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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. :-)

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

jljeffers, June 5, 2015 at 9:24 am

Mugsy, that sounds like what I was envisioning — I figured it existed somewhere! :-)

Got my new sleeping bag and pad (the old one was over 15 years old and barely inflated at all when unrolled, so I think it’s ready to let go). I’m taking all of your advice into account, thank you. It’s nice that unlike the backpacking trips I’ve taken in the past, I don’t need to think about taking a tent (doing the tent rental thing) or cooking gear, or hauling my gear and water on my back every day!


trek2300, June 5, 2015 at 12:33 pm

In 2012 (RAGABRAI XL) I rode with a gentleman who, for the first two or three nights, decided to pitch a “virtual tent.” Virtual tent=sleeping bag on the ground, nothing else. That is pretty minimalist. Everything worked well until the first drizzle but I can’t remember what night that was. The virtual tent disappeared the rest of the ride.


zabo, June 7, 2015 at 1:06 am

Can’t imagine him not being stepped on in the middle of the night using a virtual tent.

I saw two fellas who brought a Kelty tarp with some tent poles that they used during that sudden storm in Perry two years ago. I thought that they would be drenched between the intense downpour and high winds, but they did fine…better than I did because I neglected to put the fly on when I went to to town. I ran like heck to beat the storm back to my tent, but it was filled with water by the time I got there. Lesson: ALWAYS button down your tent despite the fact that the weather report suggests that there is no chance of rain.

I find some of these posts fascinating in the sense that folks show unlimited creativity, especially when they are on a limited budget or have weight restrictions. I also like to see what equipment works and what doesn’t.


William Mugan, June 7, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Always put the rainfly on :-)


Rob Schafer , June 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm

I wanted a kickstand for my touring bike and ended up with a Click-Stand which works well even when the bike is fully loaded (I use the Max version, there’s a Mini for unloaded bikes.) Takes maybe 30 seconds to deploy/stow and each one is custom-sized based on your frame height. I liked it so much I got a second Max for my MTB tandem.

I’m planning on bringing it along with the touring bike but am going to apply some 3M reflective tape to one of the segments so it’s a little more visible at night.


jljeffers, June 8, 2015 at 9:18 am

Thanks for that, Rob. Looks like a good option.


Timmie Hunter, June 8, 2015 at 10:57 am

I never use a kickstand. I use either rubber bands (cut to size from used inner tubes) or a velcro strap to ‘hold my brake’ for me when I stop. That way I can lean my bike against anything without it rolling away. I slide several of the cut bands over my drop bars then I just streeeeetch one out as needed and hook it around my brake lever so it pulls the brake lever towards the bar. I use velcro straps on my flat bar bikes to do the same thing as they seem to work better for that application. I cut the bands to the correct width (trial and error) to give a good balance between stretch-ability and tension. Weighs next to nothing and who doesn’t have used tubes they can recycle? You’re welcome. 8^)


Stephen Paine, June 8, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I saw a few posts back where Jenbikes said to bring Bag Balm. I agree that it is good stuff but… really have to double or triple baggie that stuff. When it heats up inside your bag during daytime transit, it melts, and I mean a messy, viscous ooze. It’s a really nasty mess if it gets out of whatever you packed it in and all over the stuff in your bag.


lmgoldberg, July 2, 2018 at 12:26 pm

i see camping stoves on some lists. do people bring camping food and cook their meals or get food from vendors and places in town?

– Lee


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