From The Gear Closet: Favorite Bikepacking and Touring Gear
One of my many favorite things about bike travel is how a rider’s creativity and personality shine through their gear setup. Over the years we solve problems, go through phases, reinvent our riding identities, and update old configurations to take on ever-bigger adventures.
And when we meet each other on the road or trail, we appraise each other’s setups with admiration and curiosity, no matter how different they may be.
So, in a virtual sort of roadside meeting, here is a list of the bikepacking and touring gear I use and love. Each item has a short explanation of why I like it or what I think it’s best for.
Feel free to make it a two way street and let me know what you think in the comments.
Required disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase something through them. But don’t worry, I’ve only linked to products I actually use and truly recommend.
Salsa EXP Series HT Frame Bag
Perfect fit for Salsa Fargo frames. Like the small pocket on one side and large pocket on the other.
Salsa EXP Anything Cradle + Bag + Pouch
Stable hard-attachment handlebar cradle that keeps gear off cables. Dry sack is easy to use. The pouch is kind of small; I prefer the RockBros front pouch mentioned below. I use this setup on a Salsa Fargo (drop bars) and just pack the bag extra-narrow.
Revelate Viscacha Seat Bag
Revelate has discontinued this model (got mine used on eBay) but the Terrapin looks like a similar idea. It has the same camming buckles as the Viscacha which are awesome because they do NOT slip on rough terrain (my biggest issue with the RockBros seat bag below).
Budget Bikepacking Bags
I’ve already written quite a bit about my budget bikepacking gear journey. Here’s a brief list; for more detail, see the reviews linked from each item. Some of this gear has limitations, and some is fantastic, but it all serves the purpose of getting us out there without spending a fortune.
RockBros Top Tube Bag
Stable, good capacity, narrow (doesn’t hit knees), easy to open and close.
Climbing Chalk Bags
Fantastic budget feedbag alternative. Large capacity, convenient external pockets, and snapping straps that can attach directly to handlebars and stem. Not sure I could design a better bikepacking feed bag if I tried!
Sea to Summit Dry Bag, 8 Liters
Works great as a handlebar roll bag on a drop bar bike. Can also be a makeshift seat bag. Super lightweight, is also great waterproof protection for electronics inside questionably waterproofed bags.
Racks and Panniers
When I ride with panniers, I ride with a rear set only, and occasionally strap something extra to the rear rack. I have never ridden with front panniers, but probably would on a longer trip through multiple climates/seasons.
Tubus Logo Evo Classic Rear Rack
High quality steel rack so it won’t break, but can be welded if it does.
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Rear Panniers
A classic for a reason. Waterproof and sturdy, no issues with mine after several month+ international tours.
SeaLine Baja Dry Bag, 30 Liters
Nothing special, just a big waterproof bag that I bungee (see below) to my rear rack for extra space or when not using panniers. Clips around seat post for extra stability.
Highland Adjustable Bungee Straps
Love these for strapping things (tent, backpack, etc) to the top of my rear rack. Super sturdy. I hook them to the rack corner-to-corner, so they cross in an “X” on top. The length is adjustable so I can easily add or remove things (extra bag of food, water bottles, etc) with no problems.
Deuter Rain Cover II, Neon Green
This is actually a backpack cover, but I put it over the dry bag to make myself extra-visible to drivers. If I’m using a backpack instead of the dry sack, it adds waterproofing.
Safety and Accessories
Bike Peddler Cycling Mirror – Original Size
Finally switched to this helmet mirror (clips to a visor) after several handlebar mirrors that were too awkward and hard to see in. Best mirror I’ve used. I even packed a backup (very small and light) for my last tour in case something happened to the first one – that’s how much I love having it.
Blackburn Central 50 Rear Tail Light
This is the brightest tail light I’ve found. USB rechargeable.
Planet Bike Superflash Tail Light
Love this tail light for its durability and ease of mounting to anything: clip it to a seat bag, or attach a mount to either the seat post or seat stay. My version is AAA battery powered which I like for long trips (doesn’t need recharging for weeks) but there’s also a USB version.
