Lightweight Bike Touring Packing List

We were heavy packers for our world bicycle tour, managing to cram 8 panniers full of gear, plus an extra bag on the back of each bike for carrying things like our tent, sleeping mats and extra food.


This heavy load adds up to about 30kg of luggage each.

On more recent shorter trips around Europe, however, we’ve been actively working to lighten our bags. We’ve been inspired by tips on lightweight bike touring from Stijn, and by watching bike tourists like Keith and Steve go through the same process.

The result? On our last two 3-week trips, we travelled without front panniers.

Look! No front panniers!

Look! No front panniers!

For the first bike tour in Denmark, our back bags were jammed full. When planning our bike tour around Andalucia, we decided to pare down even more. In the end, not only did we have everything we need, we had room to spare.

Lightweight cycling in Andalucia.

Lightweight cycling in Andalucia.

Here’s what our new slim-line packing list looks like:

Clothing (per person)

2 t-shirts
1 warm long-sleeve top
1 pair pants for cycling
1 pair pants for off the bike
1 pair recessed-cleat shoes good for on and off the bike
3 pairs of socks
3 pairs of underwear
2 bras (Friedel only, obviously!)
1 long-sleeve base layer
1 pair long johns
1 waterproof rain jacket
1 pair waterproof rain pants
1 pair biking gloves
1 pair waterproof socks
1 pair cold-weather gloves (for trips outside of the summer season)
1 pair sunglasses
1 bandana (to cover ears in windy weather)
1 hat

*We use a lot of Merino wool clothing, which is light, compact and repels odours, so you can wear it for longer.

Tent at Cameron Flats, New Zealand

Our beloved Hilleberg tent.

For Camping

1 Hilleberg Nallo 3GT tent
1 groundsheet
2 sleeping bags
2 silk sleeping bag liners
2 Exped sleeping mats (a Synmat 7 and a Downmat 7)
2 Thermarest pillows ($34.95 from REI)
2 Petzl Tikka headtorches

Cooking by lamp light

Cooking in the dark, a ritual of winter camping.

For Cooking

2 X-Bowls ($15.95 from REI)
2 Sporks
2 drinking cups
2 pots
1 MSR Whisperlite stove ($99.95 from REI) + fuel bottle
1 Platypus wine holder ($9.95 on REI)
1 lighter
1 thermos (1 litre capacity)
1 small bottle honey
1 small bottle olive oil
3-4 small bags of spices

Bike Touring In Denmark

Even when packing lightly, you always need a few tools.

Bike Tools & Accessories

1 pedal wrench (for preparing the bikes to fly back and forth to Spain)
1 spare inner tube
1 Topeak Mountain Morph pump (£22.99 on Wiggle)
1 patch kit
6 zip ties
4 compression straps (to hold things on to the back of the bike)
Duct tape (a few lengths, wrapped around some cardboard)
Topeak Mini 20 Pro multi-tool (£22.99 from Wiggle)
CTC Bicycle bag (£10.80 from Wiggle)

*Our limited tool kit here very much reflects the fact that we have new bikes (not much should go wrong) and the fact that we’re touring within easy reach of bike shops.


1 Nikon D80 Camera w/18-70mm and 10mm lenses
1 Asus EEE netbook
1 iPod nano
1 Kodak Zi8 mini video camera
1 Cellphone

*Plus associated chargers and cords.

Other Bits & Bobs

1 toiletry bag with shampoo, toothbrush, etc… (small travel-size quantities)
1 first-aid kit (been carrying it for 4 years and never used it yet!)
2 books
1 Gorillapod tripod ($80 from REI)
1 pen
1 notepad
2 passports
2 wallets

When we write all of this out, it seems like a very long list! But yet, when we weighed everything it came out to just under 20kg between us. Despite being a lot less than what we’ve traditionally carried, we didn’t feel like we were lacking anything on our tour, which made us wonder why we hadn’t tried to pare down our bags earlier.

Very lightweight cyclists could even do away with a few things on this list. They might, for example, exchange the heavy digital SLR camera for a more compact model and pick a lightweight solid-foam sleeping mat instead of the heavier inflatable Exped models. We were trying to retain a bit of comfort so we didn’t make our packing list too spartan.

