Two Years In… Packing for a Long-Term Bike Tour – Ryan Wilson

Two Years In… Packing for a Long-Term Bike Tour
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Packing for a trip that spans multiple years can be a bit daunting.  Especially when you’ll be passing through just about every zone of climate you can possibly imagine, from the humidity and heat of the Peruvian jungle to the bitter cold of winter in the mountains of Patagonia…  Dragging the bike up rugged 16,000ft hiking trails, across remote dirt roads, or even the occasional stretch of asphalt. Walking the fine line between having an excessive amount of stuff or too little is a tricky balance.

My setup has been gradually refined since I first started this trip two years ago, and while it’s far from a “minimal” or “ultralight” setup you might take on a trip that spans a few weeks or less, I think I’ve struck a reasonable balance between having everything I need to live and work on the bike in the long-term, while still being a rig that is fun to ride no matter how rough the terrain gets.

As time has gone on, I’ve found that the overall weight doesn’t really matter as much as how everything is packed.  It’s when bags are bouncing around loosely or swaying back and forth where the size and weight really becomes a burden.  When everything is tight and dialed, it’s just another bike.  “How much does it weigh?” is a question I’ve been asked hundreds of times along the way and to be honest, I don’t have a clue.  Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

There are some things on here that would be overkill for many people (large camera, computer, etc), and some things that would be a bit too minimal for others (clothes, sleeping bag, etc), but this is what works for me at the moment…

The Bike:
44 Bikes custom geometry 27.5+ Marauder UTE
SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain
Jones H-Bar Loop
Brooks C17 Cambium saddle
Pass and Stow front rack
Thomson seatpost and stem
Hope flat pedals
Maxxis Chronicles 27.5×3 (EXO/TR)
Velocity Dually rims
Industry 9 rear hub
SON front Dynamo Hub
Paul Klamper brakes
RaceFace Cinch crank w/ 28t chainring
Sinewave Cycles USB charger
Schmidt Edelux II headlamp
Cygolite Hotshot USB re-chargeable taillamp

Sleep System:
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent
Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Mattress
Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30°F/-2°C sleeping bag
Sea-to-Summit Reactor bag liner
Sea-to-Summit Aeros Premium inflatable pillow
Goosefeet down socks

Smartwool lightweight merino LS shirt
Mission Workshop lightweight merino LS shirt
2X Outlier Climber Pants (one to ride in, one for everything else)
Smartwool Merino Boxers
Civic Merino Boxers
Kitsbow Padded Merino Undershorts
Smartwool Longsleeve medium weight shirt (for sleeping)
2X Smartwool medium weight socks
Smartwool heavy weight socks (for sleeping)
Vasque Talus shoes
XeroShoes Amuri Cloud minimalist sandals
North Face Morph Down Hoodie
Arc’teryx Beta LT Hybrid Rain Jacket
Patagonia Houdini Ultralight Jacket
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Ultralight rain pants
Mountain Equipment Randonee Gloves
Wiguam Wool beanie
Sea-to-Summit DryLite Camp towel
Buff Merino wool neck gaiter

Edelrid Hexon Multi-fuel Stove
MSR Fuel Bottle
GSI 1.1L non-stick pot
Small Sea-to-Summit collapsable bowl/cutting board
Humangear fork and spoon
Random Grocery store knife
250ml re-purposed plastic Coke bottle for Olive Oil
Various spices in empty Tic-Tac containers
Small Tupperware for leftovers, marmalade, etc.

Repair Kit:
Mission Workshop/Acre tool pouch
(2X) 27.5+ tubes
(2X) 2oz bottles of Stan’s sealant (or whatever I can find locally)
Tire boots and patch kit
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape (for repairing sleeping bags, air mattress, tents, clothes, etc)
Spare bolts, nuts, and straps
Lezyne Micro Floor Drive High Volume Pump wrapped with spare Gorilla/Duct Tape
Crank Bros multitool
Spare 12 Speed Chain
Spare derailleur cable
Tire Levers
Spare Spokes
(2X) Spare Derailleur Hangers

Water (typically 4-5 liters):

Platypus GravityWorks filter
(3X) Widefoot Designs LiterCages
(2X) 1L Nalgene bottles on fork
1.2L Kleen Kanteen under downtube
1L Bottle in Stem Bag (as needed)
0.7L Kleen Kanteen mounted to seat stay

(Extra as needed – for 18 liters in total):
3L Platypus bladder in frame bag
2L Platypus bladder in the F-Stop bag
2L bottle strapped between front rack and head tube
(2X) 1L bottles strapped to side of Mr. Fusion
(2X) 1L bottles strapped to the tops of panniers
3L bottle strapped to top of Jones bars (desperation mode)

12” 2016 MacBook in Sea-to-Summit dry bag
(3X) External SSD drives
Sony A7R mk2 w/24-70 f2.8 lens
Sony RX1 mk1 (when I would prefer to be more discrete)
iPhone 6s w/GAIA GPS
Anker PowerCore II 20100mah power bank
Garmin InReach Mini satellite communicator
Black Diamond Iota headlamp
MeFoto Backpacker Air tripod
A few thousand random batteries, cables, memory cards, chargers, adapters, and camera cleaning tools

Sea-to-Summit Passport Wallet
(6X) Voile and Black Diamond ski straps
Wash kit
Notepad w/Pen
Bell cable bike lock
Basic First Aid Kit

How Is Everything Packed?

