Within discussions about gear for all types of outdoor sports there lies a simmering hot bed of opinion, emotion, envy and lust fit to make the hardiest tourer blush and of course this is the topic to which most will gravitate … sitting in their newly found hostel, smug, warm and clean after the first shower in weeks, nursing a cup of free tea (or more likely a cold beer) and the opportunity to become acquainted with their fellow hostel mates …. the sounds of oooh’s and aaaah’s as they check out each other’s bikes, tent and associated kit could be mistaken as erotic but is in fact closer to the grooming ritual of various species of primates!
There are many ways to travel by bike, as many opinions regarding different kit as there are routes and the budget to do so as wide and as varied as any landscape I have seen …
But lets be honest … lots of kit is not needed, the budget does not have to be large. People bikepack light and ride fully loaded, there are merits to both! In order to travel by bike the only necessity is …. a bike!!! Any bike!!! Tom Allen (check out his amazing website here) bought a bike from a scrap yard in the UK, did some work on it for minimal cost and took it on its first jaunt around England. Charlie the Scrapyard bike has been on several missions since … the UK to Spain, around Iceland and UK to Hong Kong, his short term owners revelling in their new found freedom before they pass him onto the next recipient and next adventure … proving, if you were in any way dubious about my views on this matter, that a fancy bike is simply not necessary!!
The same goes for the raft of kit that you ‘could’ purchase in order to make the journey. Quite honestly lots of kit does not make the journey easier, when grunting, sweating and/or pushing your bike over a 4000m+ Pass the necessity or folly of certain pieces of kit will become clear but particular things can, on occasion, make the trip more pleasurable .. and those things are very much personal taste!
So what to carry on this bike trip/adventure/who knows what it is?! ….
I personally find it difficult to lighten my load since I am constantly ‘thinking ahead’ and whilst ‘now’ might be summer in Kyrgyzstan I am all too aware of the cold altitude of the Pamir in Tadjikistan or the nights to come in autumn Nepal!! Do I carry everything with me? With the attitude described above everything feels indispensable and essential – as long as it fits into 4 panniers and a tent ‘sausage’!!
When I read “Full Tilt – Ireland to India on a bicycle” by Dervela Murphy about 6 years ago, one of the parts that I loved the most was her packing list – unfortunately I am not her and have not achieved her level of efficiency!!!
That book, amongst other ideas, conversations, books and blogs inspired this journey and process but unfortunately this has so far not effected my heavy weight packing – I am working on that!!! Im also not carrying a revolver, a question I am asked with alarming regularity… interesting places, interesting times!
Please feel free to compare and contast then read it and see if you suddenly get the itch to go!!!!!
Anyway!!! Herein lie my lists and views of the kit I have chosen, the reasons and some snaps! There are much better places for gear porn (such as any of the company links on this page!!) … but this is my current ‘world’/set up!!!! Enjoy!!!
Thorn Nomad (MkI) circa 2002 (aka Tilly)
Robbens Raptor aka Robbie (2person)
MSR Hubba HP aka Stan (1person)
Stove and Cooking
Primus Omnifuel stove (with 0.6l and 0.35l bottles)
Primus Primetech pot
Firemaple titanium Horizon 2 cookset
Alpkit Titanium mug
Steripen UV water treating (this was in a bag that was stolen … I really liked using it but it is only suitable for clear water, more expensive thn other systems and not too great if away from electricity for the USB rechargeable system)
Sawyer Mini water filter – so far so good!! It’s mid range in price, has filtered puddle water in an emergency and appears to be keeping me well!
Steripen Fits-All-Filter -good to be able to filter out particles prior to using the Sawyer, but not entirely necessary … bit of a belt and braces approach!
Ortlieb Backroller classic x2 – they have all worked really well, unfortuntely are no longer waterproof but this is as a reuslt of wear and tear … but I have been able to patch them with the use of my puncture repair kit! I have had a clip snap but the fact that these can be bought as accessories contributes to my faith in Ortlieb’s ability and drive to produce a great system! Originally I had mismatched sizes on the front rack … I wouldn’t recommend this and I picked up a second front city roller in Istanbul … much more balanced!!
Ortlieb front city x2
Exped Synmat UL Mat – During the past 18months of actual on the road travel I have had 2 of these mats, both of which have broken down after 6-8months. Other people I know have also had problems with these specific mats. They are very comfortable, light and work really well initially HOWEVER it would appear that the glue that hold the internal baffles in place degrades after a short time and once those baffles have gone it is impossible to sleep on the mat.
Exped Downmat – Incredibly warm (used in Mongolia in March) and quick and easy to inflate. Unfortunately twice as heavy as the Synmat UL but no issues so far …
Alpkit Skyehigh 1000 Sleeping bag – Combining a down sleeping bag with a synthetic over the top like a duvet worked extreamly well for me! During cold weather camping (-20°) I slept in less clothes with my Buffalo hood on and was able to scrape ice that accumulated as a result of my body heat, from the outside of the synthetic bag and not worry about getting my down bag wet.
