Size and weight is everything
Now the big noise in touring is ‘backpacking’ – where you strap on little more than a bivvy and a bag of noodles for your hardcore cross-country bash. “Simply put, bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping; it evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking, with the range and thrill of riding a mountain bike. It’s about forging places less travelled, both near and afar, via singletrack trails, gravel, and abandoned dirt roads, carrying only essential gear” – Bikepacking.
That might be all well and good for the weekend warrior or tour divider, but I’m an old salt and with a neck condition a backpack is out of the question. So gear wise I went somewhere in the middle – with a blend of tradition and backpacking minimalism. Here is the 13kg breakdown.
A pair of Arkel XM-28 Bikepacking panniers. Maybe a little on the heavy side but these small Canadian panniers are double hulled and bombproof.
A pair of Revelate designs Saltyrolls. Built for the backpacker they are super well made, narrow for their length with duel roll down closures.
A single Revelate designs large Pocket handlebar bag with additional pocket clips (for good measure). Even though I’m a little unorthodox with my fixing, it suits my needs for squirrelling. Let’s break it down…
Gizmos and powering up
After one broken iPad screen the lesson has been to keep the electronics small, energy light and simple. If it means I’ll be all fingers and thumbs writing a post, then you’ll just need to get used to it.
Tracking, mapping and comms’
I’ve learnt through experience not to depend on a smart-phone as an all purpose cycle computer and ‘holy grail’ gadget, it simply doesn’t cut the mustard. So I invested in a Garmin Fenix 3HR watch to not only tell the time, but to tell everyone I’m still alive, where I am, and where I’m going. It syncs to everything and isn’t power hungry.
The iPhone 7 is relegated to deal with comms’, music, photography and a small number of useful apps. Now I could write a whole page on apps that I’ve tried and subsequently dumped, so these are the survivors that I depend on daily on the road.
- Gaia GPS – Fully downloadable topographic maps that you can actually see! (White roads over pale backgrounds is indescribably frustrating)
- Bikemaps – Strava ridership data overlaid onto a map so I can see where others have gone before. Great for identifying byways and shortcuts.
- Windy – Awesome detailed wind and weather map.
- WikiCamps – Great New Zealand campground locator.
- Garmin connect – To connect to my Fenix (GPS, vitals so on and so forth).
- Followmee – So my bro knows where I am in the world.
Even though I’m still figuring this stuff out better, I’ve simplified things to an iPhone 7 and GoPro Hero 4 Silver with slopes and a handlebar mount.
Power is your precious… remember that! Conservation not consumption is the number one rule and nothing beats just plugging the damn thing in whenever you can. If you can’t do that get a small, light powerful battery plus an alternative way to charge. I have a Goalzero Venture 30 and Nomad 7 which I clip onto the back of the bike when riding and clip it onto everything else when not.
I chose not to go with a hammock or bivvy as I didn’t see those as overly practical options considering I was travelling town and country in a range of conditions. I went with tradition: a tent – Exped Mira I; a roll – Exped airmat; and a sleeping bag – Traveller 400.
All are lightweight, pack small and have weathered me pretty well so far.
After a lot of research I went with a range of Vargo products for my kitchen needs (A bot, bot cozy, pot lifter, travel mug, folding spork and Triad multi-fuel stove and windscreen. All nicely pack within the bot along with additional cleaning stuff.). I wanted light, compact and definitely a fuel burner (as opposed to a gas tank) so I could refuel on route.
It’s good gear, although I’m still mastering the dehydrated goodness that is prepared within. Have a look at some of my dietary requirements!