21 Bicycle Tourers Share Their Best Packing List Advice

Crossing countries on a bicycle is quite a challenge, but for many bicycle tourers it’s also a life changing experience.

But you don’t just jump on and start cycling. Bicycle touring is something that requires proper planning and preparation.

To improve how we pack and prepare, we have talked with 21 experienced bicycle tourers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 21 bicycle tourers have lots of experience, so they really know what they are talking about!).


Andrew Siess

From Minnesota living in Cairo to host cyclists biking through Africa. My biggest bike trip was 30,000 km from Minnesota to Argentina and back, from 2009-2011. Into cycle touring because it’s the best means of transport: you see, hear, smell, taste, touch more than traveling in a car and you’re not ruining the environment around you. Almost everyone in the world has ridden a bike so it’s also something that everyone enjoys and has access to.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

  • Violin: music is another language many speak around the world so it’s a means of communication. It is also a nice gift to share with people who have never heard one played or played one themselves and when times get hard or the location is right I can busk for money to keep on biking. I’ve played on the streets all over the world and have been invited to play at weddings, birthdays, and restaurants;
  • String for making bracelets: fun activity to do when sitting around waiting for visas to be processed or sitting around in the street waiting for a couch surfer to find you, or in the tent without a book. also makes a nice gift;
  • Silk sack: its so small and makes the sleeping bag so much warmer and more comfortable. you sleep like a king/queen with a silk sack. also when friends join and forget to bring warm enough sleeping bags its great to have it on hand to give them so they can sleep through the night.

Useless things:

  • A lint roller;
  • An ab roller;
  • Two matching sequin leotards with large feather hat.

How do you bring things with you?

I use Ortlieb bags just like everyone else but if I can’t find Ortliebs, then I use plastic buckets, which also work great. No particular organization for the bags. I like to have too much room so that there is always space for extra food and water when I need it.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

I always think it’s funny to see the ‘fresh out of the box’ cyclists who have all brand new gear and look like shining bike tourist models because it’s like wearing sign that says, “I’m new to this.” The longer you go, the dirtier you get and the more stuff breaks and you are forced to jury rig solutions, putting tape on rips, bagging things in plastic bags to ensure they stay waterproof, re-purposing discarded things from the side of the road.

Visit Andrew Siess’ website

Brian Mathé (Solidream team)

I’m from France, in the South on the coast of Mediterranean Sea. That’s where I live now, even though I travel quite a lot. I’m into bicycle touring because, with friends, we cycled around the world for three years (Solidream project) and kept biking as a way to discover the world ever since and a healthy way to move from one point to another in everyday life.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

  • I bring books (at least one) because bicycle touring, along many other sports where you practise long hours in a day, is a good way to sharpen your body, and so your spirit. Having a good book to read in theses circumstances make it even better to enjoy and it’s easier to be touched emotionally by a good writing;
  • I bring a machete to set up camp. It’s particularly useful in tropical countries where it’s not always easy to find a place to pitch the tent. Along the Trans-amazonian highway, this was particularly useful;
  • I bring recipes from France. Food is always a very good way to please the people who offer to host a bicycle tourer. So it’s a way to give back and make the encounter richer.

How do you bring things with you?

I used to travel with an Overboard dry bag alongside Vaude panniers. The backpack is useful for doing other types of activities besides cycling, such as mountaineering or hiking. Recently, I used cordura bags because it’s really light to carry and you can put them outside (they’re waterproof) when you just filled in food for instance.

Foodwise, I enjoy to have natural fabric type of bags to make seed sprout on the bike. It’s good for your health!

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

This is not just useful for bicycle touring, but if you try to find as much things that have double use (for instance a towel, which you can use as a scarf or many other things), then you’re on the way to pack light. Also, it’s better to think about general processes than to what you need to pack. For instance: What food am I going to find on the way and what do I need to cook it really (if I ever do) is a better question than ‘What is the amount of food I need to pack beforehand’.

But not all trips need the same gear, and it’s much more a question on the constraints you are willing to handle than what you really need. For instance, if you’re OK with the fact of eating to eat cold all the time, then you don’t need to pack a stove. And it makes an excuse for a warm restaurant from time to time (on rainy days it’s a blessing!)

Saint-Exupéry said so: ‘The hardest is to make the first step. Then, it’s always the same step that you make again and again.’ Easier said than done, but you always have the option to come back and it will never be a failure anyway. Fear is OK. No fear can be unconscious. Too much fear makes you stay home.

