Experiences with equipment

Couple months long trip is the best way to test stuff. This was our first trip that long, we had 30kg of stuff each of us, here are our experiences…

Panniers

We used waterproof expedition panniers from a Czech company Sport Arsenal (2 side bags, 1 top bag and 1 fron on handlebars)

After few falls from the rack (the attachment system could be better) were torn on couple spots but we were able to fix it (but would be better if the repair kit is provided). Big advantage is aluminum bar which keeps the bags from bending, but the bar also tears the fabric at the sides.

The front handlebar bag survived almost 9000km of bumping but isn’t perfect – the map holder isn’t waterproof, the sides get torn easily and the Velcro doesn’t hold in strong wind. The material is more like fabric but the inside rubber layer wears off and the bag isn’t waterproof anymore.

Generally we’ve been satisfied and in comparison with others we saw (mostly Ortlieb) we think ours were similarly good and we would take it again.

Instead of the top “sleeping bag”-bag (which has the shoulder straps but isn’t very comfortable to carry) is better a normal backpack (30-40l).

Sleeping

Tent

At the beginning we thought that it’s important to have all the stuff as light as possible but this is not the case with tent when bicycle touring – bicycle can carry a lot and bigger tent is much more comfortable. As a wedding gift we got Husky Sawaj ultra 2 tent – one of the lightest on the market. Its advantages are:

  • it’s really small and light and it’s good for backpacking trips
  • it’s tall
  • it’s possible to build it fast because its two layers are connected

Disadvantages:

  • connected layers are touching each other and let the water through and it’s nothing we could do with that (it was mainly only on one side – maybe we just had wrong piece)
  • in hot central america we would like to build just the inside with the net (this one doesn’t have the inside from a net-fabric)
  • the repair kit was useless – glue was missing and the kit for repairing poles was probably for different tent with thicker poles
  • we couldn’t fit bags inside, but this is more about comfort and fear that somebody could steal it outside

There is much more to tell about the tent – but it worked for our purpose and because it was only 1m wide we had to love each other eve more 🙂

It would be perfect to have hammocks in Central America, but we got them in South America and it was too cold for it already.

Sleeping bags

Another wedding gift was dawn sleeping bags Warmpeace Viking 600 to -3(-9)°C. They are really warm, but it’s needed to take care about the dawn and therefore they were not advisable for most of our trip – it was too humid at the boat, it was too hot in Central America and it was raining a lot in Patagonia and it wasn’t easy to keep them dry – and getting to a wet sleeping bag isn’t comfortable at all. On the other hand in cold Bolivia or under Chimborazo we were really happy to have them!

Next time we’ll probably choose sleeping bags with synthetic fibers fill.

Sleeping mats

At the beginning we’ve chosen Therm-a-rest foam mattress because we wanted something indestructible and they fulfilled this task perfectly, we were sitting on them without worry where we can put them. But after 4-5 nights we were really looking forward for a normal bed.

In Chile we’ve bought (self)inflatable mattresses Doite and the comfort of 2cm more (3cm total thickness) is incomparable. It wasn’t problem anymore to sleep in tent for weeks and even more comfortable that a bad bed in cheap hostel. Some 200g more are really worth it (and the packed dimensions are smaller), the selfinflatableness isn’t working much but still they are prepared fast. Disadvantage would be if the get punctured but fortunately, this didn’t happen.

Cooking

For our type of traveling, the gasoline stove was the best option (gasoline is cheap and it’s possible to get it everywhere). We got a Chinese CAMPSOR-9 from dealextreme.com for cca 50USD. Many times it wasn’t working properly but it was always possible to fix it. The fuel consumption was quite big without possibility to lower the flame and it made a lot of noise but it was working – comparably to MSR. Next time we’ll think about alcohol stove.

2 pots (2.1l and 1.7l Primus) are enough for two people. The anti-stick layer wears off. Great are 0.6l big stainless cups.

The stylish light-my-fire sporks don’t last long. Edelrid spork with spatula is great thing!

The foldable plastic cutting board was very useful.

Everybody carries some luxury thing which makes him happy … we had a small pancake pan :). Light, taking space but it was also possible to use like a cover.

TIP: To save fuel and make the cooking more effective it’s good to put the boiling pot with food into a towel/bar/sleeping bag which isolates heat and the food is getting finished there while you can use the stove for something else – e.g. boiling water for tee.

Clothes

  • it’s best to avoid the bad weather! Goretex jackets or shoes get wet.
  • it’s possible to bike without the SPD clips
  • training pants are perfect
  • merino is good but but after a year of wearing it has new holes every day
  • the hat/cap with sun protection for neck is a need in sunny countries
  • helmet – Evit was wearing it (with attached sun protection), I wasn’t… but it’s better to have it – fortunately, we didn’t have any accident

Electronics

This is wide and discussable topic. We had:

  • middle-class DSLR Nikon D5100 with the basic lens 18-55 and polarizing filter and a GoPro hero2 camera. We were regularly uploading the pictures in original resolution to google picasaweb as a backup
  • Kindle e-reader we had we were not using much
  • two smart phones – we lost both of them and it is possible to go just with a map (GPS is great in cities and while going on side roads without many people or much traffic where is nobody to ask)
  • SteriPen UV water filter – we didn’t use it much (almost everywhere is drinkable water or it’s possible to boil it
  • solar USB charger – we sent it home, electricity is available almost everywhere

Other

  • pen and paper (notebook) for writing notes and journal (so many pens and notebooks we haven’t used since primary school :))
  • good map is almost impossible to get in Central and South America (it’s better to take it with you) – and many times it still doesn’t correspond the reality
  • sewing kit was used many many times for various repairs and it’s definitely a need!
  • we were missing visitor cards to give out to other travelers instead of writing our contact details on paper

Summary

We met cyclist with high-tech equipment and with the very basic one. Some had all their stuff in two bags or less, others carried 5 full panniers. Almost everybody has some “luxury” thing – e.g. coffee pot (we had pancake pan).

The isn’t one definitely best equipment – everybody travels differently and at the end what only matters is the traveling itself, meeting people, getting to know the people, countries and their customs – this is why people should travel, not just to use the new expensive equipment (but it can definitely help to make the traveling more comfortable).

Quote of our friend Tatan:

“The most important for me while traveling is sleeping and eating and I take care of it. I bicycle only to kill the time” 🙂

Everybody has its own style of traveling and the weight one carries because of things which make him happy, isn’t weight over.

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