Ah, gear. Going into this bike touring trip to Scotland we had to reevaluate what cycling gear we have, what we need, and what we don't need to bring. Luckily Tom has done several bike touring trips so I've just been following his lead on what we're packing. Since this is also an international trip that involves planes, trains, and boats, we've had to be strategic about what to bring and what to leave behind because we'll be carrying EVERYTHING with us for the entire 17 days we'll be traveling.
Before I get into detail about what gear we'll be bringing, know this - almost everything we got was on sale over the past year. REI has awesome seasonal sales and 20% off coupons for members - we used both to purchase our bikes. I found my panniers at REI's seasonal Garage Sale on massive clearance from $240 for the pair for $60! If you're planning on a big trip and you need gear just know that you don't have to buy everything at once at full price. Wait for the sales and you'll thank yourself later!
Tom and I both ride REI's Novara Randonee Touring Bike. Mine is from 2010 and his is from 2011 (note the totally different styles).
These bikes are made for long haul touring. They are sturdy, comfortable, and built for carrying gear. The back racks are perfect for adding on additional panniers and luggage. We've both added aero bars for more comfort on long rides and we've both changed our seats after purchasing the bikes. He rides on a Brooks B17 Standard and I have a Terry Butterfly Cromoly Saddle. We've also updated our tires for Scotland knowing we'd be riding on wet roads with some rough spots. We ride on Schwalbe Marathon Mondial double defense foldable tires which are puncture-resistant for up to 10,000 miles. Tom already took his out on a 300+ mile bike trip down the coast of California in April and had no problems. (I managed to pick up a large piece of glass on one of our training rides which put a hole in the tire - after calling Schwalbe to see if we could get a free replacement they said it was 'unfortunate', but wouldn't refund the tire, they did give us a discount on a new one. Things happen and nothing is absolutely perfect - Tom has ridden on his for much longer than I have and has never had a problem. I'm calling this one a fluke, but will be bringing a spare to Scotland with us.)
Remember when I said look out for sales? These tires run about $85 / tire, but you can find them on biketiresdirect.com for $52 / tire during sale times. Just keep checking back on their website.
Since we'll be on the road in remote areas of Scotland we can only depend on ourselves to do bike maintenance. In addition to spare tires and tubes we'll be bringing a bike multi-tool, Leatherman multi-tool, and hex wrench (mainly for disassembling the bikes for flying).
It's Scotland and we're planning on getting wet so we've purchased new waterproof Ortlieb panniers to keep our gear dry. Again, watch for the sales. I found my pair at REI's Garage Sale for $60 (they run full price at $240)! The checkout person even remembered the guy who returned them and only used them on one trip - so they are practically brand new!
Two of my favorite things about these panniers are the front pockets for easy access to things I need, and the shoulder strap for when I have to walk a bit carrying them. I never thought a shoulder strap would make such a big difference, but it does!
Tom also rides with Ortlieb panniers, but he has the Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers.
The main difference between the two is that mine hold 42 liters and Tom's hold 40 liters and also that mine has the front pockets. Tom's road name from his previous bike trips has been Rustle Packs-a-lot, so I'm excited to have the front pocket option on mine!
We plan on camping throughout a lot of the trip, and since we started backpacking recently we have most of the gear we need for that. (Read all about our Backpacking Gear here.)
This summer we also upgraded to the Therm-aRest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pads and I absolutely love them! The sleeping pad is crazy lightweight and packs down into about the size of a Nalgene bottle. I'm a side sleeper and usually by morning my hip is digging into the dirt below me, but these pads kept both of us off the ground. They're actually incredibly comfortable and you can inflate to your desired squishiness. These come in three sizes:
- Small: 47 x 20 x 2.5 inches (8 oz)
- Regular: 72 x 20 x 2.5 inches (12 oz)
- Large: 77 x 25 x 2.5 inches (1 lb)
Tom is 6'2" and needs the large. I was going to get the regular (at 5'5"), but I like the extra 5 inches of width in the large - I tend to sprawl - and it is perfect.
More from REI! I have the REI Flash Sleeping Bag (from a few years ago). Its made from primaloft (no down!) and is nice and toasty. Don't forget to look for the sales!