Visit Brian Mathé (Solidream team)’s website

Tegan Phillips

I’m from sunny Cape Town, South Africa, and that’s where I am now. 🙂

I’m into bicycle touring because:
– you get to see the world
– not just the cities in the world, the actual countryside
– you don’t just get to see it, you get to live in it, and build a direct relationship with the natural environment
– you get to ride a bicycle all day
– you eat well, sleep well, get lots of sunshine and fresh air and feel generally physically healthy and happy (besides the bump and scratch)
– you get to meet the best people, and because you’re so vulnerable (just on a little bicycle with nothing else), people don’t feel threatened by you and are super nice
– you learn how to push yourself (when you’re sore/tired and there’s a big mountain and you have to keep going)
– it helps you remember there’s more to life than work
– it gives you time to think about things (as opposed to fast-paced travelling where it’s constant stimulation, exhausting)
– you get to sleep under the stars lots!
– there are hundreds more reasons, it’s just the best!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Things I always bring:

  • An iPad mini – as a comic artist, this is how I record my trips, not with photos but with little digital drawings that I make on my iPad! It fits in my handlebar bag so when I have a comic idea I just stop my bike, open my handlebar bag and scribble it down with my finger (does have a few cracks in the screen now, but totally worth it). Also, works great for maps/Skype/internet, and especially reading, as books can be heavy and reading on a phone is a bit, well, not the same;
  • A power bank – can charge it up when there’s electricity and can use it to charge phones etc for a few days;
  • Some gifts for nice people I might meet. As a cycle-tourist it’s common to be hosted by wonderful, complete strangers and I like having little things from home to give them to say thank you.

Most useless things I’ve seen people bring:
I’m pretty bad when it comes to carrying useless things (on one trip I brought a ukulele, a potplant, a magic set, my childhood doll and several books, and they pretty much all stayed in my panniers, untouched, for 10 months!). Oops.

In terms of other useless things I’ve seen people bring, the only thing that really comes to mind is a guy with this enormous saddle, it was like a car seat! It’s technically not ‘luggage’ but definitely seemed a bit useless – better to let your bum get tough and go with a nice hard Brooks saddle. 😛

How do you bring things with you?

I use Ortlieb panniers – for longer trips, front and back panniers, a handlebar bag as well as a rack-pack. They are really good quality – waterproof and durable, and you can carry a LOT if you use all 6 bags to full capacity. Something I’d like to see developed in the touring world is some cool panniers that can also turn into backpacks.

In terms of organising things, I generally have one front pannier for clothes, one for inflatable mattress/sleeping bag, then heavier stuff goes in the back panniers – tent, tools, cooking stuff, etc. Every trip is a bit different because you’re going to use different things, for example when I toured in Wales I had a lot of rain-gear that I needed quickly accessible, and that went right in the top of one of my back panniers. On other trips, where I’ve just used back panniers and nothing else, it’s all about just getting everything to fit as compactly as possible, with heavy stuff at the bottom for stability. I find the Ortlieb handlebar bag is great in terms of keeping all my valuables (passport, technology, money etc) – because it’s got a shoulder strap and clips off easily, so I can carry it around with me if I ever need to leave my bike for a bit (e.g. to go shopping).

On a side note, I’ve found having a bike stand makes a big difference in terms of being able to quickly stand your bike up and go digging in your panniers – much harder when bike is leaning on something/laying down.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

In terms of packing, my top tip would probably be: If you’re not sure if you’ll need [thing] for the trip, and if it’s easy enough to get [thing] on the road, don’t pack it. Leave as much as possible behind, then once you’re on the way you quickly get a sense of what you really need for that particular trip and if there’s anything you’re missing, you can buy/borrow. For certain things though, like very specific bike parts that aren’t easy to get anywhere, it’s better to be safe than sorry – pack them. Another option is to post things to people you’ll be meeting along the way, that way you’ve got the option of changing your supplies – offloading old stuff and getting new stuff – and posting the offloaded bits back to yourself.

Tips to get out the door: The one thing that most surprised me about cycle touring is that IT’S REALLY EASY. At least, easier than you could ever imagine. Before my first tour, I was convinced I didn’t have enough cycling experience, nervous because I’d never done anything remotely similar, I was going to a place where I didn’t speak the language (Spain) and everybody drove on the other side of the road. I didn’t know how to fix a puncture or put up a tent. So I had this strong feeling that I was super under prepared, that I should first learn all of those things and go somewhere more familiar, do a bit more riding practice, etc. And I think a lot of people feel like that about touring – that they’re not ready because of reasons like that. But because of time constraints, I just had to leave without doing any preparation at all, and I learnt every single thing that I needed to know while I was on the road. And that’s how touring works. Whatever problem comes – getting lost, not finding shops to buy food, mechanical issues – you survive, you make a plan, it’s always fine in the end, that’s what makes it an adventure! So I guess my advice is don’t wait until you’re ready because you won’t be, ever. Don’t go in with any expectations, and most of all don’t overthink anything – just put some stuff on your bike and start pedalling and let the experience unfold 🙂

Visit Tegan Phillips’ website

Leo, Vero and Nala

We are a couple from northern Italy and Nala is our four-legged companion who has been following us in our adventures around the world for two years. We are into bicycle touring for over 20 years and we love this style of travel because it gives us the freedom to explore the area at the right pace, slowly and intensely, allowing us also to get in touch with the locals and learn about the traditions, customs and uses of the country. Now we are facing our adventure without plans and without a destination (#noplansjourney): We left home three months ago and now we are in Sardinia, heading towards the south of Italy and then… who knows, wherever the road will lead us.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

We are not travelers who leave light… we always have lots of luggage, also because we work during the trip and the technology is a “necessary evil”. We have a portable solar panel with which we recharge all our instruments. For the rest, in this last trip the most successful purchase were waterproof socks that, with the cold and humidity, have often saved us from freezing. As for the repairs, one of the most useful tools we have are the electrician clamps, useful for every occasion.

