Bicycle Touring Gear
This is a comprehensive list that I have updated over the past 6 years of traveling. It includes essential gear needed for long-distance bicycle touring along with hitchhiking and backpacking.
The outlined bike gear below was based off of my budget in 2013 when I had more money. Check out Bicycle Touring 101 for more details on bicycle touring across America using the Adventure Cycling Association Routes to guide your journey.
Since 2013 I have gone through this post and deleted unnecessary bicycle equipment. This way you can save your money towards more essential items:
- I.E. winter jacket, warm pants, sleeping bag, tent/bivy sack setup, etc.
By no means must you buy this exact setup to travel. This is what I have used over my travels in the last 6 years. What works for me might not work for you. However, the gear list below is a basic guideline of what you should and should not need for bicycle touring around America.
You can use this gear guide to estimate your costs in bike gear before you head out. It will give you a rough idea of what you’ll need to spend in order to maintain comfort on your bicycle travels.
Note: Anything with a strikeout through it I deemed unnecessary. I listed a substitute for it or if it broke on my travels I am still searching for a replacement.
Buy Used Cycling and Travel Gear
This bike gear has lasted me a while and much of it I bought NEW, with the exception of clothing, jackets and pants. These were either bought second-hand, hand-me-downs, or given to me.
You should always buy used or get budget travel gear from the Army Navy Surplus store. This equipment is more durable, built to last longer and much cheaper on your wallet. A base price on travel gear will vary person-to-person. So as long as you are comfortable and can withstand the harsh elements then you’re good.
Food Budget for Bicycle Touring
My base price on bicycle food is ~$350 per month. It’s possibly less if I have some good dumpster scores, or hit up food banks and food pantries. It’s pretty cheap to bicycle tour around the country if you don’t eat out every day.
You can also find day labor or temporary work to help with your food costs unless you have EBT. I do not use government funding on my travels, but have no objections to those who go this route.
Columbia Titanium Goretex Jacket – Waterproof
(1) Columbia Titanium Goretex Jacket or Carhartt Jacket – [Free] – I already owned a warm jacket before heading out on my bicycle tour due to years of skiing. I would recommend anything warm and waterproof for long days of riding in the rain and or cold.
This black Columbia Titanium Goretex Ski Jacket added a bit of weight to my setup, but I have used this jacket for a few years skiing and it remained dry in wet conditions.
The jacket is waterproof, weighs a bit more than newer ski jackets on the market, but I liked it for touring because it kept me dry during the rainy days on my journey.
The jacket is jet black, which is perfect if you end up wanting to train hop or just wander off in the woods to set up camp. There is a chest pocket, perfect spot for your phone. It has a hood attachment as well, but I lost it a while back so I wound up buying a black swimming cap instead.
The material is rather sturdy and held up over the years of falling on the mountain. With the proper undergarments it kept me fairly warm and definitely worthy of being on the bicycle touring gear list for a cross-country trip.
If you are looking for a jacket you need to look elsewhere as this item is discontinued. Most buyer’s paid between $60.00 – $200.00 USD for this jacket. I like the versatility of this jacket by having multiple components.
I can take out the lining and wear fleece or vice versa and wear the shell if I just want to protect myself from the rain. Both components together make a super warm jacket for the Rockies when skiing or bicycle touring.
Cheap Ski Hat
(1) Cheap Oakley Ski Hat – [Free] – It was given to me as a gift upon arriving in Colorado with the cold coming in early September.
I actually got this hat from my new landlords, but it’s perfect for cold weather conditions. I think it cost maybe ten dollars? Your body loses most of it’s heat through your head, so if you are still touring outside in sub 30 weather a hat and even a ski mask are preferable.
Any hat will do. I went with this hat because it was free. Don’t look into it too much unless you can find a warm, waterproof hat that isn’t a swimming cap.
Merrell Vibram Minimalist Shoes
(1) Merrell Vibram Minimalist Shoes – [$70.00] – I loved these shoes for touring because they were light-weight, fast drying, comfortable and great for summer.
I do not recommend them for winter, instead I suggest you bring along a good pair of ASOLO hiking boots.
I bought these at Eastern Mountain Sports on sale for $70.00. They were perfect for what I wanted. A lightweight shoe that was not a clip-in shoe for touring…Why do you ask? Well you don’t need specialized shoes for touring.
They help, but the shoes and pedals together are quite expensive and who wants to wear cycling clip-ins all around town or hiking? Not me, so I went with the Merrell Vibram Minamalist Shoes. They lack traction and are not at all ideal for hiking, but just bicycle touring they worked perfect.
They are designed with no arch so your feet adapt to walking naturally as if you were not wearing shoes. In doing so they strengthen your calf muscles. I wore these for 47 days without socks while bike touring.
They are also great because you can put them in the washing machine, wash them and leave them out in the sun for a few hours while reading a book and they dry relatively fast.
