Since setting off (in chilly April), we’ve bought additional things, like sun shirts or thermals, and maps, and sent back chunky packages to England, of souvenirs accompanied by surplus clothing, or underutilised gear, and of course, used maps (unless we met someone going the other way). As we travelled we shed or acquired clothing to suit, whilst keeping our core gear all the way. The conditions were like this:
- Europe – cool, even freezing, getting warm (northern hemisphere spring)
- Turkey – hot & dry
- Georgia – hot
- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan – warm & dry
- Kyrgyzstan – cold, snowy or occasionally wet (northern hemisphere spring)
- Tajikistan – very cold & dry (but no cycling)
- India, Myanmar – warm & dry, very occasional rain (northern hemisphere spring)
- SE Asia – warm, getting hot & humid (equatorial)
- Australia – warm & dry, getting cool by the south (southern hemisphere winter)
- New Zealand – cool & sometimes rainy (southern hemisphere spring)
- USA – warm & dry, getting to freezing, then warm again, but humid. (northern hemisphere winter)
- Portugal, Spain – Cool, very, very rainy (northern hemisphere spring)
Before leaving, both Gid and I were somewhat neurotic about weighing kit. Our bags weighed similarly, at around 25 kg. Since then, Gid has added a few extra tools and bits where as I have exchanged items, such the cooking pots, for lighter weight kit. I don’t know what the present difference is but, at the start, Clare was faster up the hills!
As we travelled across warm India and hot SE Asia, we posted quite a bit of cooler weather stuff home. By the time we flew from Bali to Cairns, this is what the airport scales told us:
- Both bikes, boxed, with locks and (Gid) shoes and tools – 40kg. Oddly, the checkin scales suggested only 16kg of this was Clare’s, which we don’t believe.
- Each hold bag, comprising one rear pannier and two fronts, wrapped up in a rice sack – approx 10.5kg.
- Hand baggage of one unfull rear pannier and a Barbag – only Gid’s was weighed – 7.5kg.
So total weight between the two of us was 76kg. This was a Jetstar flight (cheap but awful seats) and we’d purchased 40kg of hold baggage each, including the bikes.
Sabbath Silk Route, custom build by Spa Cycles, aimed at light weight and simple maintenance. Running gear all identical to Gid’s, except shorter cranks and smaller 35mm tyres. Pretty Spa leather saddle (no, it’s not a Brooks), Tubus Ti rear rack and steel front rack… Look what happened to that in Sumatra:
One advantage of being in a “less developed” and populous place, is that it took under an hour between noticing the break, and Tarzan (his colleagues’ name) fixing it.
(Slightly reduced after some cold weather stuff posted home from India and other warm places)
2 x t – shirts, one long sleeved (merino)
1 pair travel trousers
1 x shirt (UPF 40+, non-iron)
Base layer leggings (merino)
2 x socks (silk liner socks, merino thicker boot socks)
2x travel knickers
2x bra top (Merino)
2x gloves -one fingerless
1pair of lightweight walking boots (replaced by Keen sandals in USA)
(Purchased in Bishkek, to cope with a few wintery weeks off the bike: Thick socks, cheap jumper, silly hat, secondhand thick thermal and ski jacket. Left in Bishkek, too!)
2x short sleeved shirt (merino)
1 medium weight jacket
1 pair of padded shorts
1 pair of ¾ length loose shorts + padded insert (these are a new addition for when I reach the Muslim countries)
2 pairs socks – 1 sealskin / merino
1 pair of lightweight thermal leggings (replaced by leg warmers in Oz)
2 x compression pants (discarded in Sumatra – too hot)
3 x gloves – 2 long fingered
Padded knickers (changed to unpadded in Sumatra)
Crash hat with mirror. Added an improvised brim (like “daBrim”) in Cairns (Nick’s idea). Replaced brim with a fitted-in modified Decathlon rain hat in Lisbon.
Rain jacket, trousers, boot coverers, hat, Marigold gloves
Specialized SPD road shoes (which look like they will just last the trip)
Bell, pump, Garmin, Mobile phone, GoPro 4,
Ortlieb panniers – rear ones have 2 organiser pockets on each bag
Bar bag – Battered Nikon D5500 camera + 18 – 55 zoom lens, 2x ND grad filters + Cokin A series filter holder, polarizer, circular ND variable lens, lens cleaning pen & cloth, mini Leatherman, compass, electrical leads etc.
Sun cream, tissues & a few other bits and bobs
Under tube bag – Canon compact camera (Sent home from India as unusable in sunlight), monocular. Frame bag sent home from SE Asia.
