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Packing list

First timer, hope I get selected in the lottery. The question I have is how much stuff to bring. I don’t want to over pack, or under pack. Granted if I under pack, I just buy stuff I need along the way. Obviously the camping gear, I have that down, and hygiene items. But jersey and shorts? How many sets? I am thinking two, wear one, and wash the other and let it dry. Next day swap. Used to week long backpacking trips where this is what I do. Gloves, rain gear, other? What about clothes for overnight towns, a bunch or just bare minimal? What are common things people forget to bring. Water bottles, sunscreen and Desitin are must.

15 Replies

Mike Murphy, April 11, 2021 at 9:21 pm

I have a checklist I use and have tried to download it here and can’t. If you have an email i can send it to you. It’s an excel file


Jboz, April 12, 2021 at 8:00 am

You are correct about buying stuff as-needed along the way. I didn’t fully understand this on my first two RAGBRAIs, and way overpacked. Things like sunblock (you go through a lot of it), I needed to bring some but not 2 huge Costco sized bottles. More recently, I grabbed enough for the first couple of days, then replenished at Casey’s. Another thing I figured out is I didn’t need separate containers of body soap and shampoo. I go with a small container of the all purpose shampoo & soap which can also be used to wash out your clothes. After a few days I was running low and picked up another small bottle at a HyVee. You could also get by with a single bar of soap for everything. Shaving is another area many people skip entirely and just go scruffy for the week. First year I packed extra batteries for my flashlight and my rear blinkies. Never needed them, and they were plentiful along the route. And a travel size toothpaste can probably get you through the entire week, so no need to pack the big toothpaste. There was not one thing on the first RAGBRAI that I thought “wow, I really wished I had packed ____.” But tons of things I didn’t need or use. All the little things start to add up. Travel light, less weight and less stuff to worry about. Rule of thumb for me, if I can buy it at Caseys or HyVee, I really question the need to pack more than a day or two supply. Clothes for overnight towns was another area to cut. I always buy at least one RAGBRAI tee-shirt from a vendor, so why pack 2 or 3 from home? One pair of cargo shorts and the tee shirt I travel in for off-the-bike fun. One light rain jacket only if the forecast indicates cool and damp conditions. I also bring a pair of nicer waterproof sandals that I can wear around town, going to the kybo, and even in the showers. This eliminates the need for multiple pairs of shoes.


bmyoungberg, April 12, 2021 at 6:19 pm

The only problem with washing clothes is that if they do not dry enough by morning, they go in your travel bag wet and will be hot all day so might be a bit stinky anyway. I have washed bibs and jerseys, but now have enough to bring a clean set for each day. Just my preference to not deal with washing any clothes which I often did in the shower. I have a dirty clothes bag. Otherwise, keep it simple for the evening and sleep stuff. Also, I use various waterproof bags from Amazon to hold everything in case it rains while your bag is sitting out waiting for you to pick it up. I highly recommend just using the free truck service. Works great and saves $$. Have fun.

This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by bmyoungberg.


KenH, April 13, 2021 at 9:24 am

Your packing list will in part be driven by how you are doing the week. If you are going with a charter or the RAGBRAI truck then they will have rules that you need to comply with in terms of the number of bags and the weight of your gear. For example the RAGBRAI truck limits you to one bag of no more than 50 pounds:

Although each rider is allowed one large, soft texture bag, you may bundle or strap together a tent, sleeping bag or duffel bag and count it as one. We cannot accept wood or hard plastic luggage or bike cases. Bags should weigh no more than 50 pounds. A scale will be on-hand to weigh over-weight bags.

Other charters will often allow two bags and more weight but check with them for their exact rules. Teams can be anywhere on this issue. My team of up to five people travels in my motorhome and we have no bag or weight limit. Everything has to fit in the motorhome, somehow, and leave enough room for everyone to sleep. So far I have not had an issue and have not needed to impose any restrictions.

