Packing advice: What to bring, what to leave behind?

Hi all,

Before I get started on work this morning, I’m doing a little daydreaming/planning about the RAGBRAI adventure, and as a newbie, I thought I’d throw this out there:

What have you found unexpectedly useful on your trip in the past? Any necessities or “luxury” items that you’d say are especially valuable, that are not necessarily obvious to the newcomer?

Conversely, anything you recommend leaving at home? When I rode my first century last year I realized I could have done without the Gu’s in my jersey pocket — we were plenty well-fed at every rest stop. πŸ™‚

How many changes of gear do you tend to bring? I’m going with a charter (PBV) so I think there will be laundry opportunities, and I want fresh jersey and shorts every day, but I don’t want to over- or under-pack.

Thanks in advance!

69 Replies

jwsknk, April 20, 2015 at 8:14 am

I take 4 sets of riding gear, try to rinse out every night but things don’t always dry after 9pm., they can be wetter in the morning.
Only pack 1 pair of socks, mostly in case it gets cold at night. the clean stuff stays in waterproof bags until needed. I leave 1 set of clean cloths for the bus ride home, But I load the truck and it often 100+ back in there for the hour or so it takes to unload and reload bike.
Don’t usually carry any food, most towns about 10 miles apart and usually stands between. If there is a really long stretch 20 miles or so, they make sure there is something about half way.
Luxury or necessity, ear plugs, sleep mask,(hello streetlight over your tent), small fan. A little bit of duct tape or electrical tape wrapped around something, not on the original roll.


RoyBoy, April 20, 2015 at 9:01 am

Bring microfiber towels instead of cotton towels. Even better, use a shower service so you don’t have any wet towels of your own. Use a microfiber towel to wipe up any rain water that gets into your tent.


Mrs H, April 20, 2015 at 9:41 am

Ear plugs for sure! Especially if you camp near the porta potties (banging doors all night long) plus wet wipes, and ZIP TIES (to get your bike to a service set up in case you REALLY break something). Also even though it is the middle of summer, you can still get cold at night in your tent, if you don’t want to pack a sleeping bag at the very least you should bring a garbage bag or two (had to stick my legs in one last year during a chilly storm).
Best of luck!


Michrider !!!, April 20, 2015 at 10:17 am

jljeffers: How many changes of gear do you tend to bring? I’m going with a charter (PBV) so I think there will be laundry opportunities, and I want fresh jersey and shorts every day, but I don’t want to over- or under-pack.

PBV laundry service, drop off dirty clothes on Tuesday PM, pick up clean clothes on Wednesday PB. PBV’s shower service also provides a clean towel each day. You will over pack, but don’t worry about it!!! Every year, including this year, I tell myself that I’m downsizing!!!


Sandaltan ., April 20, 2015 at 10:33 am

A pinch light to take to town in the evening. The kybos do not have a light switch so it is pretty dark in there in the evening. A little TP in a plastic sandwich bag tucked into your jersey pocket.



Sunflower, April 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

This is evergreen.


Jason Stoller, April 20, 2015 at 8:12 pm

I used removable torch light on my trike for a headlight so it doubled as flashlight at night when I needed it. You will get cell phone up dates from PVB but there is a board in camp where they post updates. If you have an cell phone you can use it for a GPS if you need it. I microfiber towel is a great idea to carry with you ( like a pack towel) and cheap throw away wash cloths. These are great for wiping down your bike in the morning. Another idea is to take cheap plastic store bags like you get when you check out at target or wal-mart and put them over your bike seat at night. You not only can put them over your bike seat to keep it dry at night but use it to collect and throw away your garbage in the morning. Personally I always bring some toilet paper with me. It takes up a little room but its nice to have esp with a porta potty on the road or in camp does not have any. If you have your clothes all separated out for the next day in large ziplock bags, then you put your old dirty ones in the bag you take clean ones out of. It makes it easy to pack and keep up with things. Cheap Slippers or flip flops if you wear them. Do not forget a light weight Rain Coat or suit of some kind. I kept mine in the pannier rack on my bike. It doubled in the morning as a lightweight coat when I first got up. You will want sunscreen, lip balm, a brush or comb. Keep any medications with you. I Have no idea with you are riding. I ride a recumbent so I hook a camelbak backpack on the back of my seat and it carries 100 ounces of water and has room in there if I need anything else.

