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, they agreed. So 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.
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. So far, they are tough 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. The map case turned out not to be so necessary and I removed it before starting my South American journey. I now have a mobile phone mount on the handlebar which I use to access google maps to check my location.
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 contains a standard set of bandages, plasters, antiseptic wipes, plastic gloves, tweezers and scissors and pain killers. I generally 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 bicycle trips than when I was travelling by motorbike. For my first bicycle trip in Asia, 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 was a Darche Cumulus LW2, it is light and packs down pretty small, the poles are alloy and the tent only cost $125. I got the tent in Perth and used it while I travelled through Australia. I was very impressed with how waterproof the tent was. 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. Unfortunately, one of the piles splintered and cracked early into my Asia trip. I tried to contact the manufacturer but they just ignored me. I was very disappointed. I now use a NatureHike CloudUp3. It is a larger tent, so there is more space inside to keep my bags as well as an additional person. We will have to wait and see how this tent holds up as I travel through South America.
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 in the places I will travel through. 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. A three season bag is usually fine.
Stove – After having problems trying to get my Primus Omnifuel stove working, I decided to change to an MSR Whisperlite for my Asia trip. I didn’t use it much, so I can’t really say if it was good or not. I am now carrying a FireMaple X2 Cook System. I am very happy with it, the only possible issue could be that it uses gas bottles. But I am hoping I should be able to pick a couple of gas bottles up in most large towns and cities as I travel through South America.
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. My FireMaple X2 comes with a pot which attaches to the system. But I can use my GSI on campfires as it is older and I don’t mind it getting a bit black on the bottom.
Clothes – I am down to 4 t shirts, 3 jumpers, four pairs of craghopper trousers and two pairs of shorts. This is actually more than I carries in South East Asia, but South America has a lot of mountains and the extra clothes might come in handy when it’s cold. Also, I think I can easily stock up on cheap clothes while I am travelling around.
Waterproofs – I am taking a rain jacket and waterproof over-trousers. While the rain wasn’t so cold in South East Asia. In South America, the climate is different and the cold cut through when you get wet. I also carry a couple of dry-bags which I can use to keep particularly water sensitive items.
Towel – Unfortunately I lost my Lifeventure MicroFibre towel during my South East Asia trip. I preferred 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 also held up really well throughout my journeys, I am really sad that I lost it. I now carry a cheap Nabaiji towel that I got from Decathlon. It’s not quite as nice as my old towel, but its doing the job.
Tools & Spares – The Vivente site has a list of the tools that you need with their bike. This is useful for their specific models. But I also recommend carrying the basics, a bike multitool, puncture repair kit, spare innertubes and a selection of tie wraps.
Water Bottles – The Vivente World Randonneur has two bottle holders fitted as standard, but instead of buying real sports bottles I just put drinking water bottles in them to refill and replace as needed.
Bungies/Tie-downs – I need bungies to secure my dry bags to the back rack of my bike. 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 also keep it in a dry bag before packing it, incase I get a leak.
Camera – As I travel through South America, I will be taking a Canon EOS M5 camera with me, but this is the seventh camera I have had since leaving the UK. I would advise people to either have a cheap camera that is easily replaceable, or be very, very careful.
GoPro or Drone – I bought a GoPro in South Africa after doing my Advanced Open Water course. I used it in Australia and South East Asia. I was impressed with what I was getting, but it is old now and the new GoPros are expensive. I haven’t got a GoPro with me in South America. Instead I have bought a DJI Mini 2 drone which I use to get really good, high definition video shots from the air. I am super happy with this drone, its small, light and it charges via USB which makes it perfect for me.
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. With a local sim card and a data only bundle, you can use google maps and google translate almost anywhere. Extremely useful!
Camping Tools – I still have the same tools as when I travelled by motorbike, with two exceptions, I no longer carry a folding spade or a folding saw. Hopefully I wont be too far away from a toilet, but I can always improvise. I still have a bushcraft knife, 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. My current head torch charges via USB so it is perfect for me. Obviously I still have one of my favourite pieces of equipment, a Titanium Spork, I use it to cook with and eat with and always carry it with me. I have brought a tarp with me which I can use as a sun shade or a rain cover. I carried one with me on my motorbike and never used it. But on the bicycle I find that any extra comfort makes a lot of difference. So I am carrying one again.
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.
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. It also doubles as a face mask for Corona virus if I pass through a town or village where they are still worried about face masks.
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 have owned it for several years now and I am still super happy with it.
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. Before my South East Asia trip, I found a PowerTraveller Solarmonkey Adventure solar charger online which has a USB port to charge from. This allowed me to charge my GoPro, my Kindle and my mobile phone. But I also bought a battery charger that ran on usb power, so that I could keep recharging batteries for my Steripen and head torch. I now carry a BigBlue 28W Solar charger with an Anker 20,000mAh powerbank. The only things I can’t charge from the solar panel are my laptop and my electric toothbrush, which should last long enough for me to charge once every week or so. With the solar charging system I can charge my mobile phone, head torch, beard trimmer, camera batteries, drone and any other USB chargeable device I pick up along the way.
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