Packing for a long term travel is never easy – especially for us women. And packing for bike-touring is even harder, because, believe me, every gram counts. Before our travel I was searching for some advice and tips, but at the end, as usual, i packed everything what i wanted. And that was a huuuuuuge mistake! So now, after more than one year and 12 000 kilometers on bike I feel experienced enough to write about what is really important for woman to pack for traveling by bike in Latin America. I hope, it will help you to decide better than i did. So here is my 15 most important bike touring and camping essentials for a woman:
..Or a woman (up to you). But do it! First – Happiness should be always shared! Second – with travel companion wild camping is less scary, renting room is cheaper and food is more tasty and life is more fun. It is also much more safe – especially in less developed areas. And yes, me, as a bike touring amateur with zero knowledge about how to fix the bike, I would be completely lost without sami’s support and help.
If you do not know anybody who would join you, do not worry, there is plenty of great people on this planet and you can always find somebody on social media or traveling and biking blogs. There is million of local biking communities all around the world on Facebook. Nowadays probably every country has at least one friendly biking community, so some local bikers could always join you for a shorter or longer stage of your trip.
I know, lonely travel is a mind blowing and life changing experience (I also did it) and nobody is saying no to you, but believe me, bike touring is much more enjoyable in company.. So better keep your solo travel for backpacking or hiking.. Anyway even with a partner you will have at least 5 hours daily on bike just for yourself. So this is definitely my most important No.1. bike touring and wild camping essential – especially for women.
2. Bike-touring seat for woman
If you are bike touring virgin like me, before you buy some random cycling seat – find some bike touring experienced woman and ask her for advice. Do not ask a man! They have noooooooo idea about seats for a woman. This is ultra important – especially if you want to bike long distances (more than 50 km per day). Many shops are offering that you can try if for couple of days before you will buy it. Do it! I guarantee you, you will not regret.
P.S. In one bike store in Colombia we just found out (after 8 000 km) that the geometry of my bike doesn’t fit completely to the geometry of my body. I changed handlebar for a different – 5 cm longer one and you would not believe how huge relief it was! So really, don’t hesitate and check it all before your travel!
3. Biking trousers and shorts for woman
You will need two of them. One shorts and one bit longer – at least under the knee. In my case it was better to forget about cheap ones. Decathlon didn’t help. I also do not recommend to buy biking underwear, because it is constantly rolling up. The long biking trousers you will appreciate on sun because sunscreen with sweat and road-dust on your skin are not really friends so better to cover yourself. I did not have long ones, but I let me make one in Guadalajara by professional mountain biker which is also a tailor (less than 25 dollars and smile on my face). They are from cotton and they have Air gel and I am super happy about them.
Or you can carry 2 biking shorts plus one biking leg warmers – just make sure that they don’t roll down. And one more advice – check the material! Some of the biking trousers are very sticky, non-breathable and that is nightmare in hot weather. Your butt will look like a strawberry stracciatella ice cream – if you know what I mean.
4. Sleeping pad
This is super important bike-touring travel & camping essentiality for both – women and men, if you plan to do a lot of wild camping. Take some time before your trip, make a research and TRY which sleeping pad is best for you. Little tip: do not forget to listen as well – some air mattresses are super noisy.
In my case an expansive air mattress was a bad decision because of it noise and also material. So, when i will destroy mine (which will be hopefully soon), i will buy probably something like this. Remember – there is no enjoyable biking if you do not sleep well! And for the belly sleepers (like me) the simple foam pads are just not enough – pain pain pain! For the pillow lovers – ultra-light advice – just use couple of your clothes. If you prefer air pads, I recommend you also silky cover or something what you can put on (these mats just do not deal well with sweat and heat).