As much as I want to be a hard core camper that can sleep anywhere on anything, I'm not and I need a pillow. I've tried sleeping on jackets or clothes or stuffing everything into my sleeping bag stuff sack, but I just can't do it. Luckily, there's gear for that. I love the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium. Its a little bit of luxury in the wilderness and really helps me get a good night's sleep. They're definitely a splurge at $39.95 and $44.95 (depending on the size), but totally worth it. They pack down super small and only take a couple of breaths to inflate. They're also great for long haul flights!
Camp Stove & Fuel Bottle
Tom has had the MSR WhisperLite International Backpacking Stove since 2001 and it still works GREAT! (Well, not this exact stove - the earlier version of it. This stove is now 10% lighter than our current stove!) It packs down super small and can run on white gas (what we usually bring when not flying), kerosene, or auto fuel (in a pinch!).
And to go along with your stove, you'll need a fuel bottle. MSR makes them in 11, 20, and 30 oz sizes. We'll be bringing the 30 oz bottle on this trip, but fueling it once we're in Scotland. We like the MSR Fuel Bottle with CRP Cap better than other brands because these bottles are reuseable.
We'll be bringing a water purifier with us as well because we're not sure where we'll be camping some nights and where the water fill ups will be. Luckily Scotland has tons of freshwater so we should be fine filling up when we need to.
The MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter is AMAZING. I was a little skeptical of it working (for no good reason), but after my first sip of purified alpine water last summer I was sold. The important thing to note is to carry a wide mouth Nalgene bottle along because the purifier screws right on the top.
In addition to the wide mouth Nalgene bottles we'll also be bringing our cycling water bottles for easy access while we're on the bikes.
We'll be bringing some food with us for the days when we ride in between towns. We'll also be bringing snacks to avoid the hangry moments (yes, hungry) that tend to sneak up on me in the afternoons. Our favorite backpacking food is also our favorite bike-packing food. Backpacker's Pantry has a lot of different varieties of meals and the best part is that they have a decent vegan selection. And good old trusty REI also stocks Backpacker's Pantry and has good sales throughout the year and cheaper shipping than BackpackersPantry.com. Their vegan selection includes Chana Masala, Katmandu Curry (my favorite), Louisiana Red Beans & Rice, Pad Thai, Spaghetti & Sauce, and Charros Beans & Rice. These all are two servings per package and are super filling and delicious. Averaging about $7.50 per package its a steal!
We'll also be bringing packets of oatmeal for breakfast, instant coffee, and assorted Clif Bars to get us through the morning and breaks in the day. We'll eat out when we can and as we want to, but will be bringing about 12 meals along for when we don't want to stop for too long or can't.
To keep it minimal when we eat, we're only bringing two GSI Outdoors Baked Enamelware Cups - 12 oz, these are our all-purpose cups for eating and drinking. And you've got to have something to eat with! Light My Fire Spork XM works great.
Trying to be as minimal as possible, but still wanting to stay clean we've invested in lots of travel size toiletries that we've been taking on most of our camping trips. I recently purchased a Nalgene Travel Kit which has leak proof bottles that twist close (better than the snap closures). The small is perfect for the supplied bottles and adding in our toothbrushes, paste, a small hairbrush for me, Q-tips, a snap razor, Burt's Bees lip balm, hand lotion and sanitizer, and sunscreen.
I also make sure I bring a pack of Burt's Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes for all purpose cleanliness. After a long hard day of riding when my face is dirty, sweaty, and salty a quick wipe down makes me feel like a million bucks!
We also will be bringing a small bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap. In a pinch this works on EVERYTHING, seriously. Its gentle enough for body use including hair, but strong enough for dishwashing and laundry. When we're trying to be minimal this is the best multi purpose soap out there. Its certified vegan, packaged in 100% recycled bottles, certified organic, not tested on animals, and fair trade!
Along with the soap goes a camp towel - they're ultralight, absorbent, and quick drying. At 1.4 ounces they're easy to bring along and a save when you want to get dry quickly!
And speaking of staying dry, it rains pretty much every day in Scotland. We're expecting to be riding a lot in the rain, mist, and wind so the main splurges for this trip were our rain clothes. We have most of our other gear from years of camping, but we wanted to find rain clothes that would hold up to the elements and still be comfortable for riding in. Enter Showers Pass.
Showers Pass is a cycling clothing and accessory company based out of Portland, Oregon so they know something about riding in the rain.
Showers Pass was born from the desire to develop clothing and gear that would get more people out on their bikes, no matter the weather. Inspired by the challenging rides and variable conditions of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, we have been combining high performance materials with innovative functional design for cyclists since 1997. With our roots in high performance waterproof-breathable outerwear, we have grown to offer a wide range of apparel and unique accessories for anyone who faces the elements – from city dwellers heading to the pub to pro cyclists heading to the top of L'Alpe d'Huez.
