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Cycling

14 essential bits of kit for your next bikepacking trip

Loading up for your first night under the stars? Or maybe you're a seasoned camper looking for some upgrades? This gear list should help you get to the end of your adventure, smile still intact.
Written by Paddy Maddison
8 min readPublished on
One of the most attractive aspects of bikepacking is the apparent simplicity of it all. The thought of spending a few days with nothing but you, your trusty rig and the wilderness can be very appealing. But there’s a little more to it than that.
Bikepacking is only simple when you’ve got the right gear in your bags. A subpar sleeping bag, dodgy pump or forgotten waterproof can quickly turn an amazing adventure into a slog you won’t want to be repeating in a hurry.
Getting it right isn’t just about having the right tools and the latest gadgets either. It’s also about making sure they’re as light as possible and knowing which bikepacking bag to pack them in order to distribute weight as efficiently as possible.
Here are some of the best bikepacking essentials on the market right now and how to pack them for best results.

1. Outdoor Research Helium Bivy shelter

Outdoor Research Helium Bivy shelter
Swerve a bulky tent in favour of a lightweight, easy-to-pack bivouac
Price: €225
Weight: 476g
Best place to store during ride: Handlebar bag
It’d be nice to have a colossal 12-man tent to unwind in after a long day’s pedalling, but weight and size are key when selecting gear for a bikepacking expedition. This considered, a bivy sack is the sensible option and this one from Outdoor Research is the gold standard. Light, affordable and practically tardis-esque inside, the Helium Bivy is an award-winning piece of kit that’ll keep you warm and sheltered without weighing your bike down throughout the day.

2. Alpkit Numo sleeping mat

Alpkit Numo sleeping mat
Put some distance between you and the hard ground with an inflatable mat
Price: €50
Weight: 350g (including stuff sack and repair kit)
Best place to store during ride: Handlebar bag
It’s incredible what a difference even a thin mat can make in terms of comfort while camping. Not only does it offer some additional cushioning, but it provides a layer of insulation between your sleeping body and the cold earth below. This one from Alpkit inflates and deflates through a single valve to minimise weight and offers 8.5cm of defense against lumps and bumps when fully blown up.

3. Mountain Equipment Helium 250 sleeping bag

Mountain Equipment Helium 250 sleeping bag
Sure, it's not cheap, but it will keep you warm for years of adventuring
Price: €250
Weight: 705g
Best place to store during ride: Handlebar bag or saddle bag
By using super-lightweight materials throughout and distributing down insulation thoughtfully to target the areas that need it most, Mountain Equipment’s Helium 250 sleeping bag delivers an unparalleled warmth-to-weight ratio. The stuff sack is slightly oversized to make packing that little bit easier and a built-in air hole allows it to be compressed quickly. Sure, €250 isn't an insignificant amount of money, but when you consider that you’ll be hunkering down in this bag for many adventures to come, the investment seems fair.

4. Optimus Crux Lite Stove System

Optimus Crux Lite Stove System
The compact design has room for your cutlery too
Price: €80
Weight: 272g
Best place to store during ride: Frame bag
There’s nothing like a steaming hot meal after a full day of navigating trails, even if it’s nothing more glamorous than some tinned hotdogs cut up with a Swiss army knife and mixed with baked beans. This nifty little self-contained unit from Optimus has everything needed to cook meals on the go, including a precision stove and two non-stick pots. There’s even room inside for a small gas cylinder and cutlery – neat!

5. Silva Ranger Compass

Silva Ranger Compass
If it's good enough for the military, it's good enough for you
Price: €32
Weight: 33g
Best place to store during ride: Toptube bag/cockpit bag
High-tech GPS computer systems are all well and good but there’s always a risk of them failing or running out of juice. If that happens, it’s important to still be able to navigate. Thankfully, you know where you are with a good old-fashioned compass… literally. Swedish brand Silva has been making high-grade versions since the 1930s that are used by defence forces and explorers alike all over the world – meaning it’ll be more than up to anything you can throw at it.

6. Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Gore-Tex Shell

Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Gore-Tex Shell
The Gore-Tex treatment ensures that rain stays on the outside of the shell
Price: €370
Weight: 360g
Best place to store during ride: Saddle bag
Unexpected downpours are par for the course when you’re bikepacking for an extended period of time – particularly in the UK. Naturally a waterproof jacket is a must, but that old anorak you’ve got stuffed in your wardrobe won’t survive its first shower. Arc’teryx is a brand known for quality and design innovation and the Beta SL Hybrid is a prime example of why. Combining Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, this jacket offers reliable protection from the elements while being able to pack down to the size of a steak bake.

