9 Things We Wouldn’t Bike Tour Without
Every cycle tourist has their prized possessions, things they wouldn’t dream of leaving home without.
Among the many products vying for your attention, we proudly present our all-star list. Each one has withstood repeated daily use and been worth every penny.
1. Hilleberg Nallo 3GT Tent – Your tent is going to be your home on the road so it’s important to choose a good one and Hilleberg are known as the best in the business when it comes to making high quality, lightweight tents. We chose the three person model because we wanted a little extra room, especially nice when you’re stuck in the tent on a rainy day. Even in the windiest and wettest conditions, our tent has never let us down. We’ve always been snug and dry inside and we’ve only had to do minimal maintenance on it to keep the zippers moving smoothly. It only takes a few minutes to put up and is very simple to erect with just three poles and four pegs needed. We recommend buying the groundsheet to go with the tent as it makes the porch fully usable even in soggy conditions. Even if you don’t go for this particular tent, there are some things to consider when choosing a tent for bike touring.
2. Hilleberg XP10 Tarp – A tarp isn’t a necessity for a cycle tour but it’s a very nice luxury, especially if you’re travelling in areas like Europe in spring or autumn when at least a little rain is a probability. If bad weather really kicks in you’ll feel quite smug as you get out of your tent to cook, play cards or just lounge around in roomy style while the rain comes down around you. We’ve also used our tarp for instant shade in harsh environments like deserts and as a shelter that goes up in seconds when storm clouds unexpectedly appear. Like Hilleberg’s tents, their tarp is small, lightweight, easy to pack away and withstands all kinds of weather from rain to sleet, snow and hail.
3. Kitchen Knives – There’s nothing worse than dull knives, whether you’re cooking at home or on tour, so invest in versatile knives that will serve you well for most of your cooking needs. We picked two small knives from Victorinox, one a simple paring knife for cutting things like onions and fruit and another with a serrated edge for slicing tomatoes and bread. Between these two knives, we can make quick work of most foods when we’re making supper on the road.
4. Merino Wool Clothing – We’ll be honest here. Our feet tend to stink after a day on the road. Before we discovered the wonderful properties of Merino wool, we had to change our socks every day or risk scaring off everyone around us. When we discovered Merino wool socks early on in our trip it was a real revelation. We don’t know what those sheep do that’s so special but the special characteristics of the wool means we can now wear the same pair of socks for three or four days. That’s a lot less washing and fewer socks to carry around. They also just feel nice. Soft on your tootsies, thick but not overly hot. Just perfect. We can heap equal praise on our Icebreaker Merino wool tops, which we can easily wear for a couple weeks at a time. They still look as new as the day we bought them, they’re thin yet warm, light and small to pack away in our panniers.
5. MSR Whisperlite Internationale – We love to cook so we researched intensively before buying a stove and we aren’t disappointed with our choice. Every day we spark up our Whisperlite ($99.95 from REI) to make our morning coffee, our evening meal and sometimes even our lunch. Despite using it two to three times a day over many months, we’ve only had to do a some regular cleaning and replace a few of the o-rings and filters (all normal maintenance) to keep it running like a charm. It boils water very quickly, important when you are starving after a hard day of pedalling. The Whisperlite Internationale runs on a variety of fuels, including normal petrol so wherever you are in the world you’ll always find something to spark it up with. It’s sturdy too. MSR also offer great customer service in our experience and that means peace of mind. See our full review on the MSR Whisperlite, including trouble shooting tips.
6. Ortlieb Folding Bowl – We often joke that on our tour we’ve got everything, including the kitchen sink. Our kitchen sink turns out to be made by Ortlieb. This 10 litre foldable bowl (£16.80 from Wiggle) is amazing in its simplicity and versatility. We use our folding bowl (it collapses into a small, flat triangle for easy storage) for everything from making salads to doing laundry, from doing dishes to carrying to the shower. When we buy too many fruits and vegetables, we can strap our bowl onto the back of our bikes for some quick extra storage. One touring couple we know love the bowl so much they bought two of them! See our full review on the Ortlieb Folding Bowl.
7. Ortlieb Panniers – When it comes to panniers, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t rave about their Ortliebs. We haven’t gone easy on ours; filling them to the brim, forgoing rain covers and frequently laying our bikes down on the ground with the panniers on the dirt (we don’t have kickstands). They’re still going strong though, with only a little fading and a bit of dust to show for all that wear. They slip on and off the bikes in seconds. On days off they’re reasonably comfortable to carry around with the straps around our shoulders. Most importantly, they remain entirely waterproof. Who could ask for anything more? See our full review on Ortlieb Panniers.
8. Roberts R9968 SW Radio – It seems cycle tourists are split on whether or not to take a radio along. Some like to be far removed from the daily grind but for a big tour like ours it’s important to keep up with the news. If a war breaks out in our planned path or if a monsoon is about to hit, we want to know about it. Our Roberts Radio has turned out to be a gem for keeping up on the world around us. It’s smaller than your average pocket-sized novel but it’s rarely failed to bring in the BBC World Service, even in cities where there’s plenty of interference. It runs for what seems like forever on a pair of AA batteries and we can use it as a clock and an alarm as well as a radio, simply turning a dial to see both a home time zone and the local time for the area we’re in on two separate displays. A leather case keeps it clean and protected from knocks.
9. Tubus Logo & Ergo Racks – It’s tempting to buy cheaper racks when you’re already spending a lot of money to get kitted out for a tour but don’t fool yourself. They’re likely to be expensive in terms of frustration and replacements before long. Of all the tourers we’ve met on the road, the most common complaint was about broken racks. See more on Choosing A Rack For Bike Touring.