Clothing list for bikepacking and bicycle touring
Everything you need to bring with you
The choice of what clothes to take with you while bicycle touring is strongly dependent on the weather and climate you’re going to cycle. If, like most of the bike tourers, you plan to ride and camp mostly at temperatures above 0°C (32°F) don’t invest too much money in clothing. Most of the time, using ordinary sports clothes and maybe one or two bike jerseys will be just fine.
You won’t need fancier cycling clothes, so don’t break your bank over them, cheap cycling jerseys are usually more than enough, padded shorts are a matter of personal preference, while rain gear is what matters the most when cycle touring, so it could be worth investing a bit more into that.
We put together this list of clothing gear to help you think about what you may need for your next bicycle expedition, hope that helps. If it does, please share it with your friends and leave a comment below.
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This article is part of our series about Essential Gear for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking
This section is about which clothes to bring on a long-haul bicycle expedition.
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Bike touring Clothes in a Nutshell
- Rain Jacket/Poncho
- Rain Pants
- Goretex Shoes/SPD shoes/Hiking Sandals
- 2 Short Sleeves Cycling Jerseys
- 2 Pairs of Padded Cycling Shorts
- Arm Warmers
- Leg Warmers
- 2 Merino Base Layer (1 sleeveless or short sleeve/1 long sleeve)
- Merino Trousers
- Hiking Trousers
- Softshell Jacket
- Hardshell Jacket
- 3 Pairs of Socks
- 3 pairs of Underwear
- 2 normal cotton shirts
- 2 pairs of running/football shorts
Cycle Touring Clothes Essentials
Staying dry under the rain is one of the biggest challenges of bike touring, a challenge that nobody won yet.
That’s why a rain jacket is maybe the only piece of clothing that is almost mandatory for bicycle touring, I will suggest buying one with a hood.
Rain pants are useful too, and if you really want to do your best in this challenge, consider overshoes (shoe waterproof covers). Some people prefer ponchos over rain jackets, that’s really a matter of personal choice. We recently got into using ponchos and they can be very effective, although not great if it rains – they can flap over your face and even get dangerous.
If you’re not into clipped shoes (see below) just wear whatever you feel comfortable with. I feel to recommend a standard pair of Goretex shoes, that could help your sock to not get wet. For summer weather sandals will do, find some with more rigid soles. Consider hiking specific shoes if you want to explore some walking paths during your bike tour.
In the tropics, with hot weather and frequent showers, I loved cycling with simple Crocs-style shoes like this ones, plastic doesn’t get soaking wet and you can also use it to walk into the sea avoiding cuts.
I personally consider cycling-specific clothes absolutely non-essential but nice to wear sometimes. Have to admit that since we are using good quality cycling clothes (by Sigr Nordic) our riding comfort has increased dramatically.
- Padded shorts help a bit at the beginning of your tour, but fear not, your butt is going to feel sore anyway. It only takes time, plenty of it, to develop some sort of callus or whatever is it that will literally save your ass. It took three months to me but after that, I only felt a little pain when riding more than 7 hours a day.
- Cycling Jerseys I find much nicer, if they are of decent quality they can help you sweat less, even though some of us just sweat like sows. Keep in mind that good quality doesn’t always mean expensive: I liked a lot my 20€ decathlon shirt, while some friends had expensive shirts from a famous brand develop mold in South East Asia. Great for hot weather are those jerseys with a front zipper that opens all the way down, I cycle with my jersey open all the time. Anyway never bring more than 2 shorts and two shirts.
- Leg Warmers and Arm Warmers (compression sleeves) are a must, they eliminate the need of long sleeve jerseys or long pants, give you comfort when it’s chilly and can protect you from UV rays. They weight nothing and pack ultra-compact.
- Gloves are nice on washboards and uneven road, giving your wrists a little relieved. I find them unbearable in hot temperatures. They are of course fundamental in lower temperatures, already below 10°C your hand will ache when going downhill.
- Clipped Shoes, if you really like it. You already know they help with efficiency, how much is a controversial topic. Do not use race shoes, find some casual ones that you could also wear as everyday shoes, something you could use to walk, like the Five Ten Kestrel Lace or many more other models available from Chain Reaction Cycles.
- Cycling-specific eyewear or ordinary sunglasses are very important for your eyes’ health, and something many of us couldn’t cycle without.
Here’s where more technical, high-end gear starts to be meaningful. Bear in mind that you’ll ride on heavy winter clothing only when the temperatures are around zero degrees Celsius or below, or yes, in the downhill.
Most of the time the effort of cycling will be enough to keep you warm. It’s mostly when camping that you’ll be doomed to freeze. We are using merino baselayers by Green Rose and loving them, read our review here.
Our kit for lower temperatures consist of:
- 1 short sleeves/sleevless Base Layer (merino wool)
- 1 long sleeves Base Layer (merino wool)
- 1 pair of merino wool trousers
- 1 or 2 Windstopper (Softshell and/or Hardshell) to be used one above the other in case of low temperatures (to do so, one should be larger)
- 1 Pair of Winter Trousers
- 2 or 3 pairs of Socks
This should be enough until a few degrees below the zero. If you plan something a bit more extreme, consider lightweight insulated down jackets like this one.
Since most of our tour in Asia was done in generally warm climates, we mostly cycled on ordinary clothes. The stuff you can find in markets everywhere for very cheap.
We loved football shorts andsleeveless t-shirts (camisole for Elena), I personally enjoyed a cheap clip-on button shirt, that I could open with an easy gesture when sweating like hell on the steep slopes of Indonesia.
A bandana is a nice add-on, you can keep it wet under your helmet for a refreshing sensation, also a visor helps a lot under the sun. Don’t forget your underwear too! Usually 3 pairs will be enough, they are easy to wash.
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