We do not believe there are useless things that you take on a journey… everyone has a different metric of what can be useful or useless: I have seen people bring stuffers, people have a huge beauty case, people with a thousand clothes, but if everything this does not hinder the journey and makes those who carry it feel better, it’s not to be considered useless.

How do you bring things with you?

We use panniers to transport our things. Since many years we use Crosso bags and we are happy with them: they are big, strong and cheaper than other more famous brands.They also have back pockets to insert the first-use items. Now Vero has also front pannier and i carry a trailer for Nala (Croozer dog trailer). We try to keep heavier things (stove, food, technology…) in front pannier and clothes and camping gear in the rear ones.

We feel to have just the right room in our bags for long distance trips.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

As said before, we do not travel light and we do not like bikepacking if not for short and fast journeys. For this reason we do not feel like giving good advice in general, but only suggestions given by our experience: Few clothes, one change for pedaling and one for rest. Good camping gear: If you can afford it, spend a little more to save on weight but if you do not have enough money, do not hesitate to leave heavy! You will be slower but not less satisfied.

Visit Leo, Vero and Nala’s website

Jeff Bartlett

I am an adventure photographer and filmmaker from the Canadian Rockies. After spending much of 2018 on the road, I’m trying to focus on adventures closer to my own doorstep this year. I’ve actually dedicated a solid few months to a large bikepacking film project based in my home region. I can’t wait, as it’s the first time I am bringing my career and personal passions together. I’ve been a keen bicycler tourer since I graduated high school. After bike touring around New Zealand and across Argentina, I dove into bikepacking. It’s essentially the same as bicycle touring, but is predominantly done off road and on mountain bikes.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Three things I always carry while bike touring are: leatherman multi-tool, a million empty calories, and bag balm.

  • The leatherman might fall into the common stuff category, but it’s essential. I’ve used its knife to cut into avocados and spread peanut butter; its can opener open beer and tighten cranksets; and its file to fix hangnails and modify headsets;
  • The million empty calories might seem like an exaggeration, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. While am energy gel or electrolyte formula is great for training rides at home, they’re far from ideal on the road. Its impossible to carry enough to get through a long tour, difficult to restock when on the road, and, after about a week, they taste awful. Replace them with gas station snacks. Chocolate bars, gummy bears, and coke might be empty calories, but they’re exactly what the body craves and needs when you need an energy kick to make it to a distant campsite;
  • As for bag balm, just trust me. It’s essential and, when you need it, you’ll know how to use it.

How do you bring things with you?

I have two different bike touring setups. For long distance tours that are primarily road based, I use Thule Shield panniers. I have a full set of four, but most often only use the two L rear panniers. I typically have a camping bag, which holds my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, inflatable pillow and maybe a set of clothes in one pannier, In the other, I carry spare clothing, my food and small cookset.

For bikepacking adventures, on my mountain bike, I use Porcelain Rocket bike packing bags. I have a 52Hz framebag, Mr Fusion saddle bag, and a MCA Handlebar system that holds an 18L drybag and a 5L pocket. Bikepacking requires lightweight travel, so I never have as much gear as when bike touring. I keep my sleeping setup (bivy sack, sleeping bag and sleeping bad) in the handlebar bag, my spare clothing, tools, and repair kit in the saddle bag, and most of the frame bag is for food and water.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

I think bikepacking has truly opened my eyes to the benefits of light weight cycle touring. Shaving as much weight out of your gear will let you ride further and more comfortably. Shave weight whenever possible.

During my first few bike tours, I carried four panniers loaded completely . On my most recent long distance tour, a 4500 km mountain bike ride across the USA, I carried 35L of gear total.

Visit Jeff Bartlett’s website

Paul Jeurissen & Grace Johnson

I’m Grace Johnson from Seattle, U.S.A. and my husband Paul Jeurissen is Dutch. We met each other on the Trans-America trail way back in 1981 and since then we cycle the world together.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Water is so heavy to carry. And you need quite a bit of it to cook, wash and set coffee in the morning. A small steripen allows us to wild camp in amazing places without having to carry extra H2O. If we can find a beautiful camp spot next to a river, we’ll go for it. Then all we have to do is treat the river water with our steripen – and that’s so easy to do!

One of the most useless things that I saw anyone bring on a trip had to be a hairdryer. But within the first couple of weeks, they made a trip to the post office to send all of their extra stuff home.