Get a pair of hiking boots like Carolinas or Timberland, or whatever is free at your local mission.
Flylow Ski Snow Pants with eVent Technology
(1) Flylow Ski Snow Pants with eVent Technology – [$290.00] – Despite the expensive price for these pants they have endured much abuse both skiing in the mountains of Breckenridge for a winter along with hitchhiking and bicycle touring. The zippers on the sides of each pant leg make them great to bring the air in against your skin when you’re too hot or sweaty. They are waterproof for the most part, but they are meant more for snow. If you stand in a downpour you are going to get soaked after a long rainfall. These work well for setting up a makeshift shelter in the woods to maintain warmth and dryness until your camp is setup.
Invest in a bib from Carhartt, that protects you from the rain and gives you warmth, you can score one for about a $100 less than these pants and you will get many more years out of it.
Flylow ski pants lining on the insides of the pants completely wore away after a year of use and they are no longer waterproof, just warm.
I did not have a choice once I hit Colorado. I needed to bite the bullet and buy these ski pants. They are waterproof and the best part about them is the eVent technology.
This technology is a ventilation system so when it rains you don’t have to worry about suffocating your legs, which with normal rain gear your clothing may not get wet from rain, but your sweat will drench it underneath.
This technology allows you to unzip the sides to allow air to get inside. I used these on a few occasions in the snow and rain and the pants worked perfectly. The only downside is since I wanted to use them for skiing I needed to get a bigger pant size length to cover my ski boots.
So in normal gear I needed to fold up the legs to pedal. Another downside is the extra weight. These weigh a few pounds so they will definitely add weight to your setup.
GoPro Hero 3 & Bicycle Mount & Chest mount (1) GoPro Hero 3 with Bicycle Mount – [$400.00] I wound up giving in and buying a GoPro. If you looked at my YouTube video posted in the Bicycle Touring DE to CO – 2,600 miles – 9 States thread then you will understand why I bought this. It was rather expensive, but some of the footage I captured was priceless and I’ll remember these travels forever. The downside was the GoPro only shoots fish-eye photos and video, which can get rather annoying. Unless you buy the LED touch screen backpack you cannot see what you are capturing so it remains a mystery until you sync it with your smartphone or computer. I would have also preferred to go with a chest mount. The bicycle mount was decent, but for climbing towers, hiking and other forms of travel it is worthless.
(1) GoPro Hero 4 Black – I went with the new updated GoPro Hero 4 Black due to all the extra features like time lapse, and night photo along with the better battery life and enhanced low-light conditions. – [$499.00] – However, since I worked for a retailer that sold GoPro I registered on [3point5.com] and bought the new Hero 4 Black for [$299.00] – (40% off MSRP)! Buy em used on eBay for much cheaper.
Updated: I would recommend going with the GoPro Hero 4 and mini tripod mount. The different burst settings for night photo, time burst along with the different shutter speeds for night exposure photography and time lapse make it the ultimate camera for a traveler. The GoPro Hero 4 Black is the best camera they have on the market (for GoPro) and works great in low-light conditions which was a huge issue I experienced with the GoPro Hero 3 Silver.
I would not recommend getting the newest GoPRO…You’re better off getting a USED Hero 4 for cheap and maybe a refurbished Nikon D3400 to complement your videos with nice travel photography.
Platypus 3 Liter Hydration Pack System (1) Platypus Big Zip SL 3.0L Reservoir – 100 fl. oz. – [$34.95]
I bought this hydration pack at Dick’s for a twenty bucks. The 2 liter was more expensive so I went with the 3 liter. Platypus is the best brand in my opinion when it comes to hydration packs. The plastic is thick, but not too thick where it’s weighing down my setup. 3 liters was perfect for going through states like Kansas where there weren’t services for 80 miles. The best part about this hydration pack was if I left water in there from the night before I did not have to worry about it getting moldy, mildew or tasting funny. I actually left water in there for the past month and drank it and it’s still decent, not stagnant like I have found with most hydration packs.
(1) 1-Gallon Milk Jug – [$2.00] – There is no need to waste money on a camelpak when a milk jug is durable enough to hold a gallon of water that you can put in the front of your basket or bungee to your bicycle for easy access on your rear rack.
Whisperlite & Cleaning Kit (1) MSR WhisperLite Stove Service Kit – [$29.95] (1) MSR WhisperLite International Backpacking Stove – [$99.95] I spent a little more money than I hoped with the MSR Whisperlite and cleaning kit, however, definitely worth every penny. What are the advantages to this bunsen burner over propane portable camp stoves? Well, first off you can use any type of fuel with this baby. Diesel, Gasoline, etc. all of them work. The problem is when you mix fuels the valve tends to get clogged, which is why you need a cleaning kit. Personally, I just stuck with gasoline the whole trip. I think I went through one gatorade bottle full worth of gasoline or about $1.00 worth of gas. I did not even use the cleaning kit. This baby heats up and boils your water relatively quick. The key is to get the blue flame going and it acts as a bunsen burner heating up right underneath the pot. This is better than propane stoves since they don’t work in higher elevations like the Rockies and so on. All in all, it was a great addition to my gear. I would not go with anything cheaper. You definitely pay for it in the price, but it’s worth it.
