"Gear selection and more."
Now that you know where you’re going and what bike you’re taking it is time to figure out what to bring. This is where things can get a little bit tricky. In the interest of both simplicity and thoroughness I’m going to break things down into a few categories.
Tent, tarp, hammock or bivy. What to choose? There are no shortage of options here and there is truly no perfect answer. For the purposes of the types of camping trips we will be taking this spring and summer a small and lightweight traditional tent is probably the best option. It’s important to think about the availability of trees or other things to tie a tarp or hammock to. Many more developed campgrounds have limits when it comes to finding things to tie supports to. While it means a bit more weight and volume a freestanding tent is always the safest bet. If you’re packing superlight and unsure if a hammock or tarp will work a bivy is not a bad 2nd choice (if you don’t get claustrophobic). Regardless of what you plan on bringing the key is to select something that is as light and compact as possible. Tents are one of the biggest space hogs when it comes to gear so putting a little more emphasis on volume over weight is not a bad plan. Depending on the season and the construction of your tent a ground cloth may or may not be a concern.
Sleeping bag and pad.
With sleeping bags and pads the biggest concern is the season. I have made the mistake of packing a higher temperature bag and getting surprised by colder than expected nights. It’s always better to opt for a warmer bag if you’re on the fence if it’s early spring or fall.
Sleeping pads are pretty key in my opinion. There are some great compact options for inflatable pads out there as well as foam ones. If you’re packing light or tight on space one trick is to go with a shorter pad to put under your head to hips and leave your legs on the ground. It is possible to go without in the summer but my general rule is always opt for the pad if possible. It makes for a more comfortable night regardless of weather.
This is where sharing the load with friends can really help. Communal cooking means less gear and less food. With friends or alone the needs are the same though.
If you’re going ultralight there are some clever options out there but a safe bet is a compact stove that runs off butane or propane. I use the Optimus Crux and a small fuel tank. The stove itself can be stored inside my cooking pot. Don’t forget something to light it with! Matches are good but can get wet. Lighters can malfuction. Got room for both?
Obviously this is dependent on what you plan on cooking but something to boil water is an absolute must. Whether you’re using dehydrated meals or something else chances are you’re going to need to boil water for you food… and for your coffee! Again I have had good luck with a compact pot and pan from Optimus. Unless you’re cooking for a crowd you probably don’t need as much volume as you think and with just one burner you’re likely prepping multiple items at a time so the ability to boil more water or heat a larger volume or food is probably not a priority. Cookwear can’t compress so when in doubt go smaller not bigger. A spork is a camping must as is some sort of knife. It’s not a bad idea to pack a small rag or sponge to make it easier to clean up your gear after you’re done.
If you’re like me you need your coffee in the morning. There are a few different ways to prepare coffee outside from the super simple steeping cup like this one from MSW to more complex portable French presses. Personally I find the Aeropress to be best overall option. Light, fairly small and with a little practice makes a darn good cup of joe. If I’m only out for a day or two I measure and grind my beans ahead of time and leave the grinder at home.
- Flash light and or small lantern
- Multi tool / Gerber / Leatherman
- Extra rope or cord
- Small travel towel
- Baking soda (works better than deodorant and takes up less space)
- Multi purpose soap such as Dr. Bronners
- A few extra tie downs for securing gear or bags
- A bit of duct tape (ideally wrapped around a tire lever or other small needed object
- Basic first aid kit
Depending on what you like to eat or are willing to carry this is all over the map but here are things that have worked for me. I always make a point to make store stops and keep my tank mostly full on trips so I’m not relying on a big dinner or breakfast to refuel. For me a dehydrated backpacking meal does the trick for dinner along with whatever fruit or other snacks I can source along the way. For breakfast instant oatmeal or musli and some hot water does the job. I usually bring along some trail mix that’s heavy on the dried fruit, beef jerkey and some other simple snacks like clif bars in case I get extra hungry.
Be aware of what stores are near your campsite. There is almost always something near by where comfort snacks from chips to hotdogs to marshmallows can usually be procured along the way. If you take the time to find the stores nearby ahead of time (and confirm they are open!) you can always pack lighter.
Dressing for the occasion:
Bike touring is not without some small complexities when it comes to dressing for the trip. Remember that regardless of weather, you will likely want to be wearing something other than your riding gear once you get to your destination. If space is a concern you can also focus on clothing choices that dry extra fast and are less prone to getting stinky. Year round wool is not to be overlooked. Socks, jerseys, base layers, t-shirts and even underwear, many essential items can be found in light merino wool fabrics perfect for bike camping. Light wool gear dries out fast and in a pinch will do a better job keeping you warm if it is a bit damp. As a general rule though I pack a separate set of clothing to wear at the campsite so I can be extra comfy. This will vary based on season but there are certain core items that are universal.
On the bike:
- Bike shorts
- Wicking base layer (merino wool or synthetic)
- Jersey (light merino wool or synthetic)
- Arm warmers and possibly knee warmers (watch those low temperatures!)
- Light vest or jacket
- Rain jacket if there is even a SLIGHT chance of precipitation
- Merino wool socks
At the camp site:
Part 4 “The Bike Itself” is coming up next week.
If you have questions or want to get prepared for our upcoming Adventure Club overnight trips...
SIgn-up for our Bike Camping Clinic. Sat. May 20th from 2-4.