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The truth is, there is no perfect wardrobe when it comes to bikepacking clothes. Just like there is no one best bikepacking bike or one ideal bikepacking setup that works for every adventure, choosing what clothes to ride in will depend on a number of factors.
When packing for your trip, here are a few things to think about:
- The weather forecast – rainy days will require wet weather gear
- Temperature – hot desert bikepacking is very different from cool-weather high-altitude bikepacking
- Number of days you’ll be out – shorter trips mean fewer clothes
- Personal preference & style – Chamois or baggies? Button-down shirt or jersey?
I’ve gone on my fair share of bikepacking trips at this point and while my bikepacking attire changes with every trip depending on the factors I mentioned above, I do have a solid set of essentials that make it on my bikepacking gear list nearly every time.
In this post, I share my top picks for what to wear bikepacking and some tips to help you pack for your adventures.
Let’s get dressed!
Before I dive into specific pieces of apparel that I recommend, let’s talk about material choice.
If you’re an ‘outdoors person’, you probably know the importance of quick-drying, sweat-wicking materials. The last thing you want is to spend 8 hours in the saddle with a sweaty groin, am I right?
Here’s a quick low-down of what materials to choose and not choose for bikepacking apparel:
Cotton is not your friend when playing in the outdoors. Sure, it’s light and breathable, but cotton doesn’t dry quickly and doesn’t wick sweat away from your skin. This can lead to chafing (not good), getting chilled easily, and clothes that never dry. So leave the cotton tees and home.
Merino is magic
My go-to material choice for bikepacking is Merino wool. It’s a soft, fine wool that comes from a specific breed of sheep (originally from New Zealand I believe).
It has a ton of awesome properties that make it an ideal material choice for bikepacking adventures.
Merino wool isn’t the cheapest way to go, but if you invest in a few good pieces, I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Find Merino wool apparel at:
Synthetic Materials are second best
Of course, not all of my clothing is wool. I do pack synthetic apparel as well. Synthetic biking clothes are typically made from materials like polyester, nylon, and spandex or a combo of each.
The pros of synthetic riding clothes are:
My bikepacking wardrobe consists of a combo of Merino and synthetic clothing. If I had all the money in the world, I’d go with everything Merino, but until I win the lottery, I’ll be packing some synthetics as well.
It’s important to remember that there is no one right way to pack for every bikepacking adventure.
Think about how you would pack for a beach vacation vs a ski vacation. Very different, right?
What you bring with you will depend on the type of trip you’re doing and where you’re going. You’ll want to think modular, meaning that you might have different sets of clothes that you mix and match for each adventure:
For example, some modular sets might include:
- Hot weather bikepacking clothes (tees, sun shirts, sandals, lightweight shorts)
- Singletrack-heavy clothes (mountain bike jerseys, mountain bike shorts, chamois)
- Gravel or road-heavy clothes (tighter fitting jerseys, chamois, clipless shoes)
- Rain & wind gear
- Cold weather layers (tops and bottoms)
- “Luxury” items (like cozy booties or an extra fleece)
In this post, I share a general guideline for what to wear bikepacking, but you’ll need to customize these sets to your specific adventures.
Bikepacking Clothes – Bottoms
There a few different options when it comes to choosing what to wear for shorts on bikepacking trips:
- Chamois or bibs
- Baggy shorts
- Pants or tights
What you decide to wear will depend on your trip and personal preferences.
For me, I’ll wear only a chamois on gravel-heavy bikepacking trips, but I’ll add a pair of baggy shorts for singletrack-heavy bikepackig trips.
I’ll typically only wear pants or tights if it’s cold out.
Chamois or bibs
A good pair of chamois is essential for multi-day bikepacking trips. Not only do the padded liners provide cushioning for your tush, but a good pair of chamois will also wick away sweat and moisture, preventing (or at least reducing the risk of) chafing.
Personally, I don’t like bibs for bikepacking because they’re a pain to strip down when you need to pee, but it’s good to know that they are an option. (Bibs also prevent the dreaded rolling of the waistband and/or that digging into your stomach feeling)
There are lots of chamois to choose from out there, but here are two of my favorites:
Pearl iZUMi Pro Shorts
These shorts are expensive, but I think comfort down there warrants a bit of a splurge. The Pearl iZUMi Pro Shorts (men’s) are designed for long rides with a luxurious fabric and a premium Italian-made chamois pad (the Italians know cycling). I love that they don’t ride up my legs when pedaling and the waistband doesn’t roll down – something I struggle with far too often with other shorts.
