Should you take back-up batteries for your head torch? What about a back-up head torch? What about if your head melts and you can’t use your head torches? Should you pack a body torch? The list of shit to pack is hard to whittle down and the weeding continues as you cycle. This is a small range of items we rely on everyday but they are often what people um and ahh over when deciding on equipment.
We expect perfection from these products everyday and it has been interesting to see how they fair in the daily assault and battery. We thought it was time to follow up on our cute little videos of us showing you ‘what gear we are taking’. If you have your own opinions let us know via our Facebook page.
Table of contents:
Bike Set up
Pros – being able to always have fuel, light-weight and compact
Cons – expensive, small range between super-hot and too-hot
Within 1 week of starting the trip we struggled with fuel for our stove having a small camping gas canister; conserving everywhere we could we undercooked rice and pasta just to save on gas. It took us all the way to Vientiane to finally order a proper stove after jealously eyeing other bike tourers having a petrol system. This stove can run on anything really; metho, petrol, diesel, anything fumesy I suspect. Even though it seems like a lot of money for a little stove, knowing that you’re not going to run out of fuel and be without hot coffee or noodles when the weather turns is worth the cost.
We have trouble with the flow of the stove, whether something is caught in the line we aren’t sure, but the flame flickers and often goes out when it’s on low, meaning we have to wait for the stove to cool down in order to relight and continue to cook the food.
Since Jorja has bought one for her own we can see if this is a normal problem or if it is due to lack of proper cleaning.
Pros – compact, light
Cons – handle sucks now, non-stick coating peeling on the pan
We had ordered this cook set from GSI a week before we were due to leave, we had attempted to buy it from Bronzemoon but after 2 months still hadn’t turned up – we picked it up 2 hours before we were to leave for the airport. It was a hilarious miracle. We choose it because its lack of lame-o plastic camping mugs and the fact it was simple with 3 pots large enough for two hungry people.
The set has done well considering we’ve used it on campfires. We are rather precious with these pots and pans, making sure we don’t start scratching the surface which seems delicate, even with our loving tender care the frying pan coating has started to peel, one day it was fine and the next it had a big flaking patch of non stick. One other issue has been the foldable handle, it has become wobbly and a little sketchy when the pot is fully loaded and heavy. We also have a few small bumps and warping in the base of the pots. No biggie though.
Japanese Wooden Rice Paddle – Carved by JP
JP whom we stayed with in Japan when we first arrived in Tokyo and welcomer of couriers from around the world carved this from bamboo and gifted it to us. It stirs, flips, perfect for cracking eggs on, and good for the hungrier person who can shovel more food than normal into their mouths. It’s one of my prized possessions. Thanks JP.
Pros – big and beautiful, well made, a US company that has great customer service, can easily spend a day or a few days inside if necessary
Cons – bright colour, hard to hide with (however I feel like it is one of those things you adapt to and it has never been a problem)
The orange dye runs when packed away wet
What can I say, it is a palace, it is a wide, bright, and beautiful tent. 4 man was perhaps a little over the top and even more so now that I am a single woman. If I was to choose again perhaps the 3 man would of suffice even for 2 people but I have no regrets. It is hard to complain about having too much space.
The reason we choose a 4 man was because on our last tour we had a Vaude Power Lizard 2-3 man tent and it was horribly small with no ventilation, we never had a good night sleep and hated getting in it each night. We over-compensated.
We have had to patch a fair few holes because it is a tent with paper-thin walls – and climbing kittens and sharp rocks happen. The orange dye has stained the grey fabric of the tent when we packed it away wet.
Pros – comforting, great concept, good to use as a knee pillow or teddy
Cons – hard to wash, starts to get oily and smelly quickly, completely taking away from the joy of having a pillow
I am not completely sold on this pillow. For short trips I think it is nice but over a long time it soaks up a lot of face and hair oils and sweat, becoming smelly and oily itself which means regular washing but it takes days and days to dry because of the dense sponge interior.
I stopped using a pillow a few years ago and find I sleep better without one. There is one advantage to this pillow – when you have had a long day and you are looking forward to getting into the tent having a pillow to initially put your head on as you smile over to the other person with their head on their pillow – it has a nice feeling.
The pillow is well designed, it condenses down to a good size and it takes about 10 minutes for it to fluff up again to make a rather comfy looking pillow.
Pros: tiny pack size, comfortable, long
Cons: kinda difficult to deflate
Thermarest make excellent sleeping mats, this one is really comfortable even when we are camping on concrete which happens surprisingly often. It takes up very little space but I do find it a little tricky to get all the air out since it is self inflating and occasionally get sore wrists.
Pros: super comfy, packs down small, never smells
Cons: probably wont be great in cold weather
I’ve had this sleeping bag for over 3 years and I think it is fabulous, if I was to get another one I would buy one for colder climates but we have been in about 0 degrees and with a few warm clothes on it still is incredibly comfortable. I think the polyester is a good choice because it makes for much easier cleaning while travelling.
Dan has a very old (10 years) sleeping bag that we have sewn up many times, it is a down filled bag and despite having lost much of its down it is still really warm.
A Mooncup – it’s not discrete to use, it requires me to have clean hands and a bathroom/dense forest to use it, I wonder if the local water is ok to rinse it with even though it is not ok to drink and I get leaks. The problem is: I need something to control the monthly oozing of blood and the solution will never not be messy and awkward. So I do think this is my favourite of the bunch even though it is a major pain in the pussy (skuz the language) I have never had an easy go of periods on my bicycle, but the mooncup is a good addition because its a money saver, it lets your vagina breathe instead of hot and stuffy pads, there are no chemicals, it saves bag space, and importantly it is better for the environment.
Also there is something rather empowering about the Mooncup, I no longer have that cringe that pads and tampons gave me and I am proud to no longer give my money to companies who exploit the female body.
Oils and Moisture
It is a difficult job to remain moist while you are sweating in dry winds, battling dehydration, cheap soap, and the sun. Scaly skin doesn’t make me feel more adventurous it makes me dread the 20 years down the track when I will remember my skin being plump and dewy. I can’t completely stop the quality of my skin declining but when I am older I will have no regrets knowing I did the best job I knew how.
My beauty pack is weighty but golden- I carry coconut oil for my skin, argan Oils for my hair, and a body oil which I don’t know what it consists of but it smells good and I dig it – using rich and thick oils as well as moisturisers allows the moisture to be protected. When sunscreen is put over the top I feel kinda greasy but very covered.
I use Lush shampoo cake and conditioner which is one of my favourite things. It is such a good use of space to have a little cake of shampoo that has lasted over 7 months and has another 3 in it for sure. Another bonus is reducing the use of plastic.
Vasoline coconut body butter is my favourite because it is the moisterisor I used at home and everything time I use it I think of my brother who uses it too and of home life. It is as good as a Skype call from my family.
Canon 7D with Pancake 40mm lens
Pros : feeling like you never miss an opportunity
Cons: the bulk can be hard to handle
I am so glad we have this camera. It is a mid-range camera but I feel like it really brings our traveling experience to the next level, to share everything with people in a elegant and creative way is really important to us. To manage the bulk we use a pancake lens which means we don’t have to have issues with the lens being damaged because it sits so flush with the camera body. We also carry a wide angle lens but don’t often use it.
There have been too many bike tourers who have the same issue with camera lenses becoming damaged and loose. There is yet to be a really bang-on camera protection system for bike tourers because we need it to be protected from the bouncing and also within easy reach.
I take intense care of this camera because it is so damn important to me, still there is wear but it was second hand when we first got it so perhaps it is to be expected.
GoPro Hero 4 – Black
Pros: quality motion filming and easy to use, not delicate
Cons: battery power doesn’t last long if you want quality
The GoPro has so many advantages which I don’t need to tell you about, for us it makes it easier to whip a little film clip together for our Facebook page and having the two types of filming available opens up possibilities because the GoPro isn’t delicate it can be thrown about (sort of) and really helps us capture what it is like cycling.
The downside is you have to manage your battery life. Or have a few extra batteries.
Pros: a nice point and shoot style of camera for quick schnapps
Cons: rather delicate and has to be treated with care
Since we carry a heavy duty camera we use the Lumix as a quick, whiperout camera. Something that isn’t overly intimidating to local people and we don’t have to fiddle around with settings, it is a more casual camera even though it has powerful features when we need them.
It isn’t overly delicate but since it has a poking lens we put it in a really nice hip pouch and wear it on our hip so we know it isn’t getting crushed by anything.
13inch 2015 Macbook Pro
Pros : eeeerrrrm it is a mac? I think we understand the pro’s.
Cons: as with anything electronic it gets damaged
The most difficult thing is finding the correct spot for it, in a side pannier there’s risk of your 60kg bike falling onto it. I tried putting it on the top of my back rack but after 5 months of this it broke, and it just spent 3 weeks in repair. I have now bought a hardcase for it and will be putting in the rear side pannier and just being extra vigilant with making sure my bike is stable. No we don’t have a kick stand because I just don’t like em ok. It’s a style thing.
We have two laptops, Dan has a MacAir. I think it is insanely important for us to have these, it opens the world up to communicate better, to research better, to learn and to make posts like these.
Pros: easy to organise, easy to remove and put back on, waterproof, durable, map pocket on top, easy to access while riding
Cons: no padding for cameras or delicates.
We bought these 3 years ago, and they are so super waterproof. Even in torrential rain my passport stays inside and water has never gotten in. The two clips that open it (facing the handlebars) are easy to open and close while riding so you can grab a snack or stick something in there without stopping. That might seem like a small thing but when you’re in a groove on a long climb it’s deeply annoying to stop.
When I first opened them up out of their boxes the inside was cheaper looking than I expected but they’ve stood the test of time. There are two little pockets on the sides inside the bag that I keep things I use all the time in. There’s a little zipper pouch that can be flopped on the top if it’s packed full that I keep papers and my passport in. And there are two mesh pockets on the outside of the bag on either side. I keep candles and a handkerchief and other stuff that I switch around depending where I am. The main compartment is big enough to hold a camera lens, go pro, notebook, e-reader, toiletries, a battery pack, phone cord and snacks, plus passport, documents, etc – however there is no padding so BYO cushioning for if you keep you camera in there.
The attachment system on the handlebars is easy, it just pops off with a push of a button and goes back on and stays on no problem. Worth every penny.
pros – reliably waterproof, durable, amazing customer service
cons – kinda ugly, rubbish for organising
Yeah yeah, they’re boring waterproof bags that everybody has but when it’s bucketing down and I have to stow my camera away I never have to think twice about water getting in. They’re not much to look at and they suck for organising but knowing my gear isn’t going to be damaged tops both those downsides.
My 2 Ortliebs hold: laptop and charger, memory cards, batteries, cords and a hard-drive, all my clothes, and all my sleeping gear (minus tent). It’s not hard getting that stuff in and I can always get my camera and snacks and more in there and they’re piss easy to open and close.
Other than complaints about the little things that fit inside the mounting hooks falling out I’ve never hear a bad word spoken about them. Ortlieb are customer service gurus as well. I’ve heard stories about express shipments of replacement panniers (free!) after bike tourers had crashes and damaged their bags and even people getting replacements after sending a picture with a small hole in them.
Pro: they are well made, stylish and come from a nice company
Cons: they aren’t waterproof, they are heavy because they are canvas and the hooking system doesn’t work too well with our Big Nitto Racks
Now they have a colour selection tool it makes styling your Swifts much less guess work, we were blind in the colours we were choosing but I think we did well considering. Dan and I have had mixed experiences with the Swifts. Mine work really well and my more careful approach to life means that mine are still going strong.
Dan in the first few weeks caught his left pannier on a guardrail in Japan and broke the strap so it no longer closed properly, he then later ran over an sharp speed bump in China and the pannier came loose and the metal hook twisted itself around his front hub.
For me the lack of waterproofness makes no difference, it has to be raining damn hard for water to really get in and even so I keep the items I don’t worry about in them wrapped in plastic bags, problem solved. Also you can make them waterproof by sealing them, which I am just way too lazy to do.
The only major draw back is the weight, they are thick but I would say its worth it. I don’t care how heavy my bike is, it only makes you stronger.
positives – durable, comfortable, fair price, stiff but not too stiff sole, good for walking in, don’t stretch very much
negatives – bought the orange instead of black, that was a mistake
I had to replace my old shoes while couriering and these seemed strong enough to do both things. They’re an ugly colour but they haven’t stretched much and have taken so much abuse without fault in the last 9 months. The Vibram soles are incredible. The two velcro straps are strong and comfortable even when they’re tight and haven’t gotten to the point where they’re flapping out past my shoe like some other shoes do. The main plastic ratchet type strap is still just about perfect despite getting jammed into rocks and scraping across the road a couple times. They’re stiff but comfortable to walk in too. Unless there’s something better for less money I’ll get another pair when these are dead.
Both Jorja and I will never turn back from wearing cleats.
I’ve never put much stock in cycling specific clothing, maybe I don’t know what I’m missing but I’m happy with what I have. The only clothes made for cycling I’m carrying are a jersey and arm warmers a friend sent me. The best single thing in my bags to throw on is an icebreaker jumper that was handed down through Jorja’s family to me. It’s dark so it’s hard to see dirt, lightweight, and warm. And my Cinelli socks. I’d never owned a pair of cycling socks and thought it was a stupid thing to make just for cycling but man was I wrong. Those things are so comfy but not thick and they only get grotty after a few days. Thanks to wingedstore for those bad boys. If anybody else wants to send me their socks to wear my feet are happy to accept them.
Jorja on the other hand really struggles with her clothing, appropriate clothing changes from country to country and it has never being easy.
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Big Nitto Front Rack
BUMM mobile charging dynamo unit
SIS water bottles
Tubus Back Rack
Time clipless Peddles
Pros : well established and cool brand, you can find Surly’s anywhere.
I feel like my bike is really tuned to how I like it, drop bars aren’t typically viewed as ideal for touring but I honestly don’t know why, I find them to be endlessly comfortable and don’t give me any trouble. Brooks saddles are the best, my front rack is bitch’n, and my back rack is high quality. I will never not wear cleats, 26inch wheels for strength and cuteness.
Pros: strong, sexy, platform top
Cons: kinda heavy, pretty pricey
I would never not tour with this rack, having the platform top makes all the difference and means we can have a basket on the top zip-tied down. It is super strong, and very nice to look at. The weight with our swift panniers makes for a very heavy front but I prefer my weight on the front anyway – better for steering.
Well there you go, if you have reached to this point I commend you, this post wasn’t intended to be read from start to finish and if you did, you are a true fan. If you have any questions and we can give you any further advice then hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, email, Twitter – whatever you fancy.