How-to: Put together an overnight gear kit

Here's what I suggest to bring camping, along with roughly what it'll weigh and what it'll cost. This list is "mine" only because it's what I take. But it does work, and is a good starter.

Sleeping bag: Compact, 1 to 2.5 pounds, $150 to $310. Quite a range.

Pad: 7 ounces. to 1.5 pounds, $15 to $60.

Tent, stakes: 2 to 4.9999 pounds, $100 to $300.

Pillow: If you use one at home, you'll want one here. A separate pillow weighs less and takes up less space than sleeping on spare clothes; and, for an S24O, there shouldn't be any spare clothes. If you like your home pillow, bring it; and there are lots of inflatables and cheap stuffables out there, too.

Toothbrush kit: About 2 ounces. If you don't have a mini-tube of paste, squeeze some into an empty film canister.

Headlight or booklight: 2 to 3 ounces, for reading at night or fishing around for stuff in the dark.

Extra clothes/pajamas: A fresh set of woolies and wool socks. About 1.5 to 2 pounds. 

Beanie: Wool works well.

Stove, fuel, fire kit: Only if you're going to cook. Around here (Walnut Creek, California), if the grass is green we cook, and if it's brown we don't (we don't want to set the woods on fire and get in trouble and have it all over the Internet). Not that you have to or even should copy us, but this is how we do it: If two to four people go, we use a Trangia cookset with separate bowls and cups for eating and tea. The Trangia always works and always works well, it's silent and safe and simple, and there's no canister to discard when the fuel's out.

Eating gear: A cup or bowl, and maybe a spoon. About 6 to 17 ounces.

Food: Bring what you like. About 1.5 to 3 pounds per person, and everybody sleeps full. In winter, when we know it's safe to cook, we typically bring bulk soup mixes, wholegrain spaghetti and real sauce, canned fish, bread, chocolate, dried fruit, tea ... things like that

Book, camera: If you read or take pictures. A tiny booklight beats a headlamp if you plan to stay wide awake reading much of the night, but a headlamp will certainly do, and will work better if you ever have to make a nighttime run for it, for any reason.

Camera recommendations: Old way, Film. New way, Digital. All the pix on our site are film, which is why some of them are technically lousy! Wide angle lenses are the most useful for group camp shots. A small tripod comes in handy.

Other notes: You'll be hard put to include all of the above for under 18 pounds, but on a hot summer overnight with no stove, 13 pounds is doable and not too hard. If your mission in life becomes getting your overnight kit down to 6 pounds, you can do that, too. All it takes is more money (for lighter & more expensive gear), less money (don't bring as much), and tons of fanaticism. Or just getting a kick out of the numbers. A normal overnight kit will fit into a big saddlebag or a large stuff-sack in back, and a basket or a large handlebar bag up front. Or two baskets. Don't go nuts on the weight, but a small, light kit is all you really need. In the winter, it is hard to go for under 29 pounds. I know it sounds like a lot, but holy moly, it adds up fast, and the nights are long, so you don't want to be without something. Bring a first-aid kit if you like. If you don't, just be careful. The most I've carried on an S24O is 54 pounds. Ridiculous, but it was a good test for the Bombadil, and it included a big extra tent, pad, doubles on a lot of items, and canned wet soups for several. We were also planning for a long night (dark at 5 p.m.) and sitting around talking before going to bed. I won't do that again, but the point is, it was only one night, and you can get away with things like that on an S24O. You can see some of the other stuff we recommend for camping at our website.

Get more information about bike overnights.


6 responses so far ↓

ethan - Dec 7, 2011 at 7:03 AM

Nice. Thanks!

Keith Browne - Dec 7, 2011 at 7:39 AM

I make a checklist of my kit so I don't forget anything and take it with me so I can make sure I have everything on my return trip.

doc - Dec 8, 2011 at 6:08 AM

Part of the fun of an S24O is the cooking. I tend to overdo it with a canister set up, but friends have done well with alcohol and Esbit stoves. Trying to cook up something beyond freeze-dried pasta is an art form; and let's not forget the French coffee press for the morning warm up.

jan geirnaert - Dec 18, 2011 at 3:32 AM

the picture is too small. where can all that gear be bought online ?

Grant - Dec 18, 2011 at 8:10 AM

For the sleeping bag, pad, tent, REI, Campmore, Snow Peak, Montbell, or google "backpacking gear" and see what comes up. At some risk (but it remains a fact), I gotta say Rivendell Bicycle Works stocks a few of those things, too. Many local sporting goods dealers will have most of it, as well. On your first S24O, scavenge together what you can, but a few fill-ins, and head on out. You'll return knowing (1) Whether or not you want to try another, and if you do, (2) What you'll want to bring next time. If you bring your home pillow---which I recommend--put it and some of the other stuff in a compression stuff stack (REI, etc) so you don't have that "hobo overloading a shopping cart" look.

Mac - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:51 AM

Thanks everyone. Jan, if you wonder which website Grant's talking about, click on the "at our website" (the last three words of the story) and you'll automatically be taken there. --MM

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