My Gear for Cycling Across the USA
I’ve cycled across the USA twice now in the summers of 2013 and 2014, and I can say without a doubt that cycling across the country is absolutely one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling ways that I’ve ever spent my time. I really encourage anyone who’s interested and excited for a long bike trip to go for it. To help out, I’ve written this gear list for The Goodfluence Tour, which was my second bike ride across the United States.
It’s important to take note that I’m not your typical cyclist and I don’t really carry standard possessions. I don’t have cycling clothing for example. I don’t take any energy bars or drinks. I don’t pay for places to sleep, and I don’t have clip in pedals either. My trips absolutely don’t involve support vehicles. I respect every person who has the guts and determination to cycle across the country, and I’m just pointing these things out so that you know what kind of advice you’re going to get from me. Also to note, my gear is much heavier than many cross country cyclists who stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, and buy energy bars and drinks.
My bike rides are campaigns of sorts to inspire people to be good to the earth, to each other, and to live with more happiness, health, and freedom. Of course, they are for my personal enjoyment too, but it’s really about using the bike tour as a means to affect positive change. My aim is to live a very environmentally friendly life and to tread lightly. This you will see in my gear list. This is a fairly bare-bones packing list with mostly only the necessities. I have certainly traveled with a lot less, though. I categorized my gear primarily in categories of meeting the five key aspects of sustainability- food, water, energy, waste, and transportation. I always aim to leave a minimal impact on the earth and the places I visit, so when I am packing gear my mind is highly focused on what I need to accomplish this.
I started the trip with 2 pairs of panniers, one set on the front, and one on the back. Here’s my gear shortly before leaving from San Diego.
Here I am a few days into the trip, taking a mid-day break and eating lunch. My gear can be seen here.
And, here I am just a few days later on a 100-degree, day crossing some dunes in Eastern California. This photo shows how loaded my bike was.
A short way into the trip realized I had way more stuff than I actually needed, so I sent stuff home a few times throughout the trip. By the time I reached Western Texas, I was down to just the rear panniers, and I had probably cut my gear by about a third. I’ve found that I typically don’t need that many possessions.
Now on to the gear list:
Food, Water, and Zero Waste
-Plate, bowl, and utensils to eat zero waste
-Reusable grocery bag and neat-os to shop zero waste
-Stainless steel canister for carrying prepared food and leftovers (Klean Kanteen)
-A few jars to store food (especially peanut butter and honey!)
-Water filter to purify water from natural sources and from the tap if needed. On this trip I used the Sawyer MINI water filter, which is one of the smallest out there, as well as one of the most economical and long lasting. It’s one of the best purifiers for outdoor use in my opinion but is not for filtering chemicals from tap water. I also recommend the Grayl water purifier bottle.
-Stainless steel water bottle to never purchase bottled water (Klean Kanteen)
-Dromedary water bag to store at least a gallon of water. This is especially needed for crossing deserts.
-Compost bag to carry my food scraps until I could compost them or bury them in the woods.
-Recycling bag to carry my recycling until I could find a recycling bin.
See my near-zero-waste lifestyle to learn more about living near zero waste.
Energy and Technology
-Solar panel for charging cellphone and small gadgets. I used a Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel on this trip.
-Bike headlight and taillight
–Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp
-Cell phone, headphones, protective case, USB chord, wall plug, tripod, mount to attach phone to handle bars
I also recommend a Hub Dynamo to generate electricity when you peddle.
-Bamboo bicycle. My bike is a Bamboosero, which is a company owned by Craig Calfee of Calfee Design. I put on flat Ergon PC2 pedals to ride barefoot. I loved my bamboo bike, but I would really recommend a Surly Long Haul Trucker for an ultimate touring bike. Most bikes can make it across the country though. You can get a really solid bike used on Craigslist for around $300 that can take you all around the country. My bamboo bike is now a community bike for others to ride across the United States!
-Bike rack and panniers to carry gear
-Small hand pump
-Mr. Tuffy tire liners to protect against flat tires
-Spare inner tubes
-Patches for inner tubes. Less waste by patching than buying new ones each time I get a flat!
-Lock, although I never really used this
I would recommend doing further research into what spare parts and tools you might want to carry. I carry a minimal amount but if you really want to assure not breaking down and getting stuck then I’d recommend carrying more than I list here.
Hygiene and Laundry
–Bamboo toothbrush It has great reviews but sadly was too rough on my teeth, so I’ve gone to compostable toothbrushes for now.
-Jason Powersmile toothpaste. This is my absolute favorite and one of the few things I never want to go without.
–Dr. Bronners organic soap
-Essential oils- lavender and tea tree oil are my must-haves
–Scrubba wash bag to do laundry without a washing machine
-Laundry ball to do laundry without detergent. Another alternative is soap nuts.
-Sunscreen- A very natural sunscreen although I honestly rarely used it.
-Quick dry towel, which I rarely used. I tend to air dry.
-Quick dry hand towel which I also rarely used.
–Hempy Scrubby wash cloth
See my natural personal hygiene for more information.
I wear mostly all Patagonia clothes as they are one of the most environmentally friendly and ethically sound clothing companies that I know of.
2 light jackets
1 pair of pants
1 pair of spandex shorts
1 pair of athletic shorts
1 pair of padded bike underwear
1 pair of socks
2 hats, one ball cap and one full brimmed sun hat
2 other shirts
-$2,000 cash, no credit or debit card or checks.
-Drivers license for identification.
-Notebook and pen
–Car2go card to use in cities with this car share program.
–Ukulele, which I never used and ended up sending home.
-Seeds to Freestyle Garden and give my support to the honeybees
-Small hand shovel for planting veggies
-Necklace and a bracelet
-Dry bags to keep gear dry and protected
-Straps to strap gear to bike rack
So that’s my packing list. It’s probably not going to be exactly what you need, but I hope this does you some good. This list really is for people who want to cycle across the country living a very low-impact lifestyle while having a positive impact on society. As of early 2016, I now have just 111 possessions to my name which I have laid out in great detail at All My 111 Possessions. I highly recommend giving that a read. My book, Dude Making a Difference, is all about my first bike ride across the USA and is a great resource as well. Also see How To Travel the USA for Free (without mooching), How and Where to Sleep for Free, and How to Create An Environmental Activism Campaign if you are interested in doing a trip similar to mine!
Enjoy the ride!