There is no doubt that some situations whilst on a cycle tour are made significantly easier by the kit you choose to take along with you. However the type of equipment you take with you on cycle-tour really depends on you. I think it is important in first understanding what you are trying to attempt with your cycle-tour and then finding the gear that may help you achieve that goal. With that in mind this list is by no means exhaustive it is simply a congregation of items which I have found to be useful during my previous cycle tours. Everyone will have their own personal preference and these are items that have worked well for me. So if you are thinking of attempting a relatively lightweight cycle tour through western Europe I’d recommend checking out these items. If you are looking for more detailed kit advice for cycle-touring check out my kit reviews, comment or contact me here.
Bike – Possibly the most important piece of kit, make sure you are comfortable riding it and get it serviced every few thousand kilometres. I ride a Giant Defy 2 and my friend Tom rides a Specialized Secteur. It’s a good idea to get one that can take panniers or a trailer as then you have more versatility over how much gear you can carry.
Pedals – Choosing a pair of clipless pedals and shoes will improve your efficiency on the bike. You can get touring-specific shoes which allow you to easily walk about a campsite when off the bike.
Ortlieb Rear Roller Panniers – great capacity and very waterproof, they also proved to be slug-proof as well on a couple of occasions. I have always managed with just two rear panniers.
Bungee Cords – A necessity for attaching things to your bike, I use these all the time, as they are just so useful!
Tent – I have a two-man MSR Hubba Hubba, highly waterproof, portable and the right shade of green for blending in to your surroundings. Think about what size to go for as it can get quite cramped if you are sharing a two-man tent. Or if you’re off on a shorter tour you could bivvy instead.
Tarpaulin – A simple military tarpaulin I find very useful for covering my belongings and bikes while wild camping. They provide waterproof cover, and double up as a raincoat, picnic blanket or groundsheet for a tent. You can also just camp under them and do away with the tent. Great cheap piece of equipment and will always come in useful.
Sleeping Bag – I tend to use a lightweight summer one, with liners and more clothes on colder days but obviously choose one that will suit the conditions you are expecting.
Sleeping Mat – I always use a Thermarest NeoAir, a good nights sleep is important so you want to make sure you have a good mat.
Camping Stove – What stove you get depends on where you will be cycling and what fuel will be available. I use a Campingaz one when cycling around Europe, it is reliable and it is easy to cook up some tasty meals on it. Remember fuel and a cooking pot so that you can use it! Alternatively you can always make a stove yourself.
Spork – A multifunctional eating tool that saves weight on additional cutlery.
Dehydrated Meals – I take a couple of these on longer tours to use as emergency rations. During the month away around Europe Tom and I only had to use one each, but if we hadn’t had any then we would have gone very hungry. They’re not always the nicest meals but its all calories at the end of the day and they don’t take up much space.
Clothes – Depends how dirty you want to be to how much you take. Around Europe I opted for a couple of pairs of cycling clothes and one ‘off the bike’ outfit. On reflection the cycling clothes became dirty within a day so I’ll just stick to one pair of these in the future to save weight. You can always get more clothes on your journey if you need some. It’s also probably a good idea to take a warmer jacket for evenings.
Cycling Gloves – Save your hands if you have a crash and provide extra warmth if you are travelling in colder areas.
Helmet – Yeah you don’t look cool but it could save your life so is worth wearing.
Dry-Bags – For storing equipment within your bags or panniers they make it easier to find things and keep things dry. Also if you fill one with clothes you can use it as a pillow.
Flip-Flops – These you can just clip to the outside of your bag or onto your bike with a carabiner. They mean you can air your feet after a days riding and also give you a pair of footwear for rest days.
Camera – You never know what you might see!
GPS – Definitely not for everyone but I find it really useful, especially when in Europe we had to re-navigate our way out of Spain not using motorways. We used a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, although designed for walking it is perfect for cycle-touring, very reliable and not very expensive second hand!
Mobile Phone – And accompanying charger. iPhones are good but an old Nokia can last well over a week on a single charge.
Watch – I normally use one with a heart rate monitor function so that we could measure how many calories we were burning. However one with an alarm would be more fitting if you’re planning early starts.
Passport – Although you may not need it you might change your route mid-trip so it is always good to have. Also if you are travelling in Europe remember your EHIC card. It also might be a good idea to take out travel insurance but I’ll leave that to you. A photocopy of these documents in a waterproof wallet is also a good idea.
Money – It might be worth splitting your money up into different places in your panniers so you won’t lose all of it should the worse happen.
Diary – I really recommend writing a diary during your travels as they provide great mementos to look back over.
Book – Or Kindle / eReader. These have superb battery lives now that they offer a much lighter and attractive alternative to carrying a whole library with you.
First Aid Kit – I just use a small one with a variety of plasters, bandages and medicines. You can often stock up on your journey so I wouldn’t recommend taking a big one. I would recommend some strong mosquito spray though; not taking that around Europe was definitely an oversight.
Toiletries – A bar of soap / shampoo can do you for everything, even cleaning the cooking pot. Sun cream is very important for the first week or two. Deodorant to mask foul smells and earplugs if you are travelling with a snorer. Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet roll, hand sanitizer, and a razor if you feel like shaving your legs. Travel towels are also very useful and lightweight. These items are mostly down to personal preference so take what you think you might use.
Bike Maintenance Kit – Very handy, although you don’t always have much use for one, you never know what might happen. A hand pump, with a couple of spare inner tubes is a good idea; I even take a spare folding tyre on longer tours.
Paracord – A few metres wound up in the bottom of your bag, you never know when it will come in useful.
Duct Tape – Again a very useful commodity, not a whole roll but a small bit could help you out in that time of need.
Cycle Lights – For night time riding and for long tunnels. Head torches are also useful.
Water Bottles – I normally carry just under 2 litres in water bottles and then often have a bottle of Iced Tea tied to my pannier rack.
Bike Lock – This is definitely personal preference, I normally take some small ones so that we could save weight. These consist of a small Kryptonite D-lock with Kryptoflex cable or a Kryptoflex cable with a padlock. I also tie these cables round our bags at night but had no trouble with any thefts.
A good friend – I think going on a trip like this with a good friend or friends makes it a whole lot more fun. An experience shared is an experience gained. Going on an adventure like this shows that you really know a person and lets you know who your true friends are.