If this video doesn't inspire you to ride in the rain nothing will:
One of the worst things of riding in the rain can be the dripping of cold rain water down your neck and onto your back. These awesome covers have a rear brim that covers your neck and directs rain down the back of your jacket.
When looking for a rain jacket my main concerns are - is it breathable, is it long enough to cover my bum, is it reflective, does it have pockets, and does it have a hood. Voile! Meet the Showers Pass Women's Crossover Jacket:
The first time I wore this jacket was on a cold, windy, and misty morning here in San Francisco. It was perfect. One of my favorite things about this jacket is that its not just for cycling, its my new rain jacket for hiking, backpacking, walking Bailey, and being out and about.
I didn't think I needed rain pants until Tom came back from one of his bike trips and told me how he was completely soaked through on Day 1 when he road through an all day downpour. He had to find a hotel for the night to dry out his bike shorts and pants which thwarted some of their plans. Instead we've each got a pair of Novara Stratos Bike Pants from REI - they're completely waterproof and tested! I've warn them in downpours walking Bailey and have stayed completely dry.
We toyed a lot with what we wanted to do to keep our feet dry. Do we wear waterproof boots or shoes? Get waterproof socks? Then we decided to just get waterproof shoe covers to take care of everything.
And the last thing we decided to get to stay dry head to toe were Waterproof gloves. They look HUGE, but they fit really well over our regular bike gloves and let's be honest, my hands are always cold so add cold wetness onto them? No thanks! We also found these on mad clearance at our local REI for $15 a pair!
Amazingly all of my waterproof gear packs down and fits into my Showers Pass Helmet Cover!
I'm trying my best to keep minimal with the clothes I'm bringing. I'll be re-wearing a lot and luckily a few of the places we are staying will have a washer and dryer available for a quick clean. Thanks to Eagle Creek packing cubes I'll be able to squish everything down and get almost everything into three manageable cubes.
And all that packs down into this!
And here's what I'm bringing:
- 6 pairs of short socks / 3 pairs of long and warmer socks
- 8 pairs of Ex-Officio underwear - in a pinch they can be washed and dried quickly in a sink (I've also been able to get these for 30% off during REI sales or on Amazon)
- 5 The North Face Stow and Go Bra (perfect for holding my money and passport)
- 2 pairs Canari Pro Gel Cycling Shorts (to wear under my capris, shorts, or pants)
- 1 pair Athleta Relay It Capris for cycling
- 1 pair shorts for cycling and / or sleeping
- 1 pair Lucy Get Going Pants for cycling and every day
- 1 pair Athleta Metro Legging for cycling and every day
- 2 Athleta Long Sleeve Pacifica T-shirts for cycling and every day - I absolutely LOVE these shirts. I've worn them during marathon training, cycling training, hiking, camping, and all of the above. They are perfect for layering.
- 2 Athleta Short Sleeve Pacifica T-shirts for cycling and every day. Ditto the above. I've worn these shirts on almost all of my training rides for this trip.
- 2 Tank Tops to wear under my long sleeve or short sleeve cycling shirts as a base layer
- 2 Long Tunic Tank Tops for non-cycling days
- 1 black T-shirt for non-cycling days
- 1 Cardigan for non-cycling days
- 1 The North Face Thermoball jacket with hood
- 1 beanie hat
- 1 pair knit gloves
- 1 ShouldIt pocket scarf with two zippered pockets
- 1 Buff Headband - I can't live without this! Its great for covering my ears on cold mornings, using as a sweatband, keeping my hair back - I'm not sure it will come off on the trip!
- 1 Buff Neck Gaiter - Who would have ever thought a thin piece of fabric would work so well? I wear this around my neck for chilly morning rides and it just breaks the cold wind down my neck. Its also super versatile so I can wear it in a lot of different ways.
- Keen Saltzman waterproof shoes
Amazingly, everything packs down into our four Ortlieb Panniers, one Ortieb Rack Pack, and one Sea to Summit dry bag. All of THAT then goes into our collapsable REI duffel bags for traveling. (The panniers are outside the packs just for the picture - they fit into the bags on the right for traveling.)
As with any trip, I'm sure we've forgotten something or will come back knowing we didn't need to bring something else, but for the moment I'm feeling ready to go!