How do you bring things with you?

We both cycle with four panniers and a rackpack from Ortlieb. There is a lot of extra space with this type of setup. Most of the time we don’t fill it. That is untill we visit a supermarket. Then we use the extra room to fill our bags with food and drink. Pasta, bread, wine, etc. tends to be bulky and take up a lot of room. For us it works well.

We both hate wearing backpacks. That’s the usual option that most cyclists resort to if they don’t have enough space in their bags to carry food.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

If you’re just starting touring, or don’t have a lot of extra money, then carry a bungy cord. Lightweight, non-bulky equipment tends to be very expensive. So a bungy cord will allow you to carry cheap sleeping bags and bulky gear. Plus if you feel that touring without some refreshment in the evening diminishes the fun factor – with a bungy cord you can strap a six-pack to your back rack.

Visit Paul Jeurissen & Grace Johnson’s website

Fredrika Ek

Swedish girl gone riding. 🙂 Currently catching my breath back home, after spending 1042 days and 50 000 km riding around the world.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

  • Paper maps – Barely ever do I use them for navigation. For making friends in places where you don’t speak the language though – nothing beats them!
  • Wet wipes – Because… wet wipes
  • Glass jar for sprouting seeds / lentils – Growing a garden simply equals joy! This is the cheapest and definitely most lightweight and mobile one you’ll ever have.

How do you bring things with you?

I’m Ortlieb from start to finish, and always have been.

Currently working my way from the traditional pannier set up to a lighter bike-packing style rig and trying to slim down on some of the extra stuff I’ve been carrying in the bottom of my bags for God knows how long. Enjoying the process immensely!

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

If you’re unsure – leave it. No matter how you go about it you’ll end up overpacking anyway. In all honesty, I think the focus on equipment is creating boundaries that really don’t need to be put between people and their dreams of life on two wheels. So what if you don’t have the perfect setup. Just go! Stuff will work out anyway. Trust the girl who rode around the world on the completely wrong frame size. 🙂

Visit Fredrika Ek’s website

Baerbel Gerhardt + Johan de Vries

Baerbel is German and Johan Dutch, we live currently in the South of Germany in the Black Forrest. We have been bicycle touring since 2012. We cycled in two years (2012-2014) from Germany to New Zealand and in 2015-2016 through Central Asia, Middle East and North America. Since 2017 we are cycling each year in the summer for several months.

We are in bicycle touring because we believe that is the best way of traveling and to see other countries and meet local people. There is no other mode of transportation that gives you such an independent freedom, you can stop whenever and wherever you want, almost no road is too bad to cycle and therefore you can get to places where a car, train or bus will never get you. (Walking as well of course but that limits your daily travel distance and you have to carry your luggage on your back). And it is often exactly on those less visited places where you have the greatest experiences and where you are able to learn how other people really live. On top it’s environmental friendly and cheap.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Top things we bring: Re-usable coffee filter, pillow, e-book reader, cotton shopping bags to avoid plastic. A tent of which the inside tent is self supporting without pegs and has lots of mosquito mesh and is very practical in hot climates and also works great in cheap hostels to keep insects and mosquitos out (we just put it on the bed and sleep inside). We have both front wheel dynamo hub with USB connection to load some of our devices when cycling.

Most useless: All types of different cosmetics such as shower gel, hair shampoo, moisturizer). Now we take one bloc of multi-purpose soap (hair, body, shaving, clothes, dishes, etc.). Outdoor shower (don’t laugh), which is plastic bag with a small shower head. We never used it. We just use water bottle and wash cloth to wash ourselves when we wild camp, faster, more practical and saves water.

Useless things of other people we have seen: No waterproof bags (so they have to fiddle with plastic covers, which is never fully waterproof), cycling with heavy backpack while enough space left to put it on frame/rack, too little water bottles/holders while enough space on frame, too many spare parts, a separate tent just to keep their bikes dry at night.

How do you bring things with you?

We use the basic cheapest waterproof Ortlieb panniers, two at the front and two at the back. On top of the two at the back we attach a big waterproof Ortlieb bag. Also, we both have a handlebar bag with our valuables, money, passport, photo camera, phone, sunscreen, map etc.

We organise our bags as follow, of course depending on climate (for cold area’s we have more clothes like gloves, hats, thermal underwear, fleeces, thicker coats, etc.), and remoteness of the area where we have to carry food/water for up to seven to 10 days:

Two front panniers contain our sleeping bags, pillow, reading light, book/ereader. One front pannier has our mattresses and space for various other things, last front pannier has food and thermos bottle.

Two rear panniers with all our cloths and laptop, iPad, etc. One rear pannier is our kitchen, so pots, stove, food, cups, herbs, water filter. The last rear pannier has first aid kit, toiletries, flip flops or other shoes, bike spare parts, tools and repair kit, electrical cables, adapters, etc. for our electrical devices (camera, laptop, IPad, phone) and space for additional stuff as food/water.