P.S.: Yes, I destroyed mine while we have been still biking in Mexico. And I have to say now, I would not change them and here is the reason. In the hardest Covid 19 lockdown, the company just send both of us new ones (free of charge) from Switzerland and we get it in 5 days! Incredible customer service, so here it is – free advertising is going to Exped sleeping mats and we guarantee you – it is worth it! And my problem with little noise and sweat we just resolved with simple light bed sheet – super comfortable ever after, no more noise, no more wet mats..
5. Camping tent and tent pad
The choice of tent for camping really matters. We had MSR Hubba hubba for 2 people and it was great. Once, when it will be destroyed (and after 4 years of active use it is still not), we will buy the same one just for 3 people (just couple of grams more, but extra space). The great thing about this tent is, that is easy and light, it has two entrances and when it is not hot, you don’t need to use upper cover and you will still have ultra great anti-mosquito protection. Yes, it is bit expensive – but better one expensive than 50 cheap shitty ones.
There is everything in Latin America – deserts, savanas, jungles, forests, mountains, hurricanes, lazy people…It means also cactuses, rocks, mud, broken beer bottles.. So any pad or cover under the tent is a must if you plan to camp. Every biker want to travel as light as possible and there is plenty of options what to use, but we found out that emergency blanket as a tent pad is a great solution. It is ultra light and small, strong enough and best of all – it is also good insulation. But you can also use poncho or simple just couple of big plastic bags.
6. Comfortable short sleeve biking T-shirts + Light sleeve extender
For sure you will need two of them. Good choice is proper biking T-shirt or T-shirt from merino or good cotton. I recommend to buy light sleeve extenders – it s not heavy and super good in hot days with a lot of aggressive sun. Of course you can also use long-sleeve comfortable shirts – but you will have to wash them more often and they are more heavy. The good thing about merino t-shirts is that they don’t really smell, they are super comfortable and you can easily used them also when you are not biking. Normal biking T-shirts usually start to have a stink-memory after a while and you will have to wash them after single use.
7. Biking gloves
It might sounds unimportant, but without the biking gloves on sun, you will have to use a lot of sunscreen. So biking gloves are not only good for a sun protection, but they are also useful in rain or when you are falling. When you have bumpy roads (which you will have for sure), they reduce the shock. Sami does not use them, but we women have hands more sensitive (and less hairy), so I really recommend them.
8. Polarized sunglasses
Forget about fancy stylish Instagram sunglasses. They will not help you, if you will smash your barbie face on the road. Polarized sunglasses are a must! My old glasses broked so I bought a new one – bit more fancy and i regret it because they are not so covered from the side so it causes reflections. If you need sunglasses with correction – you can also buy them easy in Latin America and it is cheaper, but you will usually have to wait for them couple of days.
9. Longer rain jacket
I like my rain jacket a lot but to be completely honest, it would be much more better if my rain jacket long enough to cover not only my back but also my butt. We were planning to go also to high mountains and volcanos, so i bought waterproof and windproof jacket with removable insulation. I still think it was a good decision, but it you can, try to search for something similar but a little bit longer. Or buy you a light good waterproof poncho which you can use also as a cover under tent or carpet for sitting outside. I saw some in Decatlon.
10. Universal travel adapter
Do not hesitate and just directly buy universal world travel adapter from Scross. This is not an advertisement – it is our advice. You will use it almost every day and it will save you a lot of troubles with searching for local adapters. Here in Mexico I use mexican one, but it is not the best quality and i know that it will change more south, so if you want to save some money – invest to this one.
11. Revolut card
Again, this is not an advertising. While you travel, you will need a credit card which works. And Revolut card does. It is saving your money, it is safe, it is easy and if somebody steal it, you have still one electronic and they can send you a new one in one week. Exchange rates are better than with other cards. We also keep with us our local ones, but 99% of the time we use this one and it works. You can use this link here.
12. Multi-fuel stove
A good and reliable cooking stove is essential when you are camping and cooking by your own. We use a multi-fuel stove Primus Omnifuel which is very convenient in Latin America where you hardly find gas cartridges. A short stop at a petrol station and you can cook for one week. You also avoid waste in form of empty cartridges because you can always refill the fuel bottle and you can also transport it empty in the airplane. It was a good bye gift for Sami from his former company Quantis.
