The Big Cycle Touring Kit List
After 12 years of researching, refining and road-testing, here’s a detailed listing of the cycle touring and bikepacking equipment I currently use, together with manufacturer and retailer links.
The list reflects my personal choices only. 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 posted reams of articles in the advice and planning section that deal with specific equipment choices in great depth. So the list below is mainly for the sake of curiosity.
(For many years I deliberately 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
- For most trips I ride the original Oxford Bike Works Expedition prototype known as “Tom’s Expedition Bike“, which was custom built to my design. On good roads I might go fast and light on a tweaked 2012 Kona Sutra with frame luggage (see below). 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 (GoOutdoors* / UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk) if I’m solo touring; Mutha Hubba if my better half is along for the ride; Terra Nova Starlite 2 (direct / UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk / Amazon*) 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 a Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag or Hennessy Deep Jungle Hammock, depending on mood and likelihood of trees.
- Sleeping Bag
- Alpkit Pipedream 250 (direct) plus a Scottish Silkworm sleeping bag liner (Amazon* / eBay*). For deep winter I have a Big Agnes Storm King rated to -25ºC (discontinued).
- Camping Mattress
- Exped SIM Lite UL 2.5 M (discontinued, try the SIM UL) for fair weather touring; Exped SynMat Hyperlite M (UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk / Amazon*) for ultralight bikepacking; Exped DownMat 7 (my review / AlpineTrek.co.uk* / Amazon* / eBay*) if it’s really cold. Yes, I like Exped mats.
- Exped AirPillow (eBay UK*) for my poor old neck (I have also used Mammut* pillows and bundles of rolled-up clothing); McNett Tenacious Tape (Amazon* / GoOutdoors.co.uk*) 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 (direct / Amazon*) or homemade alcohol stove (viral video with 3.5M views) depending on fuel availability. In pairs/groups or on longer trips, Alpkit Koro (direct) or MSR Whisperlite Universal (my review / Amazon* / eBay*). Read my detailed article on stove choice.
- If on my own, MSR Quick Solo (now Trail Lite Solo*) system (Amazon* / UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk*) for touring, or Alpkit MyTiMug (direct) for bikepacking. In pairs/groups, Alpkit AliPots cookset (direct).
- Water Purification
- If I need one (rarely), my filter of choice is the Sawyer Squeeze (Amazon*).
- Utensils & Accessories
- Spoon, Opinel No8 folding knife (Amazon*), tupperware container, film 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 and shorts from charity shops, and zip-off 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:
- dhb EQ2.5 cycling jacket (discontinued). I sometimes supplement this with a bin bag. I don’t bother with overtrousers. My legs just get wet. (Then they get dry again because I’m pedalling hard.)
- Basic cycling sunglasses (Decathlon).
- Down jacket
- Big Agnes Shovelhead, which I got from a sponsor in 2014 and could never otherwise afford. I love it.
- Light hiking shoes, usually this year’s 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* / Wiggle* / CRC*), Topeak Road Morph G tyre pump with gauge (Amazon* / Wiggle* / CRC*), Park Tool GP-2 self-adhesive patches (Amazon* / Wiggle* / CRC*), Park Tool TL-1C tyre levers (Amazon* / Wiggle*), bog-standard puncture repair kit, small bottle of chain lube, strip of Gaffa Tape wrapped round seatpost, handful of assorted cable ties/zip ties attached to LHS seatstay.
- 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 portable, fix-anything toolkit for a cycle tour or bikepacking trip.
- Basic spares
- Innertube, chain links, brake shoes/pads, 3x spokes (rear driveside, rear non-driveside, front).
- Extended spares
- Another innertube, spare chain, gear cable set (inner/outer/ferrules), brake cable set, hub/headset/bottom bracket bearings, film 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.