Maybe more interesting than the packing list is what we left behind compared to our heavier-loaded bike tours. In general, our weight savings came from:

  • Less Clothing – We have a bit of a clothing paranoia and we have to work very hard at not packing ‘just one more t-shirt’. In past trips, we simply haven’t worn all the clothing we’ve taken with us. To pack lightly, we had to get strict and seriously think about what we would realistically wear.
  • Lighter Gear – We invested in a couple items that directly helped us shave off weight: silk sleeping bag liners instead of the bulky cotton ones we had before and the Platypus wine holder, which means we can now enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day without carrying a glass bottle around (it’s also good for carrying water, when not filled with wine).
  • The best Spanish bakery (La Guardia)

    We carried less food but stopped more often at local shops, including bakeries.

    No Extra Food – In the past, we’ve tended to stock up on food where it’s cheap and then carry it for a while. Sometimes things got forgotten and we could easily go a month with a couple tins of tuna along for the ride. On this trip, we bought only what we needed to eat on that day (plus a few emergency snacks). Carrying less food was a great reason to visit a lot of local bakeries!

  • Fewer Frills – This list doesn’t include a lot of comforts that are worth it for a longer tour but which we can do without on a shorter trip. We’re talking about things like camping chairs, a shortwave radio and a folding bowl to help with doing laundry and dishes.
  • Not As Many Bike Tools – We knew our bikes were in good shape before we left, so we figured the chances of a breakdown were slim. Also, we knew from our route that we’d rarely be far from a bike shop, so we felt comfortable taking the bare minimum of tools.

How does our experience compare with what you carry? Do you think something is missing from our list? Leave a comment below and let us know!


  1. Jon
    13th February 2011 at 10:26 am #

    When I unpack after a tour I always pull out lots of things from the pannier that have never seen the light of day I never learn though.

    If I do lighten the load for whatever reason I always still try to balance out the load between the back and the front. I find that if I’m climbing and the weight is all on the rear of the bike I often wheelie and lose control of the front end.

    • charles fleury
      7th March 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      if you need it…do NOT bring it…
      I spend months on end cycling Canada and U.S with one set of cloths,a bivy sack and no electronics or cooking gear.
      Go raw foods

      • Rohith Anoop
        23rd September 2015 at 10:30 am #

        Bananas would be great

  2. James
    13th February 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi TT.

    I must be obsessed with bike touring, because there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good packing list! 🙂 I’ve just replaced massive panniers with rear Ortliebs, so I’m paring down my list as well. So far, I haven’t carried cooking gear except a bowl and some muesli, and that’s been enough for me in north Europe.

    Did you carry any spare bolts/washers? It seems like a risk that parts could work their way loose (precisely because the bikes are new).

    You don’t have bike locks or helmets on the list, but I expect you did carry them. I also don’t see a towel, but maybe it’s included in the toiletry kit.

    My next trip, I’m replacing the inflatable pillow with a small cotton stuff sack for clothes that I’ve sewn. I’ve decided I can’t justify the space that the inflatable pillow takes up.

    Our clothing lists are now pretty much identical. I see that VW Vagabonds used Eagle Creek packing cubes to compress clothes inside the Ortlieb bags, and as a pillow. I may try that.

    I’m keen to hear your verdict on the X-bowl.

    • friedel
      13th February 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi James, we didn’t carry any spare bolts or washers but we did secure everything down with Loctite before we left. Helmets we did take – I guess I should have put them on the list but somehow I don’t think of them as luggage, even though I guess technically they are. We do have locks, but they’re the o-ring style that are so common in the Netherlands and so I also didn’t list them because they’re mounted on the frames. I think of them as part of the bike, along with the luggage racks, mudguards, etc…

      • Martin Burke
        26th April 2011 at 8:42 pm #

        Just had the thought there that the sleeping bag and sleeping mat will come with their own carry bags and in the interest of reducing the carry load it would be possible to fill them with cloths etc and that would give you a good pillow, filled to your own preferred density 🙂

    • lee
      4th February 2016 at 4:39 pm #

      I’m looking at doing my first trip through spain over to Sardinia. so im a bit nervous about what to pack and leave out.

    • Tony
      9th December 2016 at 3:08 pm #

      After a trip I always make a list of what I took and if it was good choice or not.

  3. Stephen Botel
    13th February 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    What kind of 10mm lens do you use on your D80? I have the 18-200 which is quite heavy…

  4. Friedel
    14th February 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Stephen, it’s a Nikon fisheye lens that we bought oh… at least 6 years ago. It was really expensive and we’ve never used it to its full potential. We took it along to see if we would use it. Sometimes… but it’s quite a specialist lens.

