Scott Stoll and touring bicycle pictured in deep snow surrounded by a flock of sheep.
Can you believe that it snows in Africa! Over half a meter in one night. Pictured above is 3 days later after the snow had melted enough that I felt I could risk making the next town. This is at the top of the Drakensburg Mountains in Lesotho. Here there are no snowplows. You just have to wait for the snow to melt. The locals were quite afraid for my safety, but being from Wisconsin it was just another day. Those sheep can't say the same. The snow was so deep they were getting stuck and couldn't flock together for warmth.

The best packing list advice for bicycle tourers

Crossing countries on a bicycle is quite a challenge, but for many bicycle tourers, it’s also a life-changing experience. But you don’t just jump on and start cycling. Bicycle touring is something that requires proper planning and preparation. To improve how we pack and prepare, we have talked with 21 experienced bicycle tourers and asked them to share their best advice. Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 21 bicycle tourers have lots of experience, so they really know what they are talking about!).

Footnote: This article originally appeared as a part of a series on Mightygoods.com titled “21 bicycle tourers share their best packing list advice.” Below Mads interviews Scott about his packing list for his trip around the world on a bicycle.


Where are you from?

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Now I don’t live very far away in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I love bicycle touring because I think of my bicycle as my ticket anywhere. (I traveled the world for four years on a bicycle. 41,444 Kilometers, 59 Countries, 6 Continents and 4 moments of enlightenment.) My bicycle has also proven to be an open invitation to meet people and make instant friends. And, of course, there is the sense of freedom and adventure. In other words, I think of my bicycle as a paintbrush and nothing paints a better picture of the land and its people than riding a bicycle over the canvas of a country and culture.

What are your top tips for other bicycle tourers?

Practically speaking, it’s important to remember that as bicycle tourist, you need more than just a repair kit for flat tires. You will need all the survival basics: food, water, clothing and shelter. And, you’ll need to be prepared for at least three climates: sun, cold and rain.

I could give you lots of tips about what to bring and how to pack; however, you may get bogged down in the details, so my recommendation to make your dream of touring a reality is to simply get out on the road. Believe me, you’ll figure it out real fast! Allow yourself a few weeks to go slow and sort out all the details.

That being said, I would advise two things: 1) spare no expense to buy basic, durable supplies, and 2) buy gear that helps you blend into the local culture and meet people.

For those who need more practically packing list advice, I do have a supply list full of tips on my website.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all bicycle tourers bring?

The best thing I brought was a small sketchbook, markers and watercolor. It actually took me years before I discovered that people valued my talent. Sometimes I would trade a picture for a night’s lodging. And other times at a bar or restaurant, I would draw pictures of people and give them away. One time I had a line out the door and around the corner. Unfortunately, I never even saved one picture for myself.

Another thing I wish I would have learned sooner is to always have a supply of lemons. These might be nature’s best source of electrolytes and help you stay hydrated. Without something like this, you can drink all the water in the world and it won’t soak into your cells; you’ll just end up taking a lot of potty breaks.

My third uncommon item were all the baggy lightweight clothes I would wear. I dressed like a Bedouin in flowing robes to keep the sun off me. I say this is uncommon because most cyclists wear skin-tight clothes that are more aerodynamic but leave the skin exposed to the blistering sun.

And I think the most useless thing I’ve ever seen anyone bring was me and my full-size, regulation chess set. I lugged this thing around for two continents hoping to make new friends playing chess at coffee shops.

The bicycle that went around the world perched on the edge of a scenic cliff in the Drakensburg Mountains, Lesotho, Southern Africa.
This is my beloved bicycle and possible my favorite photograph, which is funny because it really was an afterthought when I summited these tough mountains. Notice all the gear on the back of the bike, including the road tires that needed to be swapped for the knobbies.

How do you bring things with you?

I used the standard Ortlieb panniers and a handlebar bag. Of course, I never felt like had enough room, but if my panniers were any bigger, there’s no doubt I would have filled them to the top despite my aching knees.

As far as organization goes, I did separate things inside plastic bags, especially as my gear started to wear out and water began to leak in. Practically, speaking I liked to put the heavier items on the bottom and towards the front to stabilize the bike. So generally my tools were in the right front pannier, and my stove, filter and bathroom supplies in the left front. My handlebar bag served as my office. I had a backpack (kitchen) full of food strapped to the back on top of my tent. And all the clothes went into the back panniers.

For those who need more practically packing list advice, I do have a supply list full of tips on my website.

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