Regardless of where you’re going, what you’re doing or how you’re doing it the basic considerations for your kit remain the same. Self-sufficient touring and self-supported racing face the same problems; what changes are your priorities. When touring or bikepacking you’re more likely to prioritise comfort over a little weight. Whereas, when racing you’ll want to be light as possible.
When it comes to packing for one of these events, you have to answer the same questions:
- How are you going to sleep?
- How are you going to eat and drink?
- How will you keep warm and dry?
- Can you cover most mechanicals?
- Can you navigate?
- Can you see where you am going and can you be seen?
With the first three, you can compromise depending on your priorities but the latter three should be pretty similar across the board. You don’t want to sacrifice your lights, navigation or reliability for anything. There is no point in being wiped out due to something preventable just to save a little weight!
Up to a 400km event, you can probably ignore this one. You’re likely to take on the whole thing in one run (not including coffee and food stops!) Much more than this and you’ll need to think about getting your head down. Remember, even in the summer.
Ultra-light – If the weather is behind you, you can get away with a bivvy bag and possibly a tarp as shelter. Then add a roll matt, and a light-weight warm jacket for heat while you sleep. In the winter, you’ll need to add a light sleeping bag and possibly a more robust 1-person tent. Remember: When you sleep, your core body temperature will drop. If you have to sleep, try to push through the night and get a couple of hours rest during the daylight – this will help make sure you don’t cool down too much!
Touring – Will you be hostel hopping? This will make your pack lighter but you’ll be tied to your schedule – possibly pack though your racing just in case. If you’re going to be on the hill for longer periods of time, we recommend taking a more robust shelter and pack for a little more heat. The more comfortable you sleep, the better the rest and the more you’ll enjoy the next day.
Food and Drink
No skipping this one, not considering food and drink can go from being a bad idea to straight up dangerous! While this section focuses on the gear you’ll need to prep the food, for more information on nutrition, see here.
Ultra-light – You can cover practically everything with one large titanium cup, a fork and a small burner. Soups, Rat-packs, porridge, coffee, you name it, you can probably cook it in this!
Touring – again, the more comfortable you are the better. Can you fit a small pan to a good portion of rice? While risking sounding like a “glamper” I have been know to take a small peculator to make sure I have a nice coffee in the morning – it makes difference!
Keeping warm and dry
Keeping warm and dry will make a huge psychological difference. There is nothing worse than knowing you have a hundred kilometres to go, against the wind while soaked to the bone! Keep warm, keep happy!
Ultra-light – Consider ditching the spare long-sleeve shirt and get a set of arm-warmers, same applies to your legs. The saving here isn’t as much on the weight, more on the volume. The lighter and lower volume you carry the better.
Touring – Taking a change of clothes for the next day or for the evenings off the bike is probably a good call.
Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!
Make sure you’re covered against all the likely points of failure. Pay particular attention to your chain, tyres and wheels. A spare cable or two may come in handy too.
Running on GPS? Take a back up – even if it is just your phone (but don’t rely on this solely!) and take some spare batteries if possible. Maps or route cards? Are they waterproof? Are they up to date? Riding a route by memory… are you sure you know the whole thing?
Never travel at night without lights – this should go without saying. When off-road the more powerful the light the easier you’ll find the fast descents, the more technical the route, the more light is needed. If you’re on the road, you need to be seen you can get away with a slightly less bright front light and don’t leave without a rear light.
For reviews on gear, have a look here.