A contribution to the tool kit as Gid carries the main tool kit
Puncture repair kit
Spare inner tube, Shraeder Presta adapter.
Spare Mondials folding tyre
Cooking kit – Whisperlite Universal stove inc. gas & petrol adapter. Petrol only used briefly in Thailand & Sumatra (1 night each). Petrol kit sent home from Lisbon.
Foil wind breaks
Spark gas lighter & cigarette lighter
1 ½ + 1 Lt Titanium cook pots: Apparently these have a reputation for a lack of heat distribution resulting in burnt food. In all the years we’ve been camping and used stainless steel, aluminium and galvanised pots, we’ve never managed to not burn the food no matter what material the pot is made from, but I am hopeful as the Whisperlite is, reportedly, able to simmer, where as many burners (no pun intended) can’t, that we may succeed in the future. The titanium ones also weigh less than half the weight of the steel ones we nearly bought with us.
Dinky home made cutlery holder containing (this was transferred to Gid’s food bag in Sumatra):
- 3 x spork -2 titanium & one plastic (until it broke in India, was to use in cooking pot if necessary)
- 1 x titanium folding knife (discarded as hard to use left handed), replaced by non-folding titanium knife2 x Gaz canisters -one large + a spare medium sized one, or suchlike (not flyable!)
- Wooden spatula
- Leatherman Wave (which broke somewhat, in Sumatra, leaving the pliers floppy).
- Bamboo tea sucking straw, virtually never used
Aztec plastic folding bowls
The best hotel kit ever, Clare’s Xmas present, purchased in Udaipur for about £3. Hot drinks in any hotel room! Changed to a USA/Thai plug in Myanmar. The guy in that shop was quite bemused when I gave him three USA or Euro to India adaptors. When US motels turned out to always have microwaves, we sent it home – but it would have been so useful in Portugal & Spain!
Thermartex ultra light blanket
Silk sleeping bag liner
Down 400 fill sleeping bag
Mosquito net (posted to Bishkek, for India)
Exped 7 Down UL sleeping mat (I broke my Exped 7 Down sleeping mat with pump, which is a thicker weight mat, and have bought this ultra-light one which is lighter and takes up less space but it might well be a mistake. I have, however, got lots of puncture repair patches)
All purpose soap, and from India on, a bar of laundry soap.
Mini foam folding mat.
Mini stool (transferred to Gid’s camping bag in Sumatra)
Neoprene 4mm full length mat. Destroyed as bike packing for Gaya to Yangon flight, as a yoga mat was bought in Varanasi. Much heavier, but can do yoga. Discarded in Bali, new sleeping mat in Cairns.
4 x water filters that screw into water bottle (2 each, but dumped the oldest ones late in India)
MSR water filter pump + water bottle that it fits onto) (Sent home from SE Asia). Replaced in Oz with an inline drinking-straw filter, which wasn’t used.
Chlorine tablets for purifying water
1st Aid kit (in container placed in down tube bottle holder)
Tiger balm, Sudacrem, hand cream, hair brush, wash stuff
Shammy (x2 until we lost one off Miami Beach).
Tent repair kit
6lt & 4 Lt dromedary (now sent home)
Massage ball (now sent home)
Kindle, with Lonely Planet for everywhere visited.
EPERB global notification device
Micro rucksack (damaged by Bishkek, so now carrying it’s replacement too.)
Micro shopping bag
2 x Reading glasses
2 x Sun glasses
Passport, insurance documents etc.
Spare passport photos, in relevant sizes, as required
Photocopies of passport
Flash stick -copies of docs., instructions for applications and kit etc.
Kicker IV solar panel (sent home as not useful enough)
Gideon’s kit list
This originally written in Turkey, includes kit (marked *) not used after it warmed up in Germany, until winter arrived at the Kyrgyzstan border.
- Stuff sent home en route is marked “*”
- Stuff bought en route is marked “+”
Spa Rough Stuff tourer. Custom build by Spa, aimed at low weight and simple maintenance. Running gear identical to Clare’s except standard cranks and bigger 40mm tyres. Spa leather saddle and Tubus steel racks.
Thin warm hat for under helmet*
Cycling helmet with Bike Eye Pro mirror
Packable zip sleeve warm jacket
Cycling warm-up jacket*-
Waterproof cycling jacket
Pertex tiny windproof
LS merino top (bedwear)*
SS merino cycling top*
LS thermal top*
Cheap cotton tee+
SS thin cotton shirt+(scrapped in Bali)
Silk SS shirt*
LS synthetic travel shirt (white, for cycling in sun). This 1997 MEC shirt died from UV in Thailand, I bought a somewhat inferior travel shirt in Bangkok.
