A 3 Season Bikepacking Clothing System

by Andy Amick on April 3, 2013

in Bikepacking, Gear

My fashion sense is a little whacked.  Ok, a lot of whacked.  I have no problem wearing cuben fiber knickers or a short sleeve down jacket.  For bikepacking, my mantra is definitely function over form.  If there was a great wool baselayer that only came in purple with red polka dots, I’d have no problem wearing it.

The clothing system I use for bikepacking is detailed below.  It consists of multiple layers to work in conditions ranging from 15 degrees and snowy to the hottest summer days.  This is meant as a guide for anyone looking to start out with bikepacking or refine their bikepacking setup to reduce the clothing items they carry.  There is no right or wrong clothing system.  If you have a very different system, leave a comment and share how you came up with your system.

The key for a versatile yet lightweight system is layers.  That’s why the clothing is listed by temperature rather than by type of item.

70 and above

sunny bikepacking weatherAt this point, it’s all fun and games just riding along and soaking up the sun or at least enjoying the warmer temperatures.  Wear whatever you ride on a normal summer day.  For me, that’s bib shorts, a sleeveless base layer, and jersey.  For gloves, I prefer the old school mesh backed variety.

In the  60s

arm warmers, here we comeAs the temperatures drops, it’s time to add more coverage to the arms.  Arm warmers are one of my favorite pieces of cycling clothing because they make a huge difference in your comfort level.  Your legs stay warm with pedaling, but the upper body needs a little help.  Wool is a good choice here, or you can stick with traditional lycra based warmers.

45 – 60 degrees

colder weather ridingTime to add more pieces to the ensemble.  On go full fingered gloves with the Nashbar Polypro gloves being my favorite.  It’s also time to add knee warmers and maybe even toe warmers.  Anything with “warmer” in the name is one of my favorites because they take the edge off of the wind and cooler temps without being bulky.

Just above freezing

As the temperature drops, keep adding layers.  It’s time to put on the rain jacket or wind shirt.  My jacket of choice is a GoLite jacket.  It doesn’t breathe at all which keeps in all of the heat you generate while riding.  This is both good and bad.  Great to keep you warm, but you have to be careful not to sweat too much causing you to chill when you stop.  It’s a delicate balance and I have never figured out this issue perfectly.  A breathable jacket with pit zips would probably be better, but I’ve never shelled out the cash for one.  The final layer for this temerature range is my trusty wool cycling cap.

The bottom drops out

bikepacking in snow

Now it’s a matter of trying to keep everything warm, not just your toes, hands, and head.  On go my fabulous cuben fiber rain pants and the knee length wool socks to completely cover the legs.  I also pack an extra wool base layer which can be used as a standard layer or tied as a neck gaiter since I don’t bring a neck gaiter on bikepacking trips.

Remember the wool cycling cap?  Thank goodness it’s a winter one that has ear flaps to keep my ears from freezing.  The final piece of the frozen temperature puzzle is an outer layer of gloves.  My current favorites are a pair of cuben fiber mittens from ZPacks.  I like to layer my gloves like this because then you can take off the mittens to work on your bike or adjust clothing but still have the thin polypro gloves to prevent your hands from freezing.


This system of thin layers added as the temperature drops or precipitation falls has worked for me over the last few years.  Like most bikepacking/camping items, it’s a constant work in progress to try and minimize weight while maximizing options.

So what do you think?  Is this system close to what you pack or do you have a much different philosophy to your clothing selections?



About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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