Absolutely everything you need to go bikepacking: the complete guide to what you need to take

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or just getting started, here’s our guide to make sure you don’t forget anything and for advice on what to take

Bikepacking is a wonderful way to spend a holiday or weekend. You get to know the area far more intimately that just staying in some accommodation or camping. Even travelling somewhere fairly local, you’ll experience a very different side of it on a bike than you ever would otherwise.

Like with any holiday or bike ride, there are the many usual things that you really don’t want to forget. So, drawing on our long experience, we’ve put together a guide detailing all the items we take on every bikepacking trip – plus a few optional extras (marked with an asterisk).

If you’ve been riding bikes for a while – and are generally quite an outdoorsy person – you’ll likely have most of the items on this list already. But for those just getting started, for each of the items we’ve included links to both a high-value and a high-end version – each of which we rate and will serve their purpose well.

We learnt the hard way that if an item is a little out of your price range you’re much better off making do with what you currently own and saving up. Go too cheap and it either won’t work sufficiently well or will soon need replacing – ending up costing more than if you had just saved up in the first place!

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay. So, if you do find this guide informative and wish to buy anything, we would be very grateful if you do use the links – it would help support more comprehensive content like this!

The expanded list: all you'll need

Items marked with an asterix are ones that can probably be done without on shorter trips.

ClothingBagsCamping gearTools and sparesVital accessories
SocksHandlebar bagSleeping mattressInner tubesPhone
ShortsSaddlebagSleeping bagPuncture repairWallet / keys
JerseyHelicopter tapeGround sheet / bivvy bagTyre leversHead unit
Arm warmersHelicopter tapeTentAllen keys / chain tool / spoke keyWall charger / battery pack / cables
Rain jacketFrame bagCamping stovePumpFront and rear lights
GlovesTop tube bagCoffee makingQuick linkSuncream, chamois cream, lip balm
SunglassesStem bagTyre boot*Lock
ShoesPanniersMech hanger*Waterbottles
HelmetRackBrake pads*Headtorch
GiletCassette tool*Bike phone mount*
Insulated jacketGear cable*Penknife*
Trousers / tightsAdjustable spanner*
Fleecy mid layer*

Clothing

Given that you’ll be riding your bike for a fair portion of the day, some quality cycle-specific clothing is a must. Also, even when bikepacking in the height of summer, you will need to bring a surprising number of layers.

Dawnbreak is the coldest point of the day and with the harsh morning daylight blaring through your tent or bivvy bag, you’re not going to be able to put off getting up for long and will need some sufficiently warm clothes.

But even if you won’t be camping, when stopped in exposed locations, you can get cold surprisingly quickly – trust us. But obviously, you don’t want to take more than you need. After much experimentation, we’ve settled on this range of clothing as being the most packable and adaptable for the range of conditions you’re likely to meet.

Socks

It’s well worth bringing two sets of socks. Not only does it allow you to wash one pair while wearing the other, but if you get caught in a downpour, you’ll very much appreciate the option to pull on some dry ones.

dhb Aeron Light Weight Merino Sock

Although any socks will do the job, if you have the choice, a lightweight merino pair are the ones to go for. Merino wool has natural anti-bacterial properties and will go a long way to keeping your feet fresher when out and about all day.

You could even get away with not washing them every evening – but of course that wouldn’t be something we know from experience…

Rapha Merino Socks

A little more expensive, but that’s reflected in the quality of the construction. The wonder fabric of merino also combines good thermal insulation as well as being fast wicking – so they are warm in the cold and also comfortable in the heat.

Shorts

A good set of cycling shorts is very important for bikepacking, as you’ll generally be spending longer in the saddle than you usually do. A comfortable chamois and a good fit is really a must. We have a full guide with all the information you need to know about shorts, but here are two highlights.

Even more so than with the socks, it’s very important to bring two. Bacteria can grow quickly in shorts so they really must be washed every time before being reworn, otherwise you could find yourself with some potential ride ending saddle sores.

dhb Classic bib shorts

Available in both men's and women's fit, these dhb bibs are a brilliant entry level option, offering comparable comfort to shorts much more expensive. For much more information about these shorts, you can read our full review.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that it can be good to have shorts from two different brands. This way the seams are in different locations and can help reduce irritations that don’t present themselves on shorter rides.

Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts

Not only do these have a great chamois and a perfect fit, but they also offer extra storage options with mesh pockets on the thigh and lower back. They were so good that we awarded them a full 10/10 in our review.

These aren’t exactly a necessity, but they come in so handy – once you’ve experienced shorts with cargo pockets, it’s very difficult to go back.

Raha makes its Cargo shorts for both men and women.

Jersey

Any cycling jersey with rear pockets will do the trick for bikepacking. As with socks and shorts, bringing two sets does help with the washing.

Alternatively, you could bring one jersey and one normal T-shirt, if you want something a bit more relaxed for the evenings.

RC900 Merino Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey

Merino is just as magical for jerseys as it is for socks, imparting all those wonderful qualities of odour reduction, thermal insulation and being quick wicking.

It makes a great addition for just your general cycling wardrobe, too. Because of the antibacterial properties, you can get a lot more use out of a merino jersey than a Lycra one before putting it in the wash.

Sadly we couldn't find this one in a women's fit.

Ashlu Merino Jersey 7Mesh

One downside merino jerseys do have is that the fabric isn’t as supportive as Lycra, meaning the pockets have a tendency to sag if loaded up with lots of heavy items.

7Mesh solves this problem by constructing the pockets from a polyester and elastane blend, meaning they’re just as supportive as any other jersey – but still retaining all the wonderful qualities of a merino jersey.

7Mesh makes this jersey in fits for men and women.

View item: Ashlu Merino Jersey 7Mesh at Sigma Sports for £130.00

Arm warmers

These are so useful for temperature regulation on the go, you can just pull them up or down depending on the weather – rather than having to keep on stopping to pull on a layer and take it off.

They also keep you disproportionately warm for the size they actually take up, so represent a really space efficient way of keeping warm.

dhb Regulate Thermal Arm Warmers

These are really some of the best, they’re a lot cheaper than many other options, but they perform the job perfectly – keeping you warm and actually staying up. There’s almost no need to spend more.

Assos armWarmer_evo7 arm warmers

But for those who want the ultimate in arm warmers, there is Assos’ offering. Built with the quality that is synonymous with the Swiss brand, these will last you season after season, all the while providing the same performance.

Rain jacket

Although you may already have a cycling rain cape, that’s not what we’re actually looking for here. The best rain jackets for bikepacking are much closer to ones you might use for hiking, hill running, or some other active sport. Cycling rain capes tend to be a bit too fitted, making them awkward for putting up a tent, or anything else off-the-bike.

You also want a rain jacket that will fit nicely over an insulated jacket – this pairing is quite lightweight and relatively low bulk, but it will keep you warm down to the temperatures you’re likely to experience when out in the early morning or late evening.

Quechua Men's Fast Hiking Ultra Lightweight Waterproof Jacket - FH 500

Not only does Decathlon produce some very competitively priced bikes, it also does a pretty extensive line in clothing.

This jacket has the right cut to be unrestrictive off the bike and will also be able to fit some layers in underneath – just what’s needed for bikepacking. It comes in both a men's and women's fit.

Gore Wear C5 GORE-TEX Trail Hooded Jacket

A little more cycling specific, mountain biking clothing generally offers a great compromise between a good general fit while also working well for cycling.

The nature of mountain biking means that there’s space for layers underneath – and it won’t be awkward for any stints off the bike. But on the other hand, the arms are made a little longer to still cover your wrists when reaching for the bars and the tail does have a bit of a drop to it.

There are men's and women's versions of this jacket.

Gloves

On cold mornings – or in the rain – your hands can easily end up unpleasantly chilly and stiff. Also, if you’re not used to spending this amount of time on the bike, a set of gloves can help mitigate and prevent any blisters.

Here we have only one item, as the mid-priced option is just simply the best. There’s really no point in spending any more or less.

But if you already have a set of gloves you’re happy with, then there’s no need to upgrade – better financially and environmentally to not buy new things unnecessarily. However, if you are looking for a new set, we can heartly recommend these.

100% Brisker Cold Weather Gloves

These are warm for their size but aren’t so hot that they can’t be worn in the summer for the primary purpose of protecting your palms. The total temperature range they can be used in is simply ridiculous.

The large reflective logo is great for indicating turns at night and the fingers work well with a touch screen. They’re super comfy and really hard wearing, there’s literally not a bad word to say about them.

