I wanted to write a post about packing, but in reality, I suck at packing. Getting my bag together takes me days and lots of fretting. But following the helpful advice of others made getting ready each morning (I woke up at 4:00 a.m. every day) so much easier, even though my bag looked liked a bomb hit it at the end. So, instead, I refer you to the experts.
I recommend you read these articles before you start getting everything together. That will help you avoid buying the wrong things or buying too much.
- WHAT to bring: So, as to what to bring, the AIDS/LifeCycle website also has a packing list and tips on what to bring on the ride.
- HOW to bring it: As to how to bring it, read last year’s blog post about packing (reposted from the smugmug packing clinic) — follow the link to the very useful slideshow showing packing steps.
- TIPS to make it easy: This year our guest blogger is Terri Meier of the South Bay Awesome Ahead with her most excellent list of packing tips (follow the link for the text document, reproduced below). (I add a couple extra tips, below.)
In addition to the packing list and information provided on the AIDS/LifeCycle I put together some tips that focused on little things that made my ride easier or more enjoyable. Most of my tips were picked up from other people, so I can’t claim to have thought them up, but I have tried them out and found them helpful. An invaluable resource is the illustrated packing guide [same packing guide I used] created by So Cal TRL Chris Eisenberg.
- You are bound to need something that you didn’t pack so stop worrying about it. You’ll be amazed by the kindness of strangers and your own ingenuity. If those don’t work, bust out the credit card.
- Zip ties work well for securing things to your helmet, and when all else fails duct tape will hold a seam together or hold up a hem.
- Even if you aren’t a regular journalizer, bring a small notepad and pen to jot down your experiences and impressions or capture the contact info of a new friend. Using your mobile electronics on the ride may not be a viable option, so it’s good to have an old-school backup.
- While you won’t need to carry your whole wallet with you, it’s a good idea to carry a few essentials: ID, Credit or Debit card, Medical Insurance ID, and cash for “treats” like artichokes, cinnamon rolls, etc. I always carry mine on my person, in case I’m separated from my bike.
- A small stash of first aid supplies can save you a lot of time and hassle, as well as save the ride some money. I bring plenty of ibuprofen, some Benedryl (good for allergies and as a sleep aid), band-aids, anti-bacterial ointment, eye drops, and a few doses of other over the counter remedies.
- Identify your small valuable items, like cameras and cell phones with your name, participant # and a contact phone #. I used a fine tip permanent marker on scotch tape and put it on my camera batteries, and phone battery.
- Resist the urge to overpack — but there are a few “spare” items you may want to bring, like sunglasses, gloves, lip balm, and for me, my rear-view mirror.
- While Gatorade and snacks are available at rest stops, if you have been using specific endurance or recovery nutrition, you’ll need to bring your own supply.
- You don’t need to bring a lot of “camp-clothes,” but make sure what you bring is layer-able. It can easily be 90 degrees when you get into camp, and 55 degrees by the time you finish dinner. Count on it being windy too.
- Pack plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen. You’ll want to apply liberally and often while riding. But you may want to also bring moisturizer and lip balm WITHOUT sunscreen to help soothe and heal the windburn after the sun starts to set.
- A tote bag of some sort (I use a string bag so I can wear it like a backpack) is incredibly helpful in camp. You’ll be amazed at the distance between the tents, and the showers, and nothing ever seems to be laid out in a logical way. The fewer things you have to keep track of, and the fewer trips you make back and forth to the tent, the better.
- Pack as many “Thank You”s as you can manage. Luckily, they don’t take up much room. Hand them out liberally. Just like one crappy hill can ruin your day, one crappy rider can ruin a roadie’s. I’m not saying you need to fawn, just do your best to appreciate the efforts of others, because most of them are working hard to make your day fabulous.
- Many duffels look alike, help yours stand out in the pile outside the gear truck by adorning it with something colorful both on the top, and on the end – bags get stacked, so you may not see your marker on the top. For the safety of our roadies, please make sure that it isn’t something that will get snagged, can break, or may have sharp edges. Pompoms are always nice.
