Recently I went through a phase of forgetting some of the things I need before leaving the house. And when you’re out and about under your own power, not only do you need more stuff, but forgetting something can mean you end up very uncomfortable (wet, cold, sunburned), bored, or going back home — still under your own power — to get the thing. I’ve even left home without my bike lock, which can be a disaster (although some businesses will lend you one). Because I switch bags from day to day depending on how I’m traveling, I can’t follow Seattle Bus Chick’s wise suggestion to just leave the bag packed.

Finally, after one too many forgetful moments, I realized by brain was overtaxed trying to keep track of this, and I created a list of the things I always need so I can just run down the list before I leave. Here’s my list, which might be a useful starting point for yours.

Stuff I always take:

  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Cell phone
  • Notebook and pen
  • Bus tickets (if I have them)
  • Kleenex
  • Business cards
  • Water bottle or hot drinks mug
  • a Buff (multifunctional headwear)
  • a jacket (if I’ll be gone for long)

If I’m going by foot or bus:

  • A Chico bag (in case I decide to buy something — even more of an essential now that single-use plastic bags are banned)
  • A book
  • Headphones (you don’t want to be That Girl on the bus, making everyone else listen to your music…do you?)

If I’m going by bike:

  • Bike lock
  • Multitool, patch kit and tire levers
  • Spare tube
  • Riding glasses
  • Ankle band and reflective/blinky arm band
  • Bike map
  • Lights

And of course, my helmet! I also like to wear gloves while riding — they’re a winter essential, but I sometimes leave them at home in the summer.

Because the weather changes, I don’t keep seasonal items on the “always” list, but I do have separate lists for sunny/hot weather (on the rare occasions we have it :), for cold, and for rain. That way I can just look at the list and choose the right section for the day’s weather. Which of course leads me to another reminder: always check the weather. And always put on your rain gear on at the first moment you think “Do I need it?” (Props to April of Girlybikes for the wise advice.)

With this help, hopefully you’ll never be caught without your bike lock, burning and squinting in an unexpected sunburst, or missing the bus because you forgot to grab your bus tickets!