Update: As much as I enjoyed this stove, it broke a few days ago. I am either going to check out the Jetboil Stove or just use flint and steel for a regular fire in the woods. I still recommend this stove, I just cleaned it wrong and ruined it. Definitely check this out as it can cut your costs down on food.
Bicycle First Aid Kit for 1 to 2 Persons
(1) First Aid Kit – [$10.00] – Any kit will do, but honestly if you fuck yourself up bad enough on a tour you most likely might need a hospital, which could be far away. Be open to hitchhiking or asking for help in this situation.
A kit is not going to cure venomous bites. I didn’t have to use this thankfully, but it’s definitely necessary in case of emergencies. I am happy I did not need to use it, but the kit had everything I could possibly need to heal wounds, gauze, band aids, neosporin, wipes, etc.
(1) Mini Cooking Pot – [$5.00] – Worth it to cook noodles and beans which provide a good source of protein while touring. Without a mini stainless steel pot this makes it hard to cook and increases the amount you spend on food.
I loved this pot. The small and compact size made it perfect for this bicycle tour. I strapped it to my bungies on the rear rack for most of the trip. Perfect size for Ramen noodles or mac n’ cheese dishes. I ended up storing USB cables, and my headlamp in there when I was not using it to conserve space in my panniers and backpack.
PROS: Cooking your own meals will greatly reduce the cost you spend at the stores since shopping at the grocery store is always cheaper than most mini marts and gas stations.
CONS: It adds weight and an odd shape to your pack and you will need a stove which adds weight too to boil water to cook your food.
Hestra Waterproof Gloves
(1) Hestra Waterproof Gloves – [$169.99] – They are expensive but definitely worth every penny. They keep your fingers toasty warm in sub-zero temperatures.
I love these gloves and would recommend them to anyone. Make sure you waterproof them first with mink oil paste before using them in the snow and do not pay the $169.99. Buy them USED off eBay or try to get a ProDeal.
Mine cost like $90.00, which is a steal. They are worth it in my opinion, just weatherproof them each year and I also have wool liners.
Sierra Designs Bivy Sack (1) Sierra Designs Bivy Sack – [$100.00]
The bivy sack did its job. It kept me away from bugs and gave me a low profile form of camping so I could wild camp stealthily without worrying about someone bothering me while sleeping. I wish it was not yellow, but next time I’ll invest in a waterproof camoflauge bag. The only issues I experienced other than it not being waterproof just involved condensation in cold environments like Colorado. This is not meant for the cold. If you try to use it your sleeping bag will just get covered with moisture and you’ll end up soaking yourself from the condensation. Best to stick to a tent in that case. Aside from that get used to hot nights being 15 degrees warmer inside this baby. Definitely takes a bit of getting used to and if you don’t like small spaces then stick to a tent.
REI Minimalist Bivy Sack REI Minimalist Bivy Sack – [$100.00] – This bivy sack is great. It’s made out of nylon ripstop and waterproof laminate. I have had zero issues with condensation which is always a huge issue when sleeping in a non-breathable bag. This bivy has been used in multiple environment settings from the mountains to farms and even the desert along with using it in different seasons. I recommend purchasing a flap to cover the mosquito netting since this part allows water into it and in the event of a huge rainfall you can only prevent being soaked by facing the mosquito netting towards the ground. Adding a flap to cover the mosquito netting drastically increases condensation, but the overall bivy is extremely durable and great for its price. It is much better than the Sierra Designs Bivy I used earlier in my travels. It’s open length is 82 inches and shoulder width is 32 inches. It’s quick to set up since it does not include poles. You simply take it out of the stuff sack and throw it down. There is enough room for a sleeping pad and a warm Kelty Cosmic sleeping bag to fit inside your bivy along with your 35 Liter backpack to use as a pillow.
This is an ultralight shelter that is extremely breathable and 100% waterproof. Downside is it does not have a zippered face where the mosquito netting is, but you can by a flap for it if you want to. I have used this in the desert and in WNY and the condensation is non-existent in both climates.
PROS: – Lightweight at 0.94 lbs. or 15 oz. makes it one of the lightest on the market; it’s extremely breathable and packs really small to 6″x10″ and excess stitching and bulk allow for a sleeping pad and most of your gear to stay inside your bivy. CONS: – No waterproofing across the face, thin fabric
ACU Digital Bivy Cover
It’s about a 1.5 lbs. which is heavier than the minimalist, but the key here is it is actually waterproof, and has enough room for all your gear to comfortably fit inside of it while its pouring outside. It’s digital camouflage and great for bicycle touring and riding trains as well as hitchhiking.