NiteRider Lumina 900 Boost Headlight
First light I’ve found that’s actually sufficient for night riding on trails or in rural areas without any other source of light. Love it with the helmet mount, which is surprisingly useful for being able to light things to the side, in your hands, anywhere that’s not right in front of the bike.
Cygolite Metro 700 Lumen USB Headlight
This is a good headlight for commuting in the dark and being seen on the road. However, it is NOT bright enough for riding trails or rough roads in rural places with no other sources of light.
Bright and Reflective Stuff
Reflective Colored Tape
Sticks reasonably well to hard surfaces (like bike frame, not fabric) if you’d like some extra visibility for night riding.
Reflective Gear Aid Tenacious Tape
Sticks well to soft surfaces like bike bags to add extra night riding visibility. Bonus tip: you can cut it into fun shapes. This is where the skull and crossbones on my frame bag came from. 🙂
Jogalite Reflective Yield Symbol
This lives on the back of my rear rack whenever I tour. I’ve had drivers compliment me on it before. It really increases visibility a lot. The adjustable strap and buckle make it easy to attach in many ways.
Functional and oh-so-stylish, I wore this most of the way while racing across the US and required to wear high-viz gear. Adds visibility in both light and dark, can be worn over any clothing from tank top to rain gear, and doesn’t add warmth in hot weather. Takes up little space, so it’s easy to keep in bag as emergency gear in case you get stuck riding on a busy road. “One size fits all” means “one size fits big people” but it’s not really a problem if it’s loose.
For when you don’t have enough handlebar real estate to fit your bag mounts, phone mount, headlight, bike computer, etc all at the same time. This can attach with two clamps or even one (with the bar off-center). Definitely remove it when transporting your bike, because the clamps can be bent, but otherwise I love it. Might need to put some strips of old tubes under the mounts to prevent it from rotating downwards on rough trail.
Handlebar Smartphone Holder
Have used this on a lot of pretty rough gravel and my phone has never come out (I use my phone for navigation often). Needs to be cranked down tightly or it will rotate.
CatEye Velo 7 Bike Computer
Just the basics, simple and cheap and perfect for touring, when I want to know how far I’ve gone without using smartphone battery too often. Tracks distance reliably and seems to be very waterproof.
Tools and Repair Supplies
This can be a big topic! For more details see this post on compiling your emergency repair kit for any type of trip. Below I’ve highlighted a few of my standout favorites from that post.
IB-3 Park Tool Multitool
Very durable and always has what I need. The chain breaker tool actually works, as long as you don’t lose the separate lever used to turn it. For serious bike travelers I definitely recommend a solid multitool like this from a well-known brand; I once had a cheaper one fall apart by the side of the road in Vietnam.
Park Tool Pre-Glued Patches
If you use tubes, these are the best way I’ve found to patch them. They work every time and are super easy to use; no more realizing your adhesive is all dried out while trying to fix a flat. You can even cut them into smaller pieces to conserve your supply in a pinch – ask me how I know.
Mini Pump by Pro Bike Tool
My first and only mini pump is still going strong. It’s small and light, has a rough pressure gauge, and fits both Presta and Schrader valves.
Presta to Schrader Valve Adapter
This tiny little gizmo is essential for long tours. Use it to fill your presta tubes from a schrader pump, which is probably the only kind of pump you’ll find on the road in many places.
Threadlocker to keep bolts from rattling loose on washboard gravel and other rough surfaces. Before discovering this I had bottle cages come loose and a friend even lost one of her rack bolts. Comes in a tiny squeeze tube and is always in my repair kit.
Wolf Tooth Components Master Link Pliers
I resisted these for a long time, but finally got tired of wrestling with old cables to open impossibly sticky master links. These things do the trick easily every time. They’re light enough that I have no qualms about adding them to my portable repair kit.
Leatherman PS Multitool
Can’t imagine a long tour or bikepacking trip without this. Tighten spokes, trim your nails, cut open packaging, open beer bottles… And technically it’s TSA approved for carry-on luggage (note that there’s no knife blade).
Gear Aid Clear Repair Tape
A small square of this can repair a torn bikepacking bag, tent, sleeping pad, rain jacket… I suspect it can even be used to patch tubes.
Topeak Sport Floor Pump
Finally got tired of using my portable mini pump at home, and SO glad I upgraded. This pump is pure luxury by comparison.
