How To Pack Your Bicycle For A Long Distance Tour

By Darren Alff on - Download my FREE bike tour starter guide!

As part of my three part series on how to pack your bicycle for a long distance touring adventure, today I am going to be discussing how to actually pack your bike with your panniers and other belongings.

In part 1 we discussed how to pack your handlebar bag. In part 2 I gave you some tips on how to pack your panniers. Today we will be discussing how to actually go about packing your bike with its panniers and all the other gear needed for life on the road.

To get started, watch the video below:

In the video above you will note that I was using Lone Peak P-500 and P-100 panniers on my bicycle. I’ve been using these bags for more than 5 years now and they still look as though they were practically brand new. I am also using a Lone Peak H-100 handlebar bag.

When packing my bicycle on a long distance tour I am typically camping, so I am carrying a tent, sleeping bag, stove, and all the other tools and belongings I might need to survive on my own out on the road.

In the video above I revealed the fact that I typically pack my panniers before putting them on the bike. Others won’t agree with this, but I find it to be the easiest way of packing my bicycle. If you can find a picnic table or other nearby object on which you can lay out your panniers when packing your bike, you should use said object to your advantage. Having a nice clean surface on which to pack your things is much better than packing your things down on the ground and in the dirt.

In the video above I mentioned how I tend to carry my sleeping bag and tent inside my rear panniers. I do this because I find it easier to keep track of all my belongings this way… and because packing in this manner provides extra rain protection for my tent and sleeping bag.

The other advantage to keeping your tent and sleeping bag inside your panniers is that packing this way prevents you from taking too much stuff with you on tour. It is easy to get carried away and bring a load of things with you that you simply do not need, so packing your tent and sleeping bag inside your panniers will prevent you from bringing unneeded materials with you on your bicycle tour.

If, however, you decide that there is something you must bring with you and you need that space inside your panniers to carry these much needed objects, you can always take your tent or sleeping bag out of your packs and bungee cord them onto the back of your bike. When you pack this way, making such a move is always an option!

One of the things I did not mention in the video above is that when I do get off my bike at night, I lock my bicycle to a nearby tree, pole, picnic table or other such object and then remove all water bottles, lights, and pumps from my bike. The reason I remove these items is because I don’t want to get them stolen from me in the middle of the night. If you leave your light or pump on your bicycle, you are inviting thieves to rob you. When you go to bed each night, make sure that your camp looks impenetrable. The last thing you want on a bicycle tour is to wake up and find that your lights, pump, and water bottles have been stolen. Not a great way to start the day!

Another important item you are going to want to pack on your bicycle is your sleeping mat. I have a Therm-a-Rest Prolite Sleeping Mat and I’ve been using it for the past 4 years. The mats come in a number of sizes, but I have one of the longer available mats. I’m 6’1″ tall, so I find this slightly longer mat to be perfect for my body.

If you place your sleeping mat on the back of your bicycle like I do, you may want to consider carrying it inside a waterproof or water resistant sack. (If you have a long and skinny sleeping mat like I do, it may be difficult to find a stuff sack that fits well around your sleeping mat. If this is the case, consider using a rope bag like the one seen here. This is what I am using to keep my sleeping mat protected when out on the road.) These waterproof sacks weigh almost nothing and are definitely worth the weight when keeping your belongings dry. They will also add an extra layer of protection from thorns and/or wear caused by bungee cording the sleeping mat to the back of your bike every day.

Once you’ve got all your belongings packed inside your panniers and/or waterproof sacks, it is simply a matter of attaching your things to your bike and heading down the road.

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9 Comments

  1. Paul McDonald

    July 16, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Hi Darren,
    Just a quick note to say thanks for all the help your site has given me. I completed my 1st week long tour in June and your advice and videos certainly contributed to it’s success. If your interested, you can check out my journal @ crazyguyonabike.com/Bianchiguy.
    Thanks again! Keep up the excellent work!
    Paul

  2. Christine O'Boyle

    August 24, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you for the great information. I am new to touring and need all the help I can get. My friend and I are going to The Azores Islands in November. It is the rainy season. I never thought of plastic bags for keeping things dry. Nice to hear you don’t have to spend a fortune on these expensive panniers to get the same protection. Christine

  3. Darren Alff

    August 24, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Christine,

    I’m not quite sure what you are talking about because I never say anything about using plastic bags instead of panniers. I do mentioned using dry sacks as a way of adding extra water protection to your panniers, but nothing about plastic bags. I’m a bit confused as to where you may have gotten that.

    Anyway, I still recommend you get yourself some panniers. Don’t use plastic bags instead. ha! I’m not even sure how you would do that. Funny visual though.

  4. Russ dunn

    October 18, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Some military catalogs offer black tape which reflects brightly at night while not being gaudy during the day. Tape on rims really shows up at night.

  5. jubo

    February 27, 2009 at 12:29 am

    tee hee hee… he said paniers…

    as in paniers (panYAYs) not pan-ears.

    good call on the rope bag! great idea!

  6. Leah

    April 27, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Do you bring an air mattress or sleeping pad?

  7. Leah

    April 27, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Ah, nevermind. Rewatched video and I can see it now!!

  8. Darren Alff

    April 27, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Leah, yeah, if you watch the video, the air mattress is the first thing I put on the bike.

    I’ve recently replaced my old ThermaRest airmattress (the one shown in the video above) with a new Exped down insulated sleeping mat. You can read my review of this new sleeping mat here: http://bicycletouringpro.com/review-exped-downmat-7-pump-sleeping-mat/

  9. Pingback: How To Carry Extra Water On Your Bicycle – Bicycle Touring Pro

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