7. Crank Brothers F10 multi-tool

Crank Brothers F10 multi-tool
Seven hex keys, two screwdrivers and a torx key can fix most mechanicals
Price: €32
Weight: 94g
Best place to store during ride: Frame bag or toptube bag
Bikepacking expeditions can be lengthy affairs. Things can and will go wrong with your bike. When that happens, it’s important to be self-sufficient and having a good multi-tool at your disposal is lesson number one. Simple and compact, this Crank Brothers creation has everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s flat, light and comes with a reassuringly robust five-year warranty to boot.

8. Sawyer Mini water filtration system

Sawyer Mini water filtration system
Make every source of water drinkable with this palm-sized gadget
Price: €40
Weight: 65g
Best place to store during ride: Anywhere
Small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, Sawyer’s mini filter is the best product of its type out there for a balance of weight, size and performance. It can be used directly as a straw, placed into a hydration pack tube or attached to any standard threaded bottle. This is an essential bit of kit to ensure you don’t run out of clean drinking water for longer rides where you’re heading into the unknown and you can’t carry gallons of water.

8. Litelok Silver bike lock

Litelok Silver Bike Lock
Handy if stopping for supplies and you're on your own
Price: €70
Weight: 630g
Best place to store during ride: Frame bag
It’s nice to have the option to nip into a cafe for a drink when you eventually reach civilisation, safe in the knowledge that your bike is secure outside. Litelok’s Silver bike lock may not be the cheapest option on the market but it does offer the best balance in terms of weight, size and security.

9. Crank Brothers Sterling Mini Pump

Crank Brothers Sterling mini pump
The inclusion of a gauge should stop you getting the dreaded pinch puncture
Price: €40
Weight: 116g
Best place to store during ride: Frame bag
Punctures are just an unavoidable hazard of bikepacking, meaning a reliable mini pump is a must. Featuring a high-pressure/high-volume switch for easy inflation and a smart head that automatically adjusts to fit both schrader and presta valves, Crank Brothers’ Sterling pump has everything you need to get back up and running in a hurry. Now, all you need to do is perfect replacing an inner tube...

10. NiteRider Lumina Micro 650 headlight

NiteRider Lumina Micro 650 headlight
The quick-release fitting allows the light to double up as a campsite torch
Price: €55
Weight: 130g
Best place to store during ride: Attached to handlebars
Dynamo lighting has long been the go-to illumination option for cycle touring but it can be cumbersome and expensive. Today, battery lights are so good that there’s little need to fork out the extra cash and NiteRider’s Lumina series of bike lights perfectly demonstrates why. This 650-lumen version packs five different light settings, a whopping 20 hours of battery life when used in its least powerful 50-lumen mode, and a quick-release mechanism means it can double up as a small hand torch for camping.

11. Snow Peak Titanium Single-Wall 300 Mug

Snow Peak Titanium Single-Wall 300 Mug
Perfect for the morning cup of Joe
Price: €22
Weight: 67g
Best place to store during ride: Backpack or frame bag
Featuring an ultralight single-wall construction, this mug from trendy Japanese camping-gear brand Snow Peak can be used directly over an open flame and features folding handles to save on space. Perfect for a morning coffee or tea at the camp and not bad to look at either (hang off the back of your saddle bag with a carabiner for extra bikepacking points).

12. Garmin Edge 530 bike computer

Garmin Edge 530 bike computer
The device is navigated using buttons, making it easy to use wearing gloves
Price: €295
Weight: 75.8g
Best place to store during ride: Stem-mounted
Is an all-singing, all-dancing GPS system absolutely essential for bikepacking? No. Will it mitigate subpar navigation skills and vastly decrease your chances of winding up 50 miles off course? Yes. This one from bike-computer masters Garmin allows you to ride like you know every turn while also acting as a fitness system to keep track of your stats. It also uses good old fashioned buttons – rather than a touchscreen – to navigate the computer’s menus, making it usable in a downpour and looking for somewhere to shelter or when wearing thick gloves during winter jaunts.

13. Lifesystems Pocket First Aid Kit

Lifesystems Pocket First Aid Kit
You wouldn't leave home without a multi-tool...
Price: €15
Weight: 180g
Best place to store during ride: Toptube bag
It should go without saying, but no long-distance cyclist of any sort should be without a well-stocked first-aid kit. This one is small enough to stuff into any bikepacking bag or can even be clipped onto the outside of a backpack if space is tight. Inside you’ll find plasters, antiseptic cream, tweezers, scissors and anything else you might need to treat minor injuries on the go.

14. Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody

Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody
This down jacket is a great way to stay warm at night – even in your bivvy
Price: €250
Weight: 396g
Best place to store during ride: Saddle bag
There are few finer pleasures in life than changing out of sweaty cycling gear after a long day on the pedals. Ideally, you’ll have a full change of clothes, but an insulated jacket to stay warm around camp is a good place to start. Capable of packing down into its own pocket, Patagonia’s Down Sweater Hoody is perfect for stuffing into your seat bag and pulling out in the evening. It’s even comfortable enough to sleep in on particularly cold nights and it’s so light you’ll barely notice the extra weight.