Bikehand Repair Stand
Good quality home repair stand for a decent price, for when turning the bike upside-down just isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s stable, holds our heavy-ish steel bikes with no issues, and folds up nicely when not in use.
Bikehand 37pcs Tool Kit
If you’re interested in learning to work on your own bike, a set like this will really fast-forward your progress. I still haven’t used every took in this kit, but I’ve used many, and it always seems to have whatever I need when taking on a new project.
Orange Pumice Hand Cleaner
A major upgrade to my home tinkering experience.
Cycling clothing is such a personal choice that I won’t go into too much detail here. In fact, much of my cycling clothing is actually just my backpacking clothing. Here I’ll highlight just a few items that I’ve found particularly amazing for some aspect of touring or bikepacking, or that required a lot of trial and error to discover.
Gloves: Pearl Izumi Ride Pro Lobster Gloves
I have serious problems with cold hands outdoors, and cycling – especially downhill in cold weather – can cause me unbearable hand numbness and pain. These are the ONLY cycling gloves I’ve found that keep my hands on the edge of tolerable even in freezing temps.
Rain Booties: Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier Shoe Covers
I had trouble finding a pair that worked, so I want to mention these here because they do fit and they do work! My feet no longer get numb riding in chilly wet weather. These keep the water out and add a bit of warmth too. They’ve held up through a decent amount of hike-a-bike so far.
Baggy Shorts: Club Ride Savvy Women’s Shorts
I usually go for function over form, but was surprised to find these shorts actually kind of look good too, in addition to being super comfy and stretchy. Here’s the men’s version.
Padded Shorts: Louis Garneau Women’s CB Carbon 2
I’m not about to dive into the bike shorts topic here (that’s for another post). But for whatever it’s worth, given how different all our bodies are, these are my current favorite bike shorts.
Icebreaker Merino 260 Tech Half Zip Long Sleeve Shirt
This is a standard midweight warm layer for biking and backpacking, but I’m including it here because of this one key detail: when fully unzipped, it fits OVER a bike helmet! As frequently as I change layers, this is crucial.
Bikes and Parts
A bike travel gear list wouldn’t be complete without mention of my trusty steed(s)! Here’s a quick overview of my two babies.
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Affectionately known as Black Pearl, she has accompanied me on all of my international tours and across the US. I’ve been really impressed with the robustness of my LHT as it’s been ridden across countries, strapped to the roof of buses, dumped in wooden boats, and transported in trains. I made an effort to transition her to off-road bikepacking, which was an interesting experiment. Conclusion: the LHT makes a great road touring bike, a fine gravel touring bike, but a questionable singletrack bikepacking rig.
Salso Fargo Apex
I acquired Black Pearl’s new sister, Shadowfax, when my bikepacking experiments became a bit too much for the LHT’s stiff frame and limited tire size. Shadowfax is now my go-to for any route that’s mostly gravel or dirt. The frame, while still steel, is definitely better suited to rough riding than the stiff LHT, and it handles way better on inconsistent terrain.
Salsa Cowchipper Flared Drop Bar
I replaced the drop bars on my Long Haul Trucker with this moderately flared version and promptly fell in love. The flare makes them so much more ergonomic and comfy, and also more stable on gravel or in heavy wind.
Dual Sided Pedals
As someone who came to clipless pedals later in my cycling journey, I still sometimes appreciate NOT having my feet attached to my bike while navigating sketchy terrain or stop-and-go city traffic. These pedals are perfect because they allow for both.
Platypus 3 liter hydration bladder
Durable, reliable, easy to drink from. Lives in my frame bag and the hose wraps around the handlebars.
Blackburn Outpost Bottle Cages
Great for holding a single large bottle on the down tube, or two on the front fork (I like the Nathan 1.5 L mentioned below). Can also hold small stuff sacks, rolled inflatable sleeping pad, etc. The straps are ok, but I’ve replaced each pair with a single Voile strap, which is more secure and eliminates rattling.
Nathan SuperShot 1.5 L Bottles
Oversize bottles for those oversize cages above. Really durable, convenient double opening (both big and small), make a great “foam roller” for sore muscles after a long day’s ride.
