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On every tour, I always meticulously look over my packing list and think to myself “something is missing.” I almost always end up forgetting one item and usually it’s no big deal . However, the more we’ve toured, the more I have an understanding of some must-have items that will always be included in future packing lists. They’re probably not what you think, but worth carrying.
Here are our 10 items you MUST bring on cycle tour:
1. Zip Ties
Zip ties are the universal tool for fixing a ton of random things on bikes. I’ve used them to align crooked fenders, strap items to my bike, attach cables and housings, temporarily fix a broken rack, and they can be a lifesaver if you’ve got a broken spoke in the middle of nowhere. Zip ties are cheap, lightweight, and can be found pretty much anywhere. We usually take a mix pack of zip ties to accommodate the various sizes needed.
2. Spare Frame Bolts
This is an absolute must for long tours. We’ve had several bolts snap during our trip and you can never predict when this going to happen. We even came to the rescue of a French cyclist in Germany when the bolt holding his rack to his frame snapped. Luckily for him, we had a spare and the appropriate allen wrench to install the bolt on the spot. Having a random assortment of sizes will cover you in the event one fails. Go to your LFBS (local friendly bike shop) and ask for a small bag of difference frame bolts and a spare seat post bolt. You won’t regret it.
While it kills me to put an oil-based product on this list, we’ve found petroleum jelly to be rather handy. It can be a make shift chamois butter, dry lips are covered with a little dab, and at high altitude my heels start to crack. Vaseline has been the only thing that repairs my painful cracks. Plus, you can find petroleum jelly at most pharmacies around the world.
4. Long Cord or Dry Line
A long cord or dry line was something we brought along on our journey thinking we may use it once or twice. We were so wrong. We’ve used the cord to dry clothes and our tent while camping so many times that it has become a must-have for touring.
We’ve also used our dry line to hang food bags when wild camping near wildlife like rats, dogs, bears, etc. It even served as an extra anchor for our tent down in the crazy Patagonian winds.
Paracord Planet has inexpensive options available online and work well for us.
5. Exercise Resistance Band
Cycling for several hours per day makes for some tight muscles. Every night while we’re lying in our tent, watching Narcos on our computer (I know, we’re sooo unplugged), I get our our exercise resistance band to stretch my aching muscles. If I’m feeling particularly energetic, I’ll use it for strength exercise in lieu of weights or Jen uses it when she practices yoga as a strap. It has countless uses. Plus, it weighs next to nothing and crumples into a ball, thus there’s no excuse not to bring it along.
A multi-tool seems like an obvious item to take on tour. Yes, we’ve used the knife, pliers, and other attachments, but the real importance of a multi tool for us is the can opener. Who wants to carry a separate can opener when you can include it on a muli tool? Canned foods can be your savior when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Inability to open the can just leads to a hangry disaster. Being from Portland, Oregon, we have to recommend a Leatherman multi-tool as they have a reputation for being the best in the biz.
7. Ear Plugs
Ear plugs seems so obvious on this list and we’ve met plenty of cyclists who do not travel with them. I’ve used ear plugs so much that I’ve had to have family and friends ship us new ones or bring some with them when visiting. We have stayed at countless noisy campgrounds where ear plugs are the only option for getting a good rest. Did you know street dogs bark? All. Night. Long. Don’t settle for the foam ones, they’re crap and do not work at all. Buy silicone ones that can mold in your ear. I prefer and only use Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs as they’ve been around for a long time and you can buy them in a set. During the end of our Peru adventure, I lost my last pack of plugs and realized how important good sleep is to being able to maximize energy while riding.
8. Hard Ball
Since we don’t travel with a personal masseuse on the road, our lacrosse ball will have to do. Did I mention our aching muscles (see #5 above)? Since we sleep on so many different surfaces, ranging from our tent (which is comfy cozy) to concaved beds, to far-too-soft mattresses, to much-too-hard floors, our backs take a beating. Enter the lacrosse ball. Find a wall and insert ball between aching muscle and the wall. Roll. Groan. Feel better tomorrow.
9. Bike Chain Quick Links
We’ve had two Shimano chains fail on us during our tours and both times we were not near bike shops. I used the quick links along with a chain tool to remove the bad links and get us on the road again. We don’t carry spare chains as the quick links serve as temporary solution that are light weight and easy to use. I honestly thought we would never use these, but they have proven useful and saved our asses a number of times. Our favorite are the KMC quick links as they match our chains and are NOT Shimano.
10. Empty Plastic Water Bottle
We’ve recently found value in carrying a spare empty plastic water bottle with us. It can be used for the obvious of storing extra water, or even filled up before pitching camp for the night so you’ve got spare water for cooking. We’ve also used it as a make shift shower (by slightly opening the lid), a fly trap, and a bowl when cut in half. By far, the most versatile usage is as protective padding for our gear. We’ve had times where we’ve hitched a ride or taken vehicle transportation and the empty water bottle serves as excellent padding between our bikes and derailleurs when stacked. Plastic water bottles are cheap, lightweight when empty, and versatile when on the road.
If you like this article, you may enjoy our guide to The Best Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring. We give a comprehensive overview on which apps are the best for navigating the world.
Ok a plastic wine bladder isn’t something you need, unless maybe you’re French (just kidding), but they are pretty sweet to have when touring through wine country. They weigh nearly nothing and can hold a full bottle of wine (or water in an emergency). Nothing beats a glass of cheap local wine after a long day of touring. We’ve used the Platypus wine bladders and found them a luxury item worth taking, especially in Europe.
What are some items you’ve found you must bring on cycle tour?