Part 11. CAMPING GEAR – The Beginners Guide to Bicycle Touring… in 3D

pedaling for peace Camping gear not ours just an idea of how much you could have!

pedaling for peace Camping gear not ours just an idea of how much you could have!

– Tent –  Get a small and as light a tent as you are able to afford/find.  I carry a two person tent compliments of Dirt Rag Mag as there are two of us, if there is one of you, you can have a smaller tent.  Now, if you will be using hotels/motels, friends/family, a service like Warmshowers.org or Counchsurfing.com and you are set and confident tat you will have no troubles with sleeping arrangements, you might decide to skip the tent all together!

– Sleeping Bag –  There are more styles of sleeping bag under the sun than chinchillas in a fur factory.  Choose the one that is best for where you are going.  A very important factor is down, versus man made fill.  I am speaking from very personal experience right now as my down sleeping bag has been outside for the last 5 DAYS drying.  So, imagine if it would have gotten wet while I was out doing my tour and not resting a friends house!?!?!  What would I do, wet, it weighs a ton, and even in 100 degree, direct sun, it has taken 5 days to dry and on day 3 it smelled like mildew.  Based on this and based on the temperature I will be facing for the next 3 months, I am leaving it here, I has done well, but, as with the Buddhist Koan [story that teaches a lesson] about the man who makes a boat to cross the river and then carries it once he is on the other side, know the use of things, and know when to let go in order to have a great ride.  If it does not serve you, gift it to someone and move on.  This is about the adventure, not the stuff.

So choose you sleeping bag wisely, it will make a huge difference when you sleep, when you are riding – you have to carry it after all!  Further, you could choose to use a Bivvy Sac.  This is basically a waterproof condom that surrounds your sleeping bag and negates the need for a tent – DEPENDING WHERE YOU ARE.  If you are in critter country, a tent may well be a good idea.  A bivvy sac basically makes you and your sleeping quarters into a most attractive warm cave.  One would hate to wake up with rattlesnakes and scorpions sharing that space!  Of course, if you do, REMEMBER, m o v e s l o w l y and keeeeeep caaaaaalllllmmmmmm.  Right.  Seems that poisonous animals hate sudden human movement.  So, if you are in that situation, remind yourself you are already in it and be as zen as you can be.

– Sleeping Mat – You will need to separate yourself from the ground if you are in a cold climate, and you may not yet be ready to tackle the heavy duty lifestyle of the full living on the road experience and may want some padding.  This is effectively done in a few different ways.  I use a Thermarest mattress that effectively folds [Thanks for teaching me Jessica] into a package smaller than a regulation football [USA, not rest of world soccer].  Diana who is a bit more ninja than I uses a yoga mat, but then, she is a yogi, so, um, yeah…

– Tarp – A great item is a tarp, especially in brown.  This will be, of course, a great thing to put under the tent, also known in this instance as a footprint.  I use it as such and when I am in sketchy territory I use it to cover the bikes and hide the tent from potentially dangerous eyes.

– Compass –  After all, you are a traveller now, know where you are headed.

– Light – Use you Bike lights, a flashlight, just bring a light.  If you use your bike lights, using the rear red light will be best at night time as it does not take away your night vision and wild critters react to it differently, less aggressively than white light!

-Bungee Cords – You will probably already have these with you unless you are traveling ultra light ninja style.  If you are traveling ultra ninja style, I still suggest at least one bungee.

– Cooking – Utensils, stoves etc.  We do not carry anything like this and are slowly looking for a really good small pot and pan.  Lightweight, preferably stainless steel, there are many non stick options, BUT, you must be very careful with non-stick as once it gets scratched, it begins to impart its chemical nature into all you eat from that pan or pot.  You don’t want that stuff in your body, not even a little bit.  I would urge to look for stainless or something made for what you are doing.  Again, if you are on a strict budget, get what you can and leave the rest to god, all that matters is the adventure.  The poorest man in the world can leave on a bike tour from Co-op items and stuff others throw away and come back a millionaire with stories to tell, and this my friends is a fact.  But seriously.  We do not carry and are getting ready to change that.  Currently we have had the fantastic fortune of cooking at peoples homes and the meals we get from restaurants of rice, beans and salad are almost as cheap as buying the ingredients and cooking ourselves, so we figure we will get into it when we get to the poorer countries where even beans are expensive and going to a restaurant is out of the question expensive.  Another true story, travel will open your mind to much.

These are the main items, in addition to this, you can carry personal items, whatever that means to you.  A guitar, little computer, cell phone [I don’t carry one, Diana does], surfboard [watch the wind sheer effect, could know you over], lucky charms – not the cereal, the things that bring you luck, make up, extra food, lots of clothes, I carry Chinese medicine tools/instruments of healing, whatever makes you comfortable, just know that you will be the once carrying it!

Chapter 10 – Beginner Guide to Touring. What things to carry (bike repair, water filtration, food, electronics, sleeping gear, camping gear, chihuahua etc.)

pedaling for peace choose your luggage wisely

You will pedal for each extra item you deem necessary, choose wisely=]

pedaling for peace choose your luggage wisely

– Clothes/shoes -You will have of course clothes.  For clothes I HIGHLY recommend, especially since I do not have it, a set of really comfortable lightweight natural fiber long pants and long shirt for when you are in resting phase.  Long because it will keep your skin covered when you bed down, most likely on your man made material sleeping bag.  If you do not have much experience with manmade materials, they make you sweat, almost immediately on contact.  Sweating, is one of the worst ways to get a good nights rest.  A good nights rest is paramount for you being able to continue your journey and have fun doing it.  So much so that I believe one of the primary reason I got Heat stroke, in addition to the beer, was simple lack of sleep.

In addition to this set of comfort clothes, I would suggest very limited other clothing and if you can, keep it “technical gear”.  This is clothing made from fabric that is man made, has specific functions and dries very quickly.  That last part is key.

I currently have the following and am still getting rid of stuff.  One Dirt Rag Mag [crossed forks logo] Cycling full zip jersey. 2 Patagonia white long sleeve jerseys, these are my sunblock.  One pair Lululemon shorts, these I spilled acid on in Tijuana and now it looks like something rather odd is going on.  One pair O’neill surf shorts, sewn back together 4 times now and headed for a 5th.  One O’neill rash guard, helps with cold water and to keep me warm if needed.  One “I love ninja” t-shirt.  One “Vega”, the old logo t-shirt.  4 pairs of ninja fabric socks, using smart wool and various other blends of stuff, 2 are high top, 2 low top, a pair of really old cargo pants, that are starting to literally come apart at the seams, and a nylon webbing belt.  A Hawaii ball cap, a puff ball on top pull down winter beanie, and my rain gear.

The rain gear is important, so get the best you can find/afford.  I am using an EMS – Eastern Mountain Sports, super ninja rain jacket.  I was given a Patagonia H2NO which was by far the most advanced thing I had ever worn and then it was stolen from me, bummer, BUT, I still had not donated my EMS, so, no worries.  One of the things with rain gear it seems, is that you either get wet from rain, or you get wet from sweat.  The H2No seemed to be on the verge of solving this.  Either way, unless you are in an area where the rain is tropical and warm, always choose sweat over rain as prolonged exposure will cause your body to have to work hard to maintain your body heat and that is always a hard thing for your body to do.

I was given a pair of Pearl Izumi rain pants by our great friend Jessica Stephens, which I have yet to use.

Lastly I wear 5 finger shoes by the Vibram company.  These are very good for your body and overall health, but you MUST get used to them.  If you have been wearing shoes, regular with what is known as a hell drop, this is where the heel is padded and thicker than the fore part of the shoes, causing nearly all who wear them to walk heel first, which is anatomically incorrect.  If you have been using conventional shoes, you will have to allow yourself time to recondition the myriad muscles, bones, tendons, the entire mechanism of the foot.  You have essentially been wearing a cast, now, using minimalist footwear, you will once again discover the joy of learning to walk as nature intended you to.  The only two draw backs I have found with Vibrams is their lack of regard for the environmental aspect in that they never talk about it except as a sales tool. Second is the cost, most models are over 100 dollars which makes them very expensive and once you see how they are put together, you may find yourself wondering why?

My favorite shoe apparel is sandals. To ride, to walk, Im happiest when my feet are free.  Im currently using a pair of Vibram soled Luna’s.  Very rad indeed!

Lastly I like to carry an absorbent wrap.  I can use it as a towel and to wrap my lower half and still get a breeze!  Thin strong cotton is good, hemp would work as well if you can find it.  Not to thick though as this will raise drying time a lot amd isnt necessary.

One item of clothing I did not cover as I do not use it, is that of the padded cycling shorts.  You will be on your bike for much longer than usual as you are now bike touring.  The part of you that will be on the seat is the booty.  Saddle sores, a very painful, hemorrhoid like affliction happens to the best of us, and usually fades within the first couple weeks.  I am on the saddle for at least four hours at a time, when I started my ride and the weather was fine, it was 8 hours at a shot.  I had some nasty sores, blood was involved!  The padded shorts will help you reduce or completely rid yourself of this difficulty.  The only drawback is the cleaning of them.  As they are padded, they can tend to hold on to bacteria much better, that’s not good for you.  Based on this, I decided to grin and bear it initially and never got into the habit of wearing padded shorts.  Diana, my partner, has declined use of them as well, not a huge problem for either of us.  Just know that they are an option for you, and if you get them, KEEP THEM VERY CLEAN!

Lastly, if you got clip in pedals, you’ll need the shoes for them!

That’s about it for clothes, again, take some natural fiber for comfort, but the rest I suggest as man made and technical as possible and of course, as you can afford. At the time, once you get on the road, needs become met.

-Bike/non clothing stuff – GLOVES!!!  These are a huge bonus if you have them, especially when padded.  You wont miss them unless you wear them and then don’t have them.  You wont realize you want them until you wear them for the first time after riding a great distance without them.  Now you know, also, could be the difference between carpal tunnel issues and not.

–  Pump – so very many to choose, I use a Topeak gifted to me by Cranky’s in Santa Barbara, its rad and has given me no trouble thus far.  Lezyne seems to be quite a company, one gentleman I met on the road swears by it and he has been riding for many many years….  I would trust his word.

– Kickstand – I do not have one currently and at times I wish I did.  An easy kickstand is to take a length of very lightweight rigid piping [plastic, bamboo, tent pole etc.] that fits under your seat to the ground.  This will support your bike.  In addition to this, a tiny bungee should be put around the front brake so your wheel doesn’t get squirrely when you’re parked.

You can also purchase more serious kickstands and this may be the thing for you.  If not, you will learn to be very ninja at balancing your bike against you and other objects, you may also have unfortunate falls, so be prepared.

– Sunny Glasses –  Any glasses really.  You are on a road with cars whizzing by, little winged creatures cruising around etc.  Your eyes are largely what make this possible, keep them protected, not only from the sun, but from small pebbles kicked up by vehicles, I have had many little things bounce off my glasses, and because of that, have been very happy to have them.  I started my ride without them, by day three I was over it and got a cheap pair from someone.  Now, with great thanks, we were given a donation by the Kaenon Company who makes seeing a delight to behold.  I feel as though a blind man who was given sight.  They are polarized and have various other coatings on them and true story, they make the world a happier place for us.

Whatever you cover your peeps with, make sure to take care of them as they are an indispensible part of your gear!

– MAP – Carry a map, regardless of your electronic wizardry, not only is there a certain whimsy with maps, you will be tapping into all of those who came before you to explore brave new worlds, they are invaluable.  I am not sure why they are so important given the electronic we have today, they simply are.  They give reassurance, a look ahead, relief from the sun if you unfold it and hold it over your head, can hold water if you get the right kind, you see, a map is so much more, you would do well to start thinking out of the box!  Maps are great, and if you learn to read on, you will be waaaaay ahead of the curve.

– Multi tool –  A Leatherman or Swiss Army knife. I prefer Leatherman for two reasons, the first is that they have pliers which I actually use.  Secondly, they do not look like a weapon, and in some countries, the smallest of knives will get you more questions than is needed.  Yes, it has blades on it, but it does not register as a knife in the mind first, whereas a Swiss Army KNIFE, does.  Simple tiny difference, and yet a difference none the less.  Depending on the extent of your wilderness travel, you may need something that packs a bigger punch, a serious knife.  I do not know much about that and will refrain from speaking to it.  I can only assume that if you are going on a back county experience, you know what you are doing.  If you do not, I urge you to go with someone who does.  There are many things in the wild we tend to forget about in our citified living, do not remember that when you are lost and alone in the dark wondering what exactly is making the breathing noises and ruffling the branches from the ground to about ten feet in the air just outside the ring of your rapidly dwindling fire…  You’re a human, you were given a brain, use it to avoid problems as much as solve them and you will live long and happily.

– Water Bottles and their respective holders –  Depending on where you are going, you will need water.  Let me re-phrase, you will always need water, but depending on where you go, you may need to option to carry A LOT.  There are as many water bottles as there are holders.  If you are going to be keeping your ride local, or you will always be within earshot of a place where you could easily fill a bottle, go for the re-usable style.  Its eco-friendly and that’s what we are all about these days. Look around you, if you do not think in terms of the environment, there is a chance you have lost that crucial link in the brain that allows you to help your species survive.  That my friends, is most sad and of course… no bueno!

-Water Bottle/Bottle Holder – If you go for the typical bike water bottle, there will be many styles to choose from that all fit in to whatever design water bottle cage you can find.  If you prefer your drinks cold, there will be water bottles that are insulated.  There are water bottles that the top and bottom comes off so you can actually clean the properly.  There are many many styles.  If you have a re-usable bottle, do ensure that you know how to clean it properly as things can grow and could get you feeling ill.  Keep this in mind, maybe take a brush.  It seems like just an extra thing until you peer into the depths of your bottle and see fuzzy stuff on the sides.  Do not, I repeat do not go for an aluminum container, go for stainless steel or BPA free plastic.  Aluminum does bad stuff over time to the human body, its just how it is, moving on…

If you will be headed to a place where you will need copious amounts of water, I would suggest the following.  Go for the simple water bottle cage as it will allow you to put the 1.5 liter bottles of water in them.  These are the bottles that are very popular in mini markets and I found out the hard way that they don’t fit in the really cool looking pre molded water bottle holders.  I am fortunate that I got a Dirt Rag Mag Titanium water bottle cage, this is not necessary unless you want to be rad and support the folks who support us.  Otherwise, get a simple “cage” and re use the water bottles at least 3 times.  Do this by filling them from gallon or larger water bottles.  After the third fill, discard and get new ones as the plastic they use is generally cheap and will degrade on a micro level and you don’t need that stuff in your system.

– Water Filter – If you are going a great distance through unfamiliar terrain, you would do well to carry a water filter, I have an MSR Sweetwater Mini filter, a bit overkill, but hey, we used it once already!  Also good are iodine tablets for water purification, we don’t use these, but will be picking up a small bottle of Microdyne the next chance we get, this is essentially the same thing as Iodine tabs, but is better for your body, but, I don’t know much about this.

– Road food/energy snacks- Some food depending on the area you are travelling, but not too much, unless there will truly be no food for a very long distance.  We usually carry enough to take care of immediate cravings.  An easy cover all is peanut butter and carrot sticks.  The peanut butter will last a very long time and the carrots, especially if organically grown, will last a while without refrigeration.  A while means up to 8 days for organic, less for petro chemical grown carrots.  As for the peanut butter, go for the most natural stuff you can find.  Steer clear of refined sugar, palm oil, partially or fully hydrogenated oil and anything else that isn’t made from a PEE-NUT.  Your body does not need it, further, it is a drag on your body to get rid of the stuff, palm oil usage is responsible for rain de-forestation, so no need to be part of that racket and the hydrogenation of oils causes cancer.  The only thing its good for is to prevent oil separation and it has addictive qualities which makes you want to eat more and ergo buy more.  Use this ride to start looking into the hearts of the men who create the companies that drive the world, start looking at the world you inhabit and what truly goes on there.  You will be amazed, and most likely a wee bit scared.  But that’s good, you can start to make personal changes that will ripple out and change the world!

– Bike Repair Kit – You will need a bike repair kit which we will cover in the next section, just know for now that you need one.  I mean, of course, right?

– Spare Tire – A spare tire is of import if you are going far and may not have access to anything but you, god and nature.

– Electrolyte Replacement –  This is great because you will be losing lots of them.  The best and easiest to use that we have personally found thus far is by Vega.  They make a snap doodle of a product that works great.  Emergen-C is another one we like.  Again, you want to look for the most natural supplementation you can find AND afford.  Its your body and you are what you eat, so don’t be cheap, you get what you pay for, and you pay now or you pay later, but as long as you walk this planet, pay you shall!