Once you have your bag number and weight limits you can start your packing list. Gather everything you think you want to take and try stuffing it in your bag(s). Does it fit? Does it meet the weight limits? If the answer to both is yes then you are done and you could even consider adding a little more. If either answer is no then you have to make cuts, or if your bike allows, consider carrying some of it on your bike. Once you think you have it all squared away wait for a nice hot day, brutally hot if possible, and then try carrying your fully loaded bags around the block a couple of times. If that goes well then you are ready, if not then you might want to make some cuts!

When I go in the motorhome I just take all the clothes my wife thinks that I need to take. Way, way too many in other words but it keeps peace in the house and like I say the MH has so far had all the room we have needed so no reason to skimp.

The one year I went alone with a charter group they had a two bag, no weight limit. I took a change of riding clothes for every day and a change of evening clothes for every day. I had riding shoes and normal shoes, toiletries, and camping gear. It came to 75 pounds total between two bags. I’d say that was too much, some nights it was a real chore to schlep all that from the charter truck to an open spot in the campground. And then do it in reverse the next morning. I would pare it down a little if I ever do that again. I was probably close to 50 pounds in one bag and 25 in the other. I would also work to balance that better next time. I don’t recall why I didn’t/couldn’t do that on the fly during the week but I know that I didn’t.

You will have dampness to deal with. Your towels may not dry out overnight. You will probably have to put your tent away even though it is soaked in dew. Your bags could get rained on before you get to them. Keep your clean clothes in large plastic ziploc bags. Keep anything else you want to protect from dampness in ziploc bags.

This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by KenH.


W0ODS, April 13, 2021 at 8:49 pm

I roll as a bagger and generally pack like Jboz. Exceptions: 2 pairs of cargo shorts, at least 1 long-sleeved tee, and I always bring my unlined rain jacket. It’s chilly in the mornings. As a bagger, it doesn’t take up much room in the panniers. When the nights are cold, I wear literally everything, including the $3 Dollar General blow-up air mattress.

You can dress up or dress down for towns at night. I do an old Ragbrai t-shirt from prior rides and the aforementioned cargo shorts. Teva sandals and a devil-may-care grin round out the outfit.

2 pairs of biking shorts have been adequate. Unless it’s a rainy day, they dry out on the bike rack during the day. For laundry, Pink Zote soap is the ticket. I get mine at Wal-mart and cut off a piece about the size of a hotel soap bar. It goes in a ziploc baggie for the week. Best part about Zote is it leaves your laundry actually smelling good. Fair warning: you may be mistaken for a 1-day’er or local.

If you treat it like a week-long hiking trip, you’ll be in fine company.


A credit card packs awfully small.


Matt, April 13, 2021 at 9:35 pm

This list has worked out really well for us. It may help you get started. It’s amazing what you’ll forget if you don’t right it down. Forgot my helmet for the Bacoon ride one year. Forgot my bike shoes on a local ride once. We take a set of riding clothes for each day and it hasn’t added much weight. We pack minimal evening clothes. For sure spare tubes and tools and the sunscreen. Otherwise just focus on the absolute needs and you’ll make it to the end just fine.

Bicycle, Helmet, Bike shorts, Bike shirts, Bike socks, Bike shoes, Bike gloves, Bandana/beanie, Water bottles, Tire/bike tools and innertubes, Electrolyte tabs (i.e. Nunn), Chamois butt’r, Rain jacket/poncho, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Insect repellent, Ibuprofen, Cash and C-card, Health card and ID, Phone, Phone charger-wall, Portable battery pack and cords, Hand sanitizer, Face mask 2021, Walking shoes, Flip-flops for the showers, Underwear, Evening clothes (2-3 changes), Light jacket, Tent and stakes, Hammer, Ground tarp for under tent, Mini-tent broom, Flashlight, Light/fan for tent, Extra batteries, Sleeping pad/bag, Sheets, Pillow, Ear plugs, Net bag for shower/toiletries, Towel (quick dry), Garbage bags for gear if it rains, Dirty clothes bag(s), Ziplock bags, Wash cloth, Shampoo, Body wash, Comb/brush, Deodorant, Toothbrush/Toothpaste, Lotion (after sun)


