One of the most often asked questions I receive from the people I meet along the way and on my blog is, “What and how do you carry all of your stuff?”
To share with other riders who are interested in how other bicycle travelers, or at least how one other traveler sets up their/his rig, I’ve put together a few points on the kit I travel with, how I carry it, the basic method I used to determine the two in the hopes other riders will benefit.
An Evolutionary Process
My current setup is the result of an ongoing evolutionary process of trial and error. My rig is not “the” solution, but rather “a” solution for you to consider in your search for the “right” setup that works best for you. Use what you want, disregard what you don’t. After all, choosing what to carry and how to carry it is all about “what makes the most sense to you.”
Several years ago, when I began bike travel in earnest, I started riding with a traditional touring setup and gradually migrated to a hybrid touring/bikepacking rig that I’m using today.
After a few days on the road with the tradition set, I found myself wanting something more. I was carrying way too much gear. The load contained in four panniers and a rack pack was tipping the scales at 85-90 pounds not including food and water.
Each morning before beginning to ride, I felt like I was loading up a long-haul Mack truck. Laboring over the pedals to get the heavily laden bike up to speed was a real strain. Grinding up long hills was almost unthinkable.
I needed a better, lighter setup for what I was doing. After a fairly brutal month riding in the through the Tibetan Plateau, I’d learned my lesson. I was more than willing to go with less in order to carry less. For creature comforts lots of tech gear, such as a larger tent, an extravagant cook kit, a laptop computer, back up hard drives, and lots of camera gear, I was hauling a heavy load.
And so began the much-needed process of paring down my kit and streamlining the bike’s gear list.
How to Carry Stuff
Just as important as what you carry with you, so is how you carry it. If your camera’s buried in a pannier that is a hassle to dig out every time you want to use it, after a while you won’t. If your layering clothes are hard to get at, you won’t use them at short halts.
Included with my present gear list, I’ve outlined my rig’s basic load plan and the thought process behind what I’ve put where on the bike. Please take a look and let me know what you think.
Most bicycle travelers have or are continually fiddling with their bike and gear to find the “ultimate” set up. As an eclectic traveler, I’m always looking for better techniques.
Bike Travel Imperatives
Begin with the end in mind. Consider your riding style, the types of conditions you be traveling in, and what you want to accomplish on your journey before assembling your gear and setup.
Here are a few traveling essentials I consider important for building a bike and assembling the kit for a journey, long or short:
- Self-supported. To travel independently and provide for me along the way. To carry enough kit to be self-sufficient, save for food and water.
- Self-reliance. To be able to self-recover from most jams or mechanicals.
- Lighter weight. To bring as little as practicable. Lighter is righter. Travel as light as possible, but not at the expense of what I want or need to do. There is such a thing as “stupid light.” The lighter your setup, the easier it is to ride.
- Be mobile and free enough to explore and travel on the wind.
- To be able to handle most mechanicals on the road, all but catastrophic breakdowns or damage resulting from an accident.
- To have my cameras at the ready and be able to make images on the go.
- My rig and gear must be impervious to moisture and dust while traveling.
- Able to fix most mechanicals. To be able to repair all but catastrophic gear failures or severely damaged components.
- The bicycle and gear minimally impact of the travel experience as possible. The less hassle between me and the open road the better.
For me, form follows function. When assembling your kit and organizing your rig’s set up, think about your bike and gear in terms of capabilities: “What are my goals and expectations for this journey? What do I need my setup to do?” Then build a rig to do that.
For instance, I want a that’s reliable, is fairly easy to repair, and requires minimal maintenance in the field. I want the capability to travel in most types of weather while protecting my kit from the elements. I want a rig that can stand on its own and doesn’t always require being leaned against something or laid on the ground.
Achieve a purpose-driven bike setup. Ultimately, everything you travel with should severe a necessary role in your journey. If it doesn’t consider dropping it from your kit.
Consider the Conditions
Systems and Activities
- Maintenance and Repairs
- Front Pouch: Revelate Designs Egress Pocket
- Handlebar Roll: Revelate Designs Harness and Salty Roll
- Smartphone Mount: Quad-Lock
- Left Camera Bag: Porcelain Rocket Mini Slinger
- Right Camera Bag: Lowepro
- Front Top Tube Pouch: Revelate Designs Mag Tank
- Rear Top Tube Pouch: Revelate Designs Jerry Can
- Frame Bag: Revelate Designs Ripio Bag
- Rear Rack: Tubus Cargo Evo
- Left Rear Pannier: Ortlieb Gravel Pack
- Right Rear Pannier: Ortlieb Gravel Pack
- Rear Rack Top Deck: Lowepro Flipside Trek 350
The Load Plan / Gear List
- Cellphone rain cover
- GPS Tracker
- Tent Pole Bag (slipped under tie-down straps)
- Waterproof Drybag
Inside the Waterproof Drybag (left to right)
- Extremities bag containing: Gloves, Beanie, Windbreaker Jacket, Windbreaker Vest, Spare Buff, Arm and Leg Warmers
- Mid-layer in the middle
- Clothes bag containing: Socks, Underwear, Riding Shorts, Shirt
- Rain jacket
- Left Camera Bag: Sony RX1RII
- Right Camera Bag: Sony A7RII with 55mm f/1.8 lens, Spare batteries
- Front Top Tube Bag: Lip balm, Compass, Imodium, Ibuprofen
- Rear Top Tube Bag: Headlamp, Hand sanitizer
- Top Left Pouch: Bluetooth keyboard for smartphone, Electrical converter (connected to dynamo), Cash battery, Charging Cables (Lightning, USB Micro), Spare spokes and nipples (6x)
- Top Right Pouch: Toilet paper, Air Pump, Multitool, Sun Screen, Hex key ratchet and torque set
- Tool Roll: S&S coupler tool, Spanner wrench (eccentric bottom bracket), 12 x 10 mm open end wrench, 8 mm Hex Key (pedals)
- Lower Right Pouch: Light cable lock, Rag, Puncture Kit(Patches, Cement in 3x small tubes), Valve tool
Left Rear Pannier
- Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow.
- Personal hygiene: Dopp bag, liquids bag, towel
Right Rear Pannier
- Electronics Bag
- Charging block
- Charging cables
- Repair parts
- Replacement carbon drive belt
- Inner tubes
- Spare tire
Rear Rack Top Deck / Photography Backpack
- 85mm lens
- Plate Graduated Neutral Density Filters and Lens Mount
- Battery Bag
- Spare camera batteries
- SD Cards
- Cleaning kit
- Sensor Cleaning Kit
Notes on the Load Plan
- Don’t strap bare inner tubes to the frame of my bike, exposing it to the elements.
- I don’t strap stuff to the forks.
- Level the load between the panniers where possible.