By Stefan Abram
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.
|Clothing||Bags||Camping gear||Tools and spares||Vital accessories|
|Socks||Handlebar bag||Sleeping mattress||Inner tubes||Phone|
|Shorts||Saddlebag||Sleeping bag||Puncture repair||Wallet / keys|
|Jersey||Helicopter tape||Ground sheet / bivvy bag||Tyre levers||Head unit|
|Arm warmers||Helicopter tape||Tent||Allen keys / chain tool / spoke key||Wall charger / battery pack / cables|
|Rain jacket||Frame bag||Camping stove||Pump||Front and rear lights|
|Gloves||Top tube bag||Coffee making||Quick link||Suncream, chamois cream, lip balm|
|Sunglasses||Stem bag||Tyre boot*||Lock|
|Gilet||Cassette tool*||Bike phone mount*|
|Insulated jacket||Gear cable*||Penknife*|
|Trousers / tights||Adjustable spanner*|
|Fleecy mid layer*|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Topeak Ninja Cage
If you don’t have a bike with downtube bottle bosses in this location, that’s not necessarily a problem.
This bottle cage from Topeak can be strapped on anywhere with a couple of cable ties. Just make sure to use some beefy ones and to protect the area by wrapping it in heli-tape before strapping on the cage.
Frame bags are very useful for keeping important items close at hand and easily accessible. They’re also particularly good for things which don’t compress very well, such as tent poles and battery packs.
You can get full frame bags that take up the entirety of the main triangle of your bike. If going for this style, you’ll need to store a water bladder either in the frame bag or handlebar bag. These are a good option for maximising the amount of luggage you can take, but they do have some downsides which make them perhaps not the best solution for most people.
Most bikes have quite differently shaped main triangles, so generally, a full frame bag will have to be custom made, which adds to the cost. Also, it’s harder to quickly see how much water you have left in a bladder and they’re more awkward to fill up than a couple of bottles.
Some people do much prefer a full frame bag, but for most people, a half frame bag will be the optimal choice.
BBB Middle Mate BSB-142 Frame Bag
A frame bag with a middle divider can be useful when it comes to keeping things organised and not losing anything in there. This one fairly large, and so is great value for its size – a great option for expanding your on-the-bike storage options on a budget.
Apidura Expedition Frame Pack
Apidura was one of the first brands to really start producing bikepacking specific bags and so its products are very well tried and tested. This half frame bag is pretty huge and a great option if you’re planning on sleeping under the stars.
Just as with frame bags, top tube bags are great for valuables, food and things that don’t like being compressed.
LifeLine Adventure Top Tube Bag
Admittedly, this one is quite small, but the cost is low enough that buying two and attaching the second one symmetrically to the seatpost and top tube is a viable option and (obviously) doubles capacity.
Apidura Racing Long Top Tube Pack
If you’re getting yourself a top tube bag, you may as well go the whole hog and utilise the entire top tube. Although quite expensive, when you factor in how much capacity this is adding, it’s not a bad deal.
These are really handy for keeping snacks and other things close at hand, thereby also freeing up the frame bag for carrying other items, such as tent poles.
BBB Bar Buddy Handlebar Pack Bag
This one isn’t overly expensive and has the nice touch of a mesh pocket on the outside, helping to help your wrappers separate from the rest of the contents.
Although not as trendy as a set of bikepacking bags, you shouldn’t rule out a rack and panniers from your luggage bearing options.
You can pick up a set for not too much money and end up with even more storage space than a full set of bikepacking bags. They also tend to be a little easier to pack and unpack than bikepacking bags too.
We’d still recommend taking along a handlebar, top tube or any one of that style of bags in addition though. It really helps to have a bag you can access easily while still riding.
LifeLine Adventure Waterproof Pannier Bag
A fairly simplistic design, but with a sturdy and waterproof construction and quite a low price, you couldn’t really ask for more.
Ortlieb Back-Roller Pro Plus
These are the ultimate pannier bags. Ortlieb has produced bags that have gone on to be taken around the world by countless numbers of people. They are super robust, easy to use, and with loads of handy little features which just make these bags a pleasure to use.
The main benefits are: the large size, compression straps, external pocket for waterproofs, internal divider, easy to take off the bike and the ability to wear them as a shoulder bag.
Unlike bikepacking bags, you do need to attach a rack to fit a set of panniers. Fortunately, most bikes that you would wish to go bike packing on do come with mounts for these.