  5. Lysanne & Louis-P
    14th February 2011 at 4:21 pm #


    GREAT you did it! It is just so tough some time. Cutting on equipment on small tour is, i think more easy then a world tour like you did. We are working on this on a daily basis on our big tour. For us, clothing is difficult to down size if you are travelling between cold and warm condition like we are doing. We just love Eagle Creek packing cubes for clothing and Eee Pc, it is just great with our front Ortlieb paniers and make one great pillow.
    One thing you do not need in small tour is a complete pharmacy kit. When travelling for longer tour in remote region it may be wise to have a good one with you. As for food, you are right Friedel, we do not need more than one day of food and some small emergency food.
    In the end, having one or two kilo of extra stuff is not a big thing.

    On Roule La Boule

    • Friedel
      14th February 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      Hi guys! You are right, I think on a world tour you tend to crave more comforts and carry more to make that happen. Of course, there are always exceptions.

      You reminded me, we DID have a first-aid kit with us. Been carrying the darn thing for 4 years now and not used it once. I guess we should be happy about that.

    • Terri
      4th December 2015 at 12:26 am #

      Getting last few items of kit together for my adventure. So, what is IN these first aid kits that you haven’t used, please?

  6. Ann Wilson
    15th February 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Hi both,
    You got your total weight down to 20kg and obviously shared the load, but I would be interested to see what the weight would have been for a solo cyclist who still needs one pump, one netbook, etc.

    • Friedel
      15th February 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      Hi Ann,
      Yes, it’s a fair point. On the other hand, a solo cyclist can make do with a smaller tent, 1 bowl, 1 pot, etc… If 2 people cycle with 20kg of shared weight, I think 1 cyclist would need more than 10kg but maybe not quite as much more as we tend to believe. I’d hazard a guess at 12kg?

  7. Reuben
    16th February 2011 at 3:36 am #

    Congrats on slimming down the pack weight. Bet it feels great to travel with a lighter load!

    As a cycling family, we have been forced into ultralight packing practices from the get go. Sometimes it seems to no avail — our most important cargo is our kids and they gain weight with each passing tour!

    • e caffery
      9th July 2016 at 10:13 pm #

      What type of mW LW do you take on tour

  8. Bob
    16th February 2011 at 5:09 am #

    Ah, the Zen of lightweight packing. Or is the the geekiness? It’s all about having everything you need, and nothing else. My personal favourites for light weight packing (maybe not to everyone’s taste):

    1. Instead a a full sized towel, or even a synthetic one, I have travelled on many trips with just a 12″ x 18″, thin, looped-cotton, face towel. You really don’t need any more ‘towel area’ to dry yourself after a shower in summer (try it), and it dries quickly on the back of the bike. Unless you want a beach towel to lie on (and a thin sheet is often a better choice for that), you don’t need anything more. Since discovering this weight-and-bulk-saver, I also take a similar towel to local pools when I’m on a bike. Makes it easy to carry your complete ‘swim gear’ around with you through the day if you’re planning a late-afternoon stop at the pool. A small thin cotton towel, by the way, is also a really useful accessory if you’re cycling in very hot weather. You can wear it under your helmet, it keeps the back of your neck protected, and even without wetting the towel your head will stay noticeably cooler.

    2. I’ve become a fan of polyester underwear and nylon outer shorts. Polyester underwear is incredibly light & rolls up into no space. You can easily rinse them out every single night & they’ll dry in a few hours. Similarly, simple nylon shorts are easily rinsable and can double as a swim suit (men only..). I also have a pair of good nylon pants with zip-off legs – on several trips I’ve worn the long pants on the plane to the (warm) country I was travelling to, and worn the shorts on the bike every day, rinsing them out every few days. Cross a pair of seldom-worn long pants off the packing list!

    3. For warm climates, I’ve often taken only a pair of Teva sandals and used plastic toe clips for ‘cycling efficiency’. I find Tevas very comfortable to cycle in all day, plastic toe clips are no problem with bare toes (surprisingly, your toes never touch them), and sandals are also fine for general around-town or day hiking wear on ‘informal’ itineraries – be your own judge. Needless to say, you can also cycle in the rain without rain booties. The only downside is that they require diligent washing from time to time as they can get smelly. But I’ve done several 3 week trips where I took no other shoes, and of course you save on socks as well…

    4. I also have a small (half length) inflatable, good quality plastic air mattress that I bought at REI about 25 years ago. I don’t think they make them any more, but I think the time is right for a ‘low tech’ alternative to bulky Thermarests. This mattress consists of six individual tubes, each inflated with about one big breath of air, and each tube is secured by an old-fashioned plastic stopper at the end. You have to learn the knack of getting exactly the right amount of air in each tube for optimal comfort, but once you do you have a very comfortable mattress that folds flat into the size of a T-shirt, and which easily slides unnoticeably into your sleeping bag sack. Weight – negligable.

