A bandana was the unsung hero of Mattie’s latest bikepacking expedition, so why are they the next greatest addition to your bikepacking (or hiking) pack?

I recently cycled from Melbourne to Canberra as part of the Hunt 1000. This was my biggest ever bikepacking trip, both in distance and challenge, and this meant I wanted to be as prepared as possible. 

During the build up, I spent hours researching toolkits and packing lists, before buying and borrowing items to build up the ultimate bikepacking setup. Everything needed to be multipurpose and versatile to earn its place on the bike. 

I thought the most useful pieces of equipment were going to be my bike multitool, my Leatherman, or even my puffer jacket. But it turned out that the piece of gear that I relied on the most, used the most often, and which played the widest variety of roles, was a simple bandana that I’d tied around my handlebars at the last minute.


Bandana Use Number One – Snack Bag

The first time that the lowly bandana was called into action was at 7:00am, on the way to the start line – I guess that makes it kilometre minus three. I’d called into a cafe to grab a coffee and pastry, and I wanted to grab an extra croissant for second breakfast. 

My bags were all packed to the nines, so the bandana became an extra storage device on the bike. I wrapped the delicate french pastry, tied a knot over it and carried that croissant, unharmed, all morning. 

This handlebar storage device was called into action many times over the next 1000km, carrying bananas, choccy milks and even a damp pair of undies I’d swam in.

Read more: The Tastiest Snacks For Every Aussie Road Trip


Bandana Use Number Two – Neckerchief

On the second day, the weather was warming and the sunscreen was regularly making an appearance. In order to be extra sunsmart during days where I was pedalling for at least 12 hours, I called in the bandana to play its most traditional role – tied around my neck to keep the sun off. 

Obviously this use works best once pastries have been consumed, otherwise you’ve got a sweaty pastry sat on the back of your neck.


Bandana Use Number Three – Chain Rag

I’ve got quite an old drivetrain on my bike (chain, gears, cassette) and I knew that it would need regular lubing to keep it running as true as possible. As the ride moved towards the Victorian High Country, the trails got dustier and dustier. It got to the point where I was lubing my chain several times a day, and here the bandana came into its third usage – wiping down the chain.

I lost count of how many times I lubed my chain over the trip, but it was half a bottle of lube worth and one of the most crucial things I did over the trip.

Read more: Essential Gear for Bikepacking Adventures

Bandana Use Number Four – Rubbish Bag

With constant snacking along the trails, there was an equally constant turnover in muesli bar wrappers, coke cans and banana peels. Rather than dirtying up the inside of my bike bags, the bandana turned from snack carrier to trash carrier. Sat on the handlebars, this kept my bags clean and was easy to empty when passing through towns with public bins. Leave no trace!


Bandana Use Number Five – Washcloth

The idea of using your chain rag / rubbish bag / pastry carrier / sweat rag as a washcloth might be slightly repulsive, but it was a delight to have a decent sized piece of material at the ready for a riverside bird bath. 

The added bonus of the washcloth method is that you’re simultaneously cleaning the bandana for and from* each of its other four uses. Winner! 

*Make sure you’re using an eco-friendly bike lube to minimise your impact!


The Bandana Is Coming Along For Every Ride

The most useful and versatile item that I carried on the Hunt 1000, weighing in at an ultralight 50g, was the humble bandana. 

The only way I didn’t use it was, ironically, as a bandana.

Read more: A Beginners Guide to Bikepacking Bags