On top bag we have tent, space for additional clothes, food.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

Better less then more when it comes to clothes! And often all other things. You can always buy something on the road if really needed. Don’ take too many spare parts – but this depends on the quality of your bike. These days you can always order online and get it shipped to almost everywhere in the world, so you are not dependent on local availability. This is what we prefer for instances tyres, which are quite bulky and heavy. And could last for up to 10.000km…so why carry it.

We would never cycle with a heavy backpack, its very uncomfortable, you start sweating far too much on your back, which makes you very cold when stopping, going downhill and is very inefficient if you can easily put it on your bike.

To avoid dreaming about it:

Just do it! Go and leave. Your gear doesn’t have to be perfect (does that exist?). While on the road you will make adjustments anyway, and everybody has it own preferences. There is no such thing as the best equipment or best way of packing or preparation.

And any bicycle will do….we have seen plenty of people with a very limited budget who are touring around the world on old citybikes with no gears, age old road bikes and self made racks and constructions to carry luggage.

We met last year an Australian couple of 70 plus years old, who flew to Europe, bought upon arrival in France two 35 year old rusty road bikes for around €50 each and started cycling through Europe for a few months and sleeping everyday in a small tent. They had the best time of their lives.

Visit Baerbel Gerhardt + Johan de Vries’ website

Line Wagener

I live in Denmark – and have been bicycle touring since I was a teenager.

Over the last five years I have traveled a lot through out Europe with my boy friend and our two kids – now age 9 and 12.

We have cycled along some of the best European routes . e.g. Elb Bike Trail (Germany and Czech Republic) the Danube Bike Trail (Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary), North See Route (Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark), Rhine Bike Trail (Germany, Swiss, Netherlands) and on routes in Denmark, where we live.

Bicycle touring equals freedom. It is the number one way of spending time together as a family. It is quality time as we spend hours after hours together doing what we all love – while exploring nature and wild life at the same time.

Travelling this way means no timetable and no stress. And no one is telling you what to do. I just love it!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

I always bring:

  • Ebooks. Never go to sleep without a great book!
  • Wool clothing. Thin and thick – to keep warm and comfortable at all temperatures.
  • A note book – for diary notes and for notes about all the small stuff we would like to adjust or remember for our next trip. You always think you can remember, when you come home. But you can’t.

How do you bring things with you?

As we always travel with our two kids, who can’t carry as much luggage as adults, both my boyfriend and I use bike trailers as we have to carry most of the luggage.

I use a Bob Yak light weight trailer – after my MTB bike.

My boyfriend use a Burly Flatbed trailer and two Ortlieb pannier

Kids travel with Ortlieb pannier.

We prefer trailers. It gives stability and feels easy. Even up hill.

And trailers are more flexible as you can always put more stuff on top.

With trailers you can carry quiet a bit without much distress, so it is a really comfortable way for a family to travel.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

Toptips: Use – lightweight bike trailers, e.g. Bob Yak

How to pack light:

1) Limit the amount of clothing – you really dont need much!

2) Bring e-books instead of paper books.

3) It all about getting out there. Go explore. Live out your dreams.

We have been away for bicycle trips for up to 2½ month.

Living on the road and in out tent have affected us enormously.

We have strong bonds as we have to function as a team.

Living outside in the nature, spending family holidays cycling through Europpe spending time with each other is the best thing I have ever done for my familiy.

Visit Line Wagener’s website

Jessilyn and Neil Calderwood

We both work in the design industry full-time – Jess does program management and studio operations, and Neil does a little bit of everything.

We currently live in Berlin, but originally come from New York (Jess) and Belfast (Neil).

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

A pack of playing cards, a hammock, and tweezers.

Ending the day with a quiet beer and a nice game of rummy’s just a ritual for us now, it doesn’t feel right without it. And besides, if you get a hole in a tyre, a playing card is great as a temporary boot.

Also, don’t ever underestimate the power of a good pair of tweezers. We were touring in Burma three years ago, and were plagued one day with constant punctures. We went through all of our spare tubes and could not find the culprit. Finally, after spending three hours at our guesthouse combing through both tyres, we find the cause: a razor thin shard of metal that had gotten stuck in one of the eaves. Nothing could pull it out, except Jess’s tweezers.

We have a tendency to overpack ourselves, so we can’t criticise others too harshly, but spare chainrings and cassettes is taking it a step too far.

How do you bring things with you?

A pannier in each corner – four in total. We tape two together to count as “one” check-in bag, which we each carry under our boarding pass. The tandem itself splits in two and goes into two standard bike boxes if we need to put it on a plane.

