Trying to work out what to pack for a bike tour can be overwhelming. How do you prepare for every eventuality, the weather, mechanical issues, illness, and navigation, all while ensuring you stay fed and hydrated. The following will give you an idea of how we approached the kitlist conundrum. This isn’t a definitive guide, every tour is different, but hopefully it helps. To see the steeds that are making it all possible look at the Bikes page.
Whisperlite Universal, the ultimate, hybrid-fuel backpacking stove, and they’re not lying. This stove will burn cannister fuel, white gas, kerosene, and even unleaded, when you buy the stove you also need to buy a fuel bottle separately. Included in the pack is the stove, fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, instructions, and stuff sack.
The MSR Quick 2 System is a brilliant cookware offering from MSR. Containing two pots, a strainer lid, a removable pot handle, two deep dish plates, and two insulated mugs, all fitting within the larger pot it’s hard to pick fault. Designed for two people and small enough to fit in a rear pannier it ticked every box for us, all this ingenuity doesn’t come cheap and at RRP this will set you back £65.85($99.95). This entire system ways in at 795g just add a couple of sporks and you’re ready to go.
We all need a drink and sometimes clean water is hard to find, boiling the water and/or using purification tablets is an effective method of making water drinkable however these methods take time. The Sawyer MINI Filter comes with a 100,000 Gallon (378,540 Litre) Guarantee allowing you to drink instantly from Lakes, Streams, and Rivers at a little under £30 this is a no brainer.
-Mountain Hardwear Lamina 20 Sleeping bag (Comfort -2c, Limit -7c) – We went for one left hand and one right hand zip, this means we can zip them together which is a nice feature.
-OEX Compact 3/4 2.5 Self Inflating Sleeping Mat for Phil and a Thermarest Prolite regular sleeping mat for Ellie-Exped Hyperlite Duo, super lightweight inflating mat
-Blacks Quantum Pack-a-Pillow
-Lifeventure EX3 silk bag liner which is treated to be anti bed bug, mosquito and microbial.
For us the Lightwave G20 Trek XT tent ticks all the boxes. It strikes a balance between being lightweight, durable, well specified, and reasonably price.
It is a semi-geodesic tent. Fully geodesic tents, such as those used on Arctic expeditions are super strong, but require lots of poles so are heavy. Tunnel tents, such as Hillebergs give you a good amount of space and height, but need to be staked into the ground, not so good if you’re pitching in someone’s paved courtyard.
This tent combines both styles, the inner is semi geodesic, so it can be pitched alone and it is structurally strong design, whilst the porch is more of a tunnel shape, giving extra space with only one additional pole.
The tent is inner pitch first, after reading around a lot this seemed the best solution. The inner can be pitched alone, useful in hot countries where all you want is protection from the bugs, plus it makes the tent more streamlined and therefore better in storms and high winds. For more info on the full spec and to read more about the benefits of inner pitch first go here.
Packed full of lots of clever design features, such as the vents, well placed to move air through and reduce condensation, these are propped open with small segments of pole, which can be used if a pole snaps. The inner also has some big spongy looking things on the sides, these basically keep the outer off the inner, thus reducing the build up of moisture inside the tent.
There is plenty roomy enough for two people to sleep with a few vital items nearby, there are pockets for lights and whatever else you want nearby. The porch has ample space to stow panniers and still get in and out. Doors on both sides mean that if the rain is lashing one side of the tent, you can use the other door. All in all we’ve been pretty chuffed with the tent so far.
There are plenty of good brands out there when it comes to pannier bags, however one name will always stand out above the rest. Ortlieb have been making panniers since 1982, and were pioneers in making waterproof equipment. When it came to use choosing a set of panniers from their range we were divided between the Back Roller Classic and the Bike Packer Plus ranges, a visit to the cycle show 2015 resolved this, we spoke to the guys at the Ortlieb stand. ‘Go for the back rollers because they will float, and there may come a time when you need to throw them over a river’ this was the advice we had from a man who had done many tours and now built touring bikes for a living.
Ortlieb make a rack pack which is a great addition for anyone who wants more capacity. It integrates nicely with the Back Roller Classic (sizes S and M recommended by Orlieb). I’ve gone for a large and there is a small amount of overhang but nothing which causes a problem.
Wherever you read about Orlieb you will also hear about Tubus, another german manufacturer who make the legendary Cargo and Tara racks. The Cargo Classic has been around since 1988, with the Tara coming into production shortly after, used in combination these are a brilliant duo for long distance cycling.
Keeping your valuables secure when out on the bike is a concern for every cyclist, the paranoia of things falling out of pockets or not being in sight can ruin a cycle. Handlebar bags can solve this problem and Ortlieb come to the rescue once again with a brilliant solution. The Ultimate 6 is the latest iteration, it comes with a secure mounting set which allows you to lock the bag to your bike putting your mind at ease and your valuables in front of you.
The Kindle is a sore subject for some passionate book readers, and I agree that it’s not the same as holding a book. With the ability to hold thousands of books and a battery that can last up to four weeks, it ticks all the boxes for a lightweight library. I went for the standard kindle and it instantly had me sold, a surprisingly good screen to read from and being able to flick it open and instantly be where you left off is fantastic. If your looking for something for reading at night the kindle paperwhite will have you covered. It’s backlit and has the additional option to get free 3g allowing you to download books from wherever your bike takes you without the need for Wi-Fi.
This clever device hits the mark somewhere between a tablet and a laptop. It is the size of a tablet, with touchscreen, but has a detachable keyboard/cover, which allows for easier typing etc. One of the main benefits of a Surface over a tablet is that you can plug in USBs, allowing us to get photos off cameras on a secure computer and save them onto back up memory cards. It also has a dual interface system, so you can use it more like a tablet, with various apps. Or you can switch to desktop mode, useful for moving files etc. You can download programs such as Windows Office and Adobe, and the functionality is the same as any other laptop. Overall this item is going to let us manage our photos, keep the blog updated, Skype home, watch a movie and generally stay connected to friends and family. All that for a very minimal and versatile package.
Leaving loved ones behind is often a lot easier for the one leaving, full of confidence of your ability and intuition you feel certain of your safety. To put those your leaving behind at ease a SPOT device tracks your location, which is then viewable through a unique URL. We have the SPOT Gen 3 which is the bells and whistles version including an S.O.S. function to call International Rescue should we ever need Thunderbird 2. All this comes at a subscription cost of approximately £85 a year. Quite expensive when you realise that doesn’t include the device, a Gen 3 will set you back £125, but the ability to give those at home peace of mind is worth it.
A blast from the past, we’ve gone for a Nokia 3310. These phones are well know for being long lasting, solid and reliable. How many other phones can boast a 270 minutes talk time and a whopping 15,600 minutes (260 hours or 10.8 days) standby time. We have no need for a smartphone, just solid communication should we ever want to phone home. We’ve decided to use a TravelTalk SIM, this will give us notable savings should we ever need to call home. One final point on the phone, this is also the model which has the hugely popular Snake II game.
Cateye Velo 7
We’re not bothered about cadence, power output, or even speed, but it will be nice to keep track of how many kilometres we have covered. The Cateye Velo 7 cycle computer is an efficient way to keep track of this, the battery will last 3 years based on 1 hr cycling a day. It’s cabled and does not require a GPS signal so it’s perfect for us.
Garmin eTrex 20x
After the first month on the road and getting hopelessly lost in towns and cities we decided to invest in the Garmin eTrex 20x. It seems that paper maps seem to be harder and harder to come by and, quite often, will only show major roads. The eTrex runs on AA batteries and should add to our adventure by allowing us to navigate smaller roads.
We will take spare batteries for cameras and head-torches. We will also carry a USB power bank each to ensure we have the extra juice should we ever need it. One of the main concerns is seeing something breathtaking but not having the juice to share the moment.
1x Berghaus Explorer Trek Plus GTX Boots
1x Merrell Rant Trainers
2x Thick Walking Socks
3x Merino Long Socks
4x Trainer Socks
1x Mountain Equipment Lhotse GORE-TEX Pro Jacket
1x Craghoppers Compresslite Insulated Jacket
2x Bamboo t-shirts (+1 for sleeping)
1x Craghoppers Solarshield Shirt
1x dhb Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer
1x Berghaus Deluge AQ2 Overtrousers
1x Craghoppers NosiLife Insect Repellent zip-off trouser
1x Craghoppers Kiwi Walking Trousers
1x Cargo Shorts
1x Football Shorts
1x Synthetic Thermal Long Johns
3x BAM boxer shorts
1x Star Wars Pyjama Bottoms
1x Mountain Equipment Mitts
1x Dhb windproof cycling gloves
1x Castelli fingerless gloves
1x Hope tech Bobble Hat
1x Craghoppers NosiLife sun hat
1x Merino Buff
1x Nathan Hi-Vis Bib
1x Tifosi Dolomite Sunglasses (100% UVA and UVB protection)
1x Kask Helmet
1x Padded short (just in-case)
1x Salmon Comet 3D GTX boots
1x Casual trainers
1x Bridgedale Summit socks
3x Medium weight socks
6x Thin liner socks
1x Mountain Hardwear Quasar waterproof jacket
1x Jottnar down jacket
1x Lowe Alpine fleece
1x Helly Hansen thermal hoodie
1x Long sleeve top
1x Lightweight shirt
1x Long sleeve merino base layer
1x Berghaus Deluge AQ2 over trouser
1x Insulated skiing trousers
1x Lowe Alpine zip-off walking trousers
1x Brasher zip-off walking trousers
1x Macabi skirt/shorts
1x Merino thermal base layer
10x Antibacterial pants
2x Sports bra
1x Pyjama set
1x Silk glove liners
1x Sealskinz waterproof Ultra Grip gloves
1x Montane Extreme Mitts
1x Short cycling gloves
1x Merino buff
1x Ear protector
1x Beanie hat
1x Crahhopper Nosilife sun hat
1x Sunglasses with 3 lenses
After a loaded test ride I (phil) realised my bike weighed in at 51.1kg including a few days food, I decided that was a bit silly and I didn’t fancy lugging it all. Tools are heavy, so we’ve now gone for a “get us to a bike shop” approach. Everything crossed out we are no longer taking. We may get them posted out to us before taking on remote locations such as the Pamir Highway.
Park Tools Chain Brute Chain Tool
Generic Multi tool
Lifeline Essential Torque Wrench Set (3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10mm hex, T25 and T30 Torx heads)
Pro Bottom Bracket Cartridge Remover tool
Generic Crank Remover tool
Squirt wax lubricant
Park Tool tyre levers
3x Spare Inner Tube
Needle Nose Pliers
Generic pedal spanner
Park Tool triple Spoke Key
Next Best Thing Cassette Remover (much smaller than chain whip etc)
Puncture Repair Kit
TIP: Use an old saddle bag for anything you will need to fix a puncture in the rain (Inner tube, tyre levers, multi tool). Put all the other tools in a pencil case to keep them together.
Before leaving, each of us went on an essentials First Aid course provided by St Johns Ambulance. The course costs £30 and gives peace of mind, not only if one of us gets injured but if we’re ever in a situation when someone else may need help.
Framycetin Sulphate drops (for ear and eye infections)
Ibuprofen (anti inflammatory)
Mosquito head nets
We know there will be bad days, when the wind has been in our face and the world seems uphill. Here are a few of the pieces we’re taking which will help revitalize our mood.
Tea Infuser Ball – Is it possible to hold a cup of tea and not feel content with the world.
Flat Pak Wine – Holds a bottle of wine, without the need for glass, BPA free and reusable.
Hip Flask – Carry a nip of Dram to warm the belly on those cold nights.