Sunglasses

Keeping the sun out of your eyes, as well as bugs and bits of rock, makes for a much more pleasant ride – and it’s also important for your long term optical health.

You’ll very likely already have a set, but nevertheless, we’ll pop in our recommendations for a budget and more expensive version.

DeWalt Reinforcer Smoke Ploycarbon Safety Glasses

If you are after some really cheap sunglasses that can put up with the rigours of cycling, going for some designed for builders is the way to go. They have the necessary clarity and robustness, although they do forgo the anti-fogging and high-contrast visuals that fancier cycling specific lenses provide.

But at a tiny fraction of the cost of even mid-range cycling sunglasses, they do present an attractive option. You could even pick up a clear set for cycling in the dark.

Smith Optics Attack Mag MTB Photochromic Cycling Glasses

Photochromic sunglasses are a massive help for bikepacking, automatically adjusting the tint to the ambient light levels. You can pop these on in the morning and not have to give them a second thought, even as you ride late into the evening with the sun setting.

Shoes

Road cycling shoes are great for the efficient pedalling stroke and the support they provide, but those large and plastic cleats and very stiff soles aren’t the best choice for bike packing.

You’re far better off with a set of mountain bike shoes with a 2-bolt cleat. These are a lot easier to walk around in, you won’t damage the shoe or cleat, and the pedals are much better at coping with a bit of muck.

You might not be planning on doing much walking, but trust us, for one reason or another you do always end up doing a fair amount.

Recon 2.0 Mountain Bike Shoes

These shoes are ideal for bikepacking. The flexible forefoot makes these even easier to move about off the bike than an ordinary set of mountain bike shoes, but with a firm sole for the rest of the length, there’s not a significant loss in power transfer. You can read the full review here.

If you’re looking for a cheaper set, there’s the £99 Recon 1.0 with the same sole but Velcro binding. Or if you are fully committed to having two Boa dials which can be tightened and backed off in millimetre increments, there’s the £370 S-Works Recon option.

Under Armour Men UA M Locker III Slides

If you don’t have any shoes with a 2-bolt cleat and you’re not in a position to buy some, instead opting to use road shoes or trainers for riding, we very much recommend getting a set of sliders for your off-bike activities (best not try to ride in them!). They’re lightweight, easy to put on, and make it so much easier to walk across a field to go to the toilet in the morning.

And particularly if you’re camping, having some footwear you can quicky slip on is so surprisingly helpful that they’re often worth bringing even if you have mountain bike shoes.

Helmet

There’s nothing really bikepacking specific about this, more just a reminder to bring this along when packing – surprisingly easy to forget if you’re taking a car or train to the start point of your trip, rather than just rolling out the door.

We’ve pulled out a high value and a top end option here, but if you want to dig into a bit more detail, you should check out our helmet buying guide here.

Abus Macator helmet

One of the best helmets out there for the price, the Abus Macator is comfortable, stylish, and highly adjustable. Our full review, with all the details, is just here.

Giro Helios Spherical helmet

Incorporating MIPS technology for increased protection from rotational impacts, Giro’s Helios helmet is simply flawless, being lightweight and also having a perfect fit. More details can be found in our review.

Gilet

You might not already have one of these, but an insulated gilet, or vest, is really one of the most useful pieces of kit for bikepacking. They can pack down super small, but keep so you warm on chilly mornings, exposed hill tops, and during al fresco meals in the evening.

They’re also incredibly useful for just general riding, when there’s a large temperature differential throughout the day. If you haven’t had one before, it’s very well worth getting one

dhb Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet

It really helps to get one which either has easy access to your jersey pockets – by a second zip or side ports – or one which has its own pockets, as this one does. Just makes it a lot easier to get to the things you need.

With this and a set of arm warmers, you’ll remain comfortable through huge swings of temperature. Staying pleasantly warm at around 10°C (which is the average summer low for much of the UK), but also with the option to pull down the arms and unzip the gilet, which should keep you cool enough up to 18°C.

By which point you’re probably due a stop anyway and can take off the warmers and gilet and stuff them away for the evening. This gilet comes in men's and women's fits.

Insulated jacket

Yes, there is a lot of emphasis on staying warm here, but that’s really just a reflection of the fundamental fact that to cool down you just need to take layers off – and so there isn’t much to say on clothing on that end of things once you’ve got a summer set of bib shorts, jersey and socks.