Lestra synthetic sleeping bag – will probably have to replace at some point but decided to lighten the load slightly with the ‘easiest’ thing to replace!
Unbranded foil backed foam mat (cut to size!) – Protects the inflable mat, added insulation and can be used during the day for sitting on!
Mosquito net – modified to fit the MSR pole system but used to good effect in Turkey regardless.
2x sleeping bag liners (synthetic ‘homemade’ = cool/found silk sleeping bag liner = warm) both of which are great and do slightly different jobs!! Necessary summer and winter and especially if you have a down sleeping bag as you want to wash that as infrequently as possible.
Winter – Buffalo Mountain Shirt jacket/hood/mitts (buy Buffalo for the warmest, best, easiest to ventilate and control my core temperature clothing ever!!), Alpkit down jacket, Alpkit merino longsleeve, long legged padded cycling pants, Decathlon beanie, merino buff.
indian style skirt (repurposed into scarf), butterfly dress, knee length lycra leggings, swimming shorts (found!), cotton check shirt, Howies merino hoddie, Howies bib shorts, thrift shop 3/4 length trousers for cycling in, Alpkit merino shortsleeve, Lycra Nike t-shirt (found in Istanbul, arms cut off), lycra buff, baseball cap.
Clean/’smart’ clothes – ‘white’ cotton shirt, green Colombia trousers, REI shorts repurposed into a knee length skirt (so useful for a covered change when cold and wet), thrift shop vest top.
Underwear – Howies Boxhers x3 (brilliant … dont rub or smell(!), I had previously thought that merino pants were a gimic but no longer,
Miniso seamless pants x3, 2 1x unwired sports bra, 2 1x thick merino socks, 1x bridgedale socks, 1x decathlon cycling socks.
Wet – Howies Pris Jacket – it’s light weight, brilliantly windproof, recycleable and PTFE/PET free … unfortunatly I have had problems with the waterproofness of this jacket but it appears that fortunately/unfortunately for me, this is a one off. Howies, as ever, have been amazing and refunded the cost of the jacket with no issues. I really rate their eco minded, ethical stance in business and they have been nothing but helpful to me so heartily recommend dealing with them regardless of which country you are currently in, Altura rain pants
Accessories – sunglasses (buy cheap ones, break arms off (accidentally!!) and replace arms with superglued on strips of silk from sleeping bag liner and a piece of elastic for a very comfortable set up – no rubbing, adjustable (if the elastic is long enough and sliding knots used), will fit under any hat or helmet, large b&w scarf for sun protection, cultural sensitivity and use as a towel and dress, fingerless cycling gloves
Salomon shoes Unknown brand hiking boots free from Tashkent hostel
Keen Sandals – Just wonderful … they are so comfortable, dry fast, look great and are easily restitchable at any bazaar. They have been indespensible for river crossings, hiking, bike pedalling and bike pushing.
Vasque trail running shoes
Samsung smart phone (lost in taxi) Unknown brand Tablet
Xiomi smart phone
Apple Macbook 11″ – to be honest I curse the name of Apple every time I am sweating my way up a Pass! It does an admirable job, is lighter than a lot of laptops and so far (touch wood) is not daunted by the constant bump and grind of Central Asian ‘roads’ and tracks … but feels so much less necessary than most of my kit!
Sony Alpha 5000 camera with original/kit lens – I love this lightweight camera but wish I has more lenses!
Sony zoom lens (in stolen pannier)
Assorted charging leads/data cables
3 slot wall charger
Black diamond torch/powerbank
Health and Hygiene (!)
Assorted biodegradable soaps used over the time – hand soap works for dishes/hair/body/bike cleaning!!
Sunscreen (+50) – don’t be tempted to buy the cheap stuff outside Europe
Neal’s Yard Rose creme – luxury item but incredible stuff, very pricy, falls under first aid, skin protection and emotional backup categories!
First Aid Kit – Crepe bandage, Elastic tape (for strapping knee etc), Plasters, Diclofenic pain relief, Paracetamol, Asprin, Antihistamines, essential olis – yes really!! – lavendar (burns – remember Germany!) and tea tree oils (foot/fungal issues … worked wonders when I got ringworm from goats in Mongolia!)
Mooncup – Awesome!! No rubbish to worry about … Buy one well in advance and get used to it!! I carry a small water bottle for washing (it and me) … great for keeping clean when camping and minimises use of wet wipes as they are not degradable.
Condoms (women – do not get an IUD fitted anything less that a year before you leave! It can take this long to settle down and believe me you do not want to be in the position of navigating unknown healthcare systems to get it removed if there are issues! And the Pill goes straight into the ground water when you pee!)