    5. One other thought. Since mp3 players became popular, it seems no one thinks about radio any more. Being able to listen to local radio as you cycle through a new country or area can add a lot of enjoyment and sense of place. Hear what the locals are listening to, whether it’s music or farm reports or local news. The music on Cuban radio for example can be wonderful, and you’d be surprised at how ‘off-colour’ Australian radio hosts can get!

    6. BUT – always take clothing that will keep you warm when the temperature drops unexpectedly, which it will. Multiple layers are usually the most efficient weight option.

  9. Philipp
    16th February 2011 at 8:08 am #

    I don’t take a Pedal Wrench and use insted a Allenkey of my Biketool to remove my pedals.

    • Friedel
      16th February 2011 at 8:16 am #

      Can you get enough leverage that way? We’ve tried using a smaller wrench to get our pedals off but it never works. We need the leverage of a big wrench.

      • Philipp
        16th February 2011 at 8:23 am #

        I didn’t have any problems, but I always make sure that the pedal-thread is greased well.

  10. Txibi
    17th February 2011 at 12:07 am #

    When cycling in isolated areas weight is difficult to avoid; spare parts, more tools than when you cycle in more populated areas, more food and sometimes a lot of water and food… But my main error is always too many tools and too clothes! I´m so chilly and so cautious!

  11. Singlespeedpunk
    19th February 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I have been paring my bike camping (“bikepacking” kit down over the last few years and for the forthcoming 10day trip in France/Belgium I have it down to under 7kg (15lbs) including tools and a few luxuries!

    Clothing: One change of casual clothes (merino socks, boxers and T-shirt, lightweight trousers…not zip off ones as they add lots of weight!) One pair of cycling shorts, the others can be washed and dried on the rear rack. If you can get an item of clothing in Merino, do it. It does not smell after lots of use and dries quickly. make a great range.

    Montane velocity jacket and trousers: under 1lb for both and totaly waterproof and pack down to the size of a large tin.

    Sleeping: 3m x 3m tarp, tarp pole, Dyneema lines (1.5mm cord that can hold 70kg!) Alpkit bivvi bag, Macpac down bag, silk liner. Sleeping pad is a foil backed thin foam. Make sure you pick a good site to pitch on, clear the ground well and it is fine. Only £5 and 100g! Looks a lot like winscreen sun shade…

    Washing: Multi use soap for you and your clothes, a “magic shammy cloth” for drying.

    Food: Don’t carry a stove and use cafes / gas stations / and otherwise stick to cold food. Not as bad as it sounds and chocolate covered coffee beans replace the morning caffine hit 🙂 Pitta bread, peanut butter and little tins of tuna+mayo make a nice lunch and lots of calories.

    Carrying it all: 8L dry bag on the bars, 13L dry bag on the rack, small frame bag (camera, sunscrean, snacks.) and the bext bit of kit: Bungee net and mini carrabinas to hold it on the rack…great for holding extra food or drying your shorts in the sun / breeze!

    Great info from these guys:


  12. Andrea
    23rd February 2011 at 3:14 am #

    Some adjustments i would make for my trips. Obviously it makes a difference where you are going on your tour as to what you take. I have never yet had to deal with huge climactic differences but i know this would inevitably increase the weight and expense of my touring kit considerably.

    0 t-shirts – I don’t like these on tour. I think they are hard to wash, slow to get dry.
    2 long-sleeve shirts -I ride in a long sleeve shirt of fairly tough but cool
    1 pairs of cotton socks for riding – but sometimes i find i end up riding sockless because it seems cooler.
    1 pair wool socks for cold nights
    1 pair of underwear – i don’t wear it unless necessary.
    1 bra
    1 long-sleeve base layer
    1 pair long johns
    1 pair biking gloves
    2 pair sunglasses because I always lose them, sometimes both pairs.
    1 scarf
    1 hat
    I trousers for town, 1 trousers for riding
    1 other outfit for town – because in india or countries where you might not by on your bike day after day you need more such clothes.

    I wash my clothes every day. Usually they dry overnight.