You can also get front racks to even further increase your carrying capacity, but that’s likely overkill for any trip a week or shorter.
Tortec Tour Ultralite Rear Rack
Quite cheap, quite light, stylish minimalist looks – but can still take a maximum load of 25kg. It’s pretty impressive in all and a good choice for most people.
Tubus Grand Tour Rear Rack
If you want a rack worthy of your Ortlieb panniers, this is the one to get. Tubus are very well known for their excellent racks and this one will happily accompany you around the world.
A very nice touch is the extra bar for mounting your panniers a little further down. This lowers the centre of gravity and makes your bike a little more stable to ride.
Despite all the imagery of tents pitched by lakes, if you’re just dipping your toes in the bikepacking world, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to other accommodation than camping.
If you don’t already own the necessary gear, buying a full set can add up to quite an expense – and then you need to factor in the price of more bikepacking bags to carry it all.
But if you’re ready to take the plunge and spend some nights out under the stars, here’s the kit that you’ll be needing.
An inflatable sleeping mat is generally best for bikepacking, being much less bulky and generally lighter weight than a foam mat. There is the potential chance of punctures, but we don’t find that’s usually an issue.
As an aside, making sure you have some form of pillow will help you get a much better night’s sleep. Without one, your head tips back and your mouth naturally opens, which can lead to a very dry throat in the morning. Just putting some clothes in a bag for a makeshift pillow goes a long way.
Trekology Inflatable Sleeping Pad UL50
These are very good, the low profile makes it fast to inflate, generally taking about 12 breaths. We even find them more comfortable than the massive thick air mattresses you might normally take camping, you don’t lose yourself within it when you try and sit up.
It’s not much heavier than the more expensive options and in our experience, we’ve found they shape up to be quite reliable, so this is an area it can be quite worthwhile saving on.
Sea To Summit UltraLight ASC Mat
If you do want to spend more, this one is about 12.5% lighter than the cheap ones you can get off Amazon. It’s a good choice and it’s nice to have the reassurance that if anything does go wrong, it’s a lot easier to sort things out than with a seller halfway across the world.
When it comes to sleeping bags, there's three desirable traits: light, warm and cheap, unfortunately you only get to pick two.
If it looks like you're getting all three, you've probably stumbled across a 'summer' sleeping bag. These might work fine for a trip to France or Italy in July, but if you're in the beautiful highlands of Scotland, it's just not going to handle the night-time lows.
As with jackets, you should be looking for one with synthetic insulation rather than natural down, as it’s not going to be so badly affected by getting a bit wet – which, unfortunately, there’s always a chance of.
Vango Kanto 250 Sleeping Bag
You’re a lot better off bringing a sleeping bag that’s slightly too warm and just unzipping it, rather than shivering through the night. This one is a good balance between insulation and size. But you don’t need to just take our word for it – apparently this model is also recommended by the UK Scout Association.
Rab Solar 3 Sleeping Bag
If you spend more money, you save on weight and bulk. In the regular length, this comes in at just over a kilo, but still will keep you warm at night.
Its stuff sack also has compression straps, which really do help when it comes to packing it down.
A bivvy bag is a waterproof shell you put around your sleeping bag and removes the need for a tent. For a solo rider, and even as a group, this is the lightest and least bulky way to spend the night outdoors. It’s also a lot quicker to set up than pitching a tent.
But if you take the route of the bivvy, you’ll also need to pick up a ground sheet, so you don’t puncture your sleeping mat on some thorns or rocks.
GeerTop Ultralight Camping Mat Waterproof Tent Tarp
Not the catchiest of names, but it does speak to the versality of this great little piece of kit. You can use it for so many different things – beyond just being a ground sheet for your sleeping bag.
You could bring a hammock and use this to provide some shelter, with a bit of rope. Or you could use it as a lightweight picnic blanket, your imagination is limit.
MSR Pro Bivy
It really helps to get a bivvy bag which has an overlapping hood or a zip closure. Otherwise, your face gets eaten alive by bugs and hit by rain. Pulling the drawcords of a hood tight only does so much – and it's not a lot.
Opting for a tent over a bivvy bag adds quite a lot of weight and bulk. But going for a 3-person tent over a 1- or 2-person one doesn’t add much of an extra increase.
So, if you’ve made the decision to go for a tent, you really might as well get a fairly large one which will be nicer and easier to use – it really makes a big difference to not be feeling all cramped.
