Bicycle Touring Packing Lessons (For NZ at least)


Carrying everything you need and nothing you don't. The ultimate goal.

Carrying everything you need and nothing you don’t. The ultimate goal.

I recently returned from 43 days away with my bicycle, riding some of the Great Rides throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
I had never bicycle toured before, so it was a bit of a learning curve for me. There was very little I packed that I didn’t use. So I’ll start with those, then I’ll list what I think are must haves.

Didn’t use at all:
Almost all my spare parts for my bicycle: only used one spoke. However, if I had of needed cable, brake pads, patch kit, tube etc I would have been in a hard place without them – so totally worth packing and schlepping around. I used all my tools at some stage – though not always for what I packed them for!!
4 batteries for the GoPro: I rarely emptied a single battery, let alone all 4. The only time I had to use my second without being able to recharge my first was during my dive trip when the public power only worked while the compressor was on.
3 batteries for my camera: I never had one empty battery.
14 SD memory cards for my GoPro: I used a 32Gb and ¾ of a 64Gb plus about 20mins on another two 64Gb sticks. I have a LOT of empty, brand new SD cards. I initially decided to break my cards into locations/activities so if something happened I wouldn’t lose all my data. I gave up on that about 2 weeks in.
Lighter: Didn’t need it, but if the spark on the camp stove had died I would have been screwed.

If I was returning to a location, I would leave all unnecessary items behind and pick them back up on the way through.

If I was returning to a location, I would leave all unnecessary items behind and pick them back up on the way through.

