My Somewhat Detailed Bike Touring Gear List

October 6, 2012 at 7:06 am
Before I left for my bike tour, I posted an image of my gear. After nearly four weeks of riding, I feel like I'm ready to discuss what I brought and what has worked. As with all advice, your mileage may vary.
  • The Organizatonal System: using gallon-sized plastic Hefty bags and labeling them actually turned out incredibly well. Within a day, I balanced out the weight between two panniers. I knew not only exactly where something was, but I could also get to it easily. The clear bag allows me to find and remove items without much rummaging. I've had to replace a couple of the bags. Once when a zipper broke and another time when an egg broke inside the bag. For me, the system is perfect.
  • The BlackBurn Bike Pump: is worthless garbage. One morning when trying to add a little tire pressure, some seal in the chamber failed. At least, that's what I think happened. I couldn't repair it and had to rely on the generosity of a stranger with a bike pump in his trunk. I bought a 3€ bike pump in a supermarket that is lighter and works better. Until I get home and invest in something nice, it is the clear winner.
  • The Extra Pedals: I had them ready because I was worried about knee pain. I even carted them all the way to France. That's when I figured I could just buy new pedals at a Carrefour if I really needed them. I left them behind and I'm glad did. My setup is solid and they were never necessary.
  • The Shoes: I have never once regretted being clipped in while riding. The extra efficiency on long days of riding is a huge bonus both physically and mentally. The street shoes that look normal are great to have in towns. I can see why some cycle tourists wear Crocs, but I'd rather look like a normal human.
  • The Hand Warmers: I never used them. I have gloves. Maybe they're good if you're tackling seriously cold weather.
  • The Gloves: I have a pair of light full-fingered gloves and a pair of padded fingerless gloves. When it got really cold, I wore both. I never ride without the fingerless ones. I can't even imagine it, really. Nice gloves will never disappoint.
  • The Hennessy Hammock: This is a tough one. There have been days when I had to hang the hammock from trees that were quite far apart. This led to less restful nights when I couldn't lay quite as flat. I would have had more days like this if it was camping season and there were more campers around (and therefore less spots available). Also, it took me a few days to discover the best way of hanging the hammock and arranging the rainfly. Even now, I have nights where the rainfly flaps wildly and loudly in the wind. Some nights I wished I had a tent to crawl into. But now my hammock has become a really close friend. I look forward to disappearing into my cacoon. I know I can trust it to keep me dry and warm. And in the morning, it will collect less water than a tent. It is far lighter and less bulky. If I were touring with a friend, I would likely split a tent between the two of us. If I took off on another tour alone, I would probably stick to the hammock. Unless I was going somewhere without trees…
  • The Bike Locks: I took the Internet's (specifically Reddit's) advice and just took the U-Lock. A chain lock would have been lighter and just as good. The goal with a bike lock on a bike tour is different than a typical day in a city. You're not going for maximum security, just trying to slow a potential thief. My bike is always nearby and I usually don't lock it up when I go shopping for food or supplies. I just roll it into the store and check on it occasionally. If I'm sketched out by the campground, I throw the U-Lock around the wheel and frame. I'm glad to have the extra space that the smaller lock saved me.
  • The Fuel: In France, the same IsoButane fuel is easy to find. However, the same IsoButane fuel with the same stove adapter is not. I had to leave these tanks behind since they're illegal to fly with. In Paris, I found the right canister at Au Vieux Campeur. I figured I could always restock at the large sporting good stores like Decathlon. As I slowly ran out, I kept my eye out for such a store. When I found one, it didn't have the right type. Because the push-type canister can be found everywhere in supermarkets, I just decided to bite the bullet and buy a second stove. It was 22€ and now I can use either.
  • The Sleeping Pad: has been incredibly helpful. It is very light foam. When I arrive at camp, I lay it on the ground to stretch and cook. Then I brush it off and slide it into my sleeping bag. The extra insulation below my body keeps me warm in the hammock. The pad was $10 online, the cheapest foam mat I saw with decent reviews. And it's perfect.
  • The Lumix GF1: is probably the perfect bike touring camera. Unless you're afraid of breaking it. My Lumix is one of my best friends on the trip. It is small, the battery lasts a long time, and it always returns serviceable images. I look forward to copying them to my iPad and drifting through the recent memories in crisp detail. I can't recommend it enough with the 20mm prime lens.
  • The iPad: I have never regretted taking all of the electronics that I did. The iPad is great for photo viewing, arranging hosts on, blogging, map viewing, and more. These are things that can mostly all be done on an iPhone, but not as well. The camera adapter kit only works on iPad, and it's worth it to me to be able to blog with photos from the GF1.
  • The iPhone: is great for quick map viewing. Even more importantly, it's my source of music and podcasts on long days. It's pretty much always in my pocket. Even without service, it's a valuable resource and small.
  • The Kindle: I read every night in my hammock before falling asleep. The Kindle is incredibly light and easy to read on in a small space. I always look forward to a short decompression with a good book. I've never regretted it.
  • The Martin Backpacker Guitar: this is tough. The guitar has kept me company on lonely nights. It's wonderful to pluck away a bit in the morning when I first wake up and look out over my surroundings. It's also easily my bulkiest piece of equipment. And it's not exactly weightless. I probably could have done without it, even as much as I enjoy having it. The bulk is more an issue than the weight, and the rearranging that is often necessary. It hangs from the rear of the bike and I need to cover it in a rainfly periodically. Which can become like a parachute and slow me down. It is hard to say whether I'd take it next time.
  • The Giant Atlas: I don't know of a better solution. It's possible to get smaller maps from tourist offices as you ride, but that isn't a bullet-proof solution. Some offices only have very local maps of attractions. I think I would probably recommend the atlas. I tore out a bunch of pages from the back, like the index. And each day I tear out the pages that I need and place them in the map-viewer on my handlebar bag. All in all, I'm quite happy to have a large and detailed resource at my disposal. The overall weight of my load isn't much, so I haven't ever considered the atlas to be a luxury.
  • Other things… Let me know if you have any questions about the smaller stuff in the bags. I'd be happy to discuss the smaller things too…