Four good old Ortlieb City Rollers and a handlebar bag, aka “the sandwich bag”. All in matching grey, of course. It’s not about fitting the bags to the stuff, it’s about fitting the stuff to the bags. If you can’t get it all in, you’re bringing too much.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

Don’t overplan. Things will go wrong, and the best way to deal with it is to gauge how much of a dent it really makes on the rest of your journey. We’ve only dealt with tours that had a definitive end date due to our jobs, so can speak with some authority that the quicker you are to assess the situation rationally and adapt to issues, the better off and more fun you’ll have in the end.

For us, we always keep in mind that if we pack it, we have to carry it, and while bringing an entire spare tyre seemed like a good idea at the time, that’s a kilo that will be weighing you down when you’re on an 8% incline.

Our last piece of advice is to not compare yourself to other cycle tourers. There’s always going to be someone who travels farther, climbs harder, goes deeper, and gets more followers than you. It doesn’t make your trip any less memorable or legitimate. Cycle for yourself, not for the likes.

Visit Jessilyn and Neil Calderwood’s website

Scott Stoll

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Now I don’t live very far away in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I love bicycle touring because I think of my bicycle as my ticket anywhere. (I traveled the world for four years on a bicycle. 41,444 Kilometers, 59 Countries, 6 Continents and 4 moments of enlightenment.) My bicycle has also proven to be an open invitation to meet people and make instant friends. And, of course, there is the sense of freedom and adventure. In other words, I think of my bicycle as a paintbrush and nothing paints a better picture of the land and its people than riding a bicycle over the canvas of a country and culture.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

The best thing I brought was a small sketchbook, markers and watercolor. It actually took me years before I discovered that people valued my talent. Sometimes I would trade a picture for a night’s lodging. And other times at a bar or restaurant, I would draw pictures of people and give them away. One time I had a line out the door and around the corner. Unfortunately, I never even saved one picture for myself.

Another thing I wish I would have learned sooner is to always have a supply of lemons. These might be nature’s best source of electrolytes and help you stay hydrated. Without something like this, you can drink all the water in the world and it won’t soak into your cells; you’ll just end up taking a lot of potty breaks.

My third uncommon item were all the baggy lightweight clothes I would wear. I dressed like a Bedouin in flowing robes to keep the sun off me. I say this is uncommon because most cyclists wear skin-tight clothes that are more aerodynamic but leave the skin exposed to the blistering sun.

And I think the most useless thing I’ve ever seen anyone bring was me and my full-size, regulation chess set. I lugged this thing around for two continents hoping to make new friends playing chess at coffee shops.

How do you bring things with you?

I used the standard Ortlieb panniers and a handlebar bag. Of course, I never felt like had enough room, but if my panniers were any bigger, there’s no doubt I would have filled them to the top despite my aching knees.

As far as organization goes, I did separate things inside plastic bags, especially as my gear started to wear out and water began to leak in. Practically, speaking I liked to put the heavier items on the bottom and towards the front to stabilize the bike. So generally my tools were in the right front pannier, and my stove, filter and bathroom supplies in the left front. My handlebar bag served as my office. I had a backpack (kitchen) full of food strapped to the back on top of my tent. And all the clothes went into the back panniers.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

I could give you lots of tips about what to bring and how to pack; however, you may get bogged down in the details, so my recommendation to make your dream of touring a reality is to simply get out on the road. Believe me, you’ll figure it out real fast! Allow yourself a few weeks to go slow and sort out all the details.

That being said, I would advise two things: 1) spare no expense to buy basic, durable supplies, and 2) buy gear that helps you blend into the local culture and meet people.

For those who need more information, I do have a supply list full of tips on my website:

Visit Scott Stoll’s website

Chris Haag

Originally from Michigan, but currently in Mexico City in the midst of a two-year cycling trip from Alaska to Argentina. I rediscovered the bike in my early thirties after moving to Detroit. It became easier to ride most places rather than take a car and within a year I was planning my first tour around Lake Michigan. I’ve always loved to travel. I remember the second day on that trip, once I was out of the city, and I couldn’t believe that it had never occurred to me use a bike for long distance movement. I spent most of my days dreaming about planning a big tour after that. Alaska to Argentina always appealed to me. I think it appeals to anybody that tours. Finally in 2018 I was able to convince my wife to leave work and get on the road.

For me the best aspect of long term riding is the people we meet. They get excited when they see that somebody is living life a little differently. I consider myself a relatively average person and I think people see this and it somehow gets them thinking a bit about some of there own dreams whether it is travel or quitting their job to buy a farm.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

The thing that most people make fun of us for is our electric toothbrush. It has a USB adapter so we can charge it off the dynamo hub. We also carry Frooties. They contain an extract that makes sour foods such as lemons taste sweet. We meet lots of people that graciously offer to host us and we like to share these as a way of saying thank you. Our Big Agnes camp chairs are a bit over the top in terms of space and weight, but it is amazing to be able to have a nice place to sit when you’re camping every night. I also have a kick stand that I made out of some tent poles to lean the frame against. I added this piece in the middle of the trip and it totally changed my life. Sometimes you need to make an emergency bowel evacuation on the side of the road after street tacos and there is nowhere to lean the bike. Another useful addition is my “parking brake.” It is really just an old piece of tube that I tie around my brake handle to keep the bike from rolling when I lean it against something.

