Basic Cycle Camping Kit

Packing efficiently for a cycle camping tour can be a challenge – here are Emma Philpott's essentials.

The equipment you'll need on cycle camping tour fits somewhere between what you'd carry for a car-based camping trip and what you'd pack for a overnight hike. Pack appropriately for the season, with an eye on the weather forecast before you set off. Keeping weight and pack space of gear down is an important consideration, but you can usually take a few more luxuries than you'd want to carry on your back.

Tent: Choose your tent with care, with consideration for the seasons you'll be travelling through, enough living space for your group and a reasonable weight and pack down size (under 3kg for two people is ideal). Practice pitching before you leave home and check you are carrying all parts of the tent, including pegs and guy ropes. See Stephen Lord's guide to choosing a tent for more great advice.

Footprint or groundsheet: An extra layer under your tent will prolong its life as well as eliminate condensation on the tent floor. Tent manufacturers often sell footprints which fit their tents, but to save money you can also cut one out of heavy duty plastic or tarpaulin.

Sleeping bag: Usually made of down feathers or synthetic fills. Down-filled bags usually give you more warmth for weight but don't insulate if wet. Synthetic bags are typically bulker but often much more affordable than feathers. Also take a sleeping bag liner made of silk, cotton or fleece. Liners can add a few more degrees of warmth on a cool night and can be used by themselves in the heat of summer.

Sleeping mat: Essential insulation for a good night's sleep. You'll pay more for a self-inflating mat than for a bulkier foam mattress, but the former tends to be more comfortable and small enough to pack in a pannier.

Camp kitchen: A camp stove, cookware and utensils are your essentials. See Stephen Lord's guide to camp stoves for more advice.

Off-bike or 'civilian' clothes: Windbreakers and warm socks can make cooler weather more pleasant and flip flops or sandals are useful for communal showers and camp wear.

For more on cycle camping in France, see our introductory guide to camping.

Emma Philpott is a world-curious New Zealander who packed up London life to cycle back to New Zealand in March 2010, boyfriend in tow. After spending winter in Istanbul, they spent 2011 travelling east through Russia, Mongolia, China and South-East Asia. You can find out more on their Rolling Tales blog.

Where to buy camping equipment for cycling

Decathlon stores all over France are an excellent source of camp supplies. is an online camping store run by a Franco-American couple with 10 years' touring experience. It has an excellent range of bike accessories and spares, plus a full range of camping kit, and products are field-tested. They offer worldwide delivery. 

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