When you look at people’s bikepacking kit lists they seem to have some expensive stuff. Most of it very small and light. But what do you actually need for one night sleeping rough?
I’m assuming here that we’re talking about a mixed surface ride that doesn’t stray too far from civilisation, meaning you’ll be able to grab a main meal somewhere and avoid the need to carry a cooking kit. This is what I’d be packing:
Lights – Always a balance between power and weight / run time. At a minimum, they need to be bright enough though to allow you to keep riding after dark with your eyes adjusted to night. I prefer replaceable batteries over USB rechargeables as they run for longer and it’s easy to pop a spare set in and keep going if they do run out. Mine has two power settings, and I use it on low most of the time to maximise battery life but switching to high for unlit descents. Whatever you bring, make sure the batteries are fresh / fully recharged before leaving home.
Additional layers – Once the sun goes down it can get cold even in the summer. I’ll pack a long sleeve jersey and knee warmers for the morning and evening riding, and a hooded down or primaloft jacket will be useful overnight if you have one. I’ll sleep in my down jacket so I can get away with a thinner, lighter sleeping bag. A beanie is a good idea if your jacket doesn’t have a hood.
Bivvy Bag – Waterproof, unless you’re also going to bring a tarp. I use an Alpkit Hunka. If you’re very confident it’s not going to rain or that you’ll be able to find shelter you could just sleep in a sleeping bag, but it’d be absolutely miserable if it did get wet.
Base layers to sleep in – Although I have crawled into my bivvy bag in my riding kit, when I was so exhausted I just couldn’t be bothered with changing, any sweat you’ve built up whilst riding can make for a cold night. Better to change into something else, then back into your riding gear again in the morning. Merino base layers, for their resistance to odour, are nicest for trips lasting a number of days but for one night anything fresh would be fine.
Sleeping bag – A trade off between cost, pack size / weight and warmth. I used a 200 fill quilt on the Candy B Graveller. Less bulk/weight than a full bag, and a little less costly too. I wore my down jacket in it over my base layers, with the hood up to keep my head warm. Like that I was just about OK in the mid single digit overnight temps.
Sleeping mat – I favour insulated, manual inflating. But I’ve also gone without one for a week, when my Alpkit mat failed at the start of Tour Aotearoa. I slept much better once I’d got to a city big enough to have somewhere I could buy a replacement though. So I now have a Exped Synmat HL, which is very nice but probably only worth the investment if you’ll get a lot of use out of it.
Spares – The usual tubes and patches, but I also recommend bringing a spare gear hanger. They weigh nothing, take up no space and can save you having to try and bodge a single speed conversion at the side of the trail. Also spilt links, in case you do need to do that SS conversion.
Food and water – At least enough to get you to the first place where you’ll be able to resupply. On our Gnarbital overnighter we’ll be passing convenience stores, filing stations, cafes and pubs at various points but I’d still suggest bringing plenty of snacking food along. A load of cereal bars and a couple of pork pies, something like that. I’ll have two bidons of water and look to refill whenever they’re getting low.
Inessential but nice to have
A head torch, for setting up your bivvy (or use your bike light) or if you need to get up in the middle of the night (or use your phone light).
Wet wipes or toilet wipes. In case you need to pretend you’re a bear in the woods. If you do, be sure to dig a hole first and cover up later. I carry a plastic cat trowel for that. Or, better yet, just hold on until the morning cafe stop.
Additional chilly weather riding kit – A buff and/or skull cap, long finger gloves (I have some thin running gloves I put on under my mits).
Tiny bottle of chain lube. If it does rain it’s nice to be able to relube again afterwards. Green Oil do a 20ml ‘on tour’ bottle for a couple of quid that’s easy enough to find space for.
What have I missed? Leave your comments down below.