I once met a guy who carried a machete to clear the brush for camping sites. He swore by it. Seemed a bit over the top.

How do you bring things with you?

My front Panniers are Ortlieb classic rollers. One carries our tent and sleeping pad. The other has all of my clothes. I have a frame bag made by moose treks that carries my tools and water filter and is sort of like the kitchen drawer full of random things. My rear panniers are made from old Tidy Cat litter buckets. One carries my laptop, toiletries, camp chair, and shoes. The other has our food. They double as a good surface to chop food on or to use as a foot rest.

In hindsight, I would do a smaller bikepacking sort of setup rather than panniers next time around. The kitty litter buckets are too large and things tend to bounce around. It also seems unreasonably heavy to have all the racks and bags rather than just strap everything to the frame.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

I think the best way to get out the door is to just make your first trip very simple. All of the gear and packing can be overwhelming. Pack a small bag with a toothbrush and change of clothes and ride to a friends house in the next town or a hotel, or a campground. Have breakfast and ride home the next morning. Something like that will get your wheels turning (pun intended) about how to make the next trip a little bigger.

As far as packing light goes: pack as much or as little as you want. Being light and aero will probably be more enjoyable from a riding standpoint, but if you really want to bring that guitar then bring it.

Visit Chris Haag’s website

Daniele Carletti and Simona Pergola – BeCycling

We are from Italy and right now we are in Guatemala. We left our home town, Rome, pedalling in July 2014, and since then we’ve never been back. We are into bicycle touring mostly because we wanted to travel the world and we knew that the bicycle is the best way to do it: low costs, independent, faster than walking but slower than driving, easy to maintain and definitely the best to have close encounters with people.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Since the very beginning of our trip we’ve changed a lot our set up, trying to reduce the weight and to carry only the essential. We wanted to travel on dirt mountain roads mainly and the weight plays a huge part in it. So for two years we’ve been travelling with five heavy panniers, having a weight of 50 kg without water and food. Then after hitting a lot of dirt roads we swap to bike-packing, with a weight of 35 kg without water and food. Well, it makes a huge difference when cycling on an 18% gradient dirt road!

Anyway, the only things that survived the changed are: Eggs box, foldable chairs and a well-organized maintenance kit. The eggs box was a gift of a group of English students in Uzbekistan, since then we can carry 10 eggs even on bumpy roads without having a crack. The foldable chair totally changed the quality of our camping. In the past five years, we’ve been mainly wild camping, and it’s definitely life changing when you can sit and relax at night after a long strenuous ride. A well-organized maintenance kit is essential especially when you’re mostly travelling on remote areas. It helps us to face any kind of mechanical issue we might have along the road. It’s very difficult to define what’s essential and what is not, it really depends on the leitmotiv of the trip, for us is self sufficiency so some pieces of gear are absolutely fundamental but the very same piece could be useless for someone else.

How do you bring things with you?

Our current set up is a bike-packing one. We use Miss Grapes bags (handle bar roll, frame bag, dry bags), two small Crosso Panniers at the back and a Porcelain Rocket handle bar bags. We have a handle bar roll bag that contains clothes, on top of it there’s a handle bar bag with camera gear or personal stuff (passports, tablet or smart phone, wallet..); on the fork we have two Black Burn anything cage per side, and we mount dry bags (with mattress, sleeping bag and clothes that we use daily) and two liters plastic bottles; a frame bag with mainly technical things (maintenance kit, first aid, stove, water bladders and filter) at the rear we have a Tubus Logo rack with two panniers where we mostly carry food.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

Our main recommendation is “Just do it the way you like it”. There’s no general rule on how to bicycle tour, apart from using a bicycle of course! If you like the idea of carrying whatever you like just go for it, you are the one pushing your bike, you decide how much you want to struggle. If instead you want to travel super light and have enough money to sleep every night in hotels and eat at restaurants, just go for it too! Travelling with a bike is extremely easy, you just sit on the saddle and pedal. No timetable of buses or planes to respect, for sure you cover shorter distance but there’s the whole world in the small stretch of road. A basic mechanical knowledge, such us fixing a flat, would be useful. But as for the rest we truly believe that bicycle touring is for anyone, for any wallet (empty or full) and any physical ability.

Visit Daniele Carletti and Simona Pergola – BeCycling’s website

Robbie Sage

Born and raised in a combination of England and Scotland, I now live on the coast of Fife just across the water from Edinburgh in Scotland. After finishing university ,I suddenly got interested in cycle touring and embarked on a three and a half year trip around the world in 2011. For me it was the perfect way to travel, to see the world and discover myself as a person along the way.

