An updated version of this post – that’s a bit less Oaxaca-specific – is up at Bikepacking.com!
Packlists are very much ‘each to their own’.
Now that I’m familiar with Oaxaca – its variable weather and its various challenges – this is the list that works for me, be it a few nights away or a couple of weeks or more. Give or take personal preferences, it would likely work for anyone considering one of the routes we’ve been posting to Bikepacking.com, like the San Jose del Pacifico Grand Dirt Tour, around which the notes below are based:
- A bikepacking-style setup works great, but a couple of small panniers will do just the job nicely too. Just don’t carry what you don’t need and your legs will thank you later.
- We carry a stove unless it’s an overnighter. However, it’s generally just for morning coffee, as we often pick up takeaway tacos or a torta for dinner – hence the reusable containers (a Stasher bag is ideal but a few stout Ziplocks also work well). My stove, a Trangia, uses denatured alcohol, which is easily sourced in bulk in Oaxaca City. Ask for ‘alcohol metilico’ – I’ve included a spot where you can find it on the route GPS file, right by a heladería! Ask for ‘alcohol metilico’. You can buy compressed camping gas bottles too – the shop is called La Gran Montaña and it’s on Miguel Hidalgo. It’s close to Marito and Mogli Cafe, a hip little coffee shop. Given that tasty, affordable food is easy to find along the route, it’s relatively easy to ditch the stove if you prefer to travel light and you’re not hooked on coffee.
- We like to carry fresh produce, fruit, a loaf of sourdough, a bag of totopos, or a flask of mezcal, so the setup I run gives me room to expand and enjoy the finer things in life.
- On the subject of food… it’s hard to beat a visit to Boulenc bakery on your way out, to load up with tasty treats for the first couple of days.
- Their homemade granola is excellent, too! As is that of Pan Con Madre, also a bakery. See map for location. Pack a few morning’s worth at least!
- Dry season? Add water carrying capacity and subtract waterproofs. I tend to be able to get by on about 3-4l of water between reliable refills. If in doubt, bring a foldaway water bladder too.
- I don’t carry a water filter, as I know most of the springs that are local to me, fill up from safe sources if needed, and have a stomach tuned to Oaxaca living. But it’s probably a good idea to carry one, especially if the region is new to you. We also fill up at restaurants and offer a few extra pesos, or drink tap water in areas where locals say it’s fine to do so. Otherwise (and especially when riding in company), spend 20 pesos ($1) on a 20l sealed water jug when you hit a grocery store in town, filling up your bottles/drinking to your heart’s content. Then return the jug to be re-used. Explain what you’ll be doing to the shopkeeper in advance, and you won’t get charged for the jug itself. As an aside, I prefer not to carry water bottles below the downtube, in case I have to portage the bike and because they get cruddy.
- Rainy season? Add extra waterproofs and subtract some water capacity. Make sure all your important gear is fully waterproofed. It’s often possible to find a shelter to weather the worst of a storm but if you get caught out, you’ll be drenched in moments.
- Bring more lube than you think you’ll need. In the dry season, it can be dusty. And in the rainy season, bikes get wet overnight.
- On the subject of the rainy season, some of the lesser travelled farm roads can become muddy immediately after rainfall. If that’s the case, so you may want to reroute onto compacted gravel roads. Luckily, it’s only in isolated places and they to dry out within a couple of hours.
- There are mosquitos, black flies, and occasionally poison ivy, so having some Benadryl if you’re sensitive to any of these can be useful.
- Although there are occasional frosts, the temperatures themselves don’t change all that much, so I find a 40f/5c bag is sufficient all year round, especially teamed with extra layers.
- I run 29×2.6in tyres as I find them fast-rolling, comfortable, and well suited to the mixed terrain in Oaxaca. My bike doesn’t have front suspension but there are plenty of times where it would be nice to have – so either goes.
- I ride in mountain bike shoes with flat pedals and like to carry some crocs or flip flops for around camp, as it can be warm and humid at lower elevations. Otherwise, riding in Bedrock sandals or similar works great too.
- Best tip? Read Dr Oliver Sach’s Oaxaca Journal during your trip, to really get a feel for this biodiverse and culturally rich Mexican state.
- Tarptent Double Rainbow Lithium (black flies/mosquitos can be an issue and we spotted brown recluses too, so an enclosed setup is recommended)
- Exped sleeping mat
- Foam sit mat
- Big Agnes Fussell (40f/5c) quilt
- Silk liner
- Trangia alcohol burner
- Clikstand ti support
- 900ml ti Evernew pot
- 300ml bottle of alcohol/meths (bigger bottle for longer trips, alcohol can be purchased by volume in Oaxaca City, see map for details)
- GSI coffee filter
- Opinel no 10 knife
- Small Bic lighter
- Small vial of sea salt (for avocados!)
- Stasher silicone bag or stout zip-locks (sandwich size, for leftovers and low waste touring)
- 2 x 1.5L Nalgene bottles (these are easy to fill in restaurants)
- 650ml water bottle
- Sometimes I bring my Hydrapak 3L silicon water bladder. It packs down so very tiny, just to be on the safe side in the dry season.
Clothes + riding gear
- Riding shorts (Outdoor Research Ferrosi are light and dry quickly)
- Riding T shirt
- Fast wicking boxer shorts
- Lightweight running shorts (around camp or if my riding shorts are soaked)
- Riding socks
- Riding mitts
- Patagonia Houdini (windproof)
- Patagonia Nanopuff (doubles as pillow)
- Thin thermal leggings
- Rain poncho/jacket
- Baseball cap (under helmet, as it’s so sunny)
- Riding shoes/sandals
- Facemask + buff
- Crocs (for camp)
- Fuji X100V + 2 batteries
- Phone 7 Plus (Gaia GPS/Mapout Apps)
- Quad Lock mount
- Anker USB-C 8,000 mah cache battery (QI fast charging)
- Anker QI USB charger (2 ports)
- Various USB cables
- JBL Clip 3 speaker (music + podcasts)
- Earbud headphones
- Wahoo Roam (+ RWGPS Premium account)
- Petzl USB-charged headtorch
- Basic gear repair kit (sewing/patches/glue etc)
- Passport + money purse (paperwork backed up to cloud)
- Moleskin journal
- Washbag (t-brush, small refillable toothpaste, eye drops for dusty roads, face oil, nail clippers, Dr Bronner, ear plugs for noisy hotels/dogs barking)
- Toolkit, including tyre plugs if running tubeless
- Basic medical kit
- 1 x inner tube
- Multi tool
- Lube and rag (bring extra lube in the rainy season)
- Hiplock Z-lok (for immobilizing your bike, though a Voile strap works too!)
As for my personal setup, here are some details…
When I’m aspiring to go especially light, I carry my tent, wrapped in a sit mat, on my handlebars, using a G-Funk handlebar mount – as pictured. Otherwise, I use a Goldback Medium, by BXB Bags, up front. I run a Tailfin AeroPack and easy to access Nalgene 1.4L water bottles on either side. My Buckhorn custom framebag holds the rest of my gear. One drinking bottle sits in a stem bag where it’s quick to access and stays clean. Another takes charge of my snacks – sometimes I run a top tube bag for additional treats. I like to use a dropper post for both burly singletrack routes and dirt road riding too… because they’re fun (-: I carry my camera in a Dos Erre Hip Bag, which is completely waterproof.
Have fun out there!