    I wouldn’t take a wine cooler as i don’t feel like drinking on my own on tour. Good idea in company though.
    You forgot to mention battery chargers.
    I take a laptop and external harddrive for picture storage. Extra camera battery. This electronic stuff taeks up a lot of weight and space but it seems essential. Next trip in Australia I would like to leave my laptop behind but I don’t know what i will do with all my pics yet. I might have to buy another memory card. It would be good if there was a way to download pics from camera to some small storage device but i don’t think there is one. Card readers don’t store them.
    If travelling on a foreign tour, i’d like a voice recorder. Last time it got stolen at hte beginning of my trip.
    Spare tyre tubes.
    Calcutlor and money belt.
    I am sure your list is not complete. Mine is pages long but its all tiny tiny things.
    I take my collapsible bucket when i think i will be wild camping a lot.

    • sz
      24th February 2011 at 11:37 am #

      Andrea, re memory card backup, check out Vosonic’s multimedia storage viewers or the various HyperDrive models.

      • Becky
        11th August 2011 at 10:58 am #

        In south America we visited photo shops and got the photos put onto cd as we went – much lighter and easier.

      • Andrea
        12th August 2011 at 8:19 am #

        Becky that doesn’t work so well if you have raw images because they are so large. Its ok for small compact cameras and jpeg images.

  13. Gil
    26th February 2011 at 8:38 am #

    I use a very light tent made by Big Agnes called the Seedhouse 2SL and titanium cookware. Also, the small Thermarest made for backpacking is very light. I have switched all my clothing to the athletic wicking type of polyester material because it dries quickly and is lighter than cotton. Lastly, I take along a small pack towel made by MSR.

  14. Rowena
    20th March 2011 at 11:45 am #

    What do you all do about shoes – 1 pair cycling & 1 normal pair? We’re about to embark on our first tour and I don’t think my SPDs will cope with proper hiking (I worry about gunking up the cleat) Can’t decide to invest in better Touring SPD shoes that do both, or stick with a dedicated pair for riding and a lightweight off-roaad pair. Too cold for Teva sandles in Tasmania though!

  15. Andrea
    20th March 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Take a pair of runners/hikers. Its also good to have something like a pair of thongs for around camp. Your feet need a break sometimes. But me, i don’t wear spd shoes at all.

    I also think if you are going to wear thermals, you might as well make it merino. More expensive than polyester but several times better value.

  16. Jim
    23rd March 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    Many thanks for the zip tie/ tie wrap suggestion I sheared the plastic fasten off my (not so good) “outer edge panniers” on a recent trip along Hadrians Cycle way route 72 UK.
    Sorted in seconds thanks guys.
    Any tips for sore knees?
    And good sleeping bags?
    All the best

    • Becky
      11th August 2011 at 11:10 am #

      We have Mountain Equipment Xero 250 down bags with rab silk liners, they’re really small and lightweight. Haven’t ever been cold in British spring/summer/autumn trip – we use them for cycle and canoe touring – specs: Fill weight 250g, Packed size 16cm x 19cm

  17. Andrea
    24th March 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Regarding sore knees. There’s a lot to be said about that. Perhaps the experts above could write an article about it. But these are some ideas and insights i’ve picked up along the way.
    1) if you’ve got sore knees from cycling you have either been pushing it too hard, in the wrong gear, not taking enough rest, are not well positioned on your bike.
    2) apart from checking out and adjusting all those things (always ride on the easiest gear) if you have sore knees, you have to take regular rests and take short days if you can’t take a proper long break from cycling to let your knees recover. And next time, don’t build up your bike fitness before doing really long days. Uphills really are hard on the knees so take more breaks when doing that.
    3) try lightening your load as well.

  18. Jen Fleming
    6th April 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Great info thanks. What type of bikes, brand etc did you use? We are coming from Australia and thinking of buying our bike gear in France, Paris when we arrive?

  19. Rob
    26th June 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Hi guys, having previously toured NZ and Tasmania with just rear panniers with tent mounted on top of the rack i found i had everything i needed. However we are planning a trip from UK to Japan through Cetral Asia so will obviously be in some remote areas and need to think about water and food more so than we did on previous tours. Do you think we (2 of us) can do it without front panniers or is it advisable to put weight on the front anyway to decrease liklihood of damaging rear wheel and make the uphills easier? i often wondered when tackling the hills in NZ if it would be easier with less weight on the back and something on the front, many thanks…

  20. Philip C
    1st August 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Someone once gave me an expansive plain bottle-green silk shirt because it was too small for him. It seems to weigh nothing at all and I have taken it on every tour I’ve done. So if you ever see a cheap silk shirt (in a charity shop maybe?) that you don’t mind, buy it. It’s an extra shirt for no weight at all.
    On another site someone pointed out that say what you like about Crocs (shoes) they are VERY light.