MSR FreeLite 3 Person Tent
Weighing a claimed 1,368g, this is one of the lightest tents out there for the size. It’s got an out-front porch, which really helps with keeping your shoes and kit dry and safe.
Also, with the waterproof outer being a separate piece, you can leave this off if the evening is warm, so that the tent doesn’t get too hot and stuffy.
There is a whole, massive world to get into when it comes to camping stoves, with so many different types being best for different applications.
If you’re going on a very long-distance trip into a very remote place, something like the MSR WhisperLite Universal Stove would probably be best – it’ll work with a huge variety of fuels and is a very versatile option.
Or you could go really back to basics with something like the Bushcraft Essentials Bushbox LF, which is a wood burning stove that is super lightweight, compact and robust.
But for bikepacking a little closer to home, a stove that uses gas canisters are generally the simplest and lightest options.
Soto Amicus Stove and Cookset Combo
For first time buyers, it really helps to get a stove and cook set bundle, because then you know everything will pack nicely into each other.
Making sure to have two pots is really helpful too. This way it’s a little quicker and easier to make coffee and porridge in the mornings. Or in the evenings, you can get a nice curry going in one pot and have the other full of rice.
You could get yourself some packable bowls, but it’s much more efficient packing-wise to just eat out of the pots. And when it comes to cutlery, by all means buy a spork – but to be honest, just taking some from home isn’t that much heavier or bulkier and it’s a lot nicer to eat with.
H&S 10 Plates Foldable Outdoor Camping Cooker Wind Screen
This isn’t essential, but a wind shield will ensure less heat is being wasted to the surroundings and will speed up cooking times as well as being more fuel efficient – which makes financial as well as environmental sense.
It’s not too big, heavy or costly, so it really is a worthwhile purchase – although it won’t cause you problems if you omit it.
AeroPress 10R11 Go Travel Coffee Maker
If you haven't yet tried the loveliness that is AeroPress coffee, it's well worth giving it a go with this one. It's an updated version of the original with design changes which make it more travel friendly – but also easier to use just day to day.
Personally, I prefer the more concentrated coffee from a traditional Italian moka pot. But AeroPress coffee is excellent nonetheless and I have it a lot when a moka pot is impractical for whatever reason. (Generally, in hotels, when camping, and in houses with an induction hob – my moka pot is aluminium).
Everything you need for a coffee – filters, brewing chamber, mug, scoop for the grounds – all fits in a size smaller than a 500ml water bottle, it's really perfect.
Tools and spares
Much of these you will already carry with you on everyday rides. However, with the longer distances of bikepacking – and in being a little further from home – there are some other items beyond the usual which are good to bring.
A very obvious ones to start with – but an essential. Even you’re running tubeless, a bad enough cut will see it fail and you’ll need an inner tube to get yourself rolling again.
You should always take at least two (one for each wheel), but three is advisable as you might find yourself getting another puncture and being unable to patch one of the others.
LifeLine Wide Road Inner Tube
Not much to say, it's just an inner tube. This is a fairly typical size for a gravel bike which are nice to bikepack on, with their big squishy tyres offering more comfort and great off-road potential.
But if you have a standard road bike, you can still click the links and it's quick to navigate to the road ones.
Tubolito Tubo Gravel Inner Tube
If you’re set up tubeless and not planning on using your tubes, it can be quite annoying how bulky and heavy they can be. The Tubolito tubes are a lot lighter and smaller than your standard Butyl ones – and they also claim to be more puncture resistant too.
Whether or not they do better protect you from punctures is hard to verify – but what is easily verifiable is that they are definitely smaller and lighter.
Repairing a tubeless tyre can be a lot quicker than inserting a tube. And being able to patch a tube will allow you to keep on rolling no matter how unlucky you are with the punctures.
LifeLine Tubeless Repair Kit
Cheap and effective. If you have a hole which the sealant just isn’t plugging, jab one of these strips into the hole and it will give the sealant something to work with.
Nukeproof Horizon Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit
For something a little fancier – but which does the same job – this little metal pod is more compact and robust than the plastic case, making it easier to fit into your bag.
If you’ve not used one of these before, the best advice is that it takes a lot more force than you might be initially inclined to use on a lovely set of tyres.
LifeLine Puncture Repair Kit
Cheap, simple, puncture repair kits have been around for a while and haven’t changed much. For the small expense and the minor weight and space penalty, it is very worthwhile bringing this – even if you’re not planning on even using the tubes!
