You can find various packing lists online which offer suggestions on what you might need when going on a cycle tour. However, here are 12 items we consider invaluable but they don’t always make the standard packing checklist.
1. SPD Sandals
Okay, so I will be the first to admit these are not the sexiest of sandals, you won’t find them on the catwalks in Milan but, we have worn these sandals pretty much every day for the past four months! Both of us have been surprised by the love we feel for these sandals. Cycling in the heat would have been a lot less enjoyable if our feet were suffocating in cycling shoes – having the wind between your toes is a great feeling! We both really wanted to have clip in MTB cycling shoes as we find the extra power on the hills is essential and I like having my feet secure in one place as I have read this is better for your knees. These sandals are natural leather on the outside and have a mesh layering on the inside which has excellent moisture wicking properties. The footbed is very comfortable and the sole is pretty rigid which is good for the power transfer. In addition to being great for cycling the sandals are also comfortable enough to walk around in when you are off the bike. During summer rain storms, our feet have dried off much quicker than they would have in socks and shoes and we have even occasionally worn them in combination with our waterproof socks (see number 10) – okay it might look nerdy but if your feet are cool and dry who cares! They are not the cheapest item we have purchased, I think you can get them for around £60 but they are worth every penny.
2. Battery-Free Wind-Up Radio
We try to immerse ourselves in the culture of each country which we visit, with food, staying with locals, the places we visit, etc… This is also true for music! After a days cycle, and setting up camp sometimes we like to cook to the sounds of local radio! I have a freeplay wind up radio, which is great as it does not use batteries so no need to be dependant on disposable or rechargeable batteries. The radio also has a few great features for if we are stuck without any kind of battery power. It has a 3-led flashlight and a USB output port which is also powered by winding it up!
3. Universal sink plug
There are times on tour when running water may be scarce due to distance between towns, villages, gas stations, etc… When this happens a small basin of water, even if it is the sink in a tiny bathroom is invaluable! It can be used to wash you, your clothes, pots and pans or any other number of things! Having a universal sink plug can mean a small sliver of comfort when you and your stuff is dirty and down.Useful whether you are in the middle of nowhere, or at a hostel or campsite in Europe, and it can help save you a few pennies on laundry and showers.
4. Talcum powder
We use it daily to prevent saddle sore and chafing. We have different techniques for application; André sprinkles the powder into his hands then applies to his nether regions directly where as I like to pour the powder onto the chamois in my cycling shorts, rub it in and then dab a little under my bum cheeks too. It works like a charm to minimise chafing, especially when the weather is hot and things get a little sweaty. We recommend using medicated talcum powder, the one we use currently is Cuticura.
The spatula is one of my favourite items in our ‘rough kitchen’. Simply a small good quality silicone spatula, this little guy has joined us from our home kitchen, and it’s a good thing it has. We use it to stir, mix, all the standard functions, and it does not melt like a cheap spatula might if left unattended. But we also use it to get every last drop of our food from our pots and pans, jars, glasses and anywhere else a little bit of food might be hiding; and to clean up, being able to scrape out a pot is a dream when you are out in the woods without running water.
6. Sewing Kit
A little sewing kit is always a handy thing to have, even if it is a really basic one consisting of black thread and a needle. Our sewing kit includes some leather-strength needles and some very heavy duty thread (fishing line). We have used this super strong stuff to fix the straps on our panniers and we have used the rest of the sewing kit numerous times over the past four months to repair merino wool, stitch on buttons, fix compression sack straps, a silk sleeping bag liner and a pair of shorts. Invaluable in our opinion and it weighs nothing and takes up a tiny amount of space.
Some may find this item obvious, others may find it unnecessary, but for us a piece of decent tupperware has been a great addition to our kit. For those nights where we cooked just a little too much, leftovers make a delicious lunch the next day,
and when you are on a tight budget nothing can go to waste! Any quality tub and lid will do as long as the lid fits on securely – we learnt this the hard way. A pannier full of tomato sauce covered pasta is not fun to clean up. The size is a personal preference we went for a rectangular medium size container and it usually fits all our leftovers. When not storing leftovers you can fill the tupperware with other bits and pieces so not to waste space and the lid can also double up as a good chopping board if necessary.
Losing bolts on your bicycle is a real pain and can quickly cause irritating consequences for you down the road. A lost bolt on a pannier rack will mean unnecessary wear on your gear and an uneven transfer of load to the rack and frame. I like to secure all fixings with a small drop of BLUE Loctite on the threads of any fixings on the bicycle. Loctite is essentially a weak adhesive specifically created to prevent threaded fixings from loosening. I keep a small tube of BLUE Loctite with me in my tool-rool for any loose fixings(I also keep a few spare M5 Bolts, just incase). Note that you should only use A DROP on the threads of any bolts on your bicycle. Also DO NOT use RED Loctite on any component of your bicycle, as the red is used for bolts of a much larger diameter that require greater force to fasten and loosen, and I assure you will cement your bolt on to the threads of the bicycle.
(Note: If you take a look at most of the components on your bicycle with bolts, chances are you will see a small blue dot on the threads, this is Loctite)
Before heading off on tour I decided to make a tarp which we could use as a picnic blanket, a shelter for when we need to cook in the rain and as an extension of our tent to enjoy the sunny evenings as somewhere to sit and relax after a days cycle. There are a few options online for ultralight weight tarps, however they will also make your wallet a lot lighter. Instead, I chose to make a tarp at home using 1443R Tyvek, it’s light and provides good protection from water and dirt.
10. Waterproof Socks
We both own a pair of thin ankle length Sealskinz waterproof socks, (I also have a pair of the mid-weight, mid-length socks). Although we have been mostly very lucky with the weather on our trip we have had to dig the socks out of our panniers during heavy rain storms. These socks are incredible, they are completely waterproof yet your feet don’t feel like they are in plastic bags. As the inner lining is 51% merino wool they are comfortable, good for moisture wicking and your feet can breathe. The thin socks have minimal insulation but they are very breathable, as yet it hasn’t been cold enough for me to get the mid-weight socks out of my bag but i am sure that day is coming soon!
11. Rag / Small towel
This is one item we hadn’t thought of bringing on tour with us. It wasn’t until in Germany where I was bit by a dog (LINK) and a nice lady gave us a small towel to clean and dry my wound off, was there a little towel in tow. And it has been so useful we now carry two little towels. Cooking can get messy when you are using standard unleaded gasoline with a whisperlite from the soot, also a little bit of gasoline can easily get on your hands from depressurizing the gas canister. A little rag can help to keep you a little bit cleaner. Also cleaning off your bicycle or chain, a little towel is a big help. We use a second towel for the ‘rough kitchen’ for drying dishes and hands. A rag is all kinds of useful, and it makes life on the road a whole lot easier.
For some people the idea of lugging around a pillow is crazy talk! It takes up space, it’s not all that hardcore, and you can use a stuff sack with some clothes and sleep on that. We chose to avoid sleeping on a sack filled with our dirty gitch, Instead we opted to carry a fantastic, small, compressible and inflatable pillow from MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op). You can adjust how firm you want your pillow to be, it has grippy silicone on the bottom so it dosen’t slip around, there is some thermarest style foam inside which adds to the comfort and it makes our tent just that much more cosy!
Bonus: Moustache wax
If, like me, you plan to grow a bit of a beard while you are in the great outdoors for an extended period, and, you choose to grow a soup strainer on your upper lip, grab some moustache wax to keep things dapper and in place. I have used two brands of wax so far on the trip Bounders and Cpt. Fawcett, reviews to follow!