Categories: Packing, Travel Planning

What’s In My Rear Rack Pack

by Julie Horton - Wednesday, December 4, 2013 ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours rear rack pack.

On every ExperiencePlus! trip we provide a rear rack pack to carry the items you’ll need during your ride.  As with any kind of packing, there is a delicate balance between bringing what you may need and over packing.  I have included the things I put in my rear rack pack to keep me happy and comfortable. You could also consider this an ExperiencePlus! traveler’s Christmas Gift List (at least I hope that my friends will take it that way).

Day sheet and map – Let’s face it: on our bicycle tours it’s easy to sit back relax and follow the chalk dust arrows and let yourself be surprised by what’s around the next bend, but I love to refer to the day sheets we provide. I can find out more about the history and culture of the area I’m riding through and practice phrases in the daily language lesson while I ride. I can also check how many miles to the next snack and if there are any hills ahead. The day sheets also list tour leader phone numbers and have the name and contact information for the next hotel just in case I take an unexpected detour.

Camera – Admittedly, my smart phone is taking over as my camera though I do think I get a higher quality of photos with a camera. If someone felt the need to splurge on me, I’d gratefully accept the Fuji X100S! Not only does it look retro and super cool, but it has a hybrid viewfinder which means I can actually see what I’m taking a picture of!

Rain Jacket – Though it “ahem” never rains on an ExperiencePlus! trip, I always have my rain jacket in my rear rack pack. It’s so compact and super light that it isn’t a burden and if the weather turns, or the church, restaurant, wine cave, sassi, is cold I’m ready. Gift givers should consider that the jacket should be waterproof and breathable. Requirements: Ventilation – if you aren’t able to get airflow you will be wetter from sweat than rain, & visibility including reflective features. Bonus features that I love: a longer tail to protect me from spray, the ability to pack it away in its own pocket, and a hood. Check out reviews at Bike Radar.

Wind Jacket – I love my Pearl Izumi wind jacket – it converts to a vest quickly, and has generous side and back panels that offer plenty of ventilation. Mine has two front and a small back pocket which is the perfect place to stow your sleeves. Though Pearl Izumi claims that this jacket is water resistant I wouldn’t count on it keeping you dry in anything but a very light rain shower.

Ziplock freezer bags of varying sizes – There are high-end versions of Ziplock freezer bags that allow you to protect your smart phone and use the touch screen, but for my money a good old Ziplock freezer bag does the trick. You can use your Ziplocks for food, money, cameras, clothing, day sheets, trash, basically anything that you want to keep dry or organized. If there is no rain than you can focus more on picnic items!

Shower cap, plastic grocery bag – The shower cap is typically provided by the first hotel of the trip. It is the perfect helmet cover if it’s raining but not so cold that you would want to wear the hood on your rain jacket.  I’ve also used a shower cap as a seat cover, but a plastic grocery bag is a much better option because you can tie it on. Coming back to a dry saddle after you’ve sought shelter in a small café is easy and free.

Stocking stuffing possibilities – Sunscreen, lip stuff, wet wipes, tissues.

Money – You’ll need this for food, that perfect souvenir, cappuccino, beer ….

Food – Some friends call me a squirrel because I’ve always got some food stashed away. You just never know when you might need a little something to get you to that next gelateria. I’m a vegetarian, so I also bring a few protein bars from home to stash in my bike bag. A sweet/salty, chocolate dipped Mojo bar is worth the risk of having melted chocolate on your jersey in my opinion. One of the joys of travel for me is searching through grocery stores, markets, and bakeries to discover a new favorite snack, cheese, bread and to see what fruit is in season.

Bandana –  Too many functions to list! But I’ll give you the condensed version: napkin, a Kleenex, a face mask, sweat band, rag. I actually tie mine to my handlebars which makes my bike very easy to find in the morning when all the bikes are lined up.

Spoon and knife – I generally try not to check a bag when I go on one of our trips so I’ve had to decide against bringing a knife, but they are very handy for picnics. I’ve happily adjusted to “break” my bread and cheese using my hands. However, I always travel with a spoon – in Europe they often have small spoons on their yogurt containers, but there have been countless times when my wee spoon has come in handy.

Smart phone – You can use your phone to take photos, keep up on email, use it to take notes, record videos, & calculate currency. There are also language apps, a compass, music, books, & GPS to name a few other perks of the smart phone….

Multi-tool – Completely optional, but I like to be able to do minor adjustments. You will need to check your tool instead of doing carry-on. US regulations now allow tools smaller than four inches but the rules vary in Europe so to be safe I recommend checking it.

You should also have the following  items in your suitcase so you can pack them in your rear rack pack if you hit a cool weather system.

Leg/Knee and arm warmers – These handy lightweight little bundles of comfort and joy can turn a cool miserable ride into near bliss. Make mine wool which is lightweight, soft, warm, and I think they stay put better than models with “gripper” elastic. Small and mighty don’t deny yourselves this secret weapon against the chill.

A mid-layer for your top – Again I prefer wool and a number of companies, Patagonia, Ibex, & SmartWool, offer a variety of weights. I prefer models with either a half or full zipper because I will undoubtedly need to unzip on the uphill and zip up on the descent.

Lightweight gloves – Is it redundant to say wool again? Perhaps but my favorite gloves just happen to be a cashmere pair I found in the bargain bin at Sierra Trading Post! Synthetics are perfectly acceptable. If you are traveling to a damp area or temperatures are expected to be in the 40s a wind/waterproof exterior will make you very happy.

Headband or Buff  – Buffs are versatile tubes of fabric that can be worn as a neck warmer, hat, facemask, or headband and I love it when something has a variety of functions. Whichever you choose be sure that your helmet still fits.

ExperiencePlus! rear rack packs come with a rain cover, lock and shoulder strap that makes them super easy to carry around. Your bike will also have a computer, pump and tire changing kit.  ExperiencePlus! has a complete and detailed packing list for our tours online check it out before your next cycling adventure.

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Julie Horton - Julie Horton is the Purveyor of Cycling Adventures at ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours. She bicycled in more than 20 countries on a year long, self-supported bicycle tour around the world, which covered more than 14,000 miles. Her career in the adventure travel industry began back in 1994 when she started leading hiking tours in the USA, Europe, and far flung locations like Nepal and Thailand. After 10 years on the trail her desire to get back on the road led her to ExperiencePlus! in 2004. Her passion for traveling by bicycle and sharing the possibilities and plans with our travelers makes her "work" at ExperiencePlus! fun and gratifying. She looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm for traveling by bike with each of you and hearing of your adventures. Email Julie(at)

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