What to take

Heading for Portugal - arriving in north-east Spain with tandem and trailer, plus camping gear, four panniers and bar bag
Heading for Portugal – arriving in north-east Spain with tandem and trailer, plus camping gear, four panniers and bar bag

There are lots of factors to take into account when planning a bike trip, whether it’s for days, weeks or months. When working out what equipment to take considerations may include:

  • weight (of the gear): 50 grams may not seem much but it all adds up – and you’re going to be the one who’s got to move everything from point A to point B
  • cost: can you afford to buy all the latest cycling kit?
  • bulk: there’s only so much stuff you can fit on a bike however many panniers you’ve got
  • value: technology is great but what happens if your gadgets get stolen/broken?
  • duration: how many changes of clothes do you really need?
  • weather: leaving the waterproofs behind is always a gamble
  • comfort: putting up with discomfort for a day or two may be worth it if you want to travel light but on a longer trip going slower and being comfortable might be smarter
  • durability: will your gear stand up to months on the road? Paying for a brand name can be a rip-off but buying cheap can also mean you’ve wasted your money if it falls apart too soon
Planning 01
On the road north from Portugal into Galicia in February 2005. We’d sent the camping equipment home the previous October but were carrying everything else we felt we needed

Everyone will have their own opinion of what’s vital, whether you’re talking clothing, food or ‘essential’ luxuries. Based on my own experience of riding in Portugal and two year-long tandem tours, the lists below are of things I wouldn’t set off without.

You might also want to take a look at the blog for posts where I’ve reviewed some of my favourite bits of kit. These include:

Some Of My Favourite Things – Part 1: reviews of Bob Yak trailers, Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, Altura Arran bar bag, and a Gill base layer.

Note: The first version of this page was published in August 2011 back before everyone was using gadgets like smart phones, Garmins and tablets. I don’t remember LED lights being around either. I’m not going to update the article but, if you can’t travel without it, don’t forget to also factor in your tech (plus chargers and cables).

Tools, spares etc.

For day rides:

  • puncture repair kit (or some method of fixing a tube)
  • tyre levers
  • pump (preferably with pressure gauge)
  • multi-tool (allen keys, flat and cross-head screwdriver, chain tool) 
  • lock
  • water bottles (sufficient for the temperature and distance)

For touring – the above, plus:

  • spare tyre* 
  • spare tube
  • spare cables (brake & gear)
  • spare pads (rim and/or disc brake)
  • chain lube

*Note: The range of spares available in Portugal is limited even in large towns. In smaller places you are likely to struggle to find anything beyond very standard size Michelin tyres. Shops can sometimes order different sizes but you may have too wait – we once got stranded for two days in a small town because we couldn’t get a 700C tyre for our tandem and hadn’t replaced our spare.

The same issue applies to other parts. If you’re bike is in any way non-standard, have a think whether there are any other spares you might need.


This list is based on what I took on a four-week trip around eastern Europe in September 2015 but I’d use it as a basis for any similar trip where weather conditions/temperatures may be varied.

  • underwear: I generally take three pairs of lightweight briefs (underpants) and cycling socks – clothing made of artificial fibres dries so much faster if you’re washing things out by hand every day or so. Plus a couple of pairs of each made for cotton for extra comfort on rest days. And a couple of handkerchiefs.
  • swimming shorts: for when you want a dip or for wearing around a campsite/guest house. (Note, though, that in public swimming baths in Portugal and some other countries men have to wear trunks not shorts. Swimming caps may also be compulsory.)
  • cycling shorts: two pairs of padded shorts and one pair of baggy shorts
  • leggings: light or medium-weight cycling leggings for cold days or sitting around in the evening
  • trousers: one pair of thin walking trousers with zip-off legs
  • cycling tops: two short-sleeved tops, a long-sleeved base layer and a thin fleece
  • other tops: one cotton T-shirt, a light-weight short-sleeved shirt and a thin hoodie for non-cycling days/evenings
  • windproof: ultra light and enough to also keep off a bit of drizzle
  • waterproofs: high-vis jacket and hood, trousers and over-shoes
  • gloves: fingerless cycle gloves for normal days and water/windproof gloves for bad weather
  • helmet: in some countries it’s the law
  • footwear: I take waterproof trainers/walking shoes and sandals with walking (Vibram) soles. Both for cycling and general wear


  • tent: make sure there’s enough room inside for you and your gear
  • sleeping bag: two or three season should be okay for Portugal most of year
  • liner: preferably silk – it’s warmer, lighter, packs smaller and feels nicest
  • pack pillow: folded clothes are good but this is one extra I believe worth taking
  • sleeping mat: preferably a self-inflating mat like a Thermarest (although some cheaper versions e.g. Quecha are just as good and a lot cheaper)
  • microfibre pack towel: they dry out much more quickly – and smell less – than a conventional towel
  • stove: we use a Trangia with gas attachment – but need to bring spare cylinders with us
  • fuel: like bike spares, getting any kind of gas bottle other than CampinGaz ‘easyclic’ cartridges can be hard in Portugal
  • plastic bowls
  • sporks
  • sharp knife
  • washing kit: a cloth/scourer etc for cleaning the dishes
  • washing line and pegs: a couple of metres of nylon cord has many uses, not least of which drying off the cycling top you’ve just washed out in the campsite shower!
  • torch: either a bike light or some other way of finding your way around in the dark, reading in the tent etc.

2 thoughts on “What to take”

  1. Hi hew. Going to cycle the Adlentejo circuit and maybe also the extension over to the west coast. I have a few questions for any one reading this who can offer any advice. Can I get away with bringing a tent.(2) whats the mosquito situation like?.(3)what’s the best way of keeping my phone charged?thanxs hew.also any other guest houses in Evora that’s reasonable cheap. About 30 Euro?

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