What Gear Do I Need?

Previous: What is Bike Camping?

Do I Need High-Tech, Low-Weight Expensive Gear?

Nope.  Whatever works for you is what works.  Use what you’ve got, see how it works, and if you have the money and desire to upgrade to something lighter or smaller, then go for it.  Many people start out with whatever gear they have lying around the house, and work their way up to lightweight equipment over time.  Don’t feel the need to overload yourself with gear, or to have the newest, lightest or most expensive.  Most importantly, know how to use the gear you own – the gear is useless if you don’t know how to set it up, or operate it.

Minimum Gear List

Yes, you can travel lighter than this, but here’s the recommended minimum gear to take with you for an overnight trip in the summer.

Bike (duh.)Tent / hammock / tarpFood
Rear rackSleeping bagWater
panniers / milk crate or trailerFirst Aid KitCellphone
Bike lightsMap(s)Patch kit
Small flashlight or other “camp light”Sunscreen and lip balmFrame pump
Extra batteries for all lightsBike toolTire levers


The above list presumes an overnight trip in the summertime with no rain forecast and nighttime temperatures above 55°F / 13°C.  It presumes you’re going to wear the same clothes on the ride back as on the ride out.  You can make do with the above list but it won’t be a comfortable (i.e. “fun”) stay in camp.  A more complete loadout would include a spare set of clothes for Day Two, a spare set of socks, an extra layer for warmth in the evening, and possibly gloves and a knit hat.  While Oregon is generally dry in the summer, you should also bring some form of rain protection.  If camping in the spring or fall, you’ll want more layers.  Use your common sense – if you bike commute or ride regularly in greater Portland in the wetter months, you probably already know how many layers you need to wear for given conditions.

The items required to be safe and comfortable will vary according to the weather, distance from “civilization”, and the facilities at the designated campsite.  You can cut into your safety margin if you know there’s a 24-hour convenience store 2 miles from camp, but it gets problematic when you’re 25 miles from the nearest water source and outside cellphone range, or when the only store is closed after 5pm, the night temperatures suddenly drop 20 degrees and you find you’ve forgotten your sleeping bag.  Check the weather, know your route and the nearby services, plan for both and plan for unexpected situations if possible.

Example “Full Load” Gear List

Here is one example of what a fully-loaded (tour-loaded) bike might carry (loaded for off-season camping):

Air pump, frameEarplugsPaperback book
Bicycle helmetEating utensilsPatch kit
Bicycle multi-toolElastic leg bandRain / wind jacket & pants
Bicycle tubes (2)Fingerless glovesSandals
Bike lightsFirestartersScrub pad
Box of matchesFirst aid kitShampoo
Brake pads (spare)FlashlightSleeping bag
Bug repellantFleece pantsSleeping pad
Bungie cords / zip tiesFleece vest / sweatshirtSoap
CameraHandlebar bagSocks (2 pair)
Camp pillowHandwarmersSpare batteries
Camp stove & fuelIn-camp clothesSunblock
Camp towelKnit capSunglasses
Campfire forksLarge trash bagSwimsuit
CellphoneLiner glovesSwiss Army knife
Chain lubeLip balmTent
CookwareLong-sleeve shirtTent footprint
Cycling jersey (2)MapsTire levers
Cycling shoesNotepad & pensToilet paper
Cycling shorts (2)PainkillersToothbrush & toothpaste
Deck of cardsPajama bottomsU-Lock
Dental flossPanniers (rear & front)Underwear (2)
DeodorantPants w/ zip-off legsWater-resistant gloves

Next: Gear Details

One thought on “What Gear Do I Need?”

  1. Thanks for providing the gear list. I use my mountain bike more than my road bike when bike camping. Are you familiar with this style or know any other sites that are? Also, the trangia spirit burner is a great lightweight alcohol stove that might work well for some.

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