Packing for a cycle tour is a major event and somewhat stressful simply because there is always that “what if” and “do I really need that” moment.
Yes you can repack again and again and even do various mini tours to help to sort you out. But I’m sure that even the most seasoned tourer will be carrying something that they haven’t used for a while. Great way to figure out what to pack is to talk to people on various online forums, read other people’s tour write-ups and talk with people you meet while touring.
They all will pack differently from you, so what one person is carrying might not be what you need, as we all have different needs. But from that talk you will learn some tricks of the trade and along with doing a few long weekends you will find your comfort zone/needs for your touring.
There are a few questions you can ask yourself which will help you narrow down what you pack.
Where you are going : is it a developing country, mountainous, flat covered in forest?
Time of year : holiday season where you are going, will you be fighting over the campsite with all the other tourists, or everything is closed?
Weather : will it be scorchio or rainy, spring or autumn?
How long is the tour : is it just an S240, a week or a sabbatical year?
These few points can be narrowed down even more, as the country will tell you what time of the year is best to go, which will tell you the weather etc. A two week tour in the summer for example, you really don’t need your woolly jumper unless you decide to tour north of the Arctic circle or above 1500metres.
Then there is …
Clothing : is it going to be warm or cold, will you be able to wash regularly and how long are you going for do you need more than one season in clothing with you ?
Tools/spare parts : are you touring in a place where you can easily find a LBS so you don’t need to carry it all with you, or are you out in the sticks where you need to do your own fettling? With a little planning and help from back home you can get many bits sent to you fairly fast no matter where you are.
Food/water : are you planning to eat out, cook your food yourself, will there be shops nearby or do you need to carry a few days worth? Will your cooker take gas or liquid which also depends on where you are going and how far up in the mountains etc? Where and how often can you get water to drink, do you need to filter it?
Sleeping : is it a credit card tour, will you use B&Bs, staying at friends or only wild camping. Hammocks are great but not much use above the tree line for example.
And so I could go on, but ask yourself all these questions before you pack. I got an advice many years ago before I went out on InterRail trip around Europe. Put everything you want to take on your bed, then remove half of that and you got a good starting point for your packing.
Some of you might have seen us touring or pictures of our set up and think that we are carrying quite a bit. Yes we are but we do want comfort when we tour. The idea of crawling into a warm and dry down sleeping bag on top of a down and ever so comfy sleeping mat after a long day in the saddle, is just what we want.
Our mats weights around 600-800g more than other mats but we both know that we will have a good night sleep no matter what we sleep on. And the down sleeping bags are rather hot in the summer but for spring and fall tours they are just spot on. We know that we are not going to struggle to fall asleep because we are not comfy and then wake up at 4am because we are cold, we need our bed :)
Yes other things we are carrying with us are on the heavy side and we can go all weight weenies on it, but like a friend said – an infinite number of light things will weigh a tonne. Is it really worth it spending £25-30 on a titanium cup where a plastic or aluminium is only a fiver and weight 10-15 grams more.
I think that we could easily fit all our gear into our two rear Ortleib panniers, as they are evil, but no matter how well you pack you will always need that bit at the bottom. Which is the reason for us to take four panniers, so that we can spread the load, make it easier to find stuff and have more room for our food and spare water.
This is the way I managed my stuff for a week or longer tour … (Where I will be wearing this – 1x t-shirt, 1x long sleeve merino base layer, 1x padded shorts, 1x shorts, 1x pair socks, 1x cycle gloves, 1x cycling shoes and one merino buff and cycling glasses)
Rear Right Pannier : Kitchen : 5-6kg
1x Jetboil cooker, 2x tea cups, 2x sporks, 1x spare gas canister, 1x small pot, 1x big pot, 1x container for porridge, 1x container for tea bags, 1x sharp knife, 1x first aid kit, 4-5x plastic bags, 1x small travel towel, 1x sponge, 1x small washing up liquid bottle, 1x mini pump (yes not really a cooking tool but it just fit in that pannier so much better)
Rear Left Pannier : Stuff : 5-6kg
1x laptop, 1x laptop charger, 1x camera charger, 1x Exped 7dlx down sleeping mat, 1x dry bag with wet weather gear (1x jacket, 1x rain legs, 1x Seal Skinz socks, 1x Seal Skinz gloves, 1x over shoes) 1x thin fleece, 1x roll of toilet paper, 1x roll of gaffa/duct tape.
On the outside of the rear panniers there are two small bags attached:
Outer Right : 1x puncture repair kit, 5x tyre levers, 1x inner tube 700c, 1x inner tube 26c, 10x zip ties, 1x tent repair kit, 1x mat repair kit, 1x bottle with chain lube, 2x v-brake cable, 2x road brake cable, 4x gear cable, 1x 15mm small spanner, 1x Allen key set, 1x Leather man replica, 6x brake pads (shoes).
Other Left : 1x tooth brush, 1x tooth paste, 1x travel towel, 1x bottle of shampoo, 1x sun cream, 1x bottle of DEET.
Bar bag : Stuff : 3-5kg
1x camera, 1x mobile phone, 1x mini kite (gotta have some fun), 1x compass, 1x passport, maps, 1x book I’m reading atm, AA+AAA batteries, 1x front light, 1x rear light, 1x usb/dyno charger, 1x usb battery charger, 1x mp3 player + head phones, 1x Garmin Dakota 20, 1 swiss army knife, 1x solar light cap, 1x head tourch and other small bits.
And then there is 2-3 bottles of water and the 3kg Black Octane tent, so with food I’m carrying around 25kg.
Peli pretty much pack in the same way, but without the “kitchen”, tent, tools and laptop and various chargers. But she is carrying the Street Cuffs lock and cable (2kg), ground sheet (1-1.5kg), food and extra water and other bits that she likes with her. So I’m tipping her to carry around 18-20kg.
Yes that is rather a lot but we are not planning a race around the world in 80 days or less. We pootle and know that I will be very comfy when it get to my campsite and have a good meal and very good night sleep.
We are off on a weekend trip to St. Andrews and this time I’m only carrying two rear panniers, so as I said at the start it all depends on so many factors what to pack.
Just as was writing this the TravellingTwo posted this Lightening The Load: Another Overpacking Tale an interview with a fella who shaved 20kg of what he was dragging around Australia.