LS synthetic travel shirt+
1 pair travel trousers (replaced in Istanbul as I was too scruffy, Turks are pretty dapper)
Very light 3/4 shorts (wore out, replaced in Baku and in Aqtau, neither very satisfying, latter sent home)
Longish outer cycling shorts (used when chilly or conservative societies)
2 x inner cycling shorts (*+ one pair sent home when I bought a new pair in Bangkok)
Thin thermal tights* (bedwear)
1 pair cotton pants
1 pair black synthetic pants (double as trunks)
Lightish walking socks
Short sport socks
2 x tiny cotton socks
Cycling gaiters, zipless *
Lightweight walking boots, size 46, so over 1kg (already worn out when I set off, but they were German, and we were going through Germany, so…)
Shimano cycling sandals (SPD)
(+Purchased in Bishkek, and left there, to cope with a few wintery weeks off the bike: Thick socks, extra pants, secondhand thick thermal (£2) and insulated ski jacket (£5).)
Bike has dynohub and B&M lighting with USB charger output.
Bell/compass, Topeak morph pump (mixed success, leaks air, absorbs water, so improvised cover, but, it does still work), simple Cateye Veloleader 5 wired computer.
950ml bottle (replaced in SE Asia with 600ml insulated) and Bike Buddy with 2 litre pop bottle. Lower bottle cage holds petrol stove tank, little used yet.
Rear rack pack Pacific Outdoors simple drybag, originally food bag, now empty or up to 3 x 1.5 litre water bottles.
Bar bag – Altura. Camera, passport, phrasebook etc. Map on top, with flannel over to keep UV off (and mop face). Up to 2.6kg.
About barbag: Top of range (Orkney?) I must’ve had it a decade. The detachable front bag gaped open and has no conceivable use except used tissues; I’ve never used it. Within not long I’d realised Altura’s lid closure let the lid bounce open. A loop of bungee over the top fixes that, and holds stuff on top. Altura’s self tapping screws into plastic fell out within a year, detaching the bracket from bag – fixed on tour using M3 or M4 bolts. After about five years the map case had gone yellow and opaque, although my LBS turned out to have the spare. That started to go yellow in maybe Turkey, I guess it’s UV, but then I stuck a flannel over it and it stopped getting worse. The map case Velcro comes off occasionally, but shoe glue fixes it back. You’d think this was a crap bag! Yet it works well, with my mods. It doesn’t let water in, provided I secure it properly, and don’t open it in the rain. I added some internal dividers to hold the camera.
About camera: Olympic OM D M5 and 45mm lens. Also 12-50mm lens, which, like the camera is weather and dust proof, but I’ve hardly used it yet. Originally I had 17mm and 25mm lenses too, but never used them, so posted home. Lenses both have UV protective filters. Lenses that are not 52mm I put step up rings on, adds quite a bit of protection. I also have 52mm screw in filters: ND, ND Grad, CP, Close up, all screwed together with screw on endcaps. Tiny Olympus detachable flash that I never use. Lens cap lost horse-riding in Kyrgyzstan, replaced Bishkek and now tied on. Clare lost and replaced hers exactly the same time!
Charging the cameras: We both took a spare battery each. We have one PowerMonkey universal charge that will charge either of them (as well as the Canon Clare sent home, as well as the GoPro that we overlooked and brought a charger for).
Abus frame bag. Hand cleaner, power-pack if on charge, multi tool, bike lube, rear battery flashing rear lamp (for tunnels), picnic knife, string.
About bike lube: Generally used a modern Teflon non greasy dry weather lube, also carrying a small bottle of wet weather. But the former ran out in Bishkek, I bought new, and stupidly opened it – even though we weren’t cycling and were flying – doh! In Delhi, managed to find more, but, uninformed, chose Finish Line Ceramic stuff which is totally useless in a tour environment. Only realised this after leaving Delhi. Thereafter reduced to sewing machine oil, which lubes well, but picks up dirt. Finally got decent dry lube again in Yangon. In Thailand this washed off in a day in heavy monsoon showers, so used the wet lube at last.
Why do the tops of lube bottles, and glue tubes, always break on tour?
Left front pannier – Ortlieb roll top – all the messy stuff. Spare tyre #2 (Specialised Trigger Pro 38, will fit either bike), up to 4L water/juice/milk, spare soap, face cream, plastic bags for padding and insulation, perishable/fresh food, shampoo, concentrated handwash for washing fruit. This pannier therefore varies in weight a lot.
