Every bikepacker with limited space encounters the same problem: what to take and what to leave at home?

I recently posted my current packing list, right before I took off for the Tuscany Trail adventure.
Most of it I packed based on my experiences in last year’s Trans Am as this is my only major bikepacking experience. As always, after a ride there comes the phase where you start to re-evaluate your list based on what worked and what didn’t. To aid others who are doing the same I’ve decided to make my re-evaluations on this blog.

After the Tuscany Trail, I categorized my gear into sub-categories: Things I use every day, Things I use – but not daily, Things I almost never use and Things I never use but have to carry anyway.

1. Things I use every day

  • cycling attire – pants, jersey, socks, bra, gloves, helmet, sun glasses
  • chamois cream
  • sunscreen
  • tooth brush & paste
  • iPhone & headphones
  • Garmin
  • SPOT tracker
  • SaltStick capsules
  • water bottles
  • small bike lock
  • wet wipes

2. Things I use, but not daily

  • bivy bag and liner & sleeping mat & inflatable pillow
  • warm hat/Buff
  • merino leggings
  • long sleeve shirt
  • sun sleeves
  • rain jacket
  • warm jacket
  • waterproof socks
  • soap
  • deodorant (doesn’t really make a difference unless you’ve had a shower, too)
  • bandana (as towel)
  • pain meds
  • chain lube

3. Things I (almost) never use

  • pedal wrench
  • chain link
  • spare bolts
  • spare spokes
  • anti-diarrhea, anti-cramps etc. meds

4. Things I never use but have to carry anyway

  • spare inner tubes
  • patches & glue
  • passport
  • pump
  • multitool
  • band-aids
  • tweezers

The question is: how often are you going to use it and is it possible to obtain it on the spot if you need it?

Some things do fall firmly in the “can’t get rid of” category, such as a spare tube or patches. It would be foolish not to pack these things as they don’t add a significant amount of weight and can save the day when you need them. I’ve seen many people tie a spare tube directly to the bike, not a bad idea if you’ve run out of space in your bags.
The same goes for the pump, mine is just 100g anyway. Tweezers are good for two things: pulling wires out of your tires and pulling crap out of your skin.
Plus a *little* maintenance on your eyebrows doesn’t hurt. 😉

In the case of the Tuscany Trail, I needn’t have carried the bivy and sleeping pad as I ended up staying in hotels all the way. For the Trans Am this isn’t an option so I can’t scratch these things based on the experience on the TT. As suggested by one person on Facebook I’ll be adding a lightweight sleeping bag liner to the setup. Not just because it adds warmth but because it’s really nice to have something to wrap around you to sleep. The liner will live permanently in the bivy bag and thus not take up too much space.

You’ll notice right away that the most weight falls into the category “don’t use it daily” – the biggest offenders (apart from the sleeping setup) are a rain jacket, a warm jacket, leggings, waterproof socks, soap and deodorant.
Unfortunately, I’m not yet willing to compromise on many of those – a rain jacket is essential and as seen last year when temperatures in the Rocky Mountains dropped to the freezing point, a warm jacket can save the day or even your life. Get caught out in the snow without something warm and something to protect you from the elements? Nope.
Past Pueblo, a warm jacket will likely not be necessary and I might mail it forward from there. Until then, I’m holding on to it.

The leggings are up for debate, I’m still unsure whether to take the leggings OR the leg warmers. The merino leggings can be worn under my cycling shorts on really cold days and keep me warm even if they get wet, plus they are good for sleeping. Leg warmers are easier to put on and take off, i.e. put them on before a long descent and take them off quickly right after. Mine have zippers at the ankles so they fit over my shoes.
However, they are less comfortable to sleep in. Hum. Well. We’ll see.
The long sleeve shirt is up for debate, too, I haven’t received it yet so I’ll have to weigh it first and see where it fits into my setup.

