Changing from motorbike touring to bicycle touring meant that I had to rethink each piece of equipment that I take with me. Space and weight became more of a concern, so I took the time and money that I had in Australia to prepare for my bicycle trip. Again I have separated the equipment into necessary equipment, that is really needed for the trip, and useful equipment that I think is worth the space for the added luxury. Hopefully I wont need to add a column for unnecessary items this time.
Vivente World Randonneur – My bicycle is a Vivente World Randonneur. I had started looking at bikes that were available and asking people I knew, who had been travelling by bicycle when I met them. The name I heard most often was the Surly Long Haul Trucker, so initially that is what i was going to buy. When I started going into shops to view the LHT, I was shown a Vivente World Randonneur. It was a similar price to the LHT, but it came with lights, a dynamo hub, mud guards and rear pannier racks. I took a couple for a test ride and decided that I liked them more than the LHT, so I went away to look into it more before I bought it. Vivente is an Australian company based in Sydney and have been refining the Randonneur design over the last 5 years. But I couldn’t find any information from people who had ridden them on big tours. So I contacted them and suggested a sponsorship agreement, a few weeks later I got my discounted World Randonneur and started customising it for my trip. I didn’t need to add much to the bike, just some front pannier racks, a Brooks B17 saddle a computer and a pump. The Brooks saddles are supposed to be amazingly comfortable once they are worn in, because the leather of the seat will change shape to fit your ass perfectly. I only added the computer because it was cheap and I remember that I liked to check my speed on the motorbike to work out when I would arrive at places. But it will be easier to track my distances if the bike will count for me. I’ll add details of any problems I encounter while I am on the journey.
Panniers – Everyone I spoke to about panniers for bicycles, mentioned the Ortlieb brand. I looked at the different bags they have available and decided to go for the Classic Plus panniers on front and back. They are waterproof and easy to attach and remove from the bike, hopefully they are touch enough for long term touring. I also added an Ortlieb Ultimate Classic-M handle bar bag for some easy access to certain items, as well as a map case to hold any maps or scraps of paper I might want to look at while riding.
First Aid Kit – A first aid kit is one of the most important things that you need to carry, whether you are going hiking for a day, or touring for years at a time. My first aid kit is the same first aid kit I carried through Europe, Africa and Australia. It contains a standard set of bandages, plasters, antiseptic wipes, plastic gloves, tweezers and scissors and pain killers. I plan to pick up other medications as I need them on the road. For example, when I was travelling through Africa I bought a Malaria treatment which I carried with me incase I got Malaria, or when I was in Malawi I carried medication for Bilharzia. But a first aid kit isn’t much use without the knowledge of how to use it correctly, there are reference books available, ‘Where there is no doctor’ for example, which will give you an idea of how to treat a lot of different injuries, but I still think it is important to have some first aid training if you are going to travel alone.
Tent – I put a lot more thought into my choice of tent for this trip than when I was travelling by motorbike. I spent a few hours online looking at different tents, keeping a list of the ones I liked, then created a spreadsheet where I compared the price, weight, packed size, fully erected size, pole material, waterproof rating and material used for the base and walls of the tent. Eventually I decided to go for a nice cheap tent which actually rated better than all the other tents for its waterproof rating. The tent I decided to go with is a Darche Cumulus LW2, it is light and packs down pretty small, the poles are alloy and the tent only cost $125. I prefer the alloy poles because eventually the fiberglass poles start to splinter and break. I got the tent in Perth and used it while I travelled through Australia, so it has been tested a little before I take it into Asia. I have been very impressed with how waterproof the tent is. One morning I woke up in Tasmania and it had snowed in the night, the snow was melting and there were puddles of slushy melting ice everywhere, even under my tent. But the tent was completely dry inside. We will just have to wait and see how long that lasts.
Sleeping Bag – The sleeping bag I have bought for this trip is small and cheap, I wasn’t too worried about the temperature rating because I am not expecting it to be particularly cold through SE Asia and India. The main factors I took into account were size and price. Once I had a selection that were a similar price and a similar size, I chose the one with the best temperature rating.
Stove – After having problems trying to get my Primus Omnifuel stove working, I decided to change to an MSR Whisperlite. I haven’t used it yet, so I will add more details after I have used it for a while.
Cooking Set – I looked for small cooking sets which included draining lids, I ended up with the GSI Ultralight Pinnacle Dualist set. It includes one large pot, two bowls and two cups. I liked having two pots when I was travelling before, but the size and weight of this set seemed like a great combination, especially as it has a drainer lid.
Clothes – I am down to 3 t shirts, one jumper, one pair of craghoppers trousers and one pair of shorts. This should be enough, but I think I can easily stock up on cheap clothes while I am travelling around.
Waterproofs – I am taking my rain jacket, but only because I already own it. I think I can find usable cheap waterproof clothing in places where I need it. I also carry a couple of dry-bags which I can use to keep particularly water sensitive items.
Towel – I still have my Lifeventure MicroFibre towel, I prefer this towel to other MicroFibre towels because it has more of a rough finish to it, so it feels like a normal towel, but it packs down into a small bag, dries quickly and is very absorbent. It has also held up really well throughout my journey so far.
Tools & Spares – The Vivente site has a list of the tools that you need with their bike.
Water Bottles – The Vivente World Randonneur has two bottle holders fitted as standard, but instead of buying real sports bottles I will just put drinking water bottles in them to refill and replace as needed.