13. Smartphone with a good camera and a tripod
Maybe we are bit old-school, but we try not to use so many electronics. We have two smartphones with a good camera and we just bought a new octopus tripod, because before we could not have pictures together with our bikes. Good thing about octopus tripod is, that you can also use it on the bike for GPS navigation or for movie watching. We bought cheap one and it seems to be enough for us. This website is also managed from our phones so please excuse us some mistakes and technical errors.
The advantage of using the phones instead of cameras and notebooks is also that you can save your photos online easy and fast while eating lunch in local restaurant. It is also lighter and you have less things to be stolen 🙂 Think about that..
14. Comfortable and universal shoes
At first, I carried with me my favourite waterproof hiking boots (I am still more hiker than biker), one running shoes and one flip-flops. And i think, this is too much – one universal waterproof and breathable Palladium shoes and flip-flops are just completely enough. If you do not plan to hike, you do not need the hiking boots at all – you can replace them with waterproof shoe-cover. For more serious hikes, you will anyway always find a shoe-rental. Generally, in Latin America running shoes like Adidas or Nice are cheap so do not waste your time to buy it in Europe – the same about flip-flops. Till now in Mexico, even for hiking volcano (3 000 m), running shoes were just fine.
PS: For hiking Nevado del Tolima (5 276 m) in Colombia in lovely full-power raining season – my Palladium shoes were absolutely fine.. So, I really recommend just one comfortable and universal shoes. If you buy good leather ones – you do not need to worry, that it will be too hot in the summer – they are very comfortable even in the heat.
15. Cosmetics and menstrual cup
Biking on the road is a dirty business, so if you want to keep your skin clean and healthy, you will need some help. That is the reason; why I put cosmetics and menstrual cup also in my 15 most bike touring & camping essentials for women.
I always try to be the most ecological es possible, so I do not use a lot of stuff. Still, less things you keep, lighter is your bike. So I carry with me washing face-towel, face soap, body and hair soap, rose essential oil, sunscreen, mascara (super rarely thanks to Covid 19) and shaver. I will write about it more in my next post.
I guess you are curious how i manage my period while biking. Honestly, I always do my best to persuade Sami not to bike on these days:) But if this is not working, thanks God for menstrual cups. Normally at home i will use more ecological reusable menstrual pants, but on bike tour you really do not have so many opportunities to wash your clothes and last thing you want, is to give it to the laundry, so i found out that menstrual cup is super efficient. Also, in Mexico you can buy only ,,anti-slim menstrual pads,, and if you find Always – it does not mean that inside of the packaging is the correct product 🙂 Menstrual cup does not hurt, it last long and if you do not have sink around, you can always keep some bottled water with you on toilet.
Another skin trouble which you might experienced on bike-touring trip are butt rashes and sun allergy. First problem is easily solved by baby powder or good breathable biking clothes, the second one by covering yourself, high-protection sunscreen, midday pause or Aloe Vera.
You should carry, what makes you happy!
There are always some things you will miss. Somebody told us, that does not matter the weight, but you should always carry, what makes you happy and I believe it is true. After couple of weeks of camping you will kill to have a chair, so we ended up to buy this for us. And I am sure, that later we will find something else. But remember, less stuff you carry – better for you, because as a woman, you will always want to buy something new. Generally, if you think, you packed light – believe me, you definitely packed more than you will really need (like me – thanks to Covid 19 quarantine i could use my dancing dresses for solo-high class performance on toilet).
If you are interested what Sami packed, you can find his bike-touring and camping ,,essentials,, in this post. He carried the most of our bike touring and travel equipment.
More pictures you can find on our Fb or Ista page and if you have any questions, write us in comments, we will be happy to answer 🙂