So, back on the topic of staying warm! Insulated jackets are lightweight and can pack down small, but still offer a great deal of warmth. You’ll essentially live in it in the early mornings and late evenings—it also allows you to go a little lighter weight on your sleeping bag.

And all these qualities insulated jackets have make them just so useful for everyday life—for the amount of use you’re likely to get out of it, it really is one of the best value things you can buy.

Föhn Micro Synthetic Down Jacket

You really, really want to get a jacket with synthetic down. This retains far more of its thermal properties when wet than natural down (which is essentially none) and will go back to offering its full original warmth once it’s dried out. Natural down, even when specially treated, is never quite the same.

This jacket from Wiggle’s in-house outdoor brand, Föhn, is one of the cheapest synthetic down jacket you’ll find – that is of sufficiently high quality. Although quite an investment, it’s well worth saving up for this one.

Patagonia Men's Micro Puff Synthetic Jacket

Much the same in function as a cheaper option, but with the excellent build quality, customer aftercare and environmentalism that’s an integral part of Patagonia’s ethos. It might cost quite a bit more, but at least you know that money is going towards the important things.

Trousers / tights

It really helps to have some form of leg wear other than shorts. Beyond just being an extra layer, it gives you something to wear in the evenings when you might not want to be hanging around in some skimpy Lycra.

We’ve got two very different options suggested here. Which is best for you will really depend on your circumstances, what your style is, and how long your trip will be.

Vaude Men's Farley Stretch Zip II Trousers

Zip-off trousers aren’t exactly a ground breaking concept, but they are super useful for bikepacking. These ones, which come in a men's and women's fit, are quite lightweight and will pack down small. Also, for warmer days, the ability to do without the legs is a great help towards keeping cool.

ETC Full Zip Tights

These tights - which ETC say offer a unisex fit - are so useful, they are another item you won’t understand how you lived without them. With a full-length zip down the side, they are super quick to take off and very easy to pull on – particularly over shoes.

They are a little more bulky than just a set of leg warmers. But in being so quick and easy to take on and off, they are most certainly worth it. Unlike leg warmers, they can also be worn on their own without needing a set of shorts, making these tights a little more versatile.

If you do any racing as well, these really help with staying toasty during the warm up, but being very quick to take off when it comes time to line up at the start.

Fleecy mid-layer

This is an optional extra. If you have arm warmers and a gilet, you essentially have a mid-layer there, it’s just in three parts. Although insulated jackets are very warm, they work best if you do have a fleecy layer in the middle.

For longer trips, we’d still take one. It’s nice to have something a little looser fitting that can be quickly thrown on – unlike a gilet and arm warmers. But for shorter trips where you want to carry as little as possible, this is one of the first items that can go.

Haglöfs Men's Astro Fleece Jacket

Going for a relatively slim fit makes it easier to combine the fleece with other layers, such as an insulated jacket and rain shell for when the weather is really miserable. It also goes a little way to reducing the weight and bulk.

You really want one with a full length zip. For the times that you’re throwing this over your jersey, a pullover tends to not play so well with all the things you might have stuffed in your pockets.

Bags

Bikepacking bags are a lightweight way to carry all the things you need for a two-wheeled trip – whether that’s a quick overnighter or a multiday affair. In (usually) attaching to the bike with simple straps, these bags are also highly versatile and enable you to use pretty much any bike – making bikepacking a more accessible way to get out into nature.

What bags are right for you depends on the length of your trip, whether you’re planning on camping, and how many extra items you intend to take.

For shorter trips which don’t involve camping, a large saddle bag and a big handlebar bag might be all you need. This system also ensures all your luggage is kept well out of the way of your knees, preventing any rubbing.

Sleeping gear is generally quite bulky – and if you add in a stove and a tent, you’ll find your bags quickly filling up. For the full outdoor experience, you will need a large frame bag, top tube bag and potentially also a stem bag to fit everything in.

Although a little heavier, don’t discount a rack and panniers as a potential carrying system. They tend to be a lot cheaper than a full complement of bikepacking bags and you’ll have more space as well as being a little easier to pack.

Remember, it shouldn’t be a struggle to fit everything in your bags. For one thing, you need to leave space for bringing on some food and for another, you’re going to find it incredibly frustrating when out riding if there’s only one very precise way the bag can be packed for everything to fit. You’ll either need to leave some things out or get another bag.