Waterproof socks are a luxury. I absolutely loved not having wet feet on a rainy day on the Tuscany Trail. I could even ford small streams without worrying about wet, cold feet.
Remembering a few soggy days last year where I dreamed about waterproof socks, I’m stoked to have these on board this year.

Soap and deodorant.  I’ll probably mostly shower when I’m at a hotel and all hotels provide some sort of shower gel and/or shampoo. You don’t necessarily need soap to wash you face either.
So I’m ditching the Bronner’s. I didn’t even empty my small bottle last year.
Deodorant doesn’t really change the overall fact that one stinks after riding many hours every day, and I didn’t use deodorant every day last year I’m afraid. So I’m ditching that, too. If I feel like I really really want some, I can always pick up a travel sized one at a gas station. I saw travel sized SpeedSticks often last year.

Sun sleeves are something I’m going to use religiously this year as I’ve just burned my arms very painfully. They are just starting to peel now.
On my legs, I don’t really need sunscreen, on my arms I’ll use the sleeves and in my face it mostly runs off anyway (plus my face is not directly in the sun most of the time), so I’m going to just take a SunStick for nose, cheeks, forehead and lips. It is much smaller and lighter than a bottle of sunscreen.
Chamois cream is essential, but I didn’t use the whole tube last year and I was sharing the tube with Tobi, too. So I’ll put a smaller amount in a contact lenses case and re-stock at bike shops along the way when I need to.

When it comes to tools and spares, it’s a difficult thing. Most of the things you’ll take you’ll never use, but when you need them, it’s great to have them. As long as all my tools and spares fit into the Jerrycan (except for pump and spokes, obviously), I’m happy with it. In addition to a few spokes and a chain link/SRAM chain lock I will carry a set of brake pads.
I don’t need to carry spare bolts since I’ve got plenty of bolts in the bottle cage bosses that I’m not using. Chain lube is overused a lot, I’ll only carry 1-2 applications worth in a tiny bottle, I plan to have the bike serviced once or twice and the chain changed in Newton, so it shouldn’t be an issue. If I feel like I really need some, it’s not hard to find something useable at gas stations.

1. Things I use every day

  • cycling attire – pants, jersey, socks, bra, gloves, helmet, sun glasses
  • tube of chamois cream – changed to a smaller amount
  • sunscreen small sun stick
  • tooth brush & paste
  • iPhone & headphones
  • Garmin
  • SPOT tracker
  • SaltStick capsules
  • water bottles
  • small bike lock
  • wet wipes

2. Things I use, but not daily

  • bivy bag and liner & sleeping mat & inflatable pillow
  • warm hat/Buff – my warm jacket has a hood for sleeping, Buff can be used as cap for cold descents
  • merino leggings
  • long sleeve shirt
  • sun sleeves
  • rain jacket
  • warm jacket
  • waterproof socks
  • soap
  • deodorant (doesn’t really make a difference unless you’ve had a shower, too)
  • bandana (as towel)
  • pain meds
  • chain lube  changed to a tiny bottle for 1-2 applications

3. Things I (almost) never use

  • pedal wrench
  • chain link
  • spare bolts
  • spare spokes
  • anti-diarrhea, anti-cramps etc. meds

4. Things I never use but have to carry anyway

  • spare inner tubes
  • patches & glue
  • passport
  • pump
  • multitool
  • band-aids
  • tweezers

These small changes will open up some space for more food of which I usually don’t carry enough.
I’ve ordered two Salsa Anything cages to put on the fork and I’m going to try out a packing setup with them – not to add more stuff, but to distribute stuff better.
I want the seat bag to only contain my sleeping setup so that I have no reason to access it during the day.

In other news, I also ordered a new helmet, a Giro Aeon. I’m hoping the lighter weight and better ventilation system will make the thing a little less annoying. My Uvex helmet is black and last year I thought it would be neat to have a white one in the sun.
I’ve already switched the fork and wheels and today I’m completing the transition by putting my aero bars on.
Then tomorrow when my younger brother comes around I’ll put the MTB wheels back in for a ride 😉