Porcelain Rocket 52Hz Waterproof frame bag:  This is where I keep my repair and first aid kits, air mattress, water filter, large water bladder, spare tubes, tent poles, and rain fly.  There are also typically a few “emergency” ramen noodle packs I’ve been carrying for years at this point, just in case.

Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion seat pack:  Here I keep most of my sleeping gear.  The sleeping bag, thick wool socks, sleep shirt, and down socks go in a Sea-to-Summit compression sack.  The bag liner (a new addition for Patagonian winter) and inflatable pillow also fit in here, and there is a ton of extra room for supplies if it’s going to be a long stretch without re-stocking points.   I’ve also got my tripod strapped to the bottom of the Mr. Fusion rails and a fanny pack wrapped around the dry-bag for extra food space as needed (aka peanut butter storage).

Many people would find a 30°F sleeping bag to be not warm enough for the Andes given that it drops below that almost every night while camping at altitude (and occasionally significantly lower), but I don’t mind layering up clothes to sleep for those nights where the temps plummet.

While a traditional Carradice-style saddle bag has benefits when it comes to accessibility, this setup keeps the rear end slim and stable, which is crucial for hike-a-bikes… Something that is required on a nearly daily basis if you’re trying to access an out-of-the-way area to setup camp.

F-Stop Kenti Camera Backpack (mounted to front rack):  This is mostly made up of electronic gear.  Laptop, cameras, hard drives, cables, adapters, etc.  It being a backpack makes it easy to take off and bring with me if I’m going into a store or restaurant, rather than having to leave everything mounted to the bike.   I can also wear the bag on my back for technical hike-a-bikes, which makes the bike significantly easier to carry.  My down jacket lives here and the roll-top is expandable to carry additional supplies when needed.

This was the most questionable part of my setup before I started this trip, but it has worked out surprisingly well.   The weight being well distributed between the straps on the Jones Bars and the top of the rack is absolutely crucial here, as a bag this heavy would destroy the handling if all of the weight was on the rack.

Porcelain Rocket DSLR Slinger Stem Bag:  This thing has been through the ringer over the years and is still a favorite.  I don’t use it for a camera at all.  Instead, I find It’s good for snacks along with hauling larger and more sensitive items that you don’t want to smash into a pannier like fruit, vegetables, bread, hard boiled eggs, etc.

Choike Jumbo Stem Bag:  The use of this depends on where I’m at.  In areas that lack water re-supply points I’ll keep a liter bottle in here along with my wind breaker and whatever else I can stuff in there.  If I’m in a place like southern Chile, where water is readily available, I’ll swap the bottle for my thick gloves, wool hat, and anything else I may want readily-available.

RandiJo Fab Jeff N Joans bag:  This is where I keep my rain jacket and rain pants along with some small camera accessories. I’ll also stash my phone in here while I’m riding so I can easily charge it using the Sinewave Cycles Dynamo USB port.

Revelate Designs top tube bags:  Here I keep a basic bike lock, Leatherman, multitool, chain lube, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and any other small object I may need on a regular basis.

Ortlieb Sport Roller Classic Panniers:  These are used for cooking supplies, the stove, food that has to be cooked, the inner-mesh portion of the tent, wash kit, and clothes in a Sea-to-Summit organizer.

Any questions or suggestions?  Let me know in the comments below!


Follow Ryan on Instagram and at his Tumblr.

  • M.R.

    Thanks for the details, Ryan.

  • Andrew Mc

    Thank you for taking the time to document this, Ryan.

    It has been a privilege to follow along on your amazing journey.

  • YaanG

    Aft of the headset, I’m counting seven different bags lashed on to the frame in various ways. Wouldn’t a couple of big panniers be a lot more convenient to pack/unpack?

    • Not for on the bike accessibility. Panniers are great but it’s an ordeal to get stuff out. If anyone has this system dialed it’s Ryan!

    • It depends on the type of trip you’re doing I think. For mostly paved roads, big panniers are fine. But if you’ve ever pushed a bike up a trail with large panniers on the back, you know how much it sucks!!

      There’s also less rattling around with this type of setup on rough roads. I tend to think pannier clamps are probably the weak link in my setup in general.