Update: I have had this bivy for over two years now. It’s great. All of the seams are still intact. It’s still very much waterproof. I have one,tiny pinhole on the back from camping on concrete, but you won’t be camping on concrete or by train tracks if your on a bike tour. I highly recommend this lived any other bicycle sleep system.
Anker Battery Pack Charger
(1) Anker Battery Extender Charger – [$70.00] – It works like a champ. I can get about 2-3 charges out of my iPhone 4S (apple products are shitty on battery life) which come in handy when my solar panel is not charging do to a cloudy overcast day or low-light conditions through the mountains.
This is a beast. Did it’s job perfectly and I could not have asked for anything more. I got two to three charges from it for my HTC One smartphone.
You plug it in and I think it takes anywhere from four to eight hours to charge. Then you hook it up to your phone and viola…it charges it when you aren’t near free outlets.
I ended up using free electricity at campgrounds, in higher end fast food restaurants like Panera, Starbucks, etc. and pretty much any other electrical outlet on the outside of corporate buildings. For it’s size it is quite heavy, but I think it’s better than solar panels since the technology just isn’t there yet for them to be that efficient.
Nexus 7 Tablet, Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard, (3) USB Cables (1) Nexus 7 Tablet, bluetooth wireless keyboard, (3) USB Cables – $330.00
I did not really use this much on the trip in 2013 actually and I regret it. The battery lasts quite long. The keyboard and tablet weigh next to nothing so it does not add much weight to my setup. Works rather well once the right apps are on it. I used Quick Office for writing up some journal entries. Set up all my emails and most importantly linked all my credit cards to pay my bills on time, which can be done from any android phone. It’s just nicer on this since the screen is a tad bigger. I do not like how there is not an SD Card and unless it is rooted one can’t connect a flash drive to it, which is impractical.
This is not necessary at all…use a phone instead. I barely used it at all. As for the laptop unless you are die-hard into editing videos for your YouTube Channel or you have a blog it’s not necessary either. It just adds weight to your setup.
Thule Bike Panniers
(2) Thule Rear Panniers- [$130.00] – I recommend Thule products to anyone. There products are extremely durable and I put them through hell and back yet they look brand new. My only suggestion is do not store food in them overnight.
A squirrel gnawed a tiny hole in part of my one pannier and I sealed the hole with duct tape from the inside. Both panniers have been in intense rainfall along with a flood in my basement from overflowing sewage and none of my belongings were damaged inside.
They are waterproof 100% and much cheaper now than two years ago. I strongly recommend buying them for a long distance tour across the country, but only rear panniers.
I see people touring with 4-panniers and there is no reason you need that much stuff. Go with a minimalist rig for speed, comfort and versatility. You’ll end up pedaling more and pushing your bike less with the less weight.
Add a basket to the front to even out the weight distribution on your bike.
These bags could not be described any less than excellent. I got a deal on them at
Brandywine Cyclery in Delaware (Don’t buy anything from them…they did not do a proper tune for my bicycle and just 200 miles into my trip I needed a new cassette…not a worthy shop worth doing business with). The bags are water proof which is a must for long tours where rain is a possibility. During several rainfalls my gear remained intact and dry.
They could hold enough gear for a cross country trip to Colorado from Delaware so the size was not an issue. The only problem I had was a squirrel bit a hole in my one pannier, but that was out of Thule’s hand.
The little guy tried getting to my food. The bags latch on to the back rear rack with bungee cords. You can dismount them and actually attach a strap to carry them around in stores as a carry bag. I did not do this, but it’s available.
You can adjust the bags to make them air tight by folding over the flaps and rolling them down the pannier until you can snap them in and tighten the sides with straps. I was very pleased with the bags. After 2,600 miles of cycling there is barely any wear and tear beside the one hole.
Topeak Rear Bicycle Rack
(1) Topeak Explorer MTX Cycling Rack – [$44.95] – Great product! I cannot say much more than that. I had a shop install this rear rack on my Dawes bicycle over 2 years ago and it looks brand new to this day even after cycling over 3,000 miles. Between long distance touring and multi-day touring trips it holds my sleeping bag, bivy sack, solar panel and water perfectly with bungee cords for the ultimate experience.
The rear rack, rather pricey, but worth it for $40.00. It held about 50 to 60 lbs. of gear without any issues. The only problem I had during the trip was the cheap aluminum screws that it came with as the one side fell out and I rode several miles with it riding up against the frame and supporting all the weight on the other screw.
I went to a local bike shop and grabbed stronger screws and after that never had any issues. The rack is setup so you can attach your rear panniers with ease and there was enough room on the top of the rack for me to bungee my sleeping bag, bivy sack, nylon tarp, sleeping pad, whisperlite and cooking utensils.