Just remember, unless you are getting tent service from PBV too, you have to make sure your bags are at the truck in the morning. The less you take the better off you are. If you are only getting support from PBV, you not only have to pack your bag or bags, you have to take your tent down too. So pack light and pack smart.



Michrider !!!, April 21, 2015 at 6:24 am

I always consider a KYBO to be a paper free zone, carry paper!!!!


mootsman, April 21, 2015 at 6:57 am

Everyone above covered it especially about the ear plugs. I use the ones made out of foam since the solid ones make my ears sore.

Also if you are using your own tent a light weight plastic tent stake hammer is nice and works well. Like the kind you can get at REI. If I was taking PBV though the tent service would be a luxury I wouldn’t pass up.


jljeffers, April 21, 2015 at 7:19 am

Michrider, LOL — I was just visiting Cuba last month, where TP is quite the valued commodity, so I’m in good practice for carrying my own. πŸ˜€

These are all great suggestions, thank you! Keep ’em coming if you think of anything else.

That video mentioned bringing a folding chair — do you recommend that? We have some camp chairs that fold up and fit in covers for storage. I could fit one in my big duffel if I pack carefully. I can see how comfortable seating in the afternoon/evening might be at a premium after riding all day.

I am renting a tent and having them set up/break down for me. I figure it’s my first time, I’ll try to make it all as easy on myself as possible. This trip is my big milestone birthday present to myself! πŸ™‚


Michrider !!!, April 21, 2015 at 7:33 am

jljeffers: That video mentioned bringing a folding chair β€” do you recommend that? We have some camp chairs that fold up and fit in covers for storage. I could fit one in my big duffel if I pack carefully. I can see how comfortable seating in the afternoon/evening might be at a premium after riding all day.

PBV provides plastic chairs. I’ve never taken my own chair but I know people who do so! Does that chair take up valuable packing space that might be needed?


jljeffers, April 21, 2015 at 7:36 am

I’ll have to evaluate that later on, when it’s closer to actual packing time, and I have all my stuff laid out and organized. As it stands now, I’m not even sure if we have a halfway decent sleeping bag. I may need to do a little shopping. I’ll consider the chair if I have room for it and won’t need to sacrifice something more important.


Ragbrai Nation, April 21, 2015 at 7:54 am

Start collecting TP rolls that have been used down to the size of a pop can. That way they are inconspicuous in the back of your jersey, as mentioned. Put them in zip loc bags. Figure on a couple of those per person for the week. Ragbrai translation for “KYBO” is porta potty. Knowing that, you will soon learn what a Kornfield KYBO is – ha. I put a few Germ-X Singles sanitizing wipes in my bike bag which I also use to sanitize the tops of canned beverages that are pulled out of ice chests. You can purchase a box of 100 from Amazon. Carry a small 1st aid kit in your bike bag. I had a young lady eating out of my palm bc she came down with a nasty case of road rash, nowhere near a 1st aid station. I was soothing her with spray Bactine, gauze and tape while her boyfriend blended in with the bystanders.


jwsknk, April 21, 2015 at 7:54 am

leave the chair, we always have way too many after the first day’s team meeting. Let the charter deal with theirs. As long as you have a sleeping pad, a light blanket might do the same job, as a plus you can use that as a toga around camp. πŸ™‚


ltyoungster, April 21, 2015 at 8:03 am

I would not recommend a full size camp chair. BUT a backpacking chair was worth the expense and it did not take up much room. I used it every night to sit by my tent. After a full day of riding with 10k people it was nice to have a comfortable place to sit, away from the hustle and bustle.


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