Right front pannier.
Spare tyre #1 (40mm Mondial so won’t really fit Clare’s bike, and is bulky, put on bike in Myanmar, then moved my other spare tyre to this pannier ), 2 x inner tubes, toolkit, battery front lamp, headtorch, chargers, adapters, leads, Bushell mini solar panel/power-pack*, technical junk.
About Toolkit: It fits in big pencil case, excludes multi-tool as in frame bag for quick access, includes wonderful Knipex plier/spanner, real ball end Allen keys but only smaller sizes, NBT2 (which doesn’t work in Clare’s frame, good job her wheel fits my bike) spare cables,
SPD shims (now used up), bolts, Tubus rack spacers. Small pot saddle cream.
Not in toolkit pencil case: Dynamo plugs/leads and connectors, brake shoes, bit of brake outer. Spare Ortlieb pannier hook (Carradice spare hooks used as doubles on pannier). Cable cutters bought in Baku, rather bulky and heavy.
Clare has a full sized Leatherman, which provides real pliers and a file, but won’t cut brake cable properly.
Spare spokes – three sizes front, rear drive, rear – are down seatpost.
Left rear pannier, Carradice Super C. Three pannier hooks per pannier.
Camp kit: Hilleberg Nalo 2 GT tent and footprint. Downmat 7, half of couple kit, Rab down sleeping bag (Rh zip, zips to Clare’s), silk liner, bog roll in neat (REI?) hang up dry bag, spare small drybag (used in the folding rucksack), mosquito net+. Basic roll mat attached on top, in home made drybag, protects both tent floor and Downmat.
Rear pocket contains all rainwear, and saddle cover.
Right rear pannier. Clothes (in liner polybag, has one or two holes in), boots (in bags), flip flops. Basic foam sit pad (which often serves as padding for the folding rucksack). Tilley hat. Rear pocket contains hand wipes, medicines, toothbrushes, tiny folding rucksack, small junk.
In India, I switched some unused warm clothes into the camping pannier, so I didn’t have to open it, and put the sleeping bag liner, mosquito net, and bog roll into the clothes bag, as these were needed in some Indian hotels. In Myanmar, I switched this back, as the (mandatory) hotels tended to be quite plush, and we’d sent home most of the warm clothes.
Comparing the Ortlieb BikePackerPlus and Carradice SuperC Rear Panniers
The Ortliebs main pockets are shorter, wider, and fatter than the Carradice. Even more overall fatness considering that the extras pocket is on the outside not the backside. This means:
The Ortliebs hold a little bit more bulk. My camping load, that requires shoving into the Carradice, plops into the Ortlieb. The Carradice’s lid extension is a bit mean, and the non-waterproof seam of the nylon top extension is only just covered. So I think the Ortliebs will take quite a lot more.
If the Carradices are put on a rack with a low mounting rail, the bottom of the RHS pannier fouls the deraillieur. This isn’t a real problem, those racks were only invented because short fat Ortlieb panniers end up too high! Just don’t use said low rail with Carradice – my Tubus Cargo rack doesn’t have them.
The bike with the Carradices really can fit through smaller gaps. This is only really notable when parking, but it is noticeable.
The Ortliebs gained more space when Clare put the optional backside pockets on. These are roll-top so waterproof. The brackets seem sturdy and have never released, but aren’t thief-proof, so she’s tied them on. Actually after having some buckles undone (nothing taken) in a crowd in India, we’ve taken to tying with shoelaces all the rear panniers’ out-of-sight rear pocket clips.
The Ortliebs have a maybe useful shoulder strap. With effort, Clare can carry all five of her bags in one go, as they all have shoulder straps. I can’t. OTOH, I’ve only once bothered to attach the shoulder straps on my front Ortliebs, which probably would allow me to. So I obviously don’t really want to. Clare does spend some time fiddling about with the four extra shoulder straps, they’re sometimes in the way.
The Ortlieb’s have a wonderfully easy pull-to-detach-and-carry handle. So easy, in fact, that we’ve fitted the optional security leash on all six, and Clare locks her rears on with a small padlock (the fronts we normally just kind of tangle round, to slow a thief down). Also, when used on a low-rail rack, the handles tend to flop into the side of the wheel and rub on the tyre – no means is provided to secure them on these rear panniers, so they have to be sort of poked between rail and bag (and yes, she does have mudguards). Whereas the Carradice (grey type) hook catches are unclear how to use, awkward and fiddly until you know them, and mine are buried under the flabby rack bag. So, they’re harder for anyone to steal – I don’t lock them to the bike unless we plan to leave it loaded and unattended. Real world advantage is with Carradice here.