Bungies/Tie-downs – I need bungies to secure my fins to the back rack of my bike, I also have a large dry bag from my trip on the motorbike, it rolls up very small and could come in useful for storage later in the trip. I will take a few extra bungies with me incase I need to attach anything else to the bike.
Laptop – While many travellers go without a laptop, I personally find them too useful to miss. Having a laptop allows me to update my website, edit photographs and videos while also helping to keep me entertained from time to time. I made sure I got good waterproof panniers to try to protect it, but I may also wrap it in plastic before packing it, incase I get a leak.
Camera – I will be taking a camera with me, but this is the fifth camera I have had so far on this trip, I would advise people to either have a cheap camera that is easily replaceable, or be very, very careful.
GoPro – I bought a GoPro in South Africa after doing my Advanced Open Water course. I have been trying to use it in Australia and have been impressed with what I have been getting, but I am still learning how to get the most out of the camera. Hopefully I’ll be making some cool videos over the next few months.
Mobile Phone – A smart phone is really useful, they not only allow you to call people and use the internet, but you can also store pdf’s on it of guidebooks, so that you can quickly look things up without having to carry loads of guidebooks. While I generally lost faith in guidebooks, after finding lots of mistakes in them for Africa, I do find the maps of towns and cities to be really useful. I have even used the small map of an entire country, from the front of a guide book, as my road map for the country. They aren’t very detailed, but they can help you to find places if the locals can’t help.
Kindle – I liked the idea of borrowing and exchanging books as I travelled around, but after I tried a kindle and realised how many books it could store while still being so small, and also had a huge battery life, I bought one. I have loads of books on it and can recharge it on the go with my Solar Charging Kit.
Camping Tools – I still have the same tools as when I travelled by motorbike, with one exception, I no longer carry a folding spade. Hopefully I wont be too far away from a toilet, but I can always improvise. I still have my bushcraft knife with a wooden handle, full tang and a blade about 6 inches long. I use it while cooking and generally cutting things around the camp. I have a head torch which is really useful when you are preparing food at night, but I have also been shown how to use a head torch to find spiders at night. Obviously I still have one of my favourite pieces of equipment, my Titanium Spork, I use it to cook with and eat with and always carry it with me. One thing that most people wont carry, but I am very happy to have, is a folding saw. This has helped to cut fire wood in any place that I camp. I definitely recommend them!
Hennessy Hammock – The Hammock might seem like a waste of space when I am also carrying a tent, and I can see why people would decide not to carry one, but I really appreciate the comfort and variety that comes from not having to sleep in a tent every night. The Hennessy hammock has a large number of accessories to help you customise it for whatever situation you need. It packs down small and goes up really quickly, but its use depends on you having something to tie it to. When there were trees around I would use the hammock and use the tent when I couldn’t put the hammock up. The hammocks are strong and well made, I would recommend them for people who have the space to carry them, or are sure they will have trees around when they are camping.
CamelBak – I have decided to keep my CamelBak backpack. It is handy to have a small backpack it I decide to explore a city and leave my bike locked somewhere. The main reason I kept it is the water bag and drinking pipe. It’s really good for drinking on the move and I can refill it from the drinking bottles I’ll carry on the bike itself.
Snorkelling Gear – This set of equipment was something that drew a few laughs on my trip with the motorbike, especially when I was driving through the Sahara. But I really love to swim, snorkel and scuba dive. Having your own mask, snorkel and fins lets you snorkel whenever and where ever you want. Definitely worth it in my opinion.
Scarf – I used my tube scarf to keep warm while I was riding through the Alps and used it to keep the dust out of my nose and mouth while I was riding through the desert areas. It takes up a tiny amount of space so it is definitely useful enough to carry.
Sleeping Mat – While I was in Australia I travelled with a French guy called Ben, he had an awesome mattress which I decided to buy for myself. At the time I had been sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag, without a mattress. But that soon gets to be too uncomfortable. The mattress I have chosen is the ThermaRest NeoAir. It packs down to about half the size of the other mattresses I have seen. It is made with a thin but hopefully strong layer of plastic and has a structure of walls inside that make it very warm. I’ll add more details if I have any issues with it.
SteriPen (Water Purification) – A really great piece of kit, the SteriPen range allows you to make water safe to drink by killing all the bacteria. There are a number of different models, some of which are rechargeable either by mains electricity, usb connection or solar power. My SteriPen is a basic model which doesn’t recharge itself, instead I use a set of rechargeable batteries and my solar charging kit. Without a SteriPen you would need to either carry water purification tablets, which make the water taste of chlorine, or constantly buy fresh bottles of drinking water, while it may seem like a bottle of water is cheap, the cost soon stacks up if you are buying a few bottles each day. A SteriPen is cheaper than both the other options, on a long trip.
Solar Charging Kit – After meeting a couple in Malawi who used a small solar charger to recharge their mobile phones and torch batteries, I decided to look into getting myself a similar set up. I found a PowerTraveller Solarmonkey Adventure solar charger online which has a USB port to charge from. This allows me to charge my GoPro, my Kindle and my mobile phone. But I also bought a battery charger that runs on usb power, so that I can keep recharging batteries for my Steripen and head torch. The only things I can’t charge from the solar panel are my laptop and my camera battery, which should last long enough for me to charge once every week or so, although I am looking for ways to charge those from solar power too.