When packing up for a tour, I tend to put a big focus on the essentials (tools, tent, sleeping bag, cookware, clothes, etc). Here are four items that may or may not be necessities, so they can be easy to neglect. But all of them are beneficial to have along.
The obvious risk you run by forgetting your sunscreen is the burn. This leads to discomfort over the next few days, can lead to skin problems way down the road, and plays havoc with your cycling tan lines. Sunscreen can also aid in hydration by preventing your skin from drying out, which helps keep your body moisture from evaporating as quickly. Sport-specific formulas are nice since they don't wash off as easily from sweat.
Whether you are using panniers or a trailer, a couple of bungee cords are really nice to have along. They can secure items to the top of your rack and/or panniers; or, if you're towing a trailer, they can help hold your gear firmly in place. You can sometimes find these lying on the shoulder of the road, but they're quite inexpensive to pick up prior to taking off on your tour.
Then put on your reading helmet.
It never hurts to have a few small plastic baggies on hand to help keep things dry or separated. Perhaps you'll find you want to split up food amongst the riding party, or keep your camera and phone quickly accessible in your back pocket.
After your morning coffee, and a breakfast of high-fiber cereal, realizing you forgot T.P. 45 minutes into your ride can be a big 'uh-oh' moment. If this occurs halfway between Lander and Rawlins, WY, on the TransAmerica Trail, you have my deepest sympathy. Even if all of your service stops are fully stocked, it's good to have your own stash along, and it certainly won't weigh you down.
These are just a few items I find myself snagging at the last minute. Everyone's list is different, so if you have something you don't see as an obvious choice for a packing list, but comes in handy at crucial times, please share.
This story has been updated and was originally published on July 3, 2010.