Tubolito Flix Kit Repair Kit
If you’ve gone for fancy tubes, you’ll need some fancy patches. That said, although there is a definite mark up beyond the cheapest Butyl tube puncture repair kits, these aren’t actually too expensive – very worth patching these tubes rather than throwing them away.
You probably already have a set of these, but if you don’t – or if you aren’t satisfied with the ones you have – here’s our suggestion.
Pedro's Tyre Levers
They might cost a little more than other tyre levers, they might be a little more bulky, but you will surely love them as we do.
They are exceptionally strong, so the risk of snapping a lever on a stubborn tubeless tyre is much lower. They are plastic, so won't damage your rims. They clip together which is great for not losing them – and they can attach to the spokes to hold in place if the tyre keeps popping back on the rim.
Just really great tyre levers in all.
You’ll likely already have all the tools of the multitool we’re about to suggest – but if you don’t, buying the tools on their own is really quite cheap.
Although a little heavier and bulkier to have all the tools separate, it is generally a lot cheaper and does make them easier to use. So it’s more a question of priorities really.
Silca Italian Army Knife - Venti
This is one of the most multi-functional multitools out there – but unlike some of the others, it even looks good and is pretty compact. The tools also haven’t been made impracticably small.
Here’s a list of all the tools it has, and we’ll say a few words about some of the important ones which sometimes get overlooked.
Hex Keys: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm
Torx Keys: T8, T10, T20, T25
Screwdrivers: Phillips Head 2, Straight Blade 4
Box Wrench: 7mm
Flare Nut Wrench: 8mm
Open End Wrench: 10mm
Spoke Wrenches: 13G, 15G
Forged Chain Breaker: Suitable for 10-12-speed chains
Others: Disc Pad Spreader, Valve Core Remover
An 8mm hex key is a very useful addition. Many multitools miss it off, but it’s commonly used for pedals. There’s perhaps more Torx keys than you need, but they are becoming more prevalent, so potentially good future proofing there.
The screwdriver heads and spanner sizes are all very common and great to have. Just double check with your spoke nipples to make sure this’ll work, but those are the most common sizes.
The value core remover tool – or perhaps more fittingly, the value core tightener – is a really great addition. There’s nothing worse than all the air quickly escaping from the tyre and making it pop off the bead. And those little plastic tighteners are so easy to lose.
Another item you’ll likely already have, so we’ll just give a suggestion of one we think is particularly good.
Crank Brothers Sterling Pump
Setting the correct tyre pressure is so important for getting the optimal levels of grip, comfort and puncture protection – so it really helps to get a pump with an integrated gauge.
This one has settings for high volume and low volume tyres. Meaning more air can be sent through with each pump when the tyre is big, but for narrower tyres you’ll still be able to get them to high enough pressures without your arms crumpling around the pump.
Shimano 11 Speed Quick Link SM-CN900
For something so small and lightweight, it can get you out of a massive pickle if your chain abruptly decides to snap.
Here’s a link to a Shimano 11-speed one, as these tend to be the most common (for now at least…). But if you click the link, you’ll be able to quickly navigate to all the other ones.
Now we come to the things which are really optional extras. If you’re going for a longer journey with a lot of people, it becomes more worthwhile bringing these things as rarer mishaps become more likely to happen.
But if you’re just going for a short trip with one other person, you could probably skip on these.
Park Tool Emergency Tyre Boot Patch
If you’ve cut such a large hole in your tyre that the sealant won’t fix it, then the chances are if you put in an inner tube it’ll just poke out the hole and get punctured almost immediately.
In that case, just place this inside the tyre covering the whole, and it’ll form a little barrier between the inner tube and the hole.
You can also use a polymer bank not for this, but they are a bit less rigid.
The point of a mech hanger is to be more fragile than the rear derailleur, so that if it takes a hit the mech hanger will snap instead of the – more expensive – rear mech.
That’s all well and good, but if you snap a hanger when out on a ride, you’re left in much the same position as if you had totalled your mech.
The rather obvious remedy to this is just to bring a spare one with you, they aren’t very big or heavy.
SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger
Mech hangers are pretty specific to each bike, so it’s a little hard to come up with just one suggestion.
But there is this supposedly universal derailleur hanger, it won’t fit all bikes, but could help get a friend out of a tough situation if you take it along.
If you click the link, it’s quite quick to start searching through the many other hangers, although I’m sorry to say it probably won’t be so quick to find the one for your bike – but you’ll thank yourself for it if you do snap a hanger!