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
My go-to for all solo backpacking trips, and faster/lighter backpacking trips with my husband.
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Drops
Add waterborne virus protection to a standard filter for travel or especially sketchy water sources, use alone on fast-and-light trips, or carry as backup in case of failed filter.
Bike Camping Gear
Most of my camping gear for bikepacking and touring doubles as my backpacking gear, and you can find my favorites here.
Electronics and Navigation
SPOT Gen 3 Satellite Messenger
The classic “SOS button” emergency device and GPS tracker.
Garmin InReach Mini Satellite Communicator
More flexible device for emergencies and also sending custom text messages, which is why I switched from SPOT to this. It’s my go-to for solo adventures and group trips in very remote places.
Anker 13000 Power Bank
Reliable, good capacity, and relatively compact.
Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera
I broke a few cameras before discovering this one, which is waterproof, dust proof, and reasonably drop-proof. I’m not particularly into photography, but I think the photo quality is decent considering the small size and rugged construction. It has a lot of manual options for those interested in fiddling, and some easy automatic modes too.
Galaxy S8 Active Smartphone
I know most people don’t choose their smartphone mainly for biking, but I use mine as my primary navigation device, and I’ve killed a few by water damage and dropping. Not since discovering the Galaxy Active line though. I’m not always a fan of Samsung devices otherwise, but I really appreciate the waterproof and drop-proof properties of these phones. I get them refurbished on eBay, a couple generations behind the latest, which saves hundreds of dollars and makes it less heartbreaking if I do end up destroying one on a bike trip.
Jabra Elite 65t Earbuds
If you’ve ridden long solo tours before, you might be a fan of the occasional podcast, audio book, or playlist to keep you company. These are a luxury item and were a gift from my husband, but wow are they an improvement over riding with a wired earbud. Great sound, decent battery life, and easy to charge on the road in their little case. Note: I always suggest riding with only one earbud, and only on quiet roads where terrain or traffic don’t require full attention.
Miscellaneous Useful Things
Bikepackers have co-opted these ski straps, and we love them to bits. They’re great for strapping things to your handlebars, securing bottles to cages, or making field repairs. They come in many different lengths, and the tails are easy to tuck in. If it’s not going to get in the way, I err on the longer side so it can be used for as many things as possible.
Dude Shower Wipes
Luxury item for those nights when there’s no extra water for washing and it’s been a few days…
Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
There are lots of headlamps out there, but what I love about this one for bike touring is that it can be charged via USB power and also takes AAA batteries. On a long or remote trip sometimes one is easier to come by than the other, and I love the emergency backup of keeping a few AAA batteries around as a last resort.
RumbleRoller Beastie Massage Ball
Not exactly ultralight, but I have been known to throw this in my panniers to help work through a bit of stiffness or minor injury on a long tour.
Mini Exercise Band
You might be wondering why one would bring exercise bands on a bike trip – aren’t you getting enough exercise already? But when I cycle a lot my quads tend to get too strong and my glutes too weak. Using these bands for hip extensions, clamshells, etc. on long tours helps me stay balanced.
Soy Sauce Containers
These tiny squeeze bottles are great for packing tiny amounts of toiletries on lightweight bikepacking trips.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
This is so useful on trips when you might need a day pack or “purse” for off the bike, or even extra emergency storage capacity for loading up on food or water that doesn’t fit on your bike. It folds down to nothing when empty.
Osprey Ultralight Roll Organizer
A nice luxury item for toiletries, first aid, etc. on long trips. I love the hook for hanging in questionable bathrooms, the the mesh pockets for keeping things organized yet ventilated (no more slimy plastic bags). It’s a little bulky for lightweight bikepacking, but it’s easy to attach to the top of a seat bag or even a front fork cage.
More Bike Resources
If you enjoyed this bike travel gear list, you might also find these helpful:
- Bikepacking 101: Guide to Backcountry Bike Travel
- Cheap Places to Camp While Cycling in the US
- Cycling Northern Sudan
- More bike travel resources right here
Share the Adventure
I put a ton of effort into these guides because I want to help other people realize their adventurous dreams.
If you liked what you read, would you mind giving it a quick share on your favorite social media so other aspiring adventurers can find it too? Many thanks!