  • AnzaBags

    Wow! So dialed. I’ve been super curious to what you take with you on this trip. Now I know. Thanks

  • Andrew Burton

    where do you keep your mom’s credit card?

    • Just because Ryan planned for this trip – after working his ass off for years – and is working down there for this website in the form of submitting gallery and you’re jealous doesn’t mean you’ve gotta project your jealousy on him. Some people live like nomads and others are slaves to their belongings. Projecting much?

      • Andrew Burton

        he’s sure got a lot of belongings for a nomad

        • auton0my

          Obvious troll is obvious.

    • mark rothschild

      ….in your Panties

      • Andrew Burton

        are you attempting to insult me, the author, or his mom? very unclear. not unclear: your misogyny.

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    My feedbag always ends up full to the brim with fruit and veggies too, I knew I wasn’t the only one to figure out that is their ideal use.

  • mark rothschild

    “BAD…to Duh BONE”…..Thanks!

  • justwastedspace

    Ryan, this is a truly amazing resource.

    For anyone, including myself, who is interested in learning more about touring by bike, it’s awesome to see this exhaustive list from someone who is not only touring by bike, but *living* by bike.

    Thank you for sharing, and for the time you took to put this together.

  • Emory Hancock

    I’d love to know how many wear items you’ve killed on this thing in the last two years. Tires, chains, cassettes, chainrings, grips etc. I’ve known guys who can kill ESI grips in a single ride.

    • I’ve shipped Ryan one care package in two years: tires, chain, derailleur, cassette, plus a new rainfly, and merino shirts.

      • I can add that I’ve shipped him at least 2 care packages in addition to this with tires, chain, chainrings, cassette and assorted parts. Good stuff Ryan! Super dialed kit.

  • Andris Putniņš

    Looking at the roads and offroads you are scaling, what made decision in favor for Sram XO1 instead of closed system like Rohloff?

    • Originally for familiarity, so I can service it, etc. However, this is something I’ll revisit later if only because with a Rohloff you can carry spare cogs instead of having to have cassettes shipped down.

  • Gus

    After humans complete nuclear self-destruction the only remaining evidence of our technological mastery will be G3/Voile ski straps

    Such a cool inventory, interesting to see what has survived 2 years of refining your set up. Thanks Ryan.

    • David Vandenberg

      The straps are almost a necessity. However, I’ve picked one up off the side of the road before and just today I spied another (but decided not to bother with it). Someone either lost a pair or two of skies out here in Wyoming or a bike or two.

  • Rod Kimble

    After the last photoset a coupke of weeks ago I was re-reading the original post about your bike setup. It’s cool to see how little seems to have changed despite the milage you’ve put in! Definitely a testament to the quality of the stuff you chose.

    Have you had to do many field repairs on your equipment? Also curious why you opted for a battery rear light and not dynamo? Thanks!

    • I went for the battery rear light just to simplify the setup. I don’t use it much as i avoid roads with traffic at night around here like the plague. This light holds a really good charge and is bright too, so I’ve only plugged it in once every 2 months or so!

  • Any guess of what this all weighs?

  • IronMac

    Thank you for showing us this great setup! May I ask what fork you are using? Thanks.

    • Custom 44mm tapered unicrown fork made specific for Ryan’s Marauder UTE frame with internal option for front dynamo hub routing, low rider mounts/Pass and Stow Rack mounts, Salsa Anything Mounts clocked at about 4 and 7 o’clock towards the rider to make room for panniers, 15mm TA and disk brake. Plenty of clearance for 3″ tire. All pretty standard fair for this type of bike. I believe that’s all the options that were on this one!

      • IronMac

        Oooooo….thank you!

      • Hi @kristoferhenry:disqus, what tubing did you use for this custom frame?

        • Ryan’s Marauder UTE and matching unicrown fork were a mix True Temper tube profiles. However, since TT exited the tubing market, I’ve switched over to Vari-Wall which is some of the nicest US made steel tubing I’ve had the pleasure to work with. So any present/future bikes made from steel is sporting Vari-Wall THERMLX.

  • Harry

    Beausage overload!

  • Chris Andrews

    That seems like an incredible amount of water – what’s the longest stretch you’ve been away from civilization?

    • Man, the Atacama is no joke. It’s very much like Death Valley. Little water, and most of it is contaminated. People in cars run out of water there!

    • 10 days was the longest away from civilization. Though there was water every few days there. Longest without water has been 4 days. The general rule of thumb being 5L per day to drink/cook means even with 18L you’ve got to stretch it a bit!

  • M.R.

    The bike and setup is nice, but what I’m really impressed with is the whole “TWO YEARS IN” part.

  • Brett Rothmeyer

    love that the a7r2 is still going strong, I always look forward to Ryan’s post, the work is beautiful.

    • Just barely. I have to shoot in silent mode now because the shutter motor is going bad!

