There is one thing that I always have with me – my essential kit. It is my very personal collection of things that I learned, often the hard way, can be very helpful to solve annoying situations. I like it so much that for many years now I’ve carried it with me even off bike. Let’s talk about it in details.
Small, light, simple and highly efficient
I am a minimalist, so I don’t like to carry too much stuff around. That’s why my bikepacking essential kit is really small and can stay in the backpack without taking space from other important things. And it is light, just 324 grams. Inside there are a few simple things, easy to find and buy. Most of them will be already somewhere around you.
List of items inside the kit:
• Tool bag
• Multitool with blade
• Banknote and coins
• Piece of white paper with 3 most important phone numbers
• Small pen
• Plaster for general cuts and for blisters
• Metal clip
• Plastic bands
• Duct tape
• Copy of documents
• 1 energy bar or gel
• Small powerbank with short cable
• 1 plastic card
• Adapter Schrader/Presta
First of all, you need something smart to carry your kit in. For mine I use a tool bag like the one I found in my Endura bike backpack. It is just perfect. Anyway, any foldable bike tool bag will do the job. What’s important for me is the inside pockets with zips.
When I have plenty of space, I carry my Swiss knife, a long-time friend and companion in thousands of adventures. But for the essential kit I prefer to have a good bike multitool. The reason is that it is has a very wide range of tools, so it can be used also off the bike, and it is small.
Important: in order to substitute the Swiss knife, the multitool you get must have a blade so you can use it to cut food if you need to.
Paper clip, zip ties and rubber bands
This is a classic, and for a reason. I cannot live without zip ties, they are such an incredible invention and can be used in a million different ways. Metal clips can be straightened and used for example to reset electronic appliances or as a needle for sewing. Elastic rubber bands need no explanation. When I can, I rather use old inner tubes cut into thin bands instead of classic rubber bands.
Last time I used the paper clip was for ejecting the sim card from my phone, having forgotten where I put the special key. Last time I used the rubber bands was to secure my Garmin to the handlebar as I forgot the mount. Last time I used zip ties was to secure my headlamp to my helmet.
Banknote and coins
Do you remember when you forgot your wallet and you were as hungry as a wolf or when you could not find any change to pay for the parking? I do. I think it is smart to have a safety small amount of change in a different place than your wallet for unexpected situations – so remember to store it in you bikepacking essential kit.
Painkillers and plasters
Even if you are super tough and don’t feel the pain, it is useful to have painkillers in your kit to help your friend/wife/client. I rarely use them but a few times I was really glad to have them. For example, a couple of times they helped me fight headache while cycling after a not too relaxing night in the tent or in the hammock.
Plasters for blisters and standard plasters are easy to carry and useful, especially for blisters. They saved my day many times. For example, when I spend many hours on the bike, my feet hurt because of the friction in the shoes.
Duct tape and plastic card
One of the favourite items of every modern adventurer and handy man is duct tape. It can fix almost anything, even your body (only for a short time though, until you get to the hospital. Once a friend of mine cut his thumb really badly with a knife while cooking during one of our bikepacking adventures. As we were camping in the forest far away from everything, we disinfected the wound with some spirit and successfully close the cut with a duct tape until we got to the hospital the next day.) There’s just one problem, it is very big and takes up a lot of space. I solved this problem by wrapping as much as I need around a plastic card, one of the many useless fidelity cards you surely carry in your wallet. The card may also come in useful from time to time.
Last time I used the card was to fix my tyre. I got a big cut from a sharp rock and the new innertube would get out so I placed a card between the tube and the tyre and easily made it to the closest bike shop.
Last time I used a duct tape was to temporary repair my waterproof jacket. It got cut by a thorn while it was raining so I patched the hole with a tape.
Your 3 most important phone numbers written on a piece of paper
I find it very useful and reassuring to have three useful phone numbers I might need in case of emergency written on a piece of paper. I don’t know about you, but if I lose my phone or the battery dies, I have problems remembering phone numbers by heart. And as I have a piece of paper on me, I also bring a pen in case I need to write a note or draw a map, for example.
1 energy bar/gel
One of my biggest fears when bikepacking and cycling in general is that I’ll find myself without energy. Unfortunately, I am one of those people that crash and get weak when out of sugars. It’s happened to me many times. That is why I always carry a small energy bar or gel in my bikepacking essential kits. I don’t go anywhere without this safety net.
A small power bank with a short cable
When I travel, I carry a big powerful power bank as I need to recharge several things: my Garmin watch, Garmin navigation, mobile phone, lights, cameras, etc. But in my bikepacking essential kit I always have a very minimalistic small power bank with a short cable that I keep as my last resort.
Schrader to Presta valve adapter
Once, and only once in my life but it was enough, I got a flat tyre while bikepacking in a remote area in Northern Europe and I found out that somehow my pump was broken. I pushed my bike for a few kilometres and finally got to a petrol station only to find out that there was no way I could use the compressor for the car to pump up my inner tube with Presta valve. Since then, I carry in my bikepacking essential kit a Schrader to Presta adapter. Just one you normally find attached to a pump.
Copies of documents
Last but not least, having copies of your documents will not do any harm. Having them on you is easy in terms of weight and space, and they might be very helpful in certain situations, for example if you lose your wallet or need to rent something.
An extra idea: a headlamp
Sometimes I add to my kit a very small headlamp. I got one that only weighs in at 70 grams including the battery, but is powerful enough. I don’t have it on me at all times, but when I go away for a few days, I put it in the kit. It fits in the tool bag, so no problem. It is important that you get a battery that is USB rechargeable, so you can use the power bank you carry with you.