Shop the Pearl iZUMi Pro Shorts at:
To chamois or not? Some riders choose not to wear a padded chamois when they ride because they
are masochists argue that chamois increase the likelihood of chafing. Personally, I’m not of this belief, but if you want to go chamois-free, it is an option. I don’t recommend forgoing a padded liner without seeing how it goes on shorter rides first, though.
Terry Bella Prima Shorts
The Terry Bella Prima shorts are my go-to choice for pretty much every ride from singletrack mountain biking to gravel grinding. They’re made from a slightly thicker material than the Pearl iZUMi shorts above, which means that they’re a bit more durable for rugged terrain and adventures. I’ve worn these shorts on countless rides and the legs never ride up and the waistband never rolls down.
Shop the Terry Bella Prima Shorts at:
Baggies, if you’re unfamiliar with the mountain biking lingo, are looser shorts that are typically worn over chamois.
I like baggies for mountain biking-heavy bikepacking trips because they provide more protection against trailside brush. But I usually forgo them on gravel or road-heavy bikepacking trips.
For women, another thing to consider when deciding to go with baggy shorts or not is where you’ll be bikepacking and whether you’re traveling as a solo female (this, unfortunately, has to be said…).
Wearing just a skintight chamois may not be culturally appropriate in some places and it may attract unwanted attention in others. These are just two things to keep in mind, as frustrating as they are in the 21st century…
Read next: My Favorite Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts
POC Women’s Essential MTB Shorts
The POC Women’s Essential MTB Shorts (men’s) are pretty much the only baggy mountain bike shorts I own. I love how they fit (they’re actually flattering) and as a relatively tall person – 5’8 – the legs extend down past my knees, which I prefer. The material is also a good weight for bikepacking and it’s stretchy so I don’t feel restricted. My only gripe is that they could come in more colors like the men’s 🙄.
Shop the POC Women’s Essentials MTB Shorts at:
Bikepacking Clothes – Tops
For tops, you’ll need to decide whether you want to bring short-sleeve or long-sleeve. Short sleeve tops are great for warm weather, but they don’t provide much protection from the sun.
An argument for button-down jerseys
My bikepacking friend, Michelle, likes to wear button-down jerseys, which are actually very versatile. You can wear them as a long-sleeve for cooler days, over a tank top or tee for sun protection, and you can roll up the sleeves to make them in 3/4 length.
I was also jealous of her button-down shirt in Costa Rica, which she was able to take off easily and dunk in water to keep her cool during the hottest part of the day.
She gets hers from thrift stores.
You can really wear whatever quick-drying top you want. I personally prefer short or long-sleeve loose-fitting jerseys while my good bikepacking friend, Michelle, opts for button-down shirts.
A few things to keep in mind when picking tops for your trip are:
Ibex 24-Hour Tee
As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of Merino bikepacking clothes and the Ibex 24-Hour Tee (men’s) is the perfect top to pedal in. It’s lightweight, dries quickly, and doesn’t hold on to nasty odors. I also love that it’s longer in length, so it doesn’t leave that 2-inch gap above your shorts. Grab two of these and you’ll be good to go!
Shop the Ibex Springbox Tee at:
Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Tee
If you want a more affordable option or you’re not into Merino wool, the Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Tee (men’s) is a great option. It’s designed for long days of adventuring with moisture-wicking performance and a drop tail hem for more coverage. I also love that it’s made with recycled materials and is Fair-Trade Certified.
Shop the Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Tee at:
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie
A good alternative to the Ibex Hoodie is the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie (men’s). It’s about the same weight but is made from recycled polyester instead of wool. I love the loose and comfortable fit and soft fabric. As would be expected, it dries quickly and wicks away sweat to help keep you cool and dry.
Shop the Patagonia Capilene Cool Hoodie at:
Bikepacking Clothing Accessories
Accessories make the outfit, right? In addition to the core bikepacking clothes I mentioned above, it’s wise to pack some accessories to make your adventure comfortable and enjoyable.
