Gear (non-bike)

Stating the obvious, navigating the extreme climatic diversity of the Americas on a bicycle necessitates a trade-off between being adequately prepared and traveling light. Enjoying the reduced complexity of the lighter burden deserves serious consideration for leaving an item at home. The question for any piece of kit might be: can I reasonably bear being without it?
(Bike build here)

PRIMARY ITEMS:
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  • SPOT beacon¬†(AAA x 3 – Lith)¬†(I have an earlier one). Light and small; I find it hard to find a good enough reason to not carry one particular if you intend to head off the main routes.
  • Maps: Alpinequest (Android) – excellent. Multiple map options and offline use. Add waypoints for future route planning (e.g. conveniently in conversation). Comprehensive route tracking.
    (Ridewithgps.com – for route plotting and elevation profiles.)
  • Small Compass (virtually never used but could be useful for hiking)
  • First aid kit the absolute bare minimum: emergency foil blankets, bandages (swabs,triangle, large dressing, band aids, hikers wool, mole skin), pain reliever (panadol, aspirin, ibuprofen), needle (given away¬†(gloves, tiny fold-up CPR mask)

FOOD / WATER / COOKING / FIRE

  • 0.75 litre bike bottle (mounted to top of handlebar) & 1 litre yoghurt bottle (underside of downtube) (I read that the white plastic used in these bottles can be used longer¬†with less health risk /contamination than the clear bottles; a purpose built one litre bike bottle would be preferable but I’ve not found one in Latin America) 10 litre MSR Hydration Bag (I used to have a hydration bag but decided 99.99% of the time I only need 1 or 2 litres of water and can re-fill in the next town or use my water filter if necessary. Reducing the amount of water you carry is an easy way to reduce weight.¬†With a 10 litre bag I often carried far more water than I needed. For a long dry section I can always strap a couple of extra plastic bottles to my bike)
  • Sawyer Squeeze water filter: donated by Scott Pauker. Use a t-shirt or bandanna to extract sediment/debris. A better option than the UV treatment, no messing with batteries or electricity cables: Steripen UV use clear water only¬†– versions with rechargeable options also exist (a bit heavier but the CR123 batteries can be quite expensive)
  • Purification tablets (30+ x 1l each pill for emergency/desperate use only)
  • FIRE: lighters (x2) or flint
  • Clikstand T-2 Titanium¬†with Trangia Burner¬†(fuel: denatured alcohol, as pure as possible for a stronger flame)- acquired thanks to Cass’s review. Delighted with this item. No noise, clean and light. Previously used a MSR whisperlite international which was good but the gasoline occasionally contaminated my food (user error but nonetheless…). I also had an alcohol beer can stove (very light but probably less efficient; this is how you make it).
  • Cooking pot; lid/plate; wind protector
  • fork / spoon
  • Snap lock bags – various uses including keeping feet & socks dry with wet shoes.

SHELTER / SLEEPING

  • Tent (green MSR – Hubba plus footprint, there is now a newer version¬†but my one has worked well – can be too hot in hot climates¬†if you need the fly on but I get by OK. ¬†I’m 6’4″ slim and fit OK. Somewhat lightweight but not the absolute lightest option available. I traded slight weight gain for practicality.)
  • 1mx1.5m tarp (good for sitting on, temporary roof to protect from the rain or having in vestibule of tent; used a lot). Also have one as an extra groundsheet to protect the bottom of the tent and minimise water coming in from below.
  • Sleeping bag: Marmot Never Summer¬†Comfort: 12.7¬įF / -10.7¬įC (a little cold when approaching -10 C but OK with my down jacket on etc. ¬†I think it would be warmer if it was narrower. ¬†Would have researched more options if it was convenient). ¬†Bought in Tattoo, Quito, Ecuador for ~$330)¬†(Macpac Sanctuary 600XP (NZ brand); -4 (comfort), -11 (limit),-30(extreme)) (bit big for me, would prefer warmer, doesn’t seem to be quite enough down in this version), inner liner bag
  • Thermarest prolite sleeping mat¬†– regular (I’m 6’4″ / 193cm and slender build; fits well. ¬†I prefer this full length for the cold Andes since a fair amount of heat can be lost through the ground but no need for the large (for me)). Owned by MSR, fantastic customer service. ¬†Sent a new one out to Ecuador when a bubble appeared in my first one, no questions asked.
  • SeaToSummit dry bag¬†– see bike gear for more info on bags.

