A cycling journey is a great way to really explore a country. Biking through the countryside, stopping at local coffee shops, and picnicking along the way, gives you the chance to experience a culture as a traveler instead of a tourist. A Netherlands bike tour is the perfect first European cycling tour, but packing light is essential.
Many groups offer cycling tours, some staying at hotels along the way with a sag wagon shuttling luggage from place to place, and some offer a barge accommodation where the barge meets you at the end of each cycling day. We chose the barge option as we didn’t want to be packing up each day before a 6-7 hour ride.
Our barge was quite basic. With a maximum of 20 guest, the Jelmar, had a kitchen, dining room and outdoor area on the main deck and cabins below. Our room was small but tidy with a tiny closet and bath. The luggage, when unpacked, slid under the bunks and the rest off our daily gear was stowed on a small shelf above the beds. Suffice it to say that space was at a premium and we were glad we’d packed light.
Read about our experience on the Netherlands bike tour.
Now, as bike and barge pros, we share strategies for packing:
1. Make a packing list!
- Lay out all the clothes you plan to bring and discard anything that can’t be used in at least two outfits. (I use style apps to help me visualize these combinations – see my review of the Stylebook app)
- Choose lightweight layers and quick dry fabrics if possible. Avoid cotton as it’ll take forever to dry below deck. We invested in merino wool socks and tees before the trip and were very pleased at how often we could re-use them. Merino wool is naturally odor resistant.
- Be ruthless in your choices. The trip was decidedly casual. Dinner is served on-board the barge with some of our fellow travelers still in their biking gear.
- Shoes: try to limit yourself to two pair, three at the most. You’ll need shoes for cycling and a comfortable pair for evenings.
2. Allow room for cycling gear
- Helmet – the group we were with didn’t supply helmets, and we’d heard from others that bringing your own helmet was suggested for sanitary and comfort reasons. Obviously the helmet is a bulky item, but we stuffed it with clothing, etc., so it didn’t take up much extra room.
- Bike lights – the bikes should come equipped with lights, but at least a quarter of ours weren’t working. Including mine…
- Water bottle – again, this can be packed with socks, etc. to better use the space in your bag.
- Clothing – layers are the key here. The morning will be chilly but you’ll want to be able to unburden yourself as the day warms up. I wore cycling leg warmers which I peeled off when I got warm.
- Raingear – a waterproof jacket is a great idea. We ended up buying jackets mid-trip.
- Helmet cover – because rain…
- Fanny pack or similar – this admittedly unflattering bag is actually great while cycling. We carried our wallet, phone, etc. in the fanny pack.
3. Keep Technology to a Minimum
Bring what you’ll need for the flight, but don’t expect much tech time on the trip. You’ll have no safe space for carrying a dSLR on the bike and likely won’t have wi-fi on the barge. We did carry a compact waterproof camera – our Nikon Coolpix camera (which takes great pictures, even underwater!)- but primarily used our phones for pictures.
We had a great time on this adventure and have booked another bike/barge trip for Germany in 2020. This time we’ll know to bring a waterproof jacket!
Where have you cycled that you’d recommend? We’re always looking for adventures!
featuring Icebreaker merino tees, Scottevest Chloe hoody, Rothys flats, Kuhl Kliffside convertible pants, Louis Garneau bike helmet, Pearl iZUMi cycling jacket, Eat Sleep Bike Repeat tee, Diane Kroe travel tights, carry-on cozy,
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