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

Gravel Week
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 (opens in new tab), 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. (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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. (opens in new tab)

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.