Everyone seems to want to know our top country from the trip. Whilst this is simply impossible, and changes every time we think about it, we can however choose our top items that we took with us.
In preparation for the journey we spent hours pouring over other adventurers’ kit lists. We knew it was getting silly when we found ourselves weighing different items of clothing to check we had the lightest possible (who knew knickers could vary so much?!). And whilst weight was a very important factor for our luggage – we soon realised that when you add in food supplies (the odd tin of chickpeas or a pineapple dangling off the back of our pannier racks) those milligrams of difference become negligible. A comprehensive gear list is coming soon, and this of course is subjective and what worked for us, but for now this list is the top kit we wouldn’t want any long-distance cycletourist to travel without…
Possibly our most used item of kit – our snoods acted used as sweat bands to wipe our brows, draped over the back of our helmets to protect necks from the sun, to cover our mouths to stop sand/wind/dust and over our ears and necks in the colder evenings. The temperatures on our trip ranged from -5 to 45+ degrees, and we wore our snoods across the full spectrum. They may now be different colours from when they started, but we would have struggled in many situations without them.
2. Velcro straps
Many cyclists swear by the cable tie however we preferred Velcro straps.
You can get a range of thicknesses for next to nothing and cut them to whatever lengths you think will be the most useful. Not only did these mean we could reuse them when we found a more permanent solution (keeping joes pannier rack steady until we found a bolt in a back street bike shop) we also used them to strap the tent to the top, holding extra water bottles to the front forks. and even as a makeshift head hammock for our 30 hour flight back to the UK at the end of the trip! We found them invaluable to tie panniers together when trying to move all eight at once (particularly up wobbly steps in an Indian guesthouse) and as an extra tether for our tent on the windy beaches of east Malaysia.
We absolutely love our Helinox camping chairs that Open Air suggested. Sure, they aren’t essentials, and if you were racing around the world attempting to set a record then you wouldn’t need them, but they became one of our most used items. Being able to lean and rest our back after a day in the saddle was amazing. Whether it was relaxing with the kindle during a lunchtime break, cooking next to the tent in the evening, or making the most of the beach sunset camping spots we used them all the time and would definitely recommend them.
Much more than just a sharp knife, we think we used almost every option on our trusty Victorinox. Pliers to pull out tyre truck wire embedded in our wheels, tin opener of the countless cans of coconut milk, and even the hook to try and manually check even weight distribution in our panniers. It’s now very bashed up, but we love it.
5. MTB cycle shoes
Cycle cleats you can walk in – need we say more! We were very pleased to be clipped in for the extra power up the hills but were also thankful not to have to clip clop around whenever we got off the bike. Both pairs (Verity’s were Decathlon, Joe’s were Giro’s) were so comfortable to walk in that we even wore them to climb 2000m up Mount Rinjani in Indonesia (the shoes were ok, our legs were not).
6. Solar panel and power bank
Invaluable when you don’t see a power socket for days on end, our MSC solar panel was fitted neatly over our back panniers (secured with Velcro – see above) and kept our hefty power bank charged up. It was so light and flexible it folded inside the bags taking up hardly any space and we were able to keep all our gadgets powered up without having to worry about finding electricity in the more remote parts of our trip.
Ok, maybe not an essential to everyone but by the end of the trip it had become a necessity for us both. The Tangleteaser started as Verity’s “luxury item” (Joe’s was a bouncy tennis ball) but with ever-increasing time between hair washing and Joe’s growing wild curls, without this we would have never sorted out our matted heads and possibly have come home bald – or with dreadlocks.
8. Merino everything
A lot of cycle specific gear comes in lycra – that’s a given, but just because you are on a bike doesn’t mean you have to wear skin tight full length zib bibs or dark clothing with the obligatory dash of pink colour to indicate that the clothing is for girls. We wanted the things we took to be as versatile as possible, and our merino clothing (tshirts, socks, long sleeves) could take an absolute pounding of sweat and dust without ever smelling. The same items could be worn on the bikes or in the evening and they were all so quick drying that a dip in the stream or a hand wash in the sink could easily be dry by the morning.
9. Verity – long sleeve shirt
Another versatile bit of kit, the long shirt was useful for layering up against the wind, putting on soaked with cold water in the heat and acting as a modesty layer in conservative areas. Not particularly exciting, but crucial all the same.
10. Joe – zip off shorts/trousers
Once a “trendy” enough pair were found, these lightweight trousers were a staple of Joe’s on and off the bike wardrobe, and acted as his pair of swimmers too.
We figure we don’t need to sing the virtues of padded shorts. We appreciate that everyone loves their tent once it becomes their home for over a year, although think it worth mentioning that a freestanding model was crucial as this allowed us to pitch on hard ground and inside when we didn’t just want to in out in our sleeping bags (such as in petrol station offices, Mosques and monasteries).
Even though we loved all our kit, we met people on the road with different set ups and priorities. The bottom line is, just get a bike and pedal away from home. The rest you can figure out on the road.