How to Pack a Backpack for Cycling

Hey there backpack lovers and welcome to my post where we will run through some good tips on how to pack a backpack for cycling. Beyond being an eco-friendly mode of transportation, cycling offers a sense of freedom, a connection with nature, and an opportunity to challenge oneself physically and mentally.

However, for those who like to do this for long periods of time, there are often a few extra things that you want to take with you – and in most cases, this will be packed in a backpack. The trouble is, these can only carry so much so packing them properly can go a long way to ensuring a successful trip.

How to Pack a Backpack for Cycling

So for those of you looking to improve your backpack packing prowess, let’s check out my tips for packing a cycling backpack below.

Check out these: 3 Best Backpacks for Cycling

1. Prioritize essentials

As above, cyclists often face limited space and weight constraints, especially during long rides. For this very reason you will to prioritize your essentials in packing a cycling backpack. Below are some of the essentials to consider:

Safety and Repair Tools:

  • Mini-Tool Kit: Carry a compact multi-tool that includes Allen keys, screwdrivers, and a chain breaker. This will help you make on-the-go adjustments and minor repairs to your bike.
  • Tire Repair Kit: A portable tire repair kit should contain tire levers, spare inner tubes or patches and a mini-pump or CO2 inflator. These items are essential in case of a flat tire, one of the most common issues faced by cyclists.
  • First Aid Kit: Always have a basic first aid kit with adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.

One thing to keep in mind here is that there are actually other options here to carry these such as under seat satchels and frame clips for your pump. These can not only ensure you have what you need, but will keep them out of your backpack as well.

Hydration and Nutrition:

  • Water Bottles or Hydration Bladder: Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout your ride. If your backpack allows, a hydration bladder is a convenient option to sip water without stopping.
  • Energy Snacks: Pack lightweight and energy-dense snacks like energy bars, gels, nuts, or dried fruits to keep your energy levels up during the ride.

Again, you can probably keep your water bottle in a holder attached to your frame.

Check out these: 3 Best Hydration Backpacks

Navigation and Communication:

  • Phone and Charger: Your phone can serve as a navigation device and communication tool in case of emergencies. Carry a portable charger or a power bank to keep your phone charged.
  • Maps or GPS Device: If you’re going on a longer or unfamiliar route, bring a physical map or a GPS device to ensure you don’t get lost – or buy yourself a good sports watch that can handle this for you.

Weather Protection:

  • Rain Jacket: Be prepared for sudden weather changes by packing a lightweight, waterproof and breathable rain jacket. It will keep you dry and comfortable during unexpected showers.
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses: Protect your skin and eyes from harmful UV rays by carrying sunscreen and sunglasses.

Identification and Money:

  • ID and Emergency Contact Information: Carry your identification card and a note with emergency contact information in case of accidents or unforeseen events.
  • Cash or Card: Have some cash or a debit/credit card on hand for purchases or emergencies.

Clothing Essentials:

  • Depending on the weather conditions, pack a lightweight, moisture-wicking and breathable cycling jersey or shirt to stay comfortable during your ride.
  • Consider packing arm warmers, leg warmers or a light windbreaker if the weather might turn chilly during your ride.
pack a backpack for cycling - female cyclist with backpack

2. Consider your backpack’s capacity

Understanding the limitations of your backpack ensures that you neither overload it with excess weight nor leave out crucial items you might need during your journey.

First and foremost, identify the specific capacity of your cycling backpack. This information is usually provided by the manufacturer and is measured in liters. Keep in mind that the stated capacity represents the total volume of the backpack, including all compartments and pockets.

Once you know the backpack’s capacity, prioritize safety and repair tools, hydration, nutrition, appropriate clothing for the weather, and any specific gear relevant to your cycling plans. As you assemble your gear, keep an eye on the available space in your backpack.

Avoid overloading your backpack beyond its capacity as an excessively heavy load can lead to discomfort, strain on your shoulders and back, and a negative impact on your overall riding experience. It can also affect your stability and balance while cycling, making it more challenging to handle your bike safely.

To optimize packing within your backpack’s capacity, consider these strategies:

  1. Minimize Non-Essentials: Be selective with the items you bring. Only pack what is absolutely necessary for your ride. Leave behind non-essential items to save space and weight.
  2. Pack Smartly: Organize your gear efficiently by using packing cubes or dry bags. These can help compress your belongings and maximize the available space.
  3. Choose Lightweight Gear: Opt for lightweight versions of gear and equipment when possible. Lightweight materials can significantly reduce the overall load.
  4. Consider External Carrying Options: For longer rides or bike-packing adventures, consider attaching additional gear to your bike, such as using bike panniers or a rear rack. This way, you can distribute the load and free up space in your backpack.

Evaluate Multi-Use Items: Look for items that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a buff or bandana can be used as a head covering, face mask, or neck warmer, reducing the need for several separate items.

3. Distribute the weight evenly

Properly distributing the weight in your backpack ensures that the load is balanced and doesn’t put unnecessary strain on your body. Here’s some tips on weight distribution for packing a cycling backpack:

  1. Centralized Positioning: Ideally, the heaviest items should be positioned close to your back and centered in the backpack. Placing them in this way helps maintain a low center of gravity, which enhances your stability and prevents the backpack from pulling you backward.
  2. Avoid Overloading One Side: Distribute the weight as evenly as possible between the left and right sides of the backpack. An imbalanced load can lead to discomfort, muscle fatigue and can affect your bike’s handling, especially during turns and descents.
  3. Heavy Items at the Bottom: Place the heaviest items at the bottom of your backpack. This prevents the load from shifting and ensures that the weight is evenly distributed across your back and hips.
  4. Light Items at the Top: Lightweight items, such as clothing or rain gear, can be packed on top of the heavier items. This arrangement keeps the center of gravity low while still allowing easy access to lighter essentials.
  5. Tools and Repair Items: Keep your mini-tool kit and tire repair kit in a separate compartment or pocket near the top of your backpack. Having quick access to these items allows you to address any mechanical issues without unpacking everything.
  6. Water Bladder or Bottles: If you use a hydration bladder, place it in a dedicated compartment that sits close to your back. This helps prevent the water from sloshing around, maintaining balance during your ride. Alternatively, position water bottles in the side pockets or external bottle holders for easy access.
  7. Organize with Packing Cubes or Dry Bags: Use packing cubes or dry bags to organize and separate items within your backpack. This prevents them from shifting around during your ride and helps maintain weight distribution.
  8. Consider Backpack Design: Opt for a cycling-specific backpack that comes with features like adjustable straps, chest and waist belts, and compression straps. These features allow you to fine-tune the fit and distribute the weight more effectively.
pack a backpack for cycling - group of cyclists with backpacks

4. Waterproof your backpack

Rain showers, water splashes and even accidental submersions can occur, putting your valuable belongings at risk of getting wet. To protect your gear from moisture and ensure a worry-free ride, it’s essential to employ effective waterproofing techniques.

Investing in a cycling backpack with built-in waterproof features – or at the very least a rain cover – is an excellent starting point. If however your backpack lacks inherent waterproofing, you can take matters into your own hands by using waterproof pouches or dry bags to protect your belongings.

These specialized bags come in various sizes and are made from durable materials that effectively seal out water. Place items such as electronics, spare clothing, documents and food inside these pouches before placing them into your backpack.

Another waterproofing technique involves lining the interior of your backpack with a plastic or waterproof liner. You can use a large garbage bag or a purpose-made waterproof liner specifically designed for backpacks. This additional layer of protection acts as a safeguard against water ingress from the backpack’s seams or zippers.

5. Watch out for the weather

Before packing your backpack, check the weather forecast for the duration of your ride. Pay attention to temperature, precipitation chances, wind speed and any potential weather warnings. This information will help you make informed decisions about what to bring. Other tips here include:

  1. Dress in Layers: Dressing in layers is essential for cycling in varying weather conditions. Bring lightweight, moisture-wicking base layers that can keep you dry and comfortable during warm weather. Additionally, pack a windproof or thermal layer to protect against chilly winds or colder temperatures.
  2. Rain Gear: If rain is forecasted or if you’re cycling during the rainy season, don’t forget to pack a waterproof rain jacket and rain pants or waterproof shorts. A rain cover for your backpack is also essential to protect your gear from getting wet.
  3. Sun Protection: For sunny days, pack sunscreen with high SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Sunglasses with UV protection are crucial to shield your eyes from the sun’s glare and potential debris on the road.
  4. Cold Weather Gear: If you’re cycling in cold conditions, bring items like arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves, and a thermal skull cap to keep your extremities warm. Consider packing a pair of windproof and insulated cycling gloves for added protection against wind chill.
  5. Extra Clothing: While it’s essential to pack appropriately for the weather, it’s also wise to bring an extra set of clothing in case you get wet or need a change during extended rides.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Hot weather can lead to increased fluid loss, so ensure you have enough water to stay hydrated throughout your ride. Consider bringing electrolyte supplements to replenish vital minerals lost through sweating.
  7. Emergency Gear: In severe weather conditions, consider bringing additional emergency gear like a lightweight emergency bivy or blanket to stay warm if stranded.
  8. Be Mindful of Wind: Wind can significantly impact your cycling experience. Pack a lightweight windbreaker to shield yourself against strong headwinds or gusty conditions.

Always remember that weather conditions can change quickly, even if the forecast appears favorable. Stay vigilant during your ride and be prepared to adapt to changing weather circumstances.

pack a backpack for cycling road cyclist with backpack

6. Test and adjust

Before setting out on a journey, take the time to test the packed backpack during shorter rides to evaluate its comfort, weight distribution and accessibility of items. This trial run allows you to identify any potential issues and make necessary adjustments to enhance your overall cycling experience.

During the testing phase, pay close attention to the weight distribution of your backpack. Note if the load feels balanced, and whether the heaviest items are correctly positioned closer to your back and at the center of the backpack. Evaluate the impact of the load on your body, especially your shoulders and back, to ensure it doesn’t cause any discomfort or strain.

Additionally, assess how easily you can access essential items while riding. Check the location of tools, snacks and other frequently needed gear. Make sure that you can retrieve them efficiently without the need to unpack the entire backpack.

Take note of any items that are not necessary or that you haven’t used during the test ride. If you find items that aren’t crucial to your ride, consider leaving them behind to reduce unnecessary weight.

By thoroughly testing and adjusting your cycling backpack before the main ride, you can feel confident that you have everything you need in a well-organized and balanced manner. This process not only enhances your comfort during the ride but also ensures that you can fully immerse yourself in the joy of cycling without being burdened by unnecessary backpack-related concerns.


Why is properly packing a cycling backpack important?

Properly packing a cycling backpack efficiently is essential for several reasons. It ensures that you have all the necessary gear and essentials for your ride, promotes weight distribution for better balance and stability, and keeps your belongings organized and easily accessible throughout the journey.

How do I know what essentials to pack in my cycling backpack?

Prioritize essentials based on factors such as the duration of your ride, weather conditions, and your personal needs. Include safety and repair tools, hydration, nutrition, appropriate clothing, navigation aids, and identification. Always carry items that enhance your safety and preparedness on the road.


And there they are, my tips for packing a backpack you’ll need for cycling. And as usual,  let me know of your experiences here.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun


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