My Cycling Capsule Wardrobe AKA What to Pack for a Multi-Day Riding Trip
As I’m finishing up a month-long camp/training block and making a packing list for another camp I’m coaching, I realized something: Cycling is the PERFECT sport to create a capsule wardrobes packing setup. Unlike regular life, where my capsule wardrobe decisions get bogged down by the fact that I *might* need an evening gown on hand (I do not) or that felt wide-brimmed hat will definitely get worn (false), cycling has one base, a jersey and shorts, and then several pieces that combine into a perfect easy-wear wardrobe. So, here’s what I’m packing for a 14-day cycling camp that could see temps from 35 to 80 degrees and could be rainy, brutally sunny, or some combination thereof.
I’m operating on the assumption that I’ll be able to do laundry every third day — while the accessories should always stay the same here, if I was only able to do laundry every 5th day, I would bring 5 sets of shorts, though I’d likely just re-wear a jersey before bringing more than 3. Shorts, though, are single serve.
OK, on to the list. This excludes things like helmet, shoes, bike, etc… Just talking clothing.
Bib Shorts (3)
My go-to shorts have been Velocio for years now. I wore them to race Ironman, and I wear them every time I’m coaching a camp because a) they’re super comfy and chafe-free, and b) the ability to unzip/pulldown to pee makes it way easier when I need to take a pitstop during a ride since I avoid needing to take off my jersey/vest/etc. It’s just more efficient. And obviously, I believe in bibs versus shorts. Expensive, yes. Worth it, 100%. I actually still wear a pair I got 5 years ago, and it’s still nearly perfect. (Get a pair here.)
I’m a fan of a really neutral-colored, short-sleeve, full-zip jersey, like this one that’s on sale at REI from MPG. I don’t think you want to go with any bold pattern or color, or a super light or white color, if you’re thinking multi-day touring. You want something that can get stained slightly and be OK, and you want something that won’t start seeming weird when it’s in photo after photo! I usually just bring a couple of black/gray/maroon options.
Confession: between bib shorts and a sports bra, I actually don’t wear baselayers too often because I find them to be a little ‘extra.’ But because I don’t bring a winter jacket and instead rely on layering under a raincoat (more on that in a sec), I will pack one merino wool baselayer in order to make sure my core stays warm if temps drop. Bonus: this sleeveless black merino wool baselayer is one that I would also just wear as a plain black tank top hanging out post-ride at home, or I’d put it on with a high-waisted skirt to go out to dinner (and it’s only $30).
Sports bras (2)
Like baselayers, you just don’t need many sports bras because they’re easy to wash in the shower and usually dry pretty quick. I’m a fan of Lululemon’s Free to Be sports bra because, TBH, I don’t need a whole lot of extra support, and this is *just right* in terms of coverage and compression for me. Also, it’s wicked cute and doubles nicely as a bathing suit top if the situation requires one!
I LOVE a vest. I think it’s the perfect piece in a cycling capsule wardrobe because, like a baselayer, it can be used to layer up to adjust to changing conditions. It doesn’t take up much space, and on most cold days, it’s enough by itself, but if it gets super chilly, I put this on and add a raincoat on top and boom, basically a winter coat. Now, as a rule, I HATE high vis from a style perspective, but when riding somewhere unknown, I accept that it’s important, so the vest is my concession to that fact.
I’ve written about this 7mesh Revelation raincoat before, and to me, it remains the gold standard for cycling raingear. It’s not cheap (though it is on sale right now!), but you’ll have it for YEARS. And like I said, it’s ideal for wearing in rain, but also when it gets freaking cold out.
Leg + Armwarmers
Rather than packing full-leg tights (though those are THE BOMB) and long sleeve jerseys, I find thermal arm and leg warmers are much better when traveling since they take up much less space and if you don’t use them, you didn’t waste a whole chamois / were able to bring an extra jersey. It can be challenging to find a pair of legwarmers that fit perfectly and because of the rubber grip at the top, you’re going to want to wear and wash them a couple times before any big rides, so don’t buy these right before you leave!
I love a cycling cap for keeping your head warm on cooler days and keeping rain out of your face… plus, no helmet hair issues during cafe stops. Giro has a great one that comes in a ton of neutral-friendly shades for under $20!
This trip, because we likely won’t have super cold weather, I’m bringing a pair of bricklaying gloves that are super cheap but super useful. I’ll put them over my thin gloves if $hit hits the fan, but I’m not worried about bringing a full-on pair of winter gloves.
Ugh, 2 pairs of gloves. But everyone who’s ridden year-round knows that it’s better to have two pairs of layer-able gloves versus just one pair of too thin or too bulky gloves on hand. I LOVE this pair of windproof ones from Gore. They’re super thin, work amazing with your smartphone, and actually are pretty cozy.
I waffle on this one, and I won’t do the burly neoprene ones, but having been caught out in rain and gotten shoes soaked, I realize it’s better to have a thin waterproof pair of booties so that the next day, my shoes aren’t soaked. I like Pearl Izumi’s thin fleece-lined waterproof ones, since they don’t take up a ton of space but do the job.
For $10, get a piece that works as a scarf, face cover, hat, headband, tourniquet… You name it. I was reluctant about the efficacy of a buff until a bikepacking trip last year changed my mind, now I never leave for a trip without one.
CEP Socks (3)
3 pairs of socks for riding might seem like a lot, but assume at least one set will get eaten by your dryer. I really like CEP’s ankle socks for their gentle foot compression, especially in the days right after I’ve flown and my feet are a little puffy. Plus, these things DO NOT wear out. I have pairs that are 6+ years old at this point.