  21. Gary Dee
    29th August 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I love your list and how light you travel but… why panniers at all when one can purchase a Yak or Bob single wheel trailer ? Mine is essential for market shopping, day-touring and any extended trip. Its low center of gravity keeps me stable especially on long steep downhill grades.Manufactured in the US by Ibex, there are two versions – one with a solid axle system and another with suspension for the cross-country rider.I own an older version that employs a Rubbermaid action-packer plastic locking container.
    I am not nor have i been an employee or sold these units – I merely purchased one and have never looked back!

    • friedel
      29th August 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Both trailers and panniers have their advantages. If we had a trailer, for example, it would stop us from taking most trains in Europe since trailers generally aren’t allowed. That’s important when you want to travel a bit further afield. We do use a trailer closer to home though for shopping and other errands.

  22. charles fleury
    17th December 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    if you need it,don’t bring it

    I first learned about lightness while in San Francisco.
    I was living on my bike and got all my stuff stolen(in a church basement) All I had left in the world was a set of cloths and my tooth brush.

    All I own now fits into one back pack (except my bike 🙂

    Less is truly more…a lot more

  23. Paul
    23rd January 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    This is a really useful list – thanks.

    What about the bike? Next tour I want to adapt my road bike
    and limit the panniers etc to 10 kg or less.

    • Lydia
      29th September 2015 at 12:54 am #

      Hey Paul

      I rode Route 66 in 28 days for charity with a heavy touring bike and panniers with about 15Kg of kit.

      In Feb Im aiming to do New Zealand North to South for charity with a road bike and the Apidura bike bags – which are used by the TransAmerica racers – hoping to get down to less than 10Kg of kit.

  24. jaideep khodaskar
    27th February 2013 at 11:13 am #

    How to manage visas. Do you take all visas beforehand? Or its also granted when you arrive at the borders?

  25. James
    26th May 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Thanks for the nice list!

    Does the 20kg include the weight of the panniers and stuff sacks?

    Also how much do the bikes weigh?


  26. Raditya
    1st June 2013 at 5:51 am #

    Do you use bicycle computer or speedometer/odometer? If you don’t, then how you measure the distance you’ve reached? For me, knowing the distance between two places can be addition to the story of the trip later.

    • Andrea
      5th September 2013 at 2:52 am #

      HI Radita. I’ve travelled with and without a odometre. My view on it is that its a useful item but in no ways necessary. You really do not need to know how far you’ve come. The downside of not having this gadget is that occasionally you may miss a turning. But i think i’ve only really had two minor issues about all that in the course of my six longish trips. Not having one gives rise to a bit more spontaneity and therefore a chance for new adventures. The reason i don’t buy one when i dont have one is only ever really due to limited funds and needing to be careful. I use my watch more to time breaks and things when i don’t have one.

      • Raditya
        12th September 2013 at 8:38 am #

        Hi Andrea. I guess now I’m a little bit (or more) addicted to the odometre. I feel something left without odometre attached on the bar. Haha.
        And sometimes my friends ask me question : How far from place C to place D? (because I’ve ever through the route).
        Then I can answer that question in the end.

  27. James
    1st June 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    I like the idea of trying to tour as light as possible. Front panniers add some weight (1-1.5kg) plus the rack (500g), plus stronger forks (0.2kg) so 1.7-2.2kg total before luggage, but I’m wary of the effect on bike handling with too much load high up at the back. I like to ride up mountains and then very fast down the other side and I get the feeling having some weight on the front (as low as possible) helps both up and down especially on hairpins. I also find a bike has tendency to flip over when alighting with only rear panniers+stuff sack?

    • Andrea
      5th September 2013 at 2:56 am #

      I’ve just done a trip with the most gear i’ve ever taken. So much so that i was worried about the rack breaking. I had two panniers which carried quite a bit of food, as well as 16 litres of water, 4kg tent and 1kg at least sleeping bag. So i had quite a load. I never have issues of handling or flipping up. I wonder if that comes about from your own personal weight? I’m a female so likely to be quite a bit less than you with total weight. This trip was the first time i thought it would be good to have front panniers so i could carry extra water.

      I did meet a woman who told me that she found cycling uphills with front panniers to spread the load made it easier. Another pro for front panniers is that tyre wear will be less on the back. With only back load, i have never had an issue with bike handling. I think its a mistake to say that front loading will improve handling.

