Updated on February 6, 2020

So you want to travel the world by bicycle? In a previous article, we’ve already talked about the essential gear you need for you first bike tour. But, you don’t have much money? No worries, you don’t need to spend your life savings gearing up for your tour. Here are some awesome alternatives to expensive bicycle touring gear that will inspire you to get out the door and on the road today. 



Awesome Alternatives to Expensive Bicycle touring gear

Can’t spring for Ortlieb panniers? A full set brand new can cost over $300. So why not make your own? All you need is two buckets and some creativity. Here’s Brenna and Pepe, two Aussie cyclists we met in Costa Rica. They constructed their panniers out of buckets they found, making their project costs $0.  But wait there’s more! The buckets function as a great set of table and chairs. They are waterproof and resistant. If they break down just find some more buckets.

Want to make your own? Find out how to here.




Many bicycles

Photo by Pieter Van Marion, licensed under CC BY

You don’t need a top of the line bike to explore the world, any old bike will do the job. We met a man in Belize who toured all of South America on a bike he found in a ditch! He even showed us the alpaca skin that he carried on the bike all the from Peru back to Belize.

If you don’t have any luck finding a bike in a ditch check out yard sales and second hand stores. You will most likely need to make some modifications or repairs but the cost will be much lower than that of a new bike. Here is a great article by Travelling Two that is all about how to choose a used touring bike.




Awesome Alternatives to expensive bicycle touring gear

A Primus or MSR multi-fuel stove can cost hundreds of dollars. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to cook while on the road is to make your very own stove using only a soda can and alcohol. The total cost of constructing the stove is $0. 




Awesome Alternatives to Expensive Bicycle Touring Gear

If you step into an outdoor store to buy a lightweight backpacking tent you can easy be discouraged by the high prices. A top of the line tent can cost you over $500. Don’t let that get you down because you don’t really need the best tent in the world to use while bicycle touring. Just like for the bike check out yard sales and online buy and sale websites. Also get in touch with retailers and companies to ask if they have any tents that they were using as displays. Often times these will be heavily discounted. 

An alternative to buying a tent all together is to get a camping hammock. I bought a Hennessy Hammock in a pawn shop in Mexico for 350 pesos / 24USD (the lady even gave me a discount!). This model of hammock goes for $219.00 new. It has a mosquito net and a waterproof rain fly. All you need to do is find two poles or trees to hang it from and you are set! Don’t forget to check our 14 free places to sleep while bicycle touring.

If you want to go ultra lightweight or just don’t have the money to buy a tent, go without one. We’ve met many cyclists who don’t even bother carrying one for short trips. They just have a tarp and mattress. 



For more of our top bicycle touring gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer's guides:

Touring Bikes

Bike Handlebar Bags

Touring Tires

Panniers for Touring

Touring Saddles

Fat Bikes

17 Responses

  1. Jane M

    On our trip, instead of buying one of those expensive Ortlieb back rack packs, we got two dry bags meant for Kayaking. When we weren’t using them, they could fold up small and go inside our other bags, when we were, we just strapped them to the back rack with a bungy net. We saved a lot of money, and they were much more convenient.

    • Amanda Zeisset

      That’s a clever idea Jane! We also use dry bags bungeed onto the back rack. You can fit so much more into them and they are great for side trips.

    • Amanda Zeisset

      That’s one thing I love about bicycle touring, everyone is connected in some way. I agree, they are awesome. Are you still on tour?

  2. Brenda Hébert

    I’ve taken 3 long-distance bicycle tours solo, and while I usually had a good trailer, most of the rest of my gear was economical. On my trip down the Pacific Coast in 1993 I did buy an MSR stove that uses white gas, and brought it along on my 2005 ride across the US, so it was somewhat expensive, but it has lasted a long time (right now it’s in storage, but I believe it still works).

    Two of my three rides I just used a cheap 1-2 person tent from a discount department store. My ride cross-country I did purchase a Kelty lightweight backpacking tent, but I bought it on sale (I still have that, too). That ride I travelled with a fleece sleeping bag (nylon sleeping bag liners and I don’t get along).

    • Amanda Zeisset

      Hi Brenda, I agree, it’s best to invest in what’s really important and then everything else you can try other options. Since we plan on touring for years (sometimes in very cold weather) there are somethings, like a good stove and tent that we want to make sure that they last. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Yuya

    That’s wonderful article. If I have read this page before the preparation of my bicycle touring…
    I’ve already set out. But I will never need to worry about breaking my expensive stuffs.

  4. Gautam

    Dear Riders,
    My name is Gautam and i am 40 years guy from Delhi (India)
    I am also a cyclist and i have done many cycling trip to the Himalayas and surroundings of Delhi. Thanks for the nice tips for the cycling. i am also planning a trip to the Himalayas for 3-4 weeks. I will get back to you soon for some more suggestions.

    • Amanda Zeisset

      Hi Gautam,

      Can’t wait to hear all of your tips and suggestions. Enjoy your trip, I’m sure it will be amazing!

  5. Dan

    Completely agree on not spending loads of money on gear. We’re currently touring on old 1990’s bikes that I recycled and renovated into tourers. Pretty easy process, whatever is broken on the old bike you fix up or replace (youtube is full of videos showing how), meaning you learn potentially valuable maintenance skills before the tour. They’ve lasted through 7 countries so far, often on offroad routes. If we can do it, so can anyone.


    • Amanda Zeisset

      That’s a great story Dan! Thanks for sharing your experience, I’m sure it will inspire people to get out there on the road.

  6. Dorothee Fleck

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for the article. I met a girl in NZ with bucket panniers, very impressive.
    I am not very convinced of the self-made stove. When I met cyclists who had it, they preferred to use my multi fuel stove.
    And I am very happy I got the best tent ever sponsored. I really would have problems to find poles or trees in lot of places, I am cycling in.
    But I completely agree, money is not a reason not going on a bicycle tour.

    • Michael

      I am sold on the way the trangia stove functions so when I made an alcohol fuel stove out of a coke can. I also made a close fitting aluminium wind break so the heat came up the side of the pot as well. Much more efficient!