The Ortliebs, naturally, seem completely dry in wet conditions. The Carradices seem pretty good too. I have occasionally found dampness is the bottom of the camping pannier, but that’s where I put the wet tent. I guess if I stood them in water they’d leak, they might also if I waded the bike with them. The Ortlieb side pockets, with a single roll-down closure seem dry too. Carradices rear pockets are always dry also, I don’t understand how spray is kept out – but it is! Advantage Ortlieb, but not as much as I’d expect. If I put damp clothing under just the top lid of the Carradice, in dry conditions, it slowly dries out, presumably through the breathing fabric.
Neither bag has fallen off, unless not properly put on. Neither bag has entirely fallen off at all. Occasionally one of the bottom hooks has disengaged, on both types of bag.
The Ortliebs can flop about a lot in yaw axis as their top rail isn’t rigid. When my bike had shimmy problems, this flop seemed to soak it up so it didn’t build up. The Carradices are much more solid in themselves – stiffer. Which is best?
The Carradices have little strips to hold standard belt-clip mount battery rear lights. Germans don’t use battery lights, so the Ortliebs miss this useful item.
The Ortliebs have inside organiser pockets, Carradice don’t. Now that I use front panniers, I want my rear panniers, basically, to swallow big things with minimal trouble. So in my current use, I don’t have any need for inside pockets.
They weigh pretty much the same. I don’t know which material is toughest in a crash. I suspect which is easiest for an Indian tailor to repair. I could, if I wished, sew badges on my Carradices.
The top hooks on the Ortleib are easy to adjust. The top hooks on the Carradices are absolute bastards to adjust. In a French village, I borrowed a chippies hammer and lump of wood to laboriously move them 1cm. Carradice probably only need to add a smidgeon more clearance so road dust doesn’t clog it. Both bottom hooks are easy to adjust, Carradice has fewer positions and needs a screwdriver. A clear win for Ortlieb.
Both bags have some annoying projections of fixings inside the back of the bag. These can damage things placed inside. The Carradice ones are rivet ends – very low profile but a bit sharpish, they might rip weak fabrics. A bit of robust fabric over, or a couple of layers of duct tape would fix this. The Ortlieb ones are nicely finished with plastic domes, but project substantially. Large flat things therefore won’t sit comfortably, in particular this well supported laptop-shaped space could bend your metal plate, ding your laptop or break a tablet’s screen.
After a few months, Carradice’s outer cotton faded from black to a dusty grey-brown. Clare’s “hazel” Ortliebs outer fabric have faded to the same colour, losing their reddish tint. Odd.
After one year and about 17,000km, neither bags has any significant scuffing to either fabric or plastics. We’ve had no high speed tumbles, but both have been dumped in the dirt at low speeds.
No hanging hooks or bottom hooks have failed. When I decided I would take spare hooks, the obvious place on the Carradice was simply to double one of the hooks on each pannier. Since the rear hook carries nearly all the weight, with where the hooks are on mine, I doubled that. The Ortliebs will only take 2 hooks, and anyway the spare is a slightly different length as they’ve changed their system. In case of serious failures, I’d think the Carradice’s use of simple heavy canvas and substantial aluminium section would make it easier to bodge in the sticks than Ortlieb’s much more sophisticated mouldings.
By Bishkek, the lid buckles on the right-hand (ie sunny side) Ortlieb rears cracked and failed. We figure this was UV degradation. Ortlieb make a spare buckle which can be put on with no sewing. We did that, it’s easy, but this replacement buckle doesn’t allow a slide-to tighten. Therefore the lids on Clare’s Ortliebs flop about. This seems a bit crap. Neither sunny side front Ortlieb has this problem. One suspects Ortlieb shipped a faulty batch. Interestingly, the equivalent part (transparent!) on my decade-old Pacific Outdoor rack bag also failed the same way at the same time. It also got an Ortlieb replacement; perfect since it is a roll top and needs no slide.
Both are proving capable and easy to live with. Rationally, the Ortlieb seems to edge it on practical advantages. However it’s closer than I’d expected, and it is the Ortlieb that has gone wrong, in an irritating though bodgeable way. Aesthetically it’s between old-school simplicity, and ultimate technology for everything.
Clare and myself have identical – except for colour – Ortlieb roll top front panniers.