26 small things you might not think of taking but that we couldn’t do without while cycle touring!

Wax Ear Plugs 

Even if you don’t plan to stay in a shared hostel dormitory or busy campsite there are times when wild camping that you will be glad you brought ear plugs – mainly because of dogs howling and barking in echoey valleys.

Universal sink plug

Most hostels, hotels and campsites don’t have plugs and you will be doing a lot of your own dishes and clothes washing. 

Toilet roll dry bag

Doing your business while cycling; we all have to go at some point. We ensure that our toilet roll is kept completely dry in our 2l dry bag (Alpkit) which we clip on the back of our Ortlieb rack bag for easy access during the day. We also keep hand sanitiser in the bag too.

Wing Mirror – Essential for any cycle tour. Buy and fit one before you go. 

Thermal Base Layers

If you plan on going anywhere mountainous or even remotely ‘cold’ you won’t regret taking a set of high quality thermals with you. They are light, pack down easily and act like a second skin. We both have a pair of Helly Hansen (HH Warm) leggings and matching top.

A VPN

For those going to any country with Internet censorship you will need to download a VPN. We also use ours to access BBC iplayer while abroad.

Fold-up Rucksack

Really useful for when you are not on the bike. 

Bungee Cord / bag net

A lot of tourers who have the Ortlieb or Vaude pannier-rack bag combo don’t bother bringing a bungee chord. We have to use one to fasten our ortlieb bag to our rack but it’s also really handy to have somewhere quick you can store stuff during the day. It may be a jumper, a couple of extra water bottles or wet clothes but it saves you getting off your bike and opening your panniers up.

Rags – Used for everything

Sewing Kit – Don’t leave home without one!

Dice/Cards/Pass the Pigs

A great universal ice breaker for when you find yourselves spending time with other travellers or locals who don’t speak the same language as you.

Washing Pegs and Line

You will be doing a lot of your own washing so pegs are useful both when camping and when in hostels/campsites.

Floss – Great for sewing a gash up in your tyre as well as for your dental hygiene!

Tupperware

Wherever you go, eggs and vegetables (especially tomatoes) are likely to feature heavily in your diet while touring. But you need a way of ensuring they don’t get squashed in your pannier.

Sometimes we boil a load of eggs before leaving a hotel but we like to have the option of frying, poaching, scrambling, omelette-ing or soft boiling too. 

We have two tupperware – a smaller one for eggs and a big one for our soft vegetables. The big one can double up as a washing bowl too.

Headphone Splitter

Essential for a couple on a tandem or for those of you who want to watch films together.

Elastic Bands

You will tire of opening up your pannier to find pasta and rice everywhere again. Have elastic bands handy to keep loose bags together.

Prickly Heat Powder

We got given a tin of prickly heat powder in Thailand by our friend. It’s a god send in hot humid weather and after five days of no shower it’s great to be able to rub some on to clammy unwashed skin before bed! Plus it smells nice!

Ziplock bags and Durable plastic bags

Even if you have waterproof panniers you won’t regret having some bags for life that you can use again and again.We use ziplock sandwich bags for lots of things.

Gaffa Tape and Electrical Tape

So useful!! Just make sure you never find yourself without some.

Cable Ties

Incredibly strong, durable and easy to store – simply tape onto your frame. We have used cable ties to fix so much stuff on the bike while on the road.

Rubber Gloves

If you can’t afford (or lose) your goretex waterproof gloves these are a great and cheap alternative!

Padlock

This only applies if you have a handlebar bag or pannier which can be zipped shut. Our Arkel handlebar bag has a zip fastening and there have been a number of times where we have wanted to padlock the bag shut. E.g on overnight public transport rides, in locker-less hostels or when leaving your bags in left luggage to explore a city or go off on a three day hike. 

Carabiner Clips


Useful things to have around. Good for clipping stuff to your hiking trousers (such as our camera bag). We also have one permanently clipped to the back of our rack bag for when we can’t dispose of our rubbish bag in remote areas.

A length of good quality rope

Handy just to have to fix things when something breaks.

Chain Cleaner 

Maintaining your gear system and cleaning your chain is important. Throw away that toothbrush and invest in one of these. They make cleaning chain so easy.