  28. Anibal Paredes
    4th September 2013 at 3:54 am #

    Hummmm… this is not light weight. Too much stuff. Revise your list and dispose as much as possible. Think before loading your bags: Do I need this? Is it necessary? Is it useful? Is it worth to carry? How many times am I going to use it? What would happen if I don’t take it?
    Cheers and wish the sun on your face and the wind on your back

  29. charles fleury
    5th September 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    I have been working on a fengshui style bike for touring

    let the chi,the vital energy flow around and up not down.

    to get light you need to believe

    nothing belongs to me(or you)

    with Faith you always have every thing you need…

    on my best trips I take nothing

    • Woutie
      9th November 2014 at 5:26 pm #


      Feels good to be alive right? 🙂

  30. Spyros
    10th September 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I agree with Anibal Paredies, this is not a lightweight list.
    I think the most difficult thing to decide is what clothes to carry with you. Gadgets and stuff are easier to decide.

    • friedel
      11th September 2013 at 8:42 am #

      I understand that it’s not as lightweight as it could be, but it’s a lot lighter than many bike touring packing lists. A step in the right direction? Maybe we should have titled the post ‘A Lighter Packing List’.

      • Raditya
        12th September 2013 at 8:31 am #

        Yes, would be better I guess so, ‘A Lighter Packing List’. 🙂

  31. Barbara
    6th February 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    I like the list but would pare it down a little more. 2 pairs of underwear and socks. 1on 1 packed. I use Tilly knickers (they dry in a towel) 1 pair of silk socks 1 pair of merino. Shirts – you can fold the sleeves up. 1cotton 1 silk. Merino and or alpaca jumper warm n light. Merino or silk ECWs Silk for sleeping in. Buff is the best neck wear. It can be used in so many ways and is very light.
    The kit you take is needed but try to get a lighter warmer option like silk, merino or alpaca wool. It feels good to wear and helps to make you feel more comfortable – a bit of Gucci kit.

  32. Matt
    14th March 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    I’m in between the two schools of thought, I’m neither a “everything plus the kitchen sink” or “cut the handle off the toothbrush” type of person.

    I like lightweight but I also like to carry things that are of real use. I’m a firm believe in the right tool/bit of kit for the job, so if that kit happens to be 100g heavier than a cheaper, less optimum equivalent then I will take the heavier/better quality item.

    Likewise where things aren’t as critical I will look for the lightest option. For me it’s about balance. I think the ultralight dudes who do world tours in crocs and a small pack under their seat are awesome, but I couldn’t do it lol!

  33. charles fleury
    20th March 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    I basically leave with nothing.Everything I need seems to just arrive at the right moment.Ever watch birds in flight for a long time….
    The beauty of this approach came to me after getting all my stuff stolen in San Francisco way back.
    I went on with a girl for a two year tour of europe with seven lbs each.

    happy zen riding to all

  34. Lee Legrand
    6th April 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    How many panniers or bags do you use to carry all your luggage on tour? I am hoping to get a bicycle but want to do it light equipment to carry a week works of equipment.

  35. Love Riding Bikes and seeing the world
    9th July 2014 at 1:48 am #

    Thank you for taking the time to think about, and share your list 🙂 Following my most recent trips I spent quite a bit of time to work out what I always used, and what I often didn’t use. Your list was useful because it described things I didn’t even think of that would have made my trips better e.g. 1 small bottle of olive oil 🙂

    Thank you so much for all the excellent information on your website. Readers here should remember that they need to get off their asses and actually ride before submitting silly comments and uninformed opinions.

  36. Tidus
    28th July 2014 at 7:15 am #

    Very interesting thread I read the whole thing while shopping online on a rainy day. Preparing first tour and outfitting two seventh avenue bikes from Walmart. Getting cascadia fenders, 32c kevlar tires, journey racks, typhoon panniers to name a few. We are riding on the cheap so also looking at getting a decent straight talk phone like the nokia E5. I saw a guy stuffing a sleeping bag with feathers from a pillow on youtube which sounds affordable. The merino wool is great idea for underwear etc.. I run in merino wool socks. Nobody mentions using solar power to charge their phones and lights which I thought would work good with a small foldout panel. Great learning thread !!

  37. James
    28th July 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    I tried using solar power using power-monkey Explorer but on cloudy days it didn’t charge the battery at all and I ran out of power for my phone and camera. A bigger better solar panel might help but that would still be at the mercy of the elements, and then there is the problem of where to put it on the bike.

    Hub dynamo power on the other hand is powerful (about the same power as a 0.5A USB socket) independent of weather, and provides great lighting also. I wouldn’t tour without one.

