Bikepacking essentials: our guide to everything you’ll need and why

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or just getting started, here’s our guide to the key kit to take - plus a few tips on optional extras

Male cyclist riding a gravel bike with bikepacking bags
(Image credit: Future)

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!

And if you're after any tech related advice, such as whether to go with clipless or flat pedals for bikepacking, you can find those supporting articles elsewhere on the site.

If it's a longer trip that you're going on and you're interested in some specifics. Over here we talk about the kit we used on our two weeks bikepacking around central Europe, for wild camping and wandering around the cities. And if you'd like to find out about the adventure itself, here's the full write up of our bikepacking trip from Budapest to the mountains of Slovakia.

If you're into documenting your trip, you might want to find space for one of the best bike and helmet cameras.

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.

Camping gear

Tools