If I could, I would take a whole Canadian Tyre (it’s like Wallmart, Halfords etc) of tools, camping gear, clothes, computers, chargers, soap and arse cream. The problem is the more weight you carry the more difficult it is to manhandle the bike on that beautiful rock garden that you’ve been dreaming about riding whilst sitting in your boring office cubicle. There is a big difference between the off-road and your conventional mid life motorbike tourer who loads up his Pan American, GoldWing or Electra Glide with everything but the kitchen sink then wobbles off to be away from his wife in a distant campsite or motel. All those blokes have to do is keep the thing upright and find ever more creative ways to strap more crap on their bikes whilst meandering between Starbucks’…
Whenever I think about the contents of whatever luggage system I choose I remember scenes like this:
If you don’t fancy watching here is a TL;DR (should that be TL;DW??)
Blokes riding the Pan American Highway come to a landslip and need to ride heavily laden bikes over large mound of dirt. Bikes are heavy and it’s hard.
These guys are having great craic. It goes back to those moments you fantasise about yourself being in whilst at a dull dinner party, trying to look entertained. I’m sure that, like most poignant times in adventures, it was a right pain in the hole in the moment. Back to the point I’m making here; if they had lighter setups it would be a lot easier, but you have to weigh that against, for instance, having a slightly thicker matress for those months of travel when you are sleeping in a tent.
The perennial problem is the triad of kit: Light, Good, Cheap – pick two. So, unless you’re one of those smug bastards that sold “one of our houses” to fund your round the world trip you’ll have to scrabble around to find the best compromise.
Think of the typical cheap thing you might get at a non specific camping shop. Maybe one of those tents that people leave at music festival after they have puked their first ‘shroom experience into it.
It’s cheap and light, but it’s not good… it’s crap. Same for the other two. An MSR Hubba Hubba tent, the darling of the overlander community, is light and good but it’s freakishly expensive. Then there are the cheap, good things… like a lot of the Coleman stuff. It’s great but it’s generally used by the legions of Americans that seem to think camping involves huge ice boxes, picnic tables, hot showers and convenient toilets. Of course it’s heavy as hell because it gets chucked in the back of your wanky lifestyle SUV.
I reckon that following the cycle tourists’ gear preferences is probably better than the motorcyclists. Those people have to haul all that kit around with them by their own power so they have a very strong interest in minimising weight. I have been having chats to Andrew, who rode across the ‘states on a bicycle so I’ll try and imagine that I’m him.
Here’s the List
Remember; each compromise either makes your life more difficult or is expensive. Each of these things have been discussed to death on the internet this is my unarguable wisdom.
I like a tent. All of that hammock business seems like a big fuss to me. It also means you need to camp where there are trees to sling the thing up. Bivvy bags (a waterproof sack that sleeping goes into) are a bit too hardcore. I’d like a place to sit with some gear and read a book or just stare at the scenery whilst drinking a cup of tea.
So a two man ‘backpacker’ tent seems the thing. As I mentioned earlier, the MSR Hubba Hubba is a fantastic product. Besides the weird colour change it went through a year or so ago. I like it. By the way, the colour thing is purely practical, my designer sensibilities are not the pinch point, here at least. If I’m in a bit of a dodgy stealth camp spot, at risk of being found out by a redneck farmer, I think I have more chance of not being seen if my tent wasn’t FREAKING WHITE; so please MSR hear this and make the green option again. Never know, maybe they are going for the winter traveller market? Not that I’m going to buy one. I can’t justify the extra $200 for a pound or so of weight (500g) over my current favorite; the Marmot Tungsten 2p
It’s green for a bit of Pirate camping goodness, not badly priced at $250 and pretty light. The only thing I am weirded out by is that the flysheet (waterproof bit) is not connected to the inner. I’m used to tents that you just slide the poles into pockets and the whole thing pops up. This one you have to assemble the poles and clip the inner to it, then put the flysheet on top. Seems a bit of a faf if you ask me?
Back in my day people had those foam things that you roll up and strap to the bottom of your rucksack to lounge on whilst eating the jam sandwiches you packed it a gingham wrap. Now it seems people use that stuff as insulation under their heated bathroom tile. The modern way is to inflate the thing and have foam to keep it less bouncy. But jeepers are these things expensive.
I have a knock off Thermarest I got from one of those crap camping shops in the UK. It’s main purpose is really as the soft bit of the Thermarest chair kit I bought years ago when I was working for Cotswold as a student. People on camping trips would really take the mickey about me bringing a chair camping but then have a go in it and never give it back. I might just use that combo, then probably get pissed off with stones and roots jabbing me in the hips and use fuel money to buy a really expensive one that I can’t afford later into the trip.
Down. Is that the way to go? What if the thing gets wet? I have never had a down bag, but I have several down jackets (we had to buy two sets of winter outerwear, but that’s another story) and some of them are the real Gucci shit. Not real Gucci you idiot, it’s a bit of an East London term for something really good; say it with an east end accent and you’ll understand.
Anyhoo… synthetic ‘bags are more voluminous when packed but cheaper… and they don’t get all drowned rat at critical ‘oh crap; there is a river in my tent’ moments. Do I get one of those then? Maybe it can go on the seat like a small limbless passenger. Volume isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s weight thats the enemy.
Sierra Designs’ Backcountry (Down) and Frontcountry (synthetic) ‘bags seem to be the most innovative I have seen in my hours of trawling the internet. I don’t know about you, but when zipped into a sleeping bag I tend to turn and turn which has the effect you see when you’re pulling your duvet cover out the washing machine; the twisted rope effect. These bags have a big hole in the top and a little blankie that covers it so it’s just like being in bed at home. Lovely.
There seems to be only one sensible choice here. When all is obsessed with weight why cart a load of extra fuel around with you when you’ve got gallons of the stuff in a huge tank on your bike? So a multi fuel stove like the Optimus Nova will do the trick. It beats the MSR to the post because you don’t need to change the jet when you change fuel. It may be the case that I switch to gas at some point (no, you silly Americans, not gasoline, actual gaseous fuel) and not having to fiddle with stuff is a major bonus. I’ll have to work out something more adventurous than noodles to cook on it. I wonder what chipmunk tastes like?
I’ll be wearing a Camelbak with a 3 litre bladder. Err. so, that’s that I guess? If I need any more (like in the desert) I’ll just buy one of those big bottles at a fuel stop and strap it on, probably the last one of the day so I can have some for eating noodles, brushing teeth etc.