Sandaltan ., April 14, 2021 at 7:53 am

Sleep mask, that pole you pitched your tent next to so that you could lean your bike on the pole may be a zillion lumen street light. Pinch light, the Kybo has no light switch. Toilet paper or paper towel in a sandwich bag tucked into a jersey pocket, that Kybe may be out of paper and that corn field surely is out of paper. Ear plugs, campground are noisy. Cash, everybody likes cash.




gas gas, April 14, 2021 at 5:43 pm

Bring a car chamois cloth instead of a towel for after shower use . Think Sham Wow . Packs smaller and unlike a cloth towel you do not have to make sure it dries over night .


czysk, April 14, 2021 at 6:14 pm

Sandaltan I have slept under that street light on several occasions. The one positive is packing up at 5:00 AM


Rob Fuller, April 14, 2021 at 9:18 pm

I second this recommendation.


Rob Fuller, April 14, 2021 at 9:20 pm

A small lightweight knap sack is helpful getting to and from the showers if on bike not walking


Jboz, April 16, 2021 at 12:05 pm

One other point – your packing list could dramatically change based on the forecast going into the week. I typically have my essentials sorted, packed and ready to go. But clothing, especially rain gear and warmer stuff I will hold off on till the last minute. If the forecast shows little to no rain and pretty warm, I just power through it and don’t really see the need for rain gear. My jersey gets soaked anyway from the sweat. I only pack a rain jacket (no rain pants) if the forecast shows a fair amount of rain and cooler temps.


ppayne1959, April 20, 2021 at 3:11 pm

I like to bring a small batter operated fan. Many nights the tent can be HOT so it creates a nice breeze and doubles as a sound machine. Cheap, light. effective.


Joe Chavis, April 21, 2021 at 8:59 am

All good advice from the ‘done it before’ crowd. However, if you only bring 2 bibs or shorts, ya gonna be smelly. If that’s ok with you, it’ll be ok with most everybody else. May just let you ease on by or ride away from you if possible.

I bring a bib and jersey for each day (7) with a pair of socks for each kit, neatly packed each in an individual (7) zip lock bags (big uns) with all the air evacuated. Not much space required for that, then put the kit back into the zip lock and re-seal after the ride … no wet no mess no smell.

At least 1 light rideable jacket, 1or2 pair of shorts for evening wear, and 1 long legged light thin pair of(usually) wrinkled up pants. At least 2 evening wear T-shirts .I bring one towel (hopeful that I will use it) and most often only use a ‘swimmers’ sham… water absorbent thingy for a towel. Usually I take the towel back unused.

This reply was modified 3 years ago by Joe Chavis.


KenH, April 21, 2021 at 2:50 pm

I rode in the rain one day without a rain jacket which I had along but left in the team SAG vehicle. I will never do that again! No matter what the week’s weather is generally or how warm it may seem on a day when rain is expected or even occurring when you set out it will often turn chilly during a rainstorm and if you are rain soaked you can get quite cold and surprisingly fast. It was nice and warm that morning and the rain seemed little more than annoying. We stopped for breakfast and then had to retreat to a HS when lightning started. After it blew past I was feeling a little chilled but many people were curled up in balls on the gym floor, shivering with hypothermia. I set out figuring that the exertion would warm me back up and it did, eventually. The wind had picked up however which made my rain soaked jersey an even more effective refrigerator. After about a mile I was shivering so badly I almost could not steer the bike and stay upright. After another 3 to 5 miles my internal heat engine had caught up and I was feeling good except for having to pedal into that blasted headwind!

But some of those in the gym were there for quite a while and some SAGed the rest of the day. It is worth carrying a light rain jacket if rain is expected.


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