The tent is often your cheapest and most flexible sleeping arrangement. In sparsely populated areas, it’s irreplaceable. It’s your emergency shelter from weather and bugs, too, so the easier it is to set up, the better. Opt for a lighter tent, too. You would rather be carrying that weight in food.
Make sure your tent is waterproof, and carry a patch kit on longer trips –it doesn’t weigh much at all, and you don’t want to be stuck with a leaky tent. You can test your tent for water resistance with a garden hose. If you are storing a wet tent in your waterproof panniers, surprise! It will start stinking! Be sure to air it whenever you have the chance.
You also need a mat and sleeping bag. We are both short, so we chose a 3/4 length foamie, and used random things as a pillow. Foamies are lighter and more damage-resistant than inflatable mats. Though inflatable mats have their advantages — greater warmth and comfort — they require careful handling and you can’t just throw it down as a seat whenever you want to have a picnic, because it might get punctured by invisible prickly plants, and then good luck trying to fix it in the field, it’s going to be a cold night.
As for the sleeping bag, sure, get a warm one. Remember that even during the summer, nights can be cold, and if they aren’t, just ditch the sleeping bag. Of sleeping bag fillings, down has the best weight-to-warmth ratio, but not the best price-to-warmth ratio. Also, you can’t dry your wet socks in a down sleeping bag and expect to stay warm: moisture is down’s kryptonite. If, like us, you opt for a down sleeping bag anyway, remember that there is a number to describe the quality of down you are getting: 500 for low-quality, 700 for mediocre, 900 for best weight-to-warmth ratio. And please, please keep it in a waterproof stuff sack.
Get a stove and cooking pot, because hot food is good and there won’t always be a restaurant around the corner. The stove should be lightweight, and most importantly, it should use fuel that is likely to be available in rural gas stations and hardware stores. An alcohol stove is an option we would consider if we had to do it over again.
Carry salt, spices, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. They are the magic in your bland camping food and they don’t weigh much. If you have a spillproof container, oil might be good too, but it does make your cooking pot dirty. Some of us also enjoy Hot Sauce.
In bear country (that’s BC, some of Alberta, and Ontario), make every effort to put your food away from the tent and preferably at an appreciable height, hanging from a tree branch. Especially if you have smoked fish left over. Better safe than sorry.
Ah, forget it. Just wash your clothes in a machine, or not at all. We had a foldable bucket and drying line, but rarely used it.
After a full day’s cycling … you can, but you won’t. Just have a very small amount of all purpose soap with you, in case something unspeakable happens to all of your clothes at once.