- It’s really worth it to bring something to hang outside your tent (using binder clips) to help identify it. One year I had collapsing paper lanterns, but flags and other kinds of decorations work well. Just keep in mind that most camps are windy in the afternoon/evening. Big Lots or dollar stores are great sources.
- OK, so this isn’t exactly a packing tip, it’s more of a camp life tip. I found that my glasses got amazingly grubby during the day by way of numerous applications of sun screen, sweat, road grit, etc., so I wore them into the shower where I could use hot water and soap to get them good and clean.
- If you like your cold beverages cold or hot beverages hot, consider bringing an insulated container for use in camp. I’m not picky about my water, so I just used my bike bottle in camp, but the insulated coffee cup ensured that my “not really coffee” was at least hot. Bonus tip – Put some hot water in your insulated coffee cup to pre-heat it, then dump it just before adding your coffee or tea.
- I tested out my sleeping bag, pad and travel pillow by sleeping one night on the floor. I learned a lot.
- Choose your “camp shoes” carefully. Open backs so they are easy to slip on and off for midnight porta-potty runs, and closed toes to protect from uneven ground, wet grass, and a million toe-stubbing opportunities. Pack them so they are immediately accessible when you pick up your bag, and put them on right away. Traipsing through camp in bike shoes is a pain.
- A great way to stay organized is to pre-determine each day’s riding clothes, and pack them in a 2gal zip lock. The less thinking you have to do each day, the better. You can squeeze the air out of each bag so it packs down smaller, and by putting your worn clothes back into a zip lock bag, it prevents cross funk-ination.
- Your tent makes a great clothes line for drying your towel and anything you decide to rinse out en route, but regular clothes pins just aren’t strong enough. Metal binder clips (the jumbo 2″ kind if you can find them) work much better. But be warned, if the item is really wet, they may leave rust stains.
- If you drink coffee in the morning, you’ll want to arm yourself with some of Starbuck’s VIA instant. Unless something has changed since last year, what they served could barely be called coffee, and the VIA is way easier to deal with than a french press.
- This may not work for everyone, but I found that I used completely different stuff for my evening shower than I used to get ready in the morning, so I created a “Shower” toiletry bag, and a “Morning” toiletry bag. This made them easier to pack & limited the amount of time I had to shuffle through stuff looking for what I wanted.
- Carry your water bottles, helmet, and other bits you don’t want to leave on your bike (like the computer or lights) in a plastic grocery bag to day 1. You can stash the bag in your pocket or seat bag. Having a bag to carry that stuff will make life much easier, and reduce the chance that you’ll drop or lose something. Pack a spare bag in case the first one tares (which it will).
- Contact Lens cases are great for carrying small amounts of creams or gels, like sun screen or chamois butter, or even pills. They wash out well, are easy to fill from a larger bottle, and are designed to be water proof.
- Get yourself a 55 gallon garbage bag (aka Drum Liner) for covering your luggage each night. They take up almost no space in your bag, and will allow you to store your bag outside the tent without it getting all dew soaked. You may even want to bring a spare in case the first gets torn.
I do have a few tips that I figured out for myself.
- Phone Charger: The solar panel charges don’t work as well as you think. Test it out or use a pre-charged battery pack to charge your phone. I have this one and it works well.
- Clean Cycling Clothing: Bring shorts and a jersey for each day. Don’t plan on re-wearing yesterday’s smelly jersey.
- Pack Towel: Don’t cheap out. I bought the cheapest one I could find, and it stank after one use. Get a large-size microfiber, antimicrobial towel. I just got two for about $20 each on Amazon.
- Warm Camp Clothing: It was like 40º one morning. Make sure you have a wool cap, sweater or sweat-shirt, non-cycling gloves, jammies, and warm socks. I ended up buying the ALC branded stuff — which I like, but was kind of expensive.
- Warm Cycling Clothing: Day 2, 2012, was cold. Very cold. Windy and rainy. The route was closed, and many cyclists had hypothermia. I finished the day with few problems because I had arm warmers and a thin Goretex jacket on. Insufficient for the weather, but more than many riders. Glad I had it. [This item deserves its own blog post. Remind me.]