All in all, it performed spectacularly and I’d recommend the rack to anyone for a cross country escapade.
Topeak Portable Bike Pump with Pressure Gauge
(1) Topeak Portable Bicycle Pump with Pressure Gauge and Adapter – [$20.00] – I am sure better bicycle pumps and gauges exist. I personally do not like this pump despite really being a fan of Topeak products. I think all the mini bike pumps suck and there is not a substitute for a big pump. The issue with the big pump being the lack of space to bring it on a tour on your rig.
The bike pump definitely helped out with monitoring pressure. I needed a gauge since I was going through so many tubes throughout the course of the trip and I think it’s because my Bontrager Bike Pump did not indicate pressure readings. The pump is rated for both mountain bike and road bike, however, it only supports Shrader valves, which I did not know until after purchase. This was an inconvenience as I went down the road several miles before realizing it did not work on my road bike tubes. I went back to the shop and bought an adapter and the pump works great. Never had any issues with flats after purchasing the pump.
(2) Armadillo 25 mm Road Tires – [$120.00]
I would not recommend these for a long tour across country. The shop I went to did not know what they were talking about. The tires were too thin. I should have went with 28’s and looked into getting Marathon tires to protect my inner tubes from getting punctured. I was told they should last around 4,000 miles (at least the front tire since the back wears 3 x as fast as the front) But my back lasted maybe 1,200 miles before there was absolutely no tread and my front one only lasted about 2,000 miles. All in all, for the price and the amount of riding I got out of them in addition to going through over 12 to 15 tubes, I would not recommend these for a cross country ride.
(1) Schwalbe 25 mm Marathon Tire – [$30.00] – Do not buy Armadillo road tires. They absolutely suck! I spent so much money on them and they are not meant for long distance touring. They are meant for long distance touring on roads with little glass, debris and potential popping hazards. I replaced more tubes riding with these tires than I did 10x over when I switched to Schwalbe Marathon tires. Why? Schwalbe is thicker and just a better tire. They aren’t meant for speed, but for distance and durability. The thicker tire and thicker material prevent less prickly objects from protruding through the tire and popping your tube leaving you on the road patching or replacing your tubes much less than you would with an Armadillo tire.
This tire was an absolute beast and a steal for just $30.00. I wanted a 28, but they only had 25’s in stock so I went with that since the Armadillo’s just weren’t cutting the mustard. I put that baby on in Idaho Springs and did not have any flat between there and Breckenridge despite the rough terrain. I’ll give a more in depth review as I continue on to Seattle in the Spring time.
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Synthetic Velocity Sleeping Bag 35 Rated (1) Synthetic Velocity 35 Degree Rated Sleeping Bag – [$175.00] – What can I say about this bag? It is pretty extensive and for the price I should have went with a 15 degree rated bag, but it did the job up until Colorado. The problem I experienced was condensation between the bag and bivy sack. It being synthetic that moisture would go through the bag and cause me to get chilly. I’d recommend a down bag rated for zero degrees. You are probably looking at 500 or 600 dollars, but it will be well worth the cost as you will be able to survive in most conditions even in winter. This said it was rated for 35 but I had all my gear and snow pants on inside a shelter and still was cold. It bundles down quite nicely and you can bungee it to your rear rack along with your sleeping pad, bivy sack, tarp and whisperlite. Velocity is a nice brand, but make sure you dont sleep under any twigs or stones, it is delicate and I got a slight tear in mine towards the top.
Kelty Cosmic Dri-Down 0 Degree Sleeping Bag
(1) Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree Dri-down Sleeping Bag – [$120.00] – USED – Fits well under a GoLite JAM 35 Liter Backpack with a bungee cord. The Synthetic Velocity 35 Degree sleeping bag did its job for the years I owned it. My only problem is it was not warm enough and I don’t believe it was actually rated for 35 degrees. I camped many times in 35 degree weather and needed multiple layers of clothing to stay warm. Although I would prefer an 800 goose, Dri-down bag for optimum warmth with cutting edge technology in case it gets a little damp/wet from condensation from my bivy sack…the price range for a bag like that just isn’t practical for me. So instead of a synthetic bag, which keeps its warmth better than a down bag, I decided to go with a Kelty Cosmic Dri-down 0 degree bag. I know it’s only 550 goose down, which is very low-quality, but compared to a 35 degree bag it is much warmer. It does not add much bulk to my pack and best of all it only weighs a little more than the Velocity bag. If you own a GoLite JAM 35 Liter or 50 Liter you really need to replicate my setup for attaching the sleeping bag when hiking or hitchhiking. If you are strictly using the sleeping bag for bicycle touring and stealth camping then I suggest using a bungee to attach it to the rear rack putting your solar panel on top of it.
This bag is rated 0 degrees and is extremely warm. It adds a little more bulk to my bag, but if I strap it to the bottom of my GoLite Jam 35 Liter then it is perfect for wild camping, hitchhiking and bicycle touring.