Handlebar bag

A true staple of bikepacking. These are an efficient way to carry a lot of things – only saddle bags tend to be larger. A handlebar bag also helps to even out the weight distribution of the bike, which can tend to get a little rear-end heavy.

Unlike a saddlebag, certain handlebar bags can be accessed while riding, which can help with fuelling, layering and photos. They are also out of the way of your legs, so no worries about continually hitting your knees on them.

LifeLine Adventure Handlebar Bag

This is what we might call the classic style of handlebar bag. Essentially, a dry bag with straps and two roll-top entries at the sides. It is still an efficient way of carrying your things, but it tends to be a quite a pain to get your things in and out.

With this style of handlebar bag we tend to try and fill it with items we won’t be using until the evening. As they can be quite cheap, this style is still great for bikepacking on a budget.

Restrap Bar Pack

This is, without any exaggeration, the best handlebar bag we’ve come across. Unless you need to go for the cheapest available option, this is absolutely the one to get.

A large, vertically oriented roll top entry makes it super easy to get your things in and out – much more so than any design with a zip. The drawcord on top is great for stashing wet layers or packets of croissants and a front pocket with a Velcro flap makes it easy to access small items while on the move.

It’s even got a handy way to store a D-lock, making it so much easier to secure your bike – locks are generally quite a hard thing to find a place for.

For bikepacking trips which don’t involve camping, we find just this handlebar bag and a large saddle bag is all you need.

USA view item: Restrap Bar Pack at Restrap for $157.99

UK view item: Restrap Bar Pack at Restrap for £104.99

Saddlebag

There’s a lot of space behind the saddle, meaning this is the place most of your things will get stored. Remember to pack heavy things nearer the bottom as this will help reduce sway and issues the bag flopping down dangerously close to the tyre.

Like with handlebar bags, saddle bags are particularly good for storing compressible items, such as clothing, sleeping bags, or the canvas of a tent – so really make the most of this for bulkier items and use frame and top tube bags for more rigid things.

Zefal Z Adventure R 17L

A large capacity is pretty much the number one thing to look for in a saddle bag. As they tend to feature a roll top closure, there is literally no point in getting a smaller one because if you’re not bringing much, you can just roll the top down a bit further.

Another good thing to look for are some bungie straps at the top, these are so useful for keeping wet kit separate from your other things – as well as storing snacks.

AeroPack Alloy

This might cost a lot more upfront, but we think it is absolutely worth the investment. Unlike a traditional giant saddle bag, it doesn’t sway, it has a far greater capacity, and it’s better able to cope with heavy loads. The large closure system also makes it so much easier to access your things.

Considering the extent of the capacity, the price is actually quite competitive against all the other bags you’d need to match it.

There are so many little features and aspects to this system, you should really read the review to get the full picture of why we think this is so great.

USA view item: Tailfin AeroPack Alloy at Tailfin from $283.00

UK View item: Tailfin AeroPack Alloy at Tailfin from £189.00

Helicopter tape

It’s very easy to scuff your frame with bike bag straps rubbing against it all day. Particularly with carbon frames, you can permanently damage the tubing by riding through the wrong conditions.

So before strapping bags to your bike, it’s a good idea to add some helicopter tape underneath where you’ll be attaching them. It’s completely clear and will help protect your bike.

Bike Shield Full Pack Frame Protection Set

There’s a quite a few different brands you can go for, this one is not too expensive but will do the job well.

Tool keg / downtube bottle cage

You’re going to need somewhere to store your tools and spares. In the saddlebag won’t work as heavy things have to be stored at the bottom and you need quick access. A handlebar bag with a side roll entry has similar issues with accessibility.

You could use a frame or top tube bag, but that’s not ideal if you don’t want to have your knees rubbing on bags – and if you’re camping that space will be all used up anyway.

The best place to keep your tools and spares is in a bottle-shaped keg stored in a cage on the underside of the downtube. This keeps the centre of gravity low, while also keeping the tools highly accessible.

Topeak Cagepack XL Bag

The longer you’re riding for, the greater the chance of mechanicals. You’re also more likely to experience a broader range of mechanicals, and so will need a matching range of tools and spares.

This becomes doubly important if you’re planning on cycling off to somewhere quite remote, but also, your life is made far easier when you’re not having to cram things so tightly in.