Moon Cup

Ladies, if you’re touring for longer than 6 weeks invest in a moon cup. Tampons are hard to come by outside Europe and you really don’t want to take up space in your panniers by bringing a huge stash of them. Yes, the cup can take a while to get used to, so make sure you buy one at least 2 months before you go away so you can get used to using one before your trip. I love mine now!

Don’t give up on the first couple of gos either, persevere, as the pros weigh out the cons significantly:

  1. you can wear them for longer which is useful when cycling in countryside with limited toilet stops.
  2. They are cheaper in the long run, and much better for the environment (and your rubbish bag) when camping.
  3. You can wear them at night – again, very useful when camping.
  4. They are very small and light – always a plus for weight obsessed tourers!

A good sports bra (or two) is also essential even for women who are a small cup size. 

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Fully Loaded

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Packing light and buying the right gear for the particular conditions we will be facing has been an important and really exciting part of our planning. We have spent MANY hours researching and buying our gear and we’ve enjoyed doing this together.

It seems not all cycle tourers invest in brand new, lightweight gear. In their blogs, many claim to have invested in a good set of panniers and not much else. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money but packing light has been important and a huge advantage for us.

Deciding to travel by tandem means you are seriously limited for space especially if you decide that taking a trailer isn’t for you. We are really excited at the prospect of getting rid of all our possessions for a year but I’m sure there would be many ultra-light tourers who would look at our list and scoff! I guess it’s about finding what’s right for you. For example, having a good tent set up and being comfortable while camping is important to us. Some may say our travel Helinox chairs were a ridiculous luxury but we know that we will value relaxing in them after a long day of pedalling (read our review here).

We have planned our trip over a series of months and we couldn’t have done it without the range of blogs, reviews and online articles that have already been written by other cycle tourers online. The list below is another small contribution to this ever growing online resource – we hope it’s helpful to future tourers. We have also tried to talk in person to other cyclists who have done similar trips already – being members of warmshowers.org has been a great way to do this!

You might also want to check out: Travelling Two, Adventures by Tandem,  The Touring Tandem, Tandem Revolutions, Crazy Guy on a Bike, Family on Bikes, Pedalling About, Bicycle Touring Facebook

Front Left Pannier  (Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 40L)

Annie’s Clothes:

Annie’s Toiletries: moisturiser, tweezers, razor, mascara, toothbrush, mooncup, nail file, monthly contact lenses and bottle of solution, 2 weeks of daily lenses, glasses, earrings

1 x quick dry towel, 1 x money pouch, 1 x roll up backpack (Quechua)

2 x cycle shorts (b-twin), 1 x padded underwear (VeloVixen) – don’t buy these!, shoe covers (Shimano), 2 x cycling gloves (long and fingerless), snood, warm hat, 1 x waterproof jacket (worth investing in a proper Gortex one), 1 x waterproof trousers

1 x leather sandals, 1 x North Face Goretex walking trainers, 1 x belt, 1 x down jacket (Quechua)

1 x convertible trousers (Craghopper Nosilife Stretch), 1 x shorts (Howies), 1 x cotton knee-length dress (Sea Salt), 1 x yellow cycle jersey (I threw this out early on), 3 vest tops (Howies),  1 x cotton shirt, 1 x long sleeve cotton top (Joules), 1 x merino leggings, 1 x merino long sleeve top (Howies), 1 x bra, 2 x mesh sports bra (Patagonia), 1 x bikini (threw after Thailand), 4 x underwear, 4 x merino socks

Would have made a 100% cotton Longhy to use as a towel instead which also would have doubled up as a long skirt for visiting temples. I need more warm base layers for China and the stans – Helly Hanson is the best.


Front Right Pannier (Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 40L)

Paddy’s Clothes:

Paddy’s Toiletries: shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, nail clippers, wet wipes, ear plugs

1 x quick dry towel, 1 x money pouch, 1 x roll up backpack

1 x warm hat, 1 x snoodshoe covers, 2 x cycling gloves, 2 x cycling padded short inserts, 1 x Gortex jacket

1 x sandals, 1 x cycling shoes, 1 x down jacket (Quechua)

1 x cycle jersey, 1 x merino t-shirt (Alpkit), 1 x long sleeve merino top (Alpkit), 1 x cotton shirt, 1 cotton t-shirt, 1 x shorts, 1 x convertible trousers (Craghopper Nosilife), long johns and matching top (Helly Hanson), swimming trunks, 3 x pair of socks, 3 x boxers


Handlebar bag (Arkel: Large)

A great bag (solid, completely waterproof) and would recommend over ortlieb especially if you are on a tandem – we got the biggest size and hold a lot of stuff in it. What’s very useful is it has zips instead of clips which means you can padlock any unneeded valuables (e.g kindles) while you go off without the bike to do a two day hike etc.

