The Big Cycle Touring Kit List
After 12 years of researching, refining and road-testing, here’s a detailed cycle touring kit list of the equipment I currently use on my bike tours and bikepacking trips, together with manufacturer and retailer links. You’re welcome.
The list reflects my personal choices only. Sure, there’s some great all-round gear in here. But it’s not what I’d necessarily recommend to you, because I know nothing about your plans, your preferences, your budget, and many other factors that influence gear choice. I’ve published tons of detailed articles that deal with specific equipment choices in great depth. So the list below is mainly for the sake of curiosity.
(For many years I refused to publish my kit list on this blog, but you lovely people continue to email me to ask what I use, so in 2016 I grudgingly conceded.)
Road Touring Bike & Luggage
- I still ride the original Oxford Bike Works Expedition prototype, which was custom built to my design in 2015. You can read my 10,000-word illustrated thesis on how it was designed and built. On good roads I might go fast and light on a tweaked 2012 Kona Sutra with frame luggage. Read my detailed article on choosing a touring bike.
- Rear Panniers
- Crosso Twist 60s (my review / Cyclesense* / eBay*) or Carradice Super C (my review / direct / Evans* / eBay*), depending on whether I need roll-top waterproofing. I don’t use front panniers, but if I did, I’d use Crosso Dry 30s. Read my detailed article on pannier choice.
- Handlebar Bag
- Ortlieb Ultimate 5 (now the Ultimate 6 Classic) (Cyclestore*, Tredz* w/ price match, Amazon*). I also like Klickfix baskets (Amazon* / eBay UK*.
- An assortment of Exped and Seal Line roll-top drybags between 5l and 20l capacity. Plastic carrier bags work too.
- Extrawheel Voyager (review). I use this only when I carry tons of extra stuff (eg: Arctic in winter, Mongolia off-road).
Bikepacking Bike & Luggage
- My bikepacking rig is based on the Kona Explosif 2007 frame and wheelset I used for my round-the-world attempt a long time ago. Full specs forthcoming.
- Polaris Ventura frame bag, seat pack and handlebar bag bundle (direct*, also available separately); Alpkit Big Papa seat pack (direct), Possum half-frame bag (direct), Fuel Pod top-tube bag (direct) and Kanga handlebar harness (direct); plus an old Deuter 3‑litre hydration pack. I mix and match bags depending on the trip.
- MSR Hubba Hubba NX* (eBay* / Amazon UK* / GoOutdoors* / REI*) if I’m solo touring; MSR Mutha Hubba NX* (eBay* / Amazon UK* / REI*) if my better half is along for the ride; Terra Nova Starlite 2 (my review / eBay*/ Amazon UK*) if I’m bikepacking. Read my detailed article on the best tents for cycle touring & bikepacking.
- Tent Alternative
- Actually, I don’t really like tents. So if it’s practical I’ll sleep in an Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag or Hennessy Deep Jungle Hammock (my review), depending on mood and likelihood of trees.
- Sleeping Bag
- Alpkit Pipedream 250 plus a silk sleeping bag liner (Amazon UK* / eBay*). For deep winter I use a Big Agnes Storm King rated to ‑25ºC (discontinued).
- Camping Mattress
- Exped SIM Lite UL 2.5 (discontinued, try the SIM UL / eBay* / AlpineTrek.co.uk* / Moosejaw) for fair weather touring; Exped SynMat HL (eBay* / Amazon UK* / Backcountry.com*) for ultralight bikepacking; Exped DownMat 7 (my review / eBay* / AlpineTrek.co.uk* / Amazon UK* / Backcountry.com*) if it’s really cold. (Yes, I like Exped mats.)
- Exped Air Pillow UL (eBay* / AlpineTrek.co.uk* / REI* / Backcountry.com*) for my poor old neck (I have also used Mammut pillows and bundles of rolled-up clothing); McNett Tenacious Tape (eBay* / Amazon UK* / GoOutdoors.co.uk* / REI*) for gear repairs; toothbrush.
Cooking isn’t always essential, but if I’m away for long enough to want to cook my own food or make a brew, here’s what I use:
- If solo, Vango Compact (eBay* / Amazon UK*) or DIY beer can stove (viral video with 3.5M views) depending on fuel availability. In pairs/groups or on longer trips, Alpkit Koro for canister gas alone, or MSR WhisperLite Universal (my review / eBay* / Amazon UK* / REI*) if I also want to use liquid fuel. Read my detailed article on choosing a stove for cycle touring and bikepacking.
- If on my own, MSR Trail Lite Solo* system (eBay* / Amazon UK* / Backcountry.com*) for touring, or Alpkit MyTiMug for bikepacking. In pairs/groups, Alpkit AliPots.
- Water Purification
- If I need one (rarely), my filter of choice is the Sawyer Squeeze (eBay* / Amazon UK* / REI*).
- Utensils & Accessories
- Spoon, Opinel No8 folding knife (eBay* / Amazon UK* / REI*), tupperware container, canister of sea salt, British teabags, scouring pad, free hotel shampoo bottle filled with washing-up liquid, ziploc bag of laundry detergent.
On long trips I usually wear whatever I’d go hiking/backpacking in given the climate. This usually seems to consist of BAM T‑shirts, long-sleeved cotton/linen shirts from charity shops, any old shorts with padded lycra shorts underneath, and zip-off hiking trousers from TK Maxx or Decathlon.
On shorter trips I’ve been getting on very well with Polaris’ touring-specific Challenge collection*.
I then throw in whichever of the following items are relevant:
- Alpkit Balance waterproof jacket, sometimes supplemented with a bin bag. I don’t bother with sweaty and uncomfortable waterproof over-trousers – my legs just get wet. And then they dry again.
- Basic cycling sunglasses (Decathlon).
- Down jacket
- Big Agnes Shovelhead, which I got from an expedition sponsor in 2014 and could never otherwise afford.
- Light hiking shoes, usually entry-level Salomon Goretex ones or something mid-range from Decathlon. I always bring flip-flops.
- Various Buffs, depending on circumstances – UV protective, high-vis, visor, fleece, etc. They’re really useful. Helmet, obvs.
Tools, Spares & Accessories
- Basic toolkit
- Topeak Alien II multitool (Amazon UK* / Wiggle* / CRC*), Topeak Road Morph G tyre pump with gauge (Amazon UK* / Wiggle* / CRC*), Park Tool GP‑2 self-adhesive patches (Amazon UK* / Wiggle* / CRC*), Park Tool TL-1C tyre levers (Amazon UK* / Wiggle*), regular puncture repair kit, small bottle of Finish Line synthetic wet-weather chain lube, strip of Gorilla Tape wrapped round seatpost, handful of assorted cable ties/zip ties attached to LHS seat-stay.
- Extended toolkit
- Cassette tool, crank extractor, bottom bracket tool, adjustable spanner, 10/12mm hex key for Shimano freehub removal, strips of inner tube rubber, hose clamp, electrical terminal block. Read my detailed article on assembling a fix-anything toolkit for a cycle tour or bikepacking trip.
- Basic spares
- Inner-tube, chain links, brake shoes/pads, 3x spokes (rear drive-side, rear non-drive-side, front).
- Extended spares
- Another inner-tube, spare chain, gear cable set (inner/outer/ferrules), brake cable set, hub/headset/bottom bracket bearings, canister of grease.
- Other extended trip gear
- MSR stove service kit if applicable.
Gadgets and electronics are a topic for elsewhere, as they’re even more dependent on personal preferences and aims for your tour.
Now go and read about why you don’t actually need any of this stuff.