Packing for any three month trip can be a daunting task, be it backpacking, RV’ing, or cycling. After speaking with friends who have done a lot of touring I have a pretty good idea of what to bring and what I can do without. I know that eventually I’ll be in the mountains of Macedonia and slam my head against a wall for forgetting something important, but it’s best not to worry about things like that and just prepare as best you can.
Make lists! I’ve had a running list of websites, gear, blogs, and reviews on almost everything I’m bringing with me. The outdoor store REI has been a great resource because their online store has reviews of almost everything they sell, and they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee (I’ve already exchanged my sleeping bag, cycling gloves, and bike lights for better ones).
You will discover that your list will grow quickly as your departure date nears. I’ve accepted this fact and have just decided that it’ll be better to take too much stuff to Istanbul (my arrival city) and will throw away what I deem unnecessary.
Here is my gear list:
Surly Long Haul Trucker (Bicycle)
Tubus Rear Rack
Ortlieb Rear Packer Classic Panniers
Ortlieb Rack Pack (Medium)
Ortlieb Handlebar Bag Plus
REI Half-dome Plus tent with footprint
EZ Lite Sol sleeping pad
Sleeping bag (40 degrees)
Silk sleeping liner
Alien III multi-tool
Planet Bike pump
Sunglasses (clear and shaded)
Gloves (full-fingered and no fingers)
Pearl Izumi all-road bike shoes
2 pairs bike shorts
REI synthetic boxers
Pearl Izumi rain jacket
REI light water-proof pants
Flat tire repair kit
2 spare tires
Continental “Travel Contact” touring tires
A dozen zip-ties
2 thumb drives (in case camera memory fills up)
iPad with case, cable, universal adapter
A few notes about what I’m bringing:
There is a debate within the touring community about whether to bring waterproof bike bags (like the Ortlieb bags I am bringing) or to use lighter, non-waterproof bike bags and keep everything in plastic inside the bags. The argument against the hardier Ortlieb bags is that if you crash or an animal chews it’s way into your bag, you’ve lost the waterproofing but are still carrying a heavy bike bag. There are also complaints of a mildewy smell to bike clothing that is kept in the Ortlieb bags. Obviously a wet pair of bike shorts isn’t going to dry inside of a waterproof bag.
I decided on the Ortlieb bags because they have an incredible reputation in the touring world, and because I am bringing an iPad on this trip. I will possibly switch over to non-waterproof bags on a future tour, but for now I love my Ortlieb’s.
I have a total of 150 liters of space in all my bike bags. I decided against putting a rack and bags on my front tire because I felt that if I had the space, I would fill it with useless items. I had several people tell me that you want your bike as “balanced” as possible, but after several fully-loaded training rides I think this is a bunch of baloney. I’ve ridden up 1,800ft climbs and cruised back down them at top speeds and felt perfectly comfortable with all my gear on the back. You will want to try and equalize the weight in each rear pannier as best as possible, but front panniers aren’t required for a trip like mine.
Things That Might Seem Unnecessary
So I am bringing an iPad, ukulele, frisbee, and camp chair. On the surface these things are unnecessary, but will add so much to the trip.
Sitting on the ground without back support is annoying. As I expect us to make camp everyday with at least 2-3 hours of daylight left, having a chair to relax, eat dinner, and play ukulele in will be indispensable for three months. The iPad will allow us to write blogs and emails at night, then send them during the day when we find Wifi. Since we are doing this trip for charity it is important to stay connected and raise donations. I can also save every map we will need for the trip on the iPad. The ukulele will be my attempt to start off a music career, and I’ve never travelled without my frisbee.