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Swimming Cap (1) Waterproof Swimming Cap – [$8.00] – Cheap and works great in heavy rain. Though it definitely made me sweat since it feels like a condom engulfed my head. It kept my hair dry and only cost eight bucks so it did its job and I highly recommend some form of rain cap for your bicycle touring gear list.
It just adds space and weight to your rig and unless you have short or no hair it’s impractical
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Blue Traditional Tarp 8′ x 10′ (1) 8′ x 10′ Blue Tarp – [$8.00] – This tarp kept me out of the rain and although it’s not lightweight like the green equinox nylon tarp I bought previously in the trip I did not have to worry about tearing it or getting holes in it making it futile and useless. The tarp held up in all kinds of weather and surprisingly folded down nicely to strap to my rear rack with cords. Bicycle Touring Gear List – Cable Bicycle Lock System (1) Cable Bicycle Lock – [$10.00] – It’s a piece of shit, but honestly it does the job I need it to do. It’s light weight and just locks my bike together so when I go in 711 or a small convenient store someone can’t run off with my bike riding it down the street. Otherwise, I would recommend a Masterlock with a bike chain, which will add much more weight to your rig and every ounce counts on long tours.
Alright I wanted something lightweight and cheap that would lock my bike when going into mini stores like 711 and Marathon markets. The cable system is very flimsy, but it worked perfectly for going into a gas station mart for five minutes to grab some food and candy. At night time I would lock it to trees in the woods and cover my bike with branches and brush. I just made sure it was nearby so I could hear if someone was trying to steal it.
(1) Knife – [FREE] – This is more for safety measures when hitchhiking, however a knife comes in handy in the back-country and woods for cutting down brush and small shrubbery to build a fire so it is still necessary for a means of protection and plays a small role in comfort.
This was a knife my mom’s boyfriend purchased for me for my bicycle tour. The three inch blade made it legal in all states to carry around. I used it for cutting down some brush and clearing my camping spot at night along with using it as a weapon (which I did not have to do).
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Water Resistant Medium Backpack Cover Eastern Mountain Sports (1) Medium Water Resistant Backpack Cover Eastern Mountain Sports – [$40.00] – Ideally get one that is waterproof or use a trash-bag to cover your backpack which is much cheaper and can be easily disposed after use. I used this to cover the rear rack of my bicycle while touring. It worked perfectly to cover my sleeping bag, bivy sack, tarp, whisperlite, and sleeping pad, however I found out it is not waterproof. The material is so light that at best it was water resistant. It worked well for what I needed it for so I would recommend a backpack cover for covering the rear rack on your touring rig if you choose to emulate my setup.
UPDATE: 2017: USE A GARBAGE BAG
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Seal Line Dry Bag and 50′ Paracord (1) Seal Line Dry Bag and 50′ Paracord – [$28.00] – Best bag I every bought to keep my electronics dry and my food safe from bears and other critters by tying it to paracord and slinging it over trees a few hundred yards away. Make sure you don’t puncture it by overstocking it with stuff. I spent much time hitchhiking through China and fit my mini Lenovo laptop in it, but I looked at it recently when we went on a Salt River tubing trip and noticed I punctured tiny holes in the bottom making it semi-permeable to water.
Once I ventured into the Rockies I needed to invest in a dry bag and paracord. Why do you ask? Well the bears and wildlife in the area will smell your food through panniers. Unless you have a metal rig setup or something that is bear proof the best alternative is to stash your food in a dry bag, tie a paracord to one end and a big rock to another end. Then throw the rock over a tree branch that is at least ten feet out so the bears cannot get to your food. Make sure you do this about 100 yards from where you are camping and also stash your toothpaste in there as well. The sugar in your toothpaste can be smelled from miles away and many people forget this fact. Bicycle Touring Gear List – Eastern Mountain Sports Headlamp (1) Headlamp 60 Hour Battery Life – [$40.00] – Buy a flashlight at Walmart. Every single headlamp I have bought over the last few years has broken within a few uses. They aren’t made for rough camping. I ended up wasting over $150.00.
The screen cracked halfway through the trip due to my stupidity, but it uses (3) triple A batteries that last up to 60 hours. It worked for nights I trekked through the dark trying to find a camp site or just waking up in the night to take a piss. I’d recommend a headlamp over a flash light since they are more light weight and you don’t have to carry them. Just strap it on your head and you’re good to go.
Update: I have not found a great headlamp since I started living on the road a few years ago. Now that I am temporarily housed up I realize I never really used a headlamp anyway so I might just rid it of my pack.
