Austin Sulli's Bikepacking Loadout
Friends have asked me about what I carry along for bikepacking trips. What’s important to take? What’s not? Can I run lean with the least things? Do I need to pack everything, including the kitchen sink? I thought I’d give y’all a little summary here in case you find yourself wanting to scratch the overnight bike ride itch.
In this article, I’ll run through some of the must-haves, a couple of basic items, and a couple of things that are distance/terrain/weather dependent. Overall, I try to prioritize items that have multiple uses. if I am running out of space, I’ll leave out items that don’t serve multiple purposes.
Packing List1. Your Bike
First off, ya gotta pick your bike. Most of my trips over the last year have been on my trusty gravel bike, the OBED GVR. Even if there is some singletrack involved, I love the versatility of a big tire’d gravel rig. There’s something fun about riding trails on a “not trail” bike. Currently, I’m running a 47c tire, and although it’s a little tight, it works well with my rim width while still not being too draggy on the tarmac.
2. Repair kit
My repair kit fluctuates based on one thing: how screwed would I be in one of two scenarios:
- If my route is super remote, I bring a little bit more than usual, like four tubes instead of two.
- If I’ll be passing through towns that might have a bike shop or hardware store, I’ll trim down a couple of items. But the basic list is as follows:
- Tube x 2- I really like the Tubolito ultralight tubes. Don’t forget the tube patch kit
- Mini pump
- CO2 and inflator- in case I can re-seat a tire and maintain that *tubeless status*
- Pedro’s tire levers
- Crank Brothers Multitool w/chainbreaker
- Mini Leatherman
- a couple links of chain and a quicklink
- Shift cable/brake cable
- Spare SPD cleats & bolts
- Set of brake pads
- Presta-to-Schrader valve converter. This is in case I need to use a gas station air pump
- Duct tape. I have a strip wrapped around my pump for emergencies
- Zip ties - like duct tape, there are so many uses for zip ties
- Dynaplug - I often carry this in a pocket so it is quick to access
- Tire boot
- Basic first aid kit- never know when you’ll need to pull out thorns, treat a random allergy or bandage up a cut or two.
This is the realm where I tend to either get bougie, or dirt-baggy. Sometimes it’s hard to decide if I’m ok with the same bibs every day or alternate days between two pairs. What about socks? These answers stem from the same decisions regarding the sleep kit. Am I prioritizing light and fast, or comfy and bulky? I’ll skip the basic stuff; most people know to wear whatever is comfortable to ride in. I will say, I try to get wool in everything I can. I feel like George Costanza when he talked about velvet but for me it's wool: I want to be shamelessly covered in wool, head to toe, every day and everywhere. It feels great, stays warm when wet and it’s got all the joy of taking a lot of abuse—without starting to stink.
- Rain Jacket- currently it’s a Gore Wear Shakedry, amazing stuff and soon to be banned in Europe
- Cycling cap for sunny days
- Clear glasses for twilight riding
- Latex gloves. These make for an impromptu rain glove and help cut through the chill of a cold morning
I train on gas station food a lot, especially because a lot of unsupported races are fueled with just that: Combos, PopTarts, Famous Amos, Coca-Cola, things we can always rely on in a gas station. In a more relaxed setting, I’ll take along a mini stove, fuel, a small pot, and some backpacking meals. My stove and pot are basically the smallest I can find and make work. Oatmeal packets are perfect, especially if you can stomach them with cold water.
5. Water Purification
When it comes to water and water purification- I have relied on a Katadyn BeFree for a couple of years now. It’s got an amazingly fast flow rate and the .6L or 1.0L container also serves as a little extra water-carrying capacity for those times when water sources are scarcer. Overall, I tend to carry two bottles in my frame and a 1.5L hydration pack. That amount tends to get me through the dry stretches, but my frame has the capacity for a third bottle if needed.
It seems like most people have some sort of GPS head unit that can download and display routes. This is an absolute necessity for me if I’m riding somewhere I’m not 100 percent familiar with. Which, given my proclivity to wander, means I have my GPS unit with me on every ride. If a power source isn’t within your reach, you’ll need a battery cache to help keep your battery topped off.
- Wahoo Element Roam
- GoalZero Venture 35. This unit is enough to charge to keep my phone, GPS, and lights going for about two days.
If you’re not a GPS head unit type, there are plenty of apps you can download to your phone to reference for navigation. I often have my routes downloaded on RideWithGPS or Komoot as a backup.
A good headlamp is also something that accompanies me on every overnight trip. I use a Black Diamond and use double-sided tape to hold it on the front of my helmet. The model I have can use both the rechargeable Black Diamond Battery as well as AAA batteries. I often grab the Lithium AAA batteries; they’re a bit more expensive, but they offer much more light when fresh, and last significantly longer than the rechargeable pack. I often find I don’t need a ton of light on my helmet, and for those times the Black Diamond headlamp works great. But if I’m riding singletrack or fast gravel descents, I want to be able to point the light through turns and around obstacles.
8. Bike Lights
As far as bike lights go, I used to use a big (read: heavy) Cateye Volt 1600 that I got six years ago, though it recently bit the dust in a heavy rainstorm in South America. So, I’m exploring new options for a rechargeable light that I can switch between bar duty and a helmet mount with ease. This is my biggest recommendation; something that can be moved and provide versatility.
- Tailgator Brake light. It’s super bright, throwing 300 lumens, and has the ability to get brighter when I slow down. If in non-braking mode, it’s lasted me over 16 hours. I always ride with a taillight, sometimes mounted on my helmet for extra visibility.
Light and quick for me is basically a Bivy, a sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag. I’ll take this option if I’m trying to keep the weight down, and time spent setting up and tearing down to a minimum.
Packing a tent and sleeping bag is certainly the route to go for comfort. Being able to sit up in the tent, stay completely dry and hide from potential rainstorms is really nice.
- Bivy- SOL escape bivy
- Sleeping pad- Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite
- Sleeping bag- Western Mountaineering 40-degree bag. This one packs down small and is super light
- Tent- Big Agnes Flycreek HV UL1
- Sewing needle and floss- sometimes ya gotta sew up a tire to keep rolling
- Super glue- also handy for tire sew ups
- Antiacid medication- I guess gas station food isn’t great to eat for days?