Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Equipment List

I wanted to wait until I had had the opportunity to try most of my gear out before I put a list together. The lists I read were really helpful for me, so I hope that someone else starting out or planning a trip can read this and get some good information out of it. I will update this over time so that the information contained within will stay up to date with my experiences with it. This will be a fairly extensive list and so may be boring to anyone not really interested.

GEAR UPDATE:I am now going by backpack instead of by Bicycle. Here is the new gear I have and my thought about it so far.

The Backpack:

Arc`Tryx Bora 80. This is an excellent backpack and perfect for what I am doing. It holds a ton of gear which I need as I have all my camping gear, food, water and gear form both cold and warm weather. I have to be able to carry a lot and this pack lets me do just that. Also, and hugely important to me, is that it is nearly waterproof. I have been in areas with high amounts of rainfall for a long time and will be so for much more of my trip. Therefore, having a waterproof pack is hugely important to me. I also love the water carriers and extra straps to hold gear. Finally, and most importantly, it allows me to comfortably carry a large load. So far, this gets two huge thumbs up from me.

The Bike:

I have a custom bike built around a 26" wheel and the rohloff 14 gear speed hub. It is more or less a mountain bike with no suspension. I chose a mountain bike build over a road bike for the added durability as I plan on going through some fairly rough terrain that I did not think a road bike would be able to handle. I decided to go without suspension because of the added complexity and possibility for part failure. The frame is a really odd bird and was tough to track down. It is the Inbred model and it can take a rohloff internal gear hub, 26" wheels, disk brakes and a rear rack. In retrospect, front suspension may have been a good idea as it would really soften the ride over rough ground which with my setup now, is pretty painful on my wrists an rear end.

The wheels are 26" because most of the places I will be spending my time (outside of North America, Europe and Australia) will not have easy access to 700cc or 29" tires. The wheels are hand built and very sturdy with rims designed for dirt jumping in order to really wrack up the miles without having to worry about failing. I had the thickest gauge spokes put in as well for the same reason. The tires are Schwalbe marathons for both on and off road ability plus the tires are lined with Kevlar tire liners. I have thorn resistant tubes in as well. The end result is a very heavy wheel but also very durable with very little worry as to punctures or rim cracks, broken spokes, etc. So far, these wheels have gone through some really rough terrain and performed flawlessly. I have gone through piles of broken glass, over barbed wire, through dirt, rocks, etc. and had no problems yet.

The tires were great, and were able to really rack up the miles before starting to blow flats. I give them two thumbs ups.

I use a 14 speed Rohloff speedhub. I was very hesitant to buy this because it was so expensive, but I am very glad I did. It is extremely durable. I have dragged this thing through water, mud, over and under fences, through rubble and rocks and it takes everything without at all effecting performance. The ability to shift while holding still is now second nature to me and I honestly would not want to go back to a conventional set up if you paid me. I am extremely happy with the rohloff so far.

I have mechanical disk brakes. I absolutely love these! They give so much more stopping power than rim brakes, last far far longer and are very easy to adjust and keep in alignment. I didn't really notice much of a difference until I was hauling a full load. The disk brakes just give so much more control on steep descents. When I was coming down from lake Cuyamaca I really needed to keep my bike under control going around blind turns on a very steep decline and the disk brakes gave my near perfect control over my bike even with the extra weight of the trailer. I would not go back to rim brake on a touring bike.

I chose mountain bike handle bars for better control and for riding in off road conditions where drops would be less efficient. I have bar ends to alter hand position and a very large bar bag on front. The handle bars have been great so far, and the bar ends help to alleviate numbness in my hands and wrists. I ended up having to buy another pair of gloves and now I wear both at the same time in order to ride in comfort.

The bar bag is awesome. It is made by Novara and it has room for all of the things I need handy like my wallet, a spoon and fork, chap stick, camera, my laptop, maps, headlamp, etc. Basically anything I use frequently or that is valuable I have in my bar bag. I made a strap for it too so that anytime I get off the bike I can simply detach it from the bike (it snaps on and off) throw the shoulder strap on and keep all valuables with me at all times. The only thing I can see going wrong with it is the snap on section wearing out over time.

The saddle is a brooks B17. So far it has done well for me. It is very hard so your butt gets soar riding on it, and only in the last day have I noticed a small amount of chaffing which I think is due to the fact I went 9 days straight with no rest day as much as the saddle. On the whole though, I am very happy with the Brooks and each day it takes on my personal shape a little more.
I ended up getting very bad saddle sores with this saddle which led to infection. I would still recommend this saddle but would do so with the advice to try several out.

I have a light duty rear rack made of aluminum as I only carry my tent and sleeping mat on it. It has worked perfectly so far.

BUY BETTER RACK THAN I DID!! This thing fell apart after some abuse and in the end was held together with duct tape and wire. I do not recommend a light duty rack for anything really, they just don't hold up.

I use a BOB yak trailer to haul most of my gear. It has worked well for me so far apart from the two flat tires I have had. However, one of those was because I put in a tire liner incorrectly, the other was because of a bad tire I was sold. I now have a thorn resistant tube which I feel will last much longer.

As for the trailer itself, here are my thoughts on it after having ridden with it through lots of different terrain including the city, mountains, into headwinds and down steep and winding descents:

1.) When you are cruising down the road, it is great. The weight is low to the ground and the bike handles very well. I notice only a very small decrease in speed at a cruising pace even with a heavy load. Trying to maneuver through tight corners is a snap as the wheel tracks your path nearly perfectly. However, trying to back up is near impossible and at a stand still the bike easily falls over or try`s to jack knife on you.

2.) Going into a strong headwind I really appreciate the aerodynamics of the trailer as it follows in my slip stream and I don't really notice much increased drag.

3.) It carries a lot of stuff and keeps it all nice and dry, however, every time I pull over and need to get something out of it It is a real hassle involving pulling off bungee cords, moving my sleeping bag and camp chair, undoing all the straps and then putting everything back together again once I have what I need.

Camping Gear:

Tent: I have a quarter dome tent from REI and I love this guy! It is technically a two man tent but there is no way you could fit two grown men in this thing. I am 6'2" and I can fit in with some of my valuable gear but that is it. It is mesh on the sides and ceiling so I can see out but the mesh does not go all the way to the bottom leaving me enough non see through material to have privacy while I lay down. I really enjoy being able to look out at the sky or around in any direction from inside. I have slept in this through some cold and warm temperatures so far plus a light rain and it has been fantastic. It got a little muggy with the rain fly on, but that is a pretty minor complaint.

The tent has performed flawlessly, I love it. I give this thing a huge two thumbs up. It took me through mountains and jungles and 6 months of heavy use later still works perfectly.

Sleeping bag: I have a 0 degree kilo plus bag from REI and it was pricey but I am glad I got it. It is VERY comfortable to sleep in. It is a down bag and heats up pretty much instantly once I get in it. It compresses down very tightly and is very light weight. I have slept in it in temperatures low enough to where frost was on the ground in my tent (that retains nearly no heat without the rain fly on) and was still very warm. I give this a huge thumbs up.

The bag has started to leak feathers pretty badly, I would think twice before investing the large amount of money this bag costs.

Sleeping Mat: I have a thermarest self inflating sleeping mat and at first I loved it, it was almost like sleeping on a bed, even on rough or uneven ground. But now, only 10 days into the trip I find that it already loses some of its air during the night and has really lost a lot of its comfort. This is pretty disappointing as it was not cheap. It is still better than nothing at all, but not by much. I would think twice about getting one or consider a foam mat that does not self inflate and is significantly cheaper.

Hammock: I got a hennesee hammock as well. It is light, sets up and breaks down very fast. I plan on using this as much as I can to sleep, however as I have been in the desert I have had no where to use it so far. I wanted both this and a tent to alternate between the two and to give myself more sleeping options for stealth camping. I will update once I have used it more than just in testing at home.

I ended up giving this away to a family I met in Mexico. It simply was not comfortable for me to loses in. I think I was just too tall for it. While the quality was excellent, I would not buy another one as I just could not sleep in it.

Camp Chair: I bought a sling light chair and this thing is awesome! It weighs nearly nothing and fits just right on