  38. Chris Mattock
    14th October 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Hi there! Just a big THANK YOU!

    I had no idea about touring (or cycling at all) and have just returned from my first trip. I didn’t camp but I essentially used your list as my guide… it worked out perfectly, I was never in need of anything additional and I used everything I took with me. A great guide for a newbie like me and I look forward to my next trip when I will include your camping section as well!


  39. Judy
    24th April 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    My husband and I are flying from South AFrica to Faro to ride to Malaga. We would appreciate any advice iro routes. We are both in our 50s and this is our first tour in Europe. Whilst we are relatively fit, for our ages, we would like to stick as close to the Med as possible. Please advise on a route that will take us from Cadiz to Malaga along the coast. My only real concern is traffic (here we drive and ride on the left so it’s going to take some getting used to, to now move to the right). Any advise on quiet, fairly flat (no Sierra’s, please) ride would be greatly appreciated.

  40. Tara Dant
    13th May 2015 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi there,

    me and my lady are going on our first bike trip (800 km). We are searching for rear panniers suitable for our trip and we like the packing list and want to take as little as possible.

    What size are the panniers you use for the minimalist trip?

  41. Heather
    11th June 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    Hi Both!

    I notice you use a fuel bottle, and have done around Europe. How easy do you find refueling the bottle, are you putting petrol in it? i am considering using gas with my omnifuel stove at the moment as not sure about being able to refill such a small bottle?

    The list is really helpful!



    • Friedel
      12th June 2015 at 7:56 pm #

      Hi Heather, I must admit that it’s a while since we’ve used the fuel bottle but yes, we did use it successfully around Europe during our world tour and when we first returned to ‘normal life’ (2010-2011). Since that time we’re not cycling and camping every day, so we find it more convenient to buy either the pressurised gas canisters or use white spirits.

  42. Cleave
    30th June 2015 at 12:21 am #

    I just want to say a big thank you for taking the time and putting this list together. My wife and I spent quite a while trawling the internet looking at packing lists and this was the one that we used as a guide and a final checklist for our own adventure. We have been on the road 3 months now and we have yet to find a reason to jump in and add front panniers, if anything we would like to drop some more gear from our list. We also went with the Sea to Summit plates (we went with the X plates) and they are fast becoming our favourite items.

  43. Dhruv
    1st October 2015 at 1:12 pm #


    I am from india and am planning my first major self supported tour from North Canada to Argentina in July 2016. I have read your post on light packing and all the other threads. Very useful but I would like more tips on packing for cold weather upto -10 deg C and some advice on panniers, bike and tent. The long haul surly is available in india. What should be my optimum weight. I plan to carry a laptop and canon eos m- a light DSLR. And a 70-100 mm lense.

  44. Amber Mcguire
    22nd January 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Those are very narrowed packing suggestions. I never went bike touring so I have no idea what to pack, but I am pretty sure that I will make the same mistake that you did – to pack a lot of unnecessary stuff, which to make my bag very heavy.

  45. Helen
    8th April 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    We are planning a four week cycling trip in France. Our first long trip on our tandem. Can you give advice re cycling shorts and avoiding a sore bottom. I imagine we would need to take two or three pairs of padded ones if we are going to follow advice and not wear underwear but then won’t that bulk out our packing?

  46. air
    23rd May 2016 at 5:32 am #

    Great article !!

    Advise me please

    1. Which is better 26 size MTB or 27,5 when going to remote areas?
    2. Do we have to pay attention on the frame size like 16/18/S/M esp. when dealing with luggage?
    3. What’s your suggestion in buying the bikepack MTB – do u think any MTB with good tyre will do?

    Thanks so much


    • Keith
      6th August 2016 at 8:06 pm #

      26 and 700c/29 are vastly more common worldwide – I wouldnt be as comfortable travelling on 27.5 just yet

  47. Joe
    1st June 2016 at 6:50 am #

    What you take with you…what you leave behind…

  48. Glen Aldridge
    4th July 2016 at 12:00 am #

    After doing a few trips/tours with the kitchen sink I too have learned the benefit of flying light. Compared to my usual 10mph, I am FLYING! A couple of items that you may have missed & I find very useful are a Swiss Army Knife & a neck strap for sunglasses/reading glasses. Saves me from always wondering where I left them. 🙂

  49. Andreas
    8th August 2016 at 12:09 am #

    Obviously, in northern Europe isn’t so important but anywhere south of Greece, Sunscreen and lot of drinking water is a must.

  50. James
    12th September 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    I always carry a small bottle of degreaser (Fenwicks FS1), wet lube and some small disposable cloths so that I can do a chain service every 100 miles or so, or after it has rained.

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