What top 3 things did you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

On my big trip, I took an acoustic guitar and a portable eight-track recording device. I was able to play in my downtime and record music. Now I have so many memories stored in these compositions that I can enjoy and listen back to now. E reader and ipod are essential for me – but I imagine most bring those. I’d like to rely on less in future trips though.

How did you bring things with you?

I had BOB yak trailer with the yellow bag and my guitar strapped on top of that. Then 4 Ortlieb panniers on the front and rear racks and an Ortlieb handlebar bag.

Front pannier 1 = clothes and netbook

Front pannier 2 = electronics, documents, books etc

Rear pannier 1 = food

Rear pannier 2 = waterproofs, tools, inner tubes, pump etc

BOB yak bag = sleeping bag, stove, sleeping mat

Strapped to rear rack = tent, flip flops.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

I think most people advise you to pack only the essentials and pack as light as possible. For me I don’t mind taking a few extra luxuries if they really add to my quality of life (especially for long trips). I’m just used to carrying the extra weight, it’s quite normal for me now. Cycle touring can just be reduced to a mere sport of cycling from A to B, hence why it becomes important to be lightweight. But I think if you see it more as a lifestyle then one can tailor their kit to fit their preferences and needs, adding a little extra if it feels right.

Visit Robbie Sage’s website

Carl Georg Rasmussen

Organizer of several long distance bike tours, like Velomobile Euro Tours (typical more than 2000 km).

I am an specialist in laid back trikes. Producer of the Leitra Velomobile.

The velomobiles are very well suited for long distance touring in any kind of weather. They also exist as E-trikes. I have done many 2000-3000 km bike tours in this kind of vehicle.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

As little as possible in order to keep weight low.

  • Camping gear and spare parts like extra tube and foldable tyre;
  • Repair tools;
  • Navigation and communikation aids (phone and maps);

How do you bring things with you?

My Leitra velomobile has plenty of luggage room more than necessary. On the other hand, if I (seldom) need more room for transport, I add my trailer.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

  • Some touring cyclists carry too much. You do not need a complete kitchen instead you eat at restaurants;
  • Too much spare clothes – you can buy clothes on the way. If you buy heavy things, send them home by post;
  • It is an easy decision to take the bike/velomobile, when you have CHOSEN not to have a car or motorcycle;
  • You have far more freedom in choice of interesting routes.

Visit Carl Georg Rasmussen’s website

Jacob Wilcox

Ex Military, 29yrs, From Washington State, USA. Does long distance, non-motorized journeys, photography, and carpenter work. Currently waiting on my flight to New Zealand. I first got into cycling as a means of cheap travel. I’ve now crossed three continents by bike and North America twice.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Useful things:

  • Zip ties
  • Duct tape
  • Super glue

You can fix almost anything with these three things! They improve traveling because they make you self sufficient. Nothing worse than faulty gear on the road and being incapable of fixing it.

I’ve fixed countless tires, tents, backpacks, tarps, pants, shoes, and bikes with these items. Get creative.

Useless things:

It depends on your type of travel and comfort level but for me: Excess makeup and board games I would leave behind.

How do you bring things with you?

You can go pretty much anywhere in the world with a 65L Osprey backpack strapped to your back rack and the Roswheel 14686 Expedition Series Double Pannier system. Holds up to 50 liters! I usually keep clothing in the backpack, food and cooking in one bag, then all my camping supplies in the other. I’m usually good on room unless I need to carry excess water like across the outback in Australia. Then I opted for a bike trainer.

Visit Jacob Wilcox’s website

Eric Fiala

I’m from California and am living there now.

I started bicycle touring because I felt like I had to. The moment I learned it even existed as something you could do, I knew that I had to.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

Comparing myself to other people I’ve met along the way, I always seem to have less. However, I started out with plenty more than I needed:

  • A GPS in the days before smartphones that provided no value and was quickly ditched;
  • A bear canister that had to be strapped to my bike and provided no value at all;
  • Clothes that I’d never worn when backpacking or bicycling before, and didn’t suddenly start needing on tour.

I can’t recall anything useless that I’ve seen other people bring. If you’re willing to carry something 1000 or 10,000 miles, then it means something to you.

How do you bring things with you?

For very long tours, I have front and rear panniers and a number of dry bags that kayaks use that I strap on top of my rear rack. Depending on the heat/humidity, I’ll also have a camel back that I wear that allows me to drink (and sweat) constantly.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

Packing light/heavy is sorta a philosophical question. Take everything you think you’ll want, and then be prepared to acquire what you forgot and shed what you don’t. If you don’t want/need a lot, you’ll end up with the minimum you need to tour. If your creature comforts demand, say, extensive cookware or a wide variety of outfits, then take them with.

The weight is not a problem if your bicycle has the low gearing to accommodate it, and your schedule fits your pace.

The best way to tour is to find the time and then just go. Prior to my pan american trip, I had probably ridden at most 50 miles in a single day and had zero consecutive days of 40+ miles. The hardest part about doing anything is figuring out how to start.

Visit Eric Fiala’s website