The internet is full of never-ending lists for bicycle trips of different kinds so we’re not going to make another here. Instead, we’d rather talk about some essentials which will guide you in the right direction and some personal tips. In fact, here’s the first one; make your own list! Travel, test, experiment and experience and realise that you know better than anyone else what’s good for you!
After many years, we still prefer to wear proper cycling/sport clothes when on the saddle and “normal” clothes when off it; generally speaking, they are easier to wash and dry and have all the added extras which come standard such as flashy colours for better visibility, pockets at the back (cycling tops), dry feeling, really good sun protection …
Having said that, Aurelie also has one long sleeved T-shirt in her collection which comes very useful in countries where tight clothes are a bit off or on very hot and sunny days. For this last reason, Marco has some linen arm covers which offer extreme sun protection and are very fresh when wet!
But generally speaking, we consider our packing philosophy to be minimalist and we also apply this to our clothes; we don’t need much since we manage to wash clothes almost every day and it helps to keep our panniers emptier (clothes take up a lot of space) and, of course, lighter.
When travelling, everything depends on where you are going and it’s exactly the same for bike touring so make sure to check the climate of the area where you’re travelling to and the short term weather forecast just before you leave.
Whether you’re camping or just can’t live without your morning brew, you’ll be better off with a stove. There’s hundreds of models, brands and types but the most important thing to consider is which type of fuel it burns since the world is a big and magical place but you can’t find everything everywhere. For this reason we swapped propane for alcohol (ethanol or similar) which can be found the world over! We needed new pots and pans too so we opted for a Trangia set (Teflon version) which packs very neatly and is super durable. The other very appealing feature of an open spirit burner is that it’s totally silent and does not intrude upon your camping experience or give away your position when stealth camping 😉
For many different reasons, we try to camp as much as possible. Want sweet dreams? The 3 most important factors to bear in mind are; floor and air insulation and protection from the weather. Again, million of combinations here but the most common is certainly the holy outdoor sleeping trinity of tent + sleeping mat + sleeping bag.
At the beginning of our trip we had a 3 people’s tent. The reason for this is that we expected to be caught in bad weather quite often and so we wanted extra room for comfort and for being able to bring our bags in. Luckily, that only happened a handful of times but we were still happy to have a big “house”.
Once in Southeast Asia, we realised that we would probably need just a mosquito net and that’s when we became aware of how heavy our previous one was.
Our mattresses are Thermarest Neo Air and we definitely swear by them. We’ve taken good care of them and they’re still in very good condition but anyway, they come with a great repair kit and Thermarest is well-known for its customer care. Our No.1 concern was insulation and this model has a 4.2 rating which is pretty good. Even at -10ºC we never felt cold from underneath. Maybe the only downfall of this particular model is that it can be a bit squeaky.
Currently, our sleeping bags are very light because we’re in warm climate but in the past, we had much warmer ones. As with many others things, if you’re thinking about using yours often, it’s definitely worth buying a higher end one because they tend to be smaller and lighter. Both our sleeping bags are “mummy” shaped which means sacrificing a bit of feet room for warmth.
A couple of extras that we carry around to make life a little easier (yes, we’re getting old) are sleeping bags liners and pillows. Liners add a little extra warmth and also protect your bags from dirt so they will last longer and will require less maintenance. They also come in very handy if it’s too warm for a sleeping bag but you still want some cover and you can use them to protect yourself against dirty hostels beds! And finally pillows… just a little extra comfort… got a problem with that?
A huge concern among most campers is drinking water because it’s very heavy and difficult to carry. We invested in a purifier which allows us to clean almost any type of water (not only from rivers and lakes but also from doubtful taps) hence being 100% independent. We spent several days looking for the best solution and we settled for a Sawyer; it should last for a lifetime which translates into money and plastic being saved for many many years.
And, last but not least, let’s not forget about illumination! Previously, we used headlamps at night which are very practical but also very uncomfortable. We decided to buy a lantern for this trip and have never regretted carrying the extra 350g; it sets a nice atmosphere that we share (no matter how many people there are) instead of each having their own little ray of light which blinds the others during conversations, it has 4 different light modes, it’s dimmable and can also be used as a power bank!
This is probably the most complicated issue simply because we all have different needs and carry different devices. For example, we’re carrying a lot of filming equipment which would stay at home if we had just gone away for a weekend.
Basically, it’s a good idea to have a good power bank and possibly something to recharge it with. We had initially settled for a solar panel but then realised that we would need power in the winter months too when the sun is not so reliable so we also bought a dynamo charger which works well; we have to cycle anyway so we might as well push a little harder and charge our phone at the same time!
One accessory that we absolutely love is a cable organiser which makes us laugh every time we think about our past trips when we had a plastic bag full of tangled up cables!
Everything packs faster, is better organised and rattles around less when in small bag/containers. Many people use plastic boxes (very useful if your panniers are not waterproof) but we prefer pouches. They’re all different so we know exactly what they contain!
Keeping your hands on the handlebar is one of the most important things when cycling! A telephone/navigator holder will make sure you aren’t regularly jeopardising your safety.
Duck tape, zip ties and a little rope or straps ; they will get you out of almost any sticky situation!
We try to avoid over hazardous chemicals as much as possible so our anti-mosquito solution is; citronella spirals, clove essential oil mixed with water and Tiger Balm (which actually has a million great uses).
Many cyclists prefer using plastic water bottles but we’ve found that they deteriorate very quickly (especially when exposed to the sun) so we normally advocate for proper cycling bottles since they are really long-lasting (resulting in a lower carbon footprint on our planet) and can also be used to measure liquids since they normally have measuring lines on one side.