The following packing list for cycling across Europe was provided by Gigi Griffis. See all packing list posts here.
This summer and into fall, I packed my bags, secured them to the back of a bicycle, and took off across Europe, propelling myself over 1,500 kilometers in countries as diverse as France, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
It was the first time I’d done something like this, but by the time fall was bleeding into winter, I was fitter, tanner, and a little smarter in my packing strategies.
In case you’re also considering a cycle trip through Europe, here are some tips and a list of what I would pack if I did it again.
First, let’s talk about some overarching considerations:
Seasons & Weather
Obviously, when packing it’s important to consider what season you’re cycling through. A springtime cycle in Europe is a different affair than a summer cycle and a winter cycle is obviously even more removed.
Of course, more cyclists take to the paths in summer, but Europeans cycle year-round, so winter isn’t out of the question. It just means packing a little differently.
It’s also important to know that even summer can have cold nights, rainstorms, and unpredictable weather, so whenever you’re doing anything that puts you out in the elements, it’s wise to come prepared for inclement weather.
Now, onto our packing list.
Basic Gear for Cycling Across Europe
- A bicycle (for faster travels and trips with lots of hills, make sure to buy a proper touring bike; if you’re doing a lot of mountain trails, a mountain bike is best. Also, make sure your bike has a back rack for your panniers, front and back lights, and a bell.)
- A repair kit for flat tires and other mini disasters
- 1 – 2 extra bicycle tubes in case of an un-repairable flat tire
- An air pump for your tires (make sure it’s the right kind of the type of tire valve you have)
- Panniers to carry your gear
- A seat cover for overnight seat protection
- A bike lock
- 2 water bottles
- Rain covers for your gear (or, if you don’t want to spend the cash, trash bags will do in a pinch)
- A poncho or other rain gear for cycling on rainy days
- A good map
- Optional: Distance tracker (you can buy these in any bike shop and they are a nice addition — often tracking not only your daily distance, but also total distance and speed)
- Bicycle gloves (which not only help with grip, but also protect the veins in your hands)
- 2 – 3 pairs of bicycle shorts (which not only help with seat soreness, but also help prevent chafing in your nether regions, which is distinctly unpleasant)
- 3 – 5 sports tops for cycling
- 3 – 4 bras, appropriate for cycling in (I personally like Shapeez tank top bras, which are comfortable enough for sports, but also work in a dress; others may prefer sports bras)
- 5 – 10 pairs of underpants (depending on how often you want to do laundry)
- 1 pair cycling or trail running shoes with good treads
- 3 – 5 pairs of cycling socks (which are specifically made to prevent blisters…I didn’t believe they could until I tried them on this trip and now cycling socks are pretty much all I wear)
- 1 dress (for evenings or days off)
- 1 – 2 non-cycling outfits for evenings and days off (since Europe tends to be a dressy place, I recommend dressing nice – nice jeans, a cute skirt, and a couple nice tank tops are a great choice for summertime visits)
- Optional: Pajamas
- Optional: swimsuit
- Optional: a couple necklaces and pairs of earrings
- 1 – 2 warm jackets for cooler nights or mornings (I prefer the ones that zip up around the neck to keep your neck warm as well)
- A warm headband
- 1 pair non-cycling shoes for evenings and non-cycling days
Now, keep in mind that how many clothes you bring depends on how often you are willing to do laundry. I met one cycling couple who were doing laundry literally every night in the sink. They each had two pairs of cycling shorts and two tops. And their panniers were smaller than mine. But personally, I knew that some nights I’d be too tired to wash things in the sink, so I packed a bit more and generally wore things until they smelled.
It’s also important to choose cycling clothes that dry fast and breathe.
- Travel-sized shampoo and soap (unless you will be overnighting in hotels, in which case you don’t need to pack your own)
- Hairbrush and hair ties as needed
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss (small)
- Intensely hydrating lotion or bottle of diaper rash cream (if you do get some chafing, diaper rash cream is the secret to combating it)
- Deodorant (if you can find a dry version you like, that’s a great way to cut down weight)
- High SPF sunscreen (even on gray days, you could end up with a sunburn)
- Baby wipes (which come in handy for emergency pee stops in the wilderness, as well as cleaning your hands before a picnic or cleaning bird poop off the bike)
- Razors (rather than a full razor, when I’m trying to save myself weight I carry just the razor heads)
- Laundry powder
- Band-aids, antiseptic, and a pain killer for blisters, crashes, and days your knees are screaming at you to give up
- Optional: tampons, panty-liners, or sanitary cups (or you could just take your birth control continuously and skip your period while cycling if your doctor says its okay)
- Optional: Tweezers, small scissors, and nail clippers
- Optional: Small makeup kit for evenings and days off
- Optional: Any additional medications you require (allergy meds or prescriptions)
- Small flashlight
- Ziplock bags (when packing your panniers, put everything into ziplocks; this will not only keep things dry if your panniers leak in the rain, but will also keep everything organized and easily accessible)
- A small notebook for keeping important notes and/or journaling along the way, and at least one pen
- A camera
- Optional: a computer or tablet for keeping in touch and reading eBooks along the way.
- Optional: an iPod and headphones for listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks when on cycle-only paths (don’t use headphones while cycling on roads with cars)
- A USB stick (this can be a helpful addition to any trip, as it lets you transport something you need to print — such as a train ticket — from your computer or tablet to a hotel front desk, print shop, or somewhere else capable of printing things out)
- Passport, wallet, and money
- A spoon and knife for picnics and on-the-go meals from the grocery store
If You’re Camping
Now, when it comes to cycling in Europe, camping isn’t always necessary. I started my own trip thinking I’d camp, but quickly realized that sleeping on the ground after cycling all day wasn’t for me, so instead I crashed in budget hotels and sometimes with warmshowers.com hosts.
If you are planning to camp, though, make sure you have:
- A small, waterproof tent
- A warm sleeping bag
- A lightweight sleeping pad
- Optional: Travel pillow
- A towel (lightweight and super absorbent if possible)
- 1 pair of flip-flops for campground showers
- Optional: Food prep items such as a portable stove, pot, lighter, bowl, cup, fork, and cutting board.
If It’s Fall or Winter
- A winter coat
- 2 – 3 pairs of warm pants
- 2 – 3 warm tops
- An extra headband
If You’re Cycling With Your Dog
- A dog carrier for train rides (I like Sleepypod Air* for a number of reasons, including the fact that it folds down and can easily be secured on top of your panniers)
- Lightweight bowls for water and food
- At least one day’s worth of food (personally, I feed Luna a combination of rice, tuna, and veggies, so I always had at least one can of tuna in my bag and went shopping almost daily for the rest)
- Optional: 1 – 2 toys
- Poop bags
- Harness and leash
Have you done a cycle trip through Europe? What would you add or subtract from the list?
About the author: Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch. She’s blogs at gigigriffis.com and has authored six unconventional travel guides in the last two years.