piece of clothing that can keep you warm as well since they also work great as wind breakers. They’re not nearly as ugly as those old wind breakers from the 90s though. One drawback of these jackets is that they don’t breath well at all, be sure to get one that allows for some ventilation, most of them now days come with pit zips to let any hot air escape. I like the one here from North Face, I’ve had it for 2 years and has always kept me dry.
Rain Pants (x1) – I’m a little torn when it comes to taking rain pants. I have been carrying some in my pack, but I have never worn them at all in the thousands of miles I have ridden. When the rain got heavy, I was always lucky enough to find some sort of shelter to hide under to wait for the storm to pass. I carry the Outdoor Research Helium rain pants because they pack down to about half the size of your fist and weigh only a few grams. I’ll probably continue to carry them but hope I never actually have to wear them.
Your navigation needs can be met by a few different forms. What you choose will depend on a few different things but here is a good overview of your options.
GPS Device – This is what most people opt for as most are fairly accurate, reliable, and will easily mount to virtually any set of bars. Each has its own user interface, map style, battery life etc. The most popular among bikepackers and tourers seems to be from the Garmin family; Garmin eTrex 20x, eTrex 30x, and some prefer the Wahoo Element Bolt. Whichever you choose be sure to learn the ins and outs of it before heading out too far from home.
Smartphone Apps – This is always what I prefer to use as I already have one and I’m not one for having a dedicated unit strapped to my bars. Apps like GaiaGPS for Android and iPhones have come a long way in the few years since they were released. Also, Google maps is usually pretty good with their cycling options but I’ve found it to be about 90% accurate. To save battery life I keep it in my pocket or stored in my top tube bag and in airplane mode.
Paper Maps – It’s not often you find someone using paper maps. With all the options previously mentioned paper maps are becoming more nostalgic. Even the Adventure Cycling Association has slowed the production of their paid for printed maps and are now offering their maps for free via their new smart phone app. One place that paper maps still have an advantage is for national forests and parks. Stop into your local BLM or NPS office to compare the topo maps to the ones available on your phone and you’ll see what I mean. Plus, the parks employees are extremely helpful about great places to explore and camp.
The suggestions here are just that, suggestions since this varies from person to person. But whatever you do, don’t forget the TP!
- Lip balm
- Hand Sanitizer
- Biodegradable Soap
- Baby Wipes
- Prescription Meds
- Chamois Cream
- Toilet Paper – You won’t need to take the whole roll… but take a little more than you think you’ll need.
Bike Repair Tools
We don’t advise going on any sort of trip without a bike tool kit. At the very least, a basic bike tool kit should be on your bikepacking gear list. Use the following bike tool kit to make sure you are covering your bases.
Spare Tubes – This goes without saying, if you’re running tubes on your setup but those running tubeless often overlook this. If you’re running tubeless it’s also a good idea to bring a tube in case you get a puncture that cannot be sealed with the tubeless sealant or with the tire plugs.
Tire Patch Kit – If you’ve never patched a tube before do it once at home, you don’t want to be miles from help trying to figure out how to fix a puncture on the side of the road or even deeper in the wilderness.
Pump – These come in two variations: High Volume (HV) and High Pressure (HP). If you’re tires run at 60psi or less use a High Volume, and if you run 60psi or higher use a High Pressure pump. More than likely if your reading this you will be needed a high volume since running larger tires at a lower pressure is ideal for bikepacking.
Tire Levers – Life savers if you have to remove the tire from the rim to repair a puncture or replace a tube.
Tubeless Sealant – If you’re running tubeless it’s always a good idea to carry a small 2oz bottle of extra sealant in case you get a puncture that spews out most of the sealant in your tire.
Extra Chain Links – You’ll want a few spare links in case your chain breaks.
Chain Tool – If you happen to snap your derailure off you’ll want to be able to take a few links out of your chain to be able to run a single speed.
Chain Lube – A properly lubed chain makes a huge difference. This little bottle of wonder does a few things. It keeps you’re chain nice and quiet and also significantly extends the life of your drivetrain. A 4oz bottle of MuckOff lasts me for about 2 or 3 months of heavy riding. A small price to pay for the extra life that it gives to all the expensive components of the drivetrain.