1 x Canon 650D DSLR Camera + 3 batteries and 2 lenses

1 x ipad in waterproof case (armour-x)

1 x iphone in waterproof case (armour-x) – – normally mounted to handlebar while riding

1 x Samson Galaxy phone – normally mounted to handlebar while riding

2 x wallet, passports, notepad

2 X sunglasses

2 x kindles, 1 x ipod

Front pocket: snacks, pen, bike keys, small padlock (useful for locking bag when handed into ‘left luggage’ at a hotel/hostel.


Back Left Pannier (Altura Orkney 56L)

1 x large mosquito net (never used as our tent was the best net)

1 x rechargeable LED tent/camp light – also charges your phone (great buy!) – (Lampray from Alpkit)

Gravity water purifier (LifeStraw) and UV SteriPEN ultra –read our gear review here

Dice/cards/embroidery, sowing kit, clothes line and 9 pegs

1 x toilet roll and baby wipes in dry bag

2 x emergency dry meals (Expedition Foods 800cal)

Cooking Gear

1 x multi-fuel stove and wind shield (Optimus)

1 scrubber/scraper, 1 lighter, 1 matches, 1 tea towel, 1 pen knife, 1 kettle, 1 pots, 1 frying pan, 2 plates, 2 x cups (Summit), chopping boa, serrated knife, peeler, grater, scissors, tin opener, wooden spoon, spatula, knives, forks and spoons. Salt and pepper, spices, hand sanitizer, washing up liquid, plastic bags, tuppawear box, elastic bands, bag clips.


Back Right Pannier (Altura Orkney 56L)

Box of bike tools

Spare bike parts: spare tyre, spare spokes, chain link, spare brake pads etc

Two man lightweight tent and footprint (MSR NX Hubba Hubba)

Gaffa tape (lots)

Medical Kit in dry bag:

3 x needles and syringes, antibiotics, diazepan, Naproxen pain killers, malaria tablets, thrush tablet, dressings, bandages, burn treatment, antibac wipes, cling film roll, ear plugs, plastic gloves, paracetamol and ibuprofen, rennies, constipation tablets, thermometer, cystitis sachets, dyorolite, eye wash and ointment, e45, savlon, barocca, caneston cream, allergy tablets, bite cream, plasters, cyprofloxin antibiotics

Electronics in dry bag:

camera charge cable, ipod/ipad/iphone charge cable, kindle charge cable, 2 x universal adapter, battery pack (A5 Zendure), SD card reader and SD cards, headphone splitter, sat phone

Papers etc:

Many passport photos (including head covered ones for Annie’s visas in Iran and Central Asia) papers, note book, pens, injection books, maps, insurance, passport copies, visa copies, spare bike/padlock keys


Back Rack Bag (Ortlieb 31L)

2 x bungey cords

3 X carrabena clips

1 x down double sleeping bag (Big Agnus: King Solomon)

2 x single air mattress (Quechua) (slip into Big Agnus sleeping bag to create bed)

1 x double duvet cover

2 x inflatable pillows (Quechua)

tent poles and pegs


Small Frame Bag  (Alpkit)

2 x head torches (Petzel elight)

1x leather man/Swiss army knife, Biker’s Balm – For All Your Moving Parts, Vaseline, Whistle, Pencil, elastic bands, emergency pain killers, rennies


Medium Frame Bag (Alpkit)

Insect repellent and bands, head phones, tissues, Compass, hand sanitiser


Saddle Bag

Sun screen, 1 x Spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, set of Allen keys, bike lights, Annie’s gloves


Bike Frame

2 x foldable lightweight chairs (Helinox)

3 x water cages

0.6L Optimus Fuel Bottle

1 x fog horn

1 x tablet bike mount (Multifunction Armour X mount)

Bike pump 

Mirror

Cable ties

Bike lock

Spare Spokes