Bicycle Touring Gear List – LifeStraw Water Filtration Device (1) LifeStraw Water Filtration Device – [$20.00] – The LifeStraw Water Filtration Device won a nobel prize in the recent years. For twenty dollars it’s a steal. I can’t remember how many uses you get from it. I think it’s around a few hundred times, but apparently you can drink out of nasty puddles and remain alright from harmful pathogens and bacteria. I did not have to use it on my trip as water was readily available at most campgrounds and I filled up every chance I got. However, for emergency situations this is perfect to have and it’s so light weight you don’t have to worry about it taking up much space or weighing down your rig.
Do not buy this. Unless you are touring through foreign countries in most cases you can find water for free in the USA through the tap or water fountains.
Bicycle Touring Gear List – GoLite JAM 35 Liter Backpack (1) GoLite JAM 35 Liter Backpack – [$100.00] – Best backpack I have ever had. A 35 liter is perfect for bicycle touring to go on mini day hikes, but I would recommend getting a 50 Liter pack if you plan on backpacking or hitchhiking through countries. It is more practical to store food and water rather than carrying a jug around in your hands. So I purchased this from the GoLite store once I arrived in Colorado to replace my other backpack. For 100 dollars it is a steal. It was rated one of the best lightweight backpacks in backpacker magazine for 2012. It weighs about 1 lb and 14 ounces. There are two pouches on the hip strap with zippers where you can stash your wallet, keys, or Anker battery extender pack. There is a front pocket that holds whatever you would like it to and a pouch for your hydration pack, which fit my 3 liter Platypus hydration system perfectly. Two holes for feeding your hydration tube through and best of all the top of the pack folds down so you don’t have to worry about it rubbing up against your neck while hiking or riding. The whole pack supports 25 to 30 lbs. total. I would not go over that weight restriction otherwise you will damage the straps. The pack above fit all my gear minus food and my bicycle tools. Perfect for hitch hiking, train hopping and backpacking. I will definitely continue to utilize this on my travels after I finish my bicycle tour. Update: I used this while hitchhiking through China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. The backpack is still in great shape. PROS:It’s ultralight, the waist pockets are perfect for battery banks, the top folds down so it’s not rubbing up against your neck, it’s extremely durable and cheap CONS: It’s not waterproof, the buckles break easily and are poorly made, stitching on the inside pocket is poor and needed to be re-stitched several times.
55 Liter 5.11 Tactical Backpack
- It’s durable as hell, lasted over 4 months of riding freight trains through all kinds of weather and it still looks brand new. It’s a bit more heavy, but really worth it.
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Big Agnes Inflatable Sleeping Pad
(1) Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad – [$49.99] – Spend the extra money on a foam pad. Go with thermarest or something lightweight and compact. This pad was not at all worth the sixty bucks I spent on it. I mostly used it for a pillow because after three times of using it it popped one night while I was sleeping under a bridge and even using the patch kit I could not repair the hole since it was too big to be fixed. I’d recommend any other Big Agnes product, but anything inflatable is only good for camping on flat, smooth campground sites for day trips. Touring I would purchase any type of foam sleeping pad.
- Use cardboard it’s free at any dumpster…
Bicycle Touring Gear List – Brakes and Tubes
- (4/5) Tubes (Mixture of thorn resistant and regular) -[$50.00] – I recommend the slime tires. They cost the most, but I have never had an issue with popping a tire as long as I used the slime. If slime is not available because of location simply get thorn resistant which are the next best in line.
- So it is essential to pack extra brakes and tubes for your bicycle tour across America. I would personally go with thorn resistant tubes since they last longer and only cost a few more bucks. However, they take up a ton of space in your panniers. Best thing to do is get marathon tires for your bike. Maybe 35’s or something wide enough that you won’t have to worry about changing tubes often. Then you can go with the regular tubes since the tire will protect the inner tube from popping. Make sure if you continue to get flats you check the inside of your rim and replace the taping if necessary with thick bicycle tape sold in most bike stores. This is better than the rubber bands they give you. It’s like five dollars a roll, but worth every penny. As for brakes I would just go with the cheapest ones. You’ll go through brakes a few times on the trip, but I did not see any advantages from the cheap brands compared to the expensive brands. They worked the same.
- (1) Bike Tools – ~[$60.00] – What does this mean? Basically any tools you need in case you break down in the middle of nowhere where the nearest bicycle store is 60+ miles away and you need to hitch to get a tube to fix your bike. Maybe your chain breaks or you break your brakes? So what tools should you bring? I brought a patch kit with rubber cement, sand paper, and a lot of patches, a mini screwdriver, a replacement chain already pre-cut for length, 4 extra brake pads, (2) allen wrenches and (2) tire levers. That should cover the basics.
- Bring a small bottle of WD-40 chain lube. It is essential to lube your chain ever so often. If you hear a sound similar to chalk screeching against a chalk board you need to lube up your chain or you will break it going up hills. Bring an extra chain on your tour! I cannot stress this enough…make sure it is fitted already for your bike so you don’t have to cut it. I did not break a chain on my tour, but I heard many horror stories from people who did and were in the middle of nowhere. Bring a few patch kits with a lot of patches. It’s always better to patch tubes than buy new ones since you’ll be saving money. I used the new ones when the patches did not hold. Other than that bring Allen wrenches and tire levers. These are essentials as well for tightening brakes, cables and taking off tires to replace your tubes.