Spokes – Those going out for shorter weekend trips can probably skip these but if you’re planning on a more extended trip take a few extra spokes.
Spoke Wrench – Gotta have some way of replacing those broken spokes right? Also great to tighten any spokes that may have come loose. It’s also worth learning how to true a wheel, or at least enough to make it to a bike shop.
Duct Tape – What kind of tool kit would be complete without duct tape? Don’t skimp out and buy cheap duct tape. Just wrap a foot or two worth of tape around the body of your tire pump. Adding a bit of electrical tape could be useful as well.
Zip Ties – An essential in any tool kit. Bikepacking bags are made of a lot of straps to lash onto the bike’s frame. Zip ties can be a good temporary fix to get you through the rest of the tour.
Multitool – A quality multitool includes multiple allen wrenches (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm), T-25 torx bit, and screwdrivers (phillips and flathead). I carry this one from Silca.
Pliers/Leatherman – A small set of pliers can make a huge difference for pulling slippery cables or pulling broken glass out of tires. The Leatherman Squirt is a favorite among the bikepacking community.
Knife – A small, light knife is always a good tool to have available. From cutting away zip ties to slicing an avocado. Always keep the blade nice and sharp though, a dull knife is a dangerous knife.
Cloth Rag – Chains get dirty and it’s easy to forget just how greasy they can be until you need to handle it. Keep a small microfiber towel or even a piece of an old t-shirt with your chain lube to remind yourself to wipe off your dirty chain before applying fresh lube.
First Aid Kit
Taking care of your bike is important but taking care of yourself is priority number one. You can find kits that are already put together like this one from General Medi But you most likely have everything you need. Just toss what you need into a small zip lock to save yourself some money.
- Assortment of bandages and dressings (x2)
- Antibiotic ointment
- Alcohol wipes
- Benadryl (for allergic reactions)
- Emergency blanket
- Non-latex gloves (x2)
- Blister pads
This deserves a whole other post on its own, but I will touch on a few key points here.
Snacks – Riding your bike burns a lot of calories. Riding your bike all day, every day, in the backcountry burns a TON of calories. Your body needs fuel to burn and it needs this fuel to be replenished all day long.
Food that is high in protein and fatty is the best way to stay nourished. Things like nuts, cheese, chocolate, and jerky are great for snacking on throughout the day. Candy will give you a good energy boost but can also make you crash pretty quickly, try to avoid too much. If you opt for energy gels be sure to know how your body reacts to them before tying to rely on them in the field.
Dehydrated Meals – These are available in most outdoor retail shops and online. These meals do come with a high price tag but are great for those shorter S24O trips since you’ll only need just one or two of them. However, if you plan on going on trips that will last a few weeks or longer opt for sourcing your meals from grocery stores or even dollar stores to keep costs down.
Not only are these great for seeing around camp at night they can be used for those dusk or dawn rides.
These are essential if you plan on being out longer than the charge on your phone can last. I use 2 smaller caches as charging 2 at the same time takes less time than charging 1 large battery cache.
Find some that fit well. Not only do they offer protection from the sun, but they also give you a bit of protection when you’re descending at high speeds. They keep the wind from drying your eyes out and prevent the nasty little bugs from smacking your eyes, that can be painful and dangerous. Plus they make you look cooler.
Most smartphones are very capable at taking some great shots but if you’re wanting to take more professional pics taking a dedicated camera might be more ideal for you. Gotta do it for the gram!!
If you plan on being away from cell phone coverage for an extended period of time invest in a spot tracker like the one here from Spot. Some can send your loved ones a simple text giving them your location and a short message. Most are able to send an SOS message to the local authorities if you get into a situation where you need help immediately. Stay safe out there folks!
I hope this Ultimate Bikepacking Gear List helps you have a better understanding about what to take on your future bikepacking trips. If you feel there is something I forgot that needs to be added to the list please let me know in the comments section below.
Cheers and thanks for reading!
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