      • Brett Rothmeyer

        Ahhh, bummer. If you have the Sony Pro Support they are pretty good about getting things working again. My friend got his sensor, lcd screen and something else all replaced on his a7s2 for like $500

        • Yeah, it’s tricky down here. Shipping and customs fees back and forth plus downtime probably would cost more money than getting a new camera. That’s one of the reasons I picked up the used RX1. Something I could get by with for a while if my A7R2 died.

          I also think I’m not eligible for Sony Pro Support. I want to say you have to own a couple camera bodies and a few lenses. I’ve only got the 24-70 left after selling all the rest.

          Maybe once the A7R5 comes out I’ll pick up the A7R3 so I don’t have to pack 6 batteries ;)

  • Charlie D

    “A few thousand random batteries, cables, memory cards, chargers, adapters, and camera cleaning tools” :-)

  • This is great. A real insight to life by bicycle. Thank you.

  • Chuck Baldree

    Fantastic setup, what do you have attached to the collar on the seatpost?

    • That’s the Porcelain Rocket saddle pack support bracket.

  • cooken

    How long does a pair of merino boxers last you? I can tear a pair to pieces in a week of touring.

    • Yeah, not very long unfortunately. Though I recently picked up a pair of the Civics and they seem to be more durable than the others I’ve used based on my first month riding with them.

      • Geoffrey

        ExOfficio Give-n-Go boxers are the shiznit. last long long time and don’t stink with use really.

    • Mirosan

      Just a thought, I’ve had merino fall apart issues in the past but then I had a thought. Merino and wool is just fabric made of hair. Sheep hair but hair never the less. Like human hair merino sheep have greasy stuff naturally secreted on it. Once we harvest , spin, weave and so on that greasing stops. Worse, we wash it out! If you think back to human hair if we dont use a conditioner on it it also gets brittle, splits and breaks easily…. bingo, wash as usual but add conditioner into the rinse. No probs ever since. Your milage……should improve too.

  • Marrrrk

    This is fantastic, I had no idea all these post have been from one continuous trip. Few Questions…
    Are you traveling alone? How do you pass the time? either on the bike or in the evenings… Reading, podcasts, stargazing?

    • I’ve been solo for the majority, but was riding with people for a few months. It’s winter down here now, so there aren’t too many cyclists around.

      As for passing time, it depends… there are definitely days when I need some music to keep me going while riding. Usually I put on podcasts at night. I don’t often feel like I’ve got a ton of spare time though. In the morning it’s cooking, packing everything up, riding most of the day, then setup the tent and all that goes with it, cook, and I’m pretty much dead at that point.

      When I get to towns and plan to stay in a hotel for a day or two, there’s the usual routine of trying to wash clothes, decide on the next route, figuring out where re-supply points are, getting supplies, etc. Then I try to squeeze in some photo editing and writing for the site when I find some internet!

  • eric

    That cambium looks like its ready for its inevitable nose tear. Have you replaced the cover yet? Still one of the best seat going IMO.

    • Haven’t replaced the cover. It doesn’t seem like the rubber is damaged so I wasn’t too worried about. I guess this flexier cut-out version is probably more prone to this kind of thing, but as long as it’s just aesthetic it’s no big deal to me.

  • Ian Connelly

    so impressed, so jealous. thanks for sharing this gear review and your amazing photos of your journey(s).

  • hoffsta

    Amazing trip! Thanks for sharing your adventure with those of stuck at work 50 weeks a year. How many miles do you generally put in daily or weekly? I’m sure its dependent on the terrain.

    • Definitely varies dramatically. Altitude is probably the biggest factor, then climbing/descending ratio, grade, road/trail quality, but also weather and how much daylight there is. It was probably most consistent (and slowest) in Perú, where it’s just a nonstop climb/descend pattern from around 10k feet to 15-16k feet and back and you could always count on the storms rolling in at around 4pm. There, 50-60km feels like a pretty big day. 40km or so is more typical. In general I’d say if I’m doing more than 80km in a day it’s probably a boring stretch (to me), and I try to avoid those, even if it means taking a route that’s way out of the way.

      I aim to take at least 1 or 2 days off the bike per week, which I find helps me enjoy the actually riding more and let’s me check out towns or do some hiking, research other places to check out, etc. I had a stretch of around 18 days in a row without a day off, riding basically all-day, and that can get a bit grind-y.

  • Seriously, gear companies should be lining up on sponsoring your tour for 5 more years :p
    You’re more useful to them than they are to you for extended testing as well as free publicity.
    Some of my gear purchases are influenced by your long-term reviews.

  • I love how dialled setups get over multiple years of travel. My gear list is super similar to yours, although I go a bit more heavy duty with my tent and mat, and cook with a 2.5L ti pot.

  • White Mike

    Thanks for sharing.