Couldn’t have done without:
Hong Kong Shopper Bag: Yes. One of those cheap and nasty red, white and blue striped bags. I would pop my panniers in it for flights, bus trips, train trips etc. It also folded/rolled down to almost nothing. In NZ you are allowed one bag on buses/trains. Put the panniers in one of these and boom – one bag and no extra costs (except for the bike). I did get quizzed a lot while lining up to check in on my flight, but can’t recommend one enough. It also worked as a “blanket” on which to sit and eat without getting a wet/dirty bum for the many picnic meals and snacks.
Enviro Green Shopping Bags: I broke my gear down into these (different sizes and colours), then packed them within my panniers. This meant I could quickly pack and unpack or find things. Bath gear – grab and go. Cooking/Kitchen gear – grab and go. Tools and Spare Parts – grab and go. Packing was SOOO simple with this. Roll and pack. Done. It also meant I didn’t have to bring panniers into my tent (often very dusty). I didn’t even always take them off my bike.
A hat: I packed the hat I was riding in at home, but unfortunately lost it about 2 weeks in. I replaced it ASAP but having a hat was imperative. While it was unseasonably cold, it was also ridiculously sunny pretty much everywhere we went. As soon as the helmet came off, the hat went on. It meant my face was never burnt in 40+ days of sunshine.
Reimanns 10 hour sun block: Put it on in the morning – done. So easy. My travelling partner had to reapply every 2-4 hours and was always digging her sunscreen out of her packs. She also used almost two full bottles. I used 2/3 of one bottle. While it is a tad expensive, it’s totally worth it. Given that the sun was up till 9.30pm, having a long lasting sunblock was great.
Lifeproof cases on my iPhone 6 and iPad Air: The iPhone was dropped multiple times and brought out in rain. My iPad got knocked around a lot – bashed by cooking gear, dropped on gravel and tea spilt on it. No issues.
VivoBareFoot Ultra Shoes: These weigh almost nothing (lighter than thongs) yet cover the whole foot like a sneaker (with big holes in the top/sides) and are fantastic for camping (night time bathroom tracks, showers), perfect for stream fording, stream bathing and such a break for the feet after a day in the shoes I packed for cycling/walking. I used the neoprene inserts when I rode in the rain so while my feet did get wet, I still had dry socks and shoes in my panniers.
Camp stove: I took one large and one small pot with me and a frying pan (all part of one set). I am pleased I carried all three with me – as often I boiled water from streams or had access to tap water not safe for drinking – as such, I didn’t have to decant hot water to use a pot. It was also fantastic for a quick cup of tea along the trail. Many of the holiday parks I stayed in didn’t provide any cooking equipment – so the pots and pan got used even when the stove did not.
Measuring cup/coffee cup: While the cup itself wasn’t really big enough for a satisfying cup of tea, having the measurements inside was a godsend. I often packed processed carbs to go alongside the veges I would cook – so having the right measurements of milk/water for pasta packs, mashed potatoes and being able to make perfect couscous was brilliant.
Mophie Powerstation XL: This was my first thing I put to charge wherever I was. I would also ask cafes/restaurants if I could charge. This could fully charge my iphone 6 4 times, and my ipad 2.5 times. I also had my 2 year old little charge stick that was super convenient to charge and for use on a bus/train etc to just keep the charge up while watching youtube/killing time.
Power board: Many places I went only had one or two power points. People would be waiting to plug in and charge – then I would turn up with my power board. Many happy people! It also meant I could charge everything at once vs having to swap and change.
Solar panels: Fantastic for charging my mini charge stick. This meant I always had power. Only once in poor weather did my phone almost die as my Mophie was sucked dry and I couldn’t get enough sunlight to recharge the stick. On the back of my bike, next to my tent, on a picnic table – anywhere and everywhere – awesome. I would recommend buying a decent quality one, as the one I had was a tad heavy (it was a loaner and less weight would have rocked).
MSR HubbaHubba: I did some research and just about everywhere on the web said this was THE tent. I can confirm, it is THE tent. I went with the two person version and very pleased I didn’t get the single. It meant I could dry things overnight in the tent with me, no claustrophobia, easy clothing changes etc. This tent is SO easy to put up and pull down. Tent would be up and I’d be gone while other people were still trying to set up their tents. It also dealt with 43km hour winds and insane gusts that sounded like freight trains coming through the trees. It dries super fast so long as there is a breath of breeze and a little bit of light. It’s also incredibly light. I didn’t use the MSR ground sheet designed for this tent. I’m pleased I didn’t, as it meant I had a small landing off the grass for panniers or my knees. The only thing to beat my tent was my bike, which got blown over by the wind and broke one of my poles – but the tent came with a repair piece and my tent wasn’t out of action at all.
Emergency Blankets: I was given two by the guy who sold me my tent as a “just in case.” Thank god. I only used one, but I used it a lot at the start of my tour. The weather was unseasonably cold, 8C less than average. This meant I camped in weather down to -4C. I put the emergency blanket between my inflatable mattress and the inside of my tent to reflect my heat back at me and keep the cold of the ground well away from me. This meant I didn’t ache in the mornings. I still had some cold nights where I wore almost everything I owned (including wet weather gear) but I wasn’t chilled to the bone or unable to sleep due to the cold (except for my first night as I hadn’t packed a thermal inner – I bought one the next day).
Thermal Inner: I bought one that added 8C to my sleeping bag. In the cold weather it was brilliant, keeping me warm(ish) and then as it became warmer, it replaced my sleeping bag. I also had a silk inner which I used often.
Garmin Edge Tour: At one place of our adventures, the trail was closed due to major infrastructure works. We went the alternative route recommended, again to be thwarted by infra works. My Garmin found an alternative route got us to where we needed to go (through parks and eventually multiple back streets and pretty flat – as I set it to avoid hills as much as possible). I had no phone reception so couldn’t pull up google maps to help.
Bath Foofy Thing: Those ball like body wash/exfoliators. The trails were dusty – very, very dusty. To be able to scrub off the ingrained dirt was bliss after a day on the bike. I was so dusty at the end of the day I always looked so much more tanned than I was.
Baby Wipes: A quick wipe down of the bike for a bus trip or to bring it inside where I was staying. Having a dirty bike and expecting someone to handle it or allow it inside is just disrespectful. Also great for cleaning bird poo off the tent. I also used them a lot for an end of day wipe down when a shower/stream wasn’t available. This meant that most of my sleeping gear was pretty clean as I wasn’t grubby when I went to bed.

Just me and my bike. Perfect day.

Just me and my bike. Perfect day.

Things I wish I packed but didn’t:
Vegemite tube: I caved and bought a tiny jar but a tube would have been lighter.
Valve adapter: Using my teeny pump was a pain.
Insect Repellent.
Anti-itch cream.
Thermal Inner: See above.

I would give my packing #fourwellpackedpandas

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