Overpacking: What One Bike Tourist Left Behind
Ask any experienced bike tourist and they’ll certainly have a story about over packing and the things that never should have come along in their panniers.
For us, the 2 plastic champagne flutes were the first to go. As newbie bike travellers, we put them in our panniers, while conjuring up dreams of romantic picnics in the flower-filled fields of Europe.
Reality soon hit. They took up too much space and our plastic camp mugs worked as well for wine as they did for morning coffee. A bit further down the road, we got rid of large, heavy wrench for taking off pedals (we could always get a bike shop to do this for us), a kite and one too many t-shirts.
So when Keith rolled up to our front door last week, on his way to India, and said he had to lighten his bags, we were curious to see what would ultimately go.
Three days later, after a lot of sorting and debating, he handed us a large bag with a good 2 kilograms worth of things in it. In volume, the bag would easily fill a front pannier – space that Keith can now use for food or water when he needs to carry extra supplies.
Here is what he left behind…
1. Base Layer – Keith already had an identical base layer. There was no point in carrying 2 of these shirts. They’re not something you’ll wear every day so just 1 is sufficient.
2. Sunglasses – Again, Keith had a pair of sunglasses. Three pairs of sunglasses is definitely excessive!
3. Strainer – The strainer insert that came with Keith’s dish set already performed this task, and the one he took along was more compact than the one he left behind.
4. Windscreen - This is partly a case of duplication (a windscreen came with Keith’s stove) and partly a case of bad design. The windscreen doesn’t go all the way around the stove, making it of limited usefulness in a strong breeze.
5. Extra Spokes – Keith had 3 times this many spokes with him. Generally, 3-4 spokes for the front and back wheels are enough.
6. Buff – Duplication, again!
7. Trainers – Keith was also carrying a pair of hiking boots, since he plans to explore the mountains of Slovakia. The hiking boots can be used in town too, making the sneakers redundant.
8. Ortlieb Backpack Adapter – He already had a small backpack, and this backpack adapter isn’t so comfortable.
9. Platypus Water Holder – More duplication. Keith already had several water containers, including an Ortlieb water carrier, with a shower attachment.
10. Camp Lantern – Who needs one of these when you have headtorches and bike lights?
11. Heavy Books - The small atlas was interesting but not detailed enough to be useful. A better option would be to save the Wikipedia entry for each country on a laptop or iPhone that you might be carrying. The Bicycle Touring Holland book had a series of smaller tours (hard to follow when you’re heading in a straight line across the country) and would soon be out of range.
12. Mosquito Headnet – This might be good for tours in some areas, like northern Canada or Russia, but for Keith’s route through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, it’s not really necessary. The mosquitos aren’t that bad.
13. Belt – More duplication.
This is just one bike tourist’s clean out. Have you had to lighten your panniers in the past? What did you discard, and why? Tell us by leaving a comment.