Essential Bike Clothing
Do not waste money on a Castelli Bib or similar bib, it’s ergonomically engineered to make sweat flow down your legs while riding, but it’s so expensive and I only wore it once on the tour. Despite the huge comfy pad in the crotch to protect your jewels from the rough bike seat I’d recommend tossing the bib and putting extra money into a better seat. It dries relatively quickly, but so do the Techwick shirts and they only cost $25.00 USD. It’s not worth spending the money to get it. The Techwick technology from Eastern Mountain Sports is designed to keep you dry from hours of sweating. The shirts dry quicker than most other materials and for long hours touring in the sun your shirt will become drenched. Pull off to the side, eat a snack, let your shirt dry in the sun and put that baby back on and hit the road. These shirts were great and lightweight. The Patagonia polyester base layer shirt was perfect for entering Colorado. It kept me super warm and being super lightweight it did not add much weight to my pack. Bring a pair of sweatpants and a separate pair of shorts for walking around town. No one wants to see you in spandex as sexy as you think you may be, it’s just not a sight people want to see. Bellwether spandex base layer long pants – these were extremely warm and comfortable. Great for touring long distances. I bought them at the TransAm Cyclery in Farmington, Missouri. Worth every penny and more just make sure you buy the right size or the legs will be rather long and you’ll have to fold them over like I did. Smart-wool socks – I cannot stress this enough…BUY THEM! They are great for cold weather and wet conditions. I bought two pair and it’s all I used most of the trip for the 13 days I wore socks.
- (1) Patagonia Base Layer Shirt – [$50.00] – Great for a base layer skiing, but also an amazing layer to add underneath a long sleeve shirt or jacket when touring. It keeps you warm while absorbing the sweat. It’s light weight makes it a great addition without bogging down your rig with unnecessary poundage.
- (2) Smartwool Socks – [$40.00] – The only way to go! They absorb water while maintaining warmth which becomes a major issue in snowy areas or if you get caught in the rain and it’s cold outside. Who wants to lose heat from their feet when they can maintain good body temperature with wet socks if they just purchase these babies? I’ve had a few pair over the years. My only complaint is if your shoes aren’t snug and you walk a lot with them on then you are bound to get holes in the heels making them useless in that part if water seeps in there.
(4) Techwick Short Sleeve Shorts from EMS – [$100.00] – These come in handy, but are not necessary. They are great for touring with basketball shorts since they really absorb the sweat and dry pretty quickly.
(1) Castelli Bib – [$150.00]
- (1) Under Armour Long Sleeve Cold Gear Shirt – [$50.00] – When it gets cold out there is nothing better than a long sleeve Under Armour shirt to keep you warm. They are expensive, but the material is extremely comfortable, warm, durable and light-weight.
- (1) Bellwether Long Spandex Pants – [$40.00] – I needed long pants that were warm like long johns to go underneath my long ski pants. I’m sure there are better options out there, but these did their job, which was keeping me extra warm.
(1) Equinox Nylon Tarp – [$70.00]
(1) HTC ONE with Mophie Case – [$200.00]– Any phone will do as long as you have a good solar panel. I recommend the Nomad 20 from Goal Zero. It has both USB and 12V capabilities. Bicycle Touring Gear List – Titanium Spork (1) Titanium Spork EMS – [$20.00] – A great tool for on the road. Easy to clean, durable, doesn’t rust and for twenty bucks I think it’s worth it as long as you take care of it and don’t lose it.
- Just use a plastic fork or spoon from a local convenient store….price = FREE!
Bicycle Rig Setup for Touring
- Above is my rig setup. A minimalist design that worked perfectly for the tour across the country. I went with a front basket for my hydration pack and random snacks. So not much weight was added to my carbon fiber fork (which was why I could not go with front Panniers). The Topeak rear rack was installed on my bike at a local bike shop in Delaware: Brandywine Cyclery and that is also where I purchased my Thule Waterproof Panniers, which snap on perfectly to the rack. Then I strapped the rest of my gear to the rear rack with bungies and covered it with the water resistant backpack cover. I hope this bicycle touring gear list will suffix for your journey. Whether it be coast to coast or even just a mini tour, this bicycle touring gear list should get you ready and prepped for your trek into the unknown. Go exploring, have fun and stay safe. Good luck and enjoy people!
- If you are looking to check out my current setup for just tramping and hitchhiking abroad then check out my recent YouTube video and subscribe to my channel for future updates…
For more information on Bicycle Touring Gear and a guide on Bicycle Touring check out Bicycle touring 101