Bikepacking Gear Checklist
Every thing you need to survive a 2-week bikepacking trip!
Join us as we follow Ryan, Performance Bicycle’s General Manager of Cycling, on his 3-week, 1000-mile bike tour from Casper, Wyoming to Chico, California. Follow along on our instagram: @performancebike
Bikepacking is a great way to combine two amazing activities – backpacking and bike riding. If you aren’t fond of hiking or carrying a loaded backpack, but love camping and riding, bike packing could be the thing for you. I personally love both camping and riding. When my buddy, Corey, invited me to join him on an epic trip from Casper, Wyoming back to our home (and headquarters of Performance Bicycle) Chico, CA, I couldn’t resist. Excitement quickly turned to panic when I realized I’d need to decide what to take.
The first step was to estimate the length of the trip. Corey and I are roadies that have raced together for years. We appreciate a long day (or a few) in the saddle. But we had to be realistic as well – we aren’t riding carbon race bikes with a few gels in our jersey pockets. Starting with Google Maps and bike directions, the estimated distance was 1000 miles. However, we wanted to make sure to take in some sights and scenic routes as well. These detours could add 200-300 miles. With loaded bikes, altitude, elevation gain, wind, and weather, we planned on averaging 80 miles per day – some days more, some days less. We estimated the tour would take 16 days. We also took this opportunity to look for towns and stores en route to refuel. Much of the trip would be in the high desert where bodies of water are rare or brackish. That meant filtering water wouldn’t be a reliable option and water carrying capacity would be a high priority. This also meant we wouldn’t carry much food or cookware and would get our food and supplies in towns we passed through.
The next step was watching the weather. Spring can be unpredictable, and Wyoming is a notoriously cold and windy place. For a few weeks leading up to the ride, we monitored the weather in numerous towns along the route. From our research and knowledge, the further south and west we go, the warmer it gets. Our buddy, Fergus, decided to join us for the first few days. He was going to ride with us to the greater Salt Lake City, Utah area, then depart for the airport while Corey and I would carry on with our journey. The three of us mostly focused on the first week’s weather knowing this would be the coldest portion of our trip. Weeks leading up to the trip, highs were in the 60s, lows in the 30s. Casper had had rain and snow. Closer to Chico (the warmest and likely driest portion of the trip), we saw highs in the low 90s and lows in the 40s. Although it is not a winter trip or a summer trip, we had to prepare for it all – snow, rain, sun, wind, cold, and heat.
Essentials vs. Luxuries:
When preparing for a bikepacking journey, it is important to carefully consider every item you bring. Space is always limited, but you need to be prepared for whatever the trip has in store. Obviously, you’ll need a tent, a sleeping bag, food, water, and bike bags to carry all of it, but what else do you really need?
Plan your route
On a three-week trip, your bicycle will almost certainly require maintenance. If you’re lucky, you’ll just need to keep the chain lubricated and top off the air in your tires; however, when disaster strikes, you need to be prepared to get your bike back up and running. Flat tires are perhaps the most common issue to occur, and it is important to carry a comprehensive tire repair kit including a reliable pump, spare tubes, a patch kit, tire levers, tire plugs (if running tubeless), and tire boots (you can also use a dollar bill or a bar wrapper in a pinch). For longer journeys, it is also a good idea to bring a spare tire for worst-case scenarios.
Being an experienced mechanic and not wanting to get stuck walking my bike for miles, so I also chose to pack a spare shift cable, spare spokes, spare chain, and a master link. Plus, some zip ties, safety pins, Velcro, and duct tape for scraping together a fix. To tie it all together, every touring rider should have a good multi-tool with a chain breaker, spoke wrench, Allen keys, and screwdriver.
For Ryan’s trip, the weather is wildly unpredictable. This forced him to pack many clothing options. It is important to research the typical weather for your route and to be prepared for it to change. It is also good to find on-the-bike clothes that can also be used for additional off-the-bike warmth when weather conditions deteriorate.
While nearly all of Ryan’s packing choices are based on necessity, he has also chosen to pack a couple of comfort items to make the journey easier. While many campers simply roll up an extra jacket to lay their heads on, Ryan has decided to pack an inflatable camping pillow, earplugs, and an eye mask. He realizes that good rest is crucial on an extended trip and is prioritizing his sleep.
These days, electronics are almost unavoidable. A smartphone is useful both for safety and navigation and bike lights are essential when traveling on busy roads. To keep my tech juiced up, I packed a solar panel that charges a small power bank – an ideal setup for the Nevada desert. I am also carrying a camera to better document the trip, however, many touring cyclists are okay with using just their phones for photos.
While most packing choices are dictated by the scope of the trip, many others come down to personal preference and your tolerance for discomfort. There is no easy answer or textbook solution to packing, and it is highly individualized. What matters most is that you are safe, comfortable, and enjoy the journey.