A packlist is personal. Carefully honed through trip after trip; mile after mile; your kit becomes almost sacred. I carry what I consider crucial to my survival and, perhaps more importantly, crucial to my sanity. I could certainly travel lighter, though not much. Each item is carefully measured on a theoretical balance. One side represents the penalty of excess: more energy expended per mile, more wear on the bike, more to lose and keep track of. The other side of the balance represents added value: comfort, escape, relief from boredom. I carry a laptop computer up and down every mountain pass. I curse it as I climb. I visualize it soaring off the top of the mountain. I see it smashed to pieces on the rocks below. Still, I continue carrying it. By breaking up the monotony of the daily grind, it adds value to my life through the work it allows me to perform. It adds more value to my life off the bike than it detracts from life on the bike. In this way, our kit selects us.

I remember my first big trip, a two month and 2,000 mile ride from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Bar Harbor, Maine. I was climbing a series of endless hills. I was exhausted. I was hungry. And I was frustrated. I remember mentally sorting through everything I carried. I made a list. When I reached the top of the next climb, nothing on that list saw the next one. Only through experience are our pack lists honed and we learn what we truly require.

If you are planning a trip of your own, compare this list to many others. Read as much as you like, but don’t forget to get out there. Take small trips carrying what you think you need. Let the burden of human powered travel sort out the rest. Experience really is the best teacher.