Some bikepackers don’t like to wear gloves, but I’m definitely not in that camp. I sweat a lot, so I like to wear cycling gloves to help mop up moisture so it doesn’t make my hands slip and slide on the grips.
I’ll always pack at least one pair for a bikepacking trip.
HANDUP Regular Gloves
I LOVE HANDUP gloves. Not just because they come in fun patterns and have sassy quips written across the palms, but they’re also durable and last way longer than any other brand I’ve tried. I mean, who doesn’t want to look at ice cream cones on a hot, humid pedal up a big hill?
Shop HANDUP Gloves at:
Buffs are great for a lot of things (multi-functional is even in their name!).
I like to pack one on each of my bikepacking trips. They can be used to:
I like this buff for all the reasons I stated above in the “materials matter” section. It’s quick-drying, moisture-wicking, doesn’t hold on to odors, and is not made from fossil fuel-intensive synthetic materials.
Shop the Merino Buff at:
If you’ll be bikepacking in a location that doesn’t have a lot of shade, I recommend bringing a lightweight hat or cap.
They’re nice to have at the end of the day to keep your face shaded and the sun out of your eyes.
Tip: Pack a sun hat that doesn’t have a stiff visor so it can easily be stuffed into a bag.
Sunglasses are tricky when it comes to bikepacking. At least for me. I feel like I’m constantly taking them on and off because they get fogged up (again, I sweat a lot…).
I do recommend packing at least one pair, though. Even if you don’t use them when riding, you’ll want to at the end of the day.
Shop Ombraz Sunglasses at:
If there’s any chance of the temps dipping down below 50 at night, I pack my insulated booties. They keep my feet warm and cozy and have durable soles so I can still walk around camp (or town).
Shop the OR Tundra Booties at:
My ‘chill’ clothes category includes any items that I want to wear when I’m not riding. It’s important to have a set of clean clothes that you can change into so you’re not stewing in the same sweaty, dirty items for 3 days straight (or more).
Depending on the trip I’m doing, I’ll pack either one or two sets of ‘chill’ clothes:
One set of chill clothes
For both hanging out and sleeping in (typically shorter and remote bikepacking trips where I’m camping).
What should you use for pajamas when bikepacking? I like to wear a pair of leggings and a tank top or t-shirt for pajamas. If the nighttime temps will be cold, I’ll add a base layer long-sleeve that I only use for sleeping (not biking in). Also, don’t forget to pack a pair of socks just for sleeping, too!
Two sets of chill clothes
One set of nicer clothes to walk around town/eat out in and one set to sleep in (longer or more urban-heavy bikepacking trips).
Ask any outdoorsy person the best way to dress for outdoor adventures and they’ll say “layer, layer, layer”.
Layering different articles and weights of clothing helps your body regulate temperature, wick away moisture so you stay dry, and keep your clothing options versatile.
When I’m bikepacking, I’ll usually forgo the ‘base layer’ or count it as a long-sleeve jersey, but I will bring a mid-weight and/or insulating layer like a down jacket.
Choose a mid-weight warm layer that is loose, comfortable, and breathable. I prefer Merino wool, but there are a lot of great synthetic mid-layers out there, too.
Patagonia R1 Air Hoodie
I also have the Patagonia R1 Air Hoodie (men’s) and bring it on some bikepacking trips as well. This mid-layer is a bit more breathable than the Showers Pass one, but it’s also not quite as warm. It is awesome at wicking away moisture, though, so if you have a cooler weather adventure with lots of climbing coming up, this is a great option.
Shop the Patagonia R1 Air Hoodie at:
Insulated puffy jacket
I bring my puffy jacket on pretty much every trip (unless I’m heading somewhere particularly warm like Costa Rica…).
They’re so lightweight and packable and can be stashed pretty much anywhere on your bikepacking setup.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
My Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket (men’s) has been on some adventures! It’s my go-to outer layer for bikepacking because it’s incredibly lightweight and packs down small, but it’s also super warm. I try not to wear it while I’m riding (a mid-weight is better for that), but it’s great to have around camp.
Shop the Patagonia R1 Air Hoodie at:
Pants or tights
I’ll only pack a pair of riding pants or tights if I know the daytime times are going to be pretty darn chilly. This also usually (but not always) means that I’ll probably be staying in some sort of accommodation or hut because if daytime temps are that chilly then nighttime temps will be even colder.
I like to keep things as easy as possible when bikepacking, so for pants, I’ll go with a pair that I can pull on over my chamois. That way, I can easily swap them out for baggy shorts (or not) if the temps warm up.
If you decide to go with padded tights, just know that it’ll be more of a hassle to change back into shorts on the trail or road if you need to.
Pearl iZUMi Rove Pants
These Pearl iZUMi Rove Cargo Pants (men’s) are great for bikepacking because they’re so versatile. They provide a lightweight shell for colder days, but they’re also great for ‘side adventures’ like hikes or even just walking around town. They’re also pretty lightweight and pack down relatively small.
Shop the Pearl iZUMi Rove Cargo Pants at:
I like to pack a hat no matter what trip I’m taking. It’s lightweight, doesn’t take up much space, and will help keep you warm if you run into trouble.
A warm hat is also nice to have to sleep in or put on under your helmet if the wind picks up or the temps drop.
A pair of warm gloves can be a lifesaver if you find yourself in a number of situations from pedaling after dark to getting caught in an unexpected rain storm.
Depending on where you’re heading, a simple glove liner could work or you might want to look into a fully waterproof and insulated glove.
Wind & Rain Gear
“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” – Denis Waitley.
That’s the essence of bikepacking 🙂
As such, you’ll want to pack a few items in case wet weather hits. As it goes, there’s no bad weather, just bad bikepacking clothes, right?
At the minimum, I recommend packing a lightweight wind shell with a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating.
If the forecast looks iffy, you might want to add a waterproof jacket and some rain pants as well.
Wind shells are lightweight and usually pack down really small, so I’ll almost always pack one away on every bikepacking trip.
They’re good in all situations – wind or not – to help keep you warm and mostly dry.
Patagonia Houdini Jacket
I love this Houdini jacket (men’s). It’s incredibly lightweight and actually pretty warm for what it is. I’ll wear it on cool evenings or even as a layer underneath my puffy jacket if it’s really cold out. If you want a jacket that is a bit more breathable to pedal in, check out the Patagonia Houdini Air (men’s).
Shop the Patagonia Houdini Jacket at:
I’ll only pack a rain jacket if I’m almost certain there is rain in the forecast. A light shower here or there is no big deal, especially if you have a wind shell like the Patagonia Houdini above, which has a moisture-resistant coating.
During quick showers, you’re also probably (hopefully) able to find shelter until it passes or maybe it’s been really hot and humid and the cool deluge is welcome!
Showers Pass Ecolyte Jacket
If you know you’ll be encountering heavy rainfall, the Showers Pass Ecolyte Jacket (men’s) will help keep you dry. Designed specifically for cyclists, it has a droptail to cover your lower back, large vents so you don’t steam up, a helmet-compatible hood, and it packs down into its own pocket for easy packing.
Shop the Showers Pass Ecyolyte Jacket at:
Again, like rain jacket, I’ll only pack rain pants if I know rain is almost certainly in the forecast. The goal of choosing what to wear bikepacking is to pack smart, not for ‘what ifs’.
Showers Pass Timberline Pants
The Showers Pass Timberline Pants (men’s) are lightweight, breathable rain pants designed specifically for cyclists. Weighing only 10.1 oz (size med), they pack down small but are fully waterproof and still breathable. If you know you’ll be encountering rain and want to stay dry and warm, these pants are a great option.
Shop the Showers Pass Timberline Pants at:
I hope this post helps give you a better idea of what bikepacking clothing to pack for trips. The most important things to remember are:
- Bring several different layers so you have lots of options and versatility
- Pack differently for different adventures
It’ll take a few trips to really dial in what you need and what you don’t (that third pair of chamois really isn’t necessary 😉 But the more adventures you go, the easier and more streamlined your packing process will get.
Looking for more packing inspiration? Check out these bikepacking gear posts and tips:
Do you have any favorite bikepacking items? What are they and what do you love about them? What tips would you add for newer bikepackers on what to pack? Leave a comment below!