Packing (And Organising) Clothes On A Bike Tour

Good for packing clothesWhen we started bike touring, we experienced a daily pannier explosion.

As soon as we stopped in a campsite or hotel room, everything would fly out of our bags. We flung socks to the left and shirts to the right as we tried to find things that we’d put in the bags just a few hours earlier.

Before long, everything was in a big heap and both of us were frustrated and short-tempered. Hardly ideal inside a small tent! Thankfully, a few days later we were able to buy several small, multi-coloured bags.

Socks went in the red one, underwear in the blue bag and so on. Our marriage suddenly had a much better chance of surviving the bike tour intact.

The idea of using bags to separate your stuff and keep it organized is one that fellow bike tourist Ann Wilson reminded us of this week.

She uses the same technique, and finds her bags in bargain shops (see the photos). They’re small washing bags, normally used to separate delicates from other clothes in the washing machine.

Good for packing clothes“They are featherlight and you can see through them so you don’t have to hunt for things.  I use four of different sizes and think of them as my ‘drawers’. They stop you ending up with piles of clothes everywhere when you empty your panniers at night,” says Ann.

“My originals were bought in England from one of those bargain bazaars that you find in most towns these days; the ones that sell everything very cheap. I bought a replacement in a ‘100 yen store’ in Japan and in Spain you can find them in the Chinese bazaars.”

If you’re looking for something a bit more formal, the Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes are also popular among many of our bike touring friends for organizing and compressing things inside panniers.


  1. Shane
    28th March 2011 at 12:35 am #

    Or take so little clothing with you it can’t become a mess, after a while on the road you stink anyway, so that extra t-shirt and shorts isn’t going to help:)

    Those mesh bags are handy for keeping socks and underwear in one place though.

    • friedel
      28th March 2011 at 6:21 am #

      Ha ha, Shane 🙂 We were definitely guilty of carrying too much clothing last time. That said, we do still tend to carry enough stuff that it needs organizing, at least on a longer tour.

  2. Brian
    28th March 2011 at 4:18 am #

    Many years ago we switched from colored cloth bags to gallon ziplocks. They are available anywhere, cheap, see-through, and waterproof.

    • friedel
      28th March 2011 at 6:23 am #

      Good idea, Brian! If you get into places like Central Asia, I’m not sure how available Ziplocks are (at least not decent quality ones that would actually stay closed) but certainly for much of the world you would find them.

  3. Andrew Jennings
    28th March 2011 at 8:47 am #

    I must hunt down the classic “around the world on three pairs of underpants”. On my tours I only carry riding clothes and thermals. But these are short tours. I might need something a bit more presentable for longer journeys.

  4. Kat Marriner
    30th March 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    We too use mesh bags. I made them after my first bike tour with Willie precisely to manage the explosion of stuff at the end of the day. I also use my larger mesh bag filled with clean-ish clothes as my pillow. When it’s cold, that gets wrapped with wool sweaters. Ziplock bags are great for food and spare parts and I always pack a long a supply, but clothes need to dry out and breath.

  5. Charlie Roop
    30th March 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    I hadn’t thought about the little laundry bags, but I’ve used in the past and was planning to use zip-locks since they are waterproof and easy to replace here in the states.

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