Having been on the road a few months in Asia now, I thought it was time to share how I’m carrying all my gear for anyone that’s interested.
As usual, I’ve got my Thorn Raven Tour bike, although during its 40,000km life it has had several new parts at various stages (including cables, housing, chain, sprocket, chainring, internal mech, front hub, rohloff hub, handlebars, pedals, tyres). The only parts which are original are the frame, fork, rims, spokes and brake levers, if I recall correctly.
I’m trying a different set-up for carrying my gear this trip. Rather than 4 panniers, I have just 2. It’s an effort to cut down on some weight, to make the off-road up-hills slightly less strenuous. If I have the space, I just fill it. It hasn’t been a limitation yet. If anything, it’s a liberation. I can happily carry 1 week of food (2 at a push) and up to 2 days of water (3 if it’s not too hot), which is sufficient for most places I go (and there’s not many I won’t go!).
So as not to limit space too much, in addition to 2 rear panniers, I’ve brought with me my BikePack bar-bag (which easily fits my bivy bag, sleeping bag, silk liner and thermarest all rolled up together and speeds up setting camp in the evening and then there’s space in the end for the day’s food or a warm top). The Ortlieb handlebar bag goes without saying (as I keep my valuables and cameras in here and take it with me whenever I leave the bike). In case I need more space, I’ve a drysack that I strap to the top of the rack too, which (as always) has the tent, my waterproofs and bike spares/repair kit in it.
As mentioned, as well as the tent, I’ve brought a bivvy bag (which is proving invaluable for keeping my sleeping bag clean and dry, even in the tent) in case I want to go on any short bike excursions without the tent and it adds a little extra warmth to my lightweight sleeping bag.
Perhaps controversially, I’ve left my multi-fuel stove at home and have brought my MSR Pocket Rocket gas stove. I carried two small gas canisters from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar and only used half of one. I bought two more in UB and so that’s plenty of weeks cooking the way I do, which is only when I’m camping (I eat out when in town or get hot water from the hotel/guesthouse). My standard ‘cooking’ is two coffees in the morning and noodles in the evening. Neither are particularly fuel intensive. I’ve got a lightweight titanium pot from Alpkit and my mug and stove fit nicely inside it (or fuel canister and stove if you don’t mind the lid not closing down) when packing it away.
All cooking related gear and food goes in one pannier. The rest (clothes, laptop and other electronics) goes in the other. As for clothes, I essentially have biking gear (padded shorts, baggy vest top, long-sleeved shirt, buff, trail-running shoes), camping evening gear (base layer top and bottoms, down jacket) and town/doing-the-laundry gear (trousers, vest tops, hoodie, flip-flops). Underwear goes without saying, the bikini is for swimming in lakes etc or as backup underwear, and the hat and gloves are for when it gets colder, and waterproofs for when it rains.
One major difference in gear from the Africa and Americas trips is my camera gear. I’ve sold my Canon DSLR and all lenses and replaced it with two compact cameras. The weight and space savings are significant and the limitations of getting good photos is mainly limited by my (in)abilities, not the quality of the camera gear. Sure, there are some cases where a DSLR and long lens would be better, but I can live with the compromise. So far, I’m glad I’ve made the change. In fact, having a fixed lens as my main camera is surprisingly liberating and it is forcing me to think more about the photos I want to take. As for the quality of the photos from the Fuji X100S – I see no difference from my DSLR – it really is amazing!
Less is definitely more!