Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's all got to fit in less than 160 liters of space

Several people have asked what are we taking with us and how do you fit everything on those little bikes?  After we decided to go with the Symbas we realized that everything we took with us had to be essential and (hopefully) be multipurpose.  After our backpacking trip through SE Asia a few years ago we knew that we can travel pretty lightly but traveling on the bikes poses some different challenges.  On our last trip my pack was 85L and Re's was 70L, which compares favorably to our current 83L each on the bikes.  On this trip, however, we are taking camping gear and tools and spares for the bikes (and a computer and video equipment).
Both Yampa bags are in this compression sack
The decision to camp was motivated partly by cheapness (it is usually cheaper to camp that stay in a hotel in the US, Africa, and Australia) and partly by necessity.  There may be days that we simply can't make it to the next town or village before sunset.  One bit of advice that we will adhere to is to never ride after dark in many of the countries in which we will be traveling.  The roads are dangerous enough during the daytime and we have read too many reports of accidents at night.  So camping will give us the flexibility to stop when and wherever it is necessary.  The drawback to camping is the gear that we will need to carry.  I spent many an hour researching compact and lightweight equipment and feel that we have come up with a good set-up.  We decided on Big Agnes Yampa bags and Air Core sleeping pads.  They are warm weather bags and most of the places we will be should be fairly warm, but we also went with silk bag liners for a few extra degrees and can break out the Smartwool base layers if it's really cold.  The Yampas will both fit in a single compression sack and can be compressed to only about 13x7 inches and the Air Cores are each about 9x5 inches.  The silk liners are about 4x2 inches and can double as a sleeping sack for hotels and hostels.  The Yampas are average about 2 pounds each and the Air Cores are 25 ounces each.  We went with the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 tent for size, weight and waterproofness.  At about 5.5 pounds for the tent and footprint it isn't the lightest but it packs reasonably small and it can also just be pitched as a bivy.  A pair of Big Agnes Easy Chairs rounds out our campsite, they take a little getting used to but allow us to use our Air Core pads as a seating solution, too.  Due to the limited space on the bikes we decided against any kind of cooking equipment, hopefully we won't regret this!

One of the big shames of the developing world is bottled water.  Wherever we went in SE Asia we were saddened by the piles of water bottles stacked or floating everywhere.  We attempted to not be part of the problem on our last trip by taking Nalgene bottles and an MSR Sweetwater water purification system.  The MSR worked great for the first TWO WEEKS of our trip when the pump handle snapped.  What a piece of junk that we ended up carrying around for the next 9 months until we could return it.  Gotta love REI's return policy!  This time we are trying the First Need XL water purifier, it's an all mechanical purification system (no bad tasting drops!) that removes everything. The drawback to the system seems to be that the filter is only supposed to be good for 150 gallons, so we are taking a second filter.  We hope that this purifier, Nalgene bottles and two MSR 4L Dromedary bags will give us the ability to avoid bottled water as much as possible. 

All of our clothes for a year!
For clothing we brought some of our SE Asia trip clothing out of retirement and added a bunch of new stuff.  We will each be taking 2 pairs of long/convertible pants, a pair of shorts, 5 shirts, 5 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of underwear, sun hats, a lightweight fleece, a set of Smartwool microweight base layers, a lightweight rain jacket, a bathing suit, and a pair of sandals.  All except the sandals fit into a compression sack each that are approximately 10x10x8 inches.  We have a mix of long and short sleeve shirts and pants so we can be culturally sensitive when the need arises.  Bare knees and elbows aren't acceptable in many countries, especially at religious and cultural sights.

Looking and feeling sexy in her new gear!
We did spend a fair bit of money on new riding gear.  Re and I each have several riding jackets and pants, as well as leather suits, but none of them seemed appropriate for the weather and temperatures we anticipate.  After consulting the collected wisdom of ADVrider and HUBB we decided on the Aerostich Darien Light jackets and pants.  These seem to be the best combination of protection, hot weather performance and crash protection.  The drawback is that we look like spacemen (huge spacemen!) in them, not great for the "not looking like wealthy westerners" portion of the program (but I like my skin).  Re has suggested that we take every opportunity to roll around on the ground in them to remove that "fresh from the oven" look and smell.  We also went with new Nolan N90 helmets, both of our current helmets are a few years older and the Nolan's are modular helmets so we can flip up the chin bar at low speeds and at checkpoints.  They are also convenient as we both wear glasses. 

For riding footwear we looked at all kinds of waterproof motorcycle boots but couldn't find a pair that was comfortable for walking and hiking.  We decided to sacrifice a little protection at the altar of multipurposeness and comfort and went with Vasque Breeze GTX Goretex hiking boots.  They are waterproof, breathable, and will (hopefully) be good on and off the bikes. 

When we do the final packing I will be sure to snap a few pictures of all of our gear and how it packs. I also plan to do a post soon about what spares and tools we are packing (this one may just be for the bike nerds or if you're truly bored at work).


  1. Really excited for you guys, especially as I continue to not work and post on your blog. Michael will read about all of your adventures, but he's not a good poster of this stuff. I do have a few suggestions though before you leave to make your blog mobile friendly.
    The blogspot now has some great mobile options, that can make it easy for people to read on their smartphones as well as you guys can make posts directly from your smartphones. I just recently made these changes on our blog, but I thought it would be great for you guys, if you haven't already. Best of all, these options are all free!
    Again, looking forward to seeing you guys! :)