CLOTHING

  • Waterproofs jacket (Mountain Equipment – Goretex), waterproof trousers (cheap, rarely used )
  • Cycling:
    РTops (polyester, not as cold when wet and quicker to dry than cotton): 1 x blue Under Armor t-shirt with large collar to protect from sunburn on neck, white sleeves (to stop sunburn, bought in Colombia for $1), fingerless cycling gloves
    РShorts: Black football / trackie  (light polyester, cheap Рuse for swimming, cycling, running, casual); 3 x underwear (poly (dries quicker) Рfound no need for padded cycling shorts on my normal mountain bike saddle)
    – 3 pairs cycle socks (wool =¬†warm when wet, doesn’t smell;¬† poly =¬†warmish when wet but can smell; cotton ¬†= cold when¬†wet and can smell (double negative, avoid))
  • Day casual / off bike: North Face Paramount Peak II trousers that convert to shorts (excellent, dry quickly),¬† 1x black collared t-shirt, 1 x merino underwear,¬†Fleece (polyester, a bit bulky (merino wool version could be better? although expensive) – use this a lot, stuff it with clothes and down jacket for a pillow).
  • Night:Merino top,¬†Merino leggings¬†beanie (woolly hat)
  • Additional warmth (below freezing): Virtuoso down jacket¬†¬†(awesome) from Outdoor Research (packs small inside its pocket), inner gloves (test they work operating¬†a smartphone before buying, like these¬†Rab ones I use), outer gtx warm gloves.
  • Recently acquired new¬†Mammut¬†goretex shoes in Santiago Chile, so far very happy – dry, comfortable and surprisingly lightweight for what they are. I use a flat pedal (not clipless). Good for cold / wet conditions, interested to see what they’d be like in a hot climate. My previous¬†North Face Approach shoe¬†fell apart having lasting 1.5 years of solid use (my only shoe): loved them – comfortable, dried quickly. Can be used for cycling, running and hiking. Before this I had the Salewa Firetail – Goretex which lasted eight months of tough use, grippy thick sole, reasonably lightweight. I prefer the Mammut or North Face shoe though.¬†I had the older version, this is the newer version¬†which is bit different. Another option could be the Salewa Wildfires.
  • WET SOCK / SHOE AVOIDANCE – having wet feet is my least favourite hardship whilst cycle touring. Wearing my merino wool base layer seems to be prevent my feet getting wet in light rain since the water is absorbed and doesn’t run down my leg quite as easily. ¬†When they become saturated in heavy rain, waterproof overshoes might help (I’ve heard good things but I’ve not tried them). If you have wet shoes and no other option, wrap socks with newspaper; works surprisingly well.

OTHER

  • Head torch – Black Diamond – rechargeable
  • Toiletries bag: Toothbrush / toothpaste, soap, dental floss, ear buds, head shaver (wahl: lightweight battery beard trimmer – cheap, lasted well)¬†(now just use a razor to shave my head and basic cheap scissors to trim my beard or a hairdresser if it gets too long).
  • Contact lenses (monthly); 120 ml solution
  • Glasses + case
  • Sun cream, sunglasses (+ case)
  • Toilet paper
  • Insect repellent (almost never used)
  • Small bag of washing powder (or soap): wash cycle clothes daily (if I sweat a lot and there’s decent access to water) using a waterproof plastic throwaway 7l water bag that I picked up in Colombia. ¬†Put the cycling clothes in with detergent; leave for half an hour; then just rinse with water by filling and emptying 2 or 3 times. Every couple of weeks I’ll take the rest of¬†my clothes to¬†the laundrette.
  • Bear Mace – I had to use this in Alaska and I can confirm it works – see my ‘bear’ experience.
  • Log Book, pen

REQUIRE RE-CHARGING (USB)

11 thoughts on “Gear (non-bike)

        • I just hadn’t tried cooking with denat. alcohol when I did the divide, I had an msr whisperlite intl which worked well; either would be fine I’d say. (Although it’s quite nice to be able to boil something quick when it’s really cold. I’ve yet to try an alcohol stove in really cold conditions.) Something like the clikstand is a decent alcohol stove if you decide to go that way.

  1. Great list! SteriPEN also makes a lightweight, rechargeable version, SteriPEN Freedom (www.steripen.com/freedom). Weighing in at only 2.6 ounces, it’s often the first choice of cyclists.

    • Hi Juan, sorry only just saw this! I’ll use my laptop (mac air) to charge my phone or headtorch if there is a need. It has enough battery storage to fully charge my phone a number of times. A side note: below zero I find I need to keep batteries warm or they don’t function as well (e.g. put them in your sleeping bag).

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