Biking Scenery
Packing for a Bike Tour
Biking the Midwestern United States

This is the list of items I took on my first multi-day bike trip on the southern portion of the Grand Illinois Trail. I didn't camp; I stayed in hotels, partly to lighten the load. I like to camp, but I didn't want to worry about fatigue, the safety of campsites I hadn't seen before, and bike short hygiene.

Not Pictured

Bike. I have a Trek hybrid which is too awesome to be captured on film.

Water bottles.

Gorillapod. I actually bought the cheap Targus version. I soon regretted not getting the real one, as the legs snapped off while adjusting, and it migrated all over my handlebars.

GPS mount.


Aero bars. Change hand positions frequently to keep your hands from going numb.

Handlebar-mounted compass/bell.


Toe baskets. Those things on the pedals that you stick your toes in so you can pull the pedals back up with your feet after you push them down.

Ziploc bags. I put almost everything in quart-sized Ziplock bags. They are light, waterproof, and offer minimal compression when you mush all of the air out.


Visor, phoncho, sunglasses, clothing

1. Visor. Especially important if you ever go helmetless on trails.

2. Poncho. If it rains. Doubles as a small tarp if you bike and camp.

3. Sunglasses with UV protection. I always get cheap ones because I tend to lose and break them.

4. Clothing in a packing cube. Packing cubes are pretty light and help keep clothes from migrating in your saddlebag.

General Biking Equipment

Biking gloves, clear tape, air horn, rear light, head lamp, bungee cords, bike lock

1. Biking gloves. Highly recommended to help alleviate stress on fingers and hands. Also offer some sun protection.

2. Clear tape, for taping cue sheets and small equipment to your bike.

3. Air horn. This is optional, but offers some security as a signalling device if you are biking solo.

4. Rear light. I don't recommend biking at night through unfamiliar territory, but if you get caught in the dark, it is very important that you are visible.

5. Head lamp

6. Bungee cords, for lashing cargo to your cargo rack.

7. Bike lock. When will they make an infallible bike lock that weighs less than 10 pounds?


Dry box, battery chargers, GPS receiver, batteries

1. Dry box. Keeps your electronics dry in case it rains or you fall in a puddle. You can probably find one in the fishing, boating, or camping section. This one is made by Plano but I believe the most prevalent brand is Pelican. You should put in a soft piece of foam inside so that the items don't rattle around. Using a hard box like this one can also protect your equipment from getting smashed. Before I bought this box, I came back from one trip with the LCD on my digital camera broken; I had no idea how it happened.

2. GPS Battery Charger. This is a regular AA battery charger, nothing fancy. For the environment, and so I don't have to carry a heavy 12 pack of AA batteries.

3. Camera Battery Charger.

4. Rechargable Batteries. For the GPS receiver.

5. USB SD Card Reader. This one, by Targus, is extremely small, light, and cheap. I brought it so that if I was in a hotel with a public computer, I could upload pictures from the SD card in my camera.

6. Mobile Phone with Web. I installed the Google Maps mobile application on my phone, and when I wanted to find a convenience store, I'd stop and look for one. I have T-Mobile, and I was pleasantly surprised that I had a signal about 85% of the time. This phone is a Nokia E70. I love this phone, iPhones be damned.

7. GPS Receiver. I did not know very much about GPS receivers before I started on this trip, so I read a lot of reviews. I bought a Garmin 60CSx, a 2 GB microSD card, and the MapSource City Navigator DVD. You can get the map on an SD card, but then you can't store things (like tracks) on the SD card.

8. Phone recharger.

Personal Care

Glasses, croakies, medicine, anti-chafing stick, dental floss, vaseline, hair bands, sunscreen, vitamins, castile soap, toothbrush and cap, toothpaste, hair gel

1. Glasses and Croakies. Glasses to keep the bugs out of your eyes; croakies to keep the glasses from slipping down your nose.

2. Medicine. Ibuprofin/Advil is good for muscle soreness. Don't forget allergy medicine and any prescription medicine you need.

3. Athletic Anti-Chafing Stick. Put this whereever skin meets skin while you ride, and where rear meets seat.

4. Dental Floss. Good for the obvious, also backpackers will tell you that you can use it in a pinch whenever you need a piece of string to fix something.

5. Vaseline.

6. Hair Bands. For hair.

7. Sunscreen. I used to swear by BullFrog, but I haven't been happy with it since they discontinued the gel formula. (Not the Quik Gel which rubs right off my skin.) I'm looking for a new brand.

8. Vitamins. I forgot to bring these and had to pick them up on the road, or I would have repacked them in a smaller, lighter box. After reading a lot of labels I decided that One A Day Active was best suited for my ride, as it was one of the only "active" vitamins that contained no stimulants.

9. Castile Soap. You can use this soap for everything. Washing clothes, washing your face, washing your hair, brushing your teeth. Plus it's biodegradable. I use Dr. Brommer's Peppermint, but I put it in a leakproof Nalgene bottle.

10. Ear Plugs. These are as good as sleeping pills to me and I always bring them if I'm going to be sleeping in an unfamiliar place.

11. Chapstick. With an SPF of at least 15. Apply frequently.

12. Topical Antibiotic. For first aid.

13. Sink Stopper. It's really important to have clean bike shorts every day, to prevent saddle sores. If you stay in hotels, you can wash your shorts in the sink (although some of them will have actual laundry facilities-- do ask.) Sometimes the sink doesn't seal properly, or at all, which is where this comes in handy.

14. Toothbrush and Cap.

15. Toothpaste

16. Hair Gel. I can't stand to have hair in my face while I'm exercising.

Bike Tools

Bike tools

1. Swiss Army Knife

2. Allen Wrenches. To make various bike adjustments. If your bike is older, you may need some additional wrenches.

3. Lubricant. For the chain.

4. Innertube. It's much easier to install a new innertube than it is to sit on the side of the dusty bike path with the old one and try to find the holes and cover them with airtight patches. If you use Mr. Tuffy Strips, you'll probably never need to use this.

5. Tire Levers.

6. Bike Pump. This is worth investing some money in, because using a poor bike pump can be a painful and frustrating experience.


1. Picture of my Family.

2. Permanent Markers. You know, I didn't use these.

3. Notebook and Pen. For journaling, writing down directions.

4. Book. To read.


Food for biking

1. Gatorade Powder. In a leak-proof container. Stops that nauseated dehydration feeling.

2. Sugar-free Electrolyte Drink Powder. Just like Gatorade, only with no sugar.

3. Delicious Energy Bars.

4. All-Purpose Plastic Utensil. This is made by Light My Fire, and is available at camping stores. I didn't use it. I thought I might buy food from grocery stores and need a utensil, but generally I ate breakfast at the hotel, dinner at a restaurant, and energy bars in between.

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All text and images copyright of Caden Howell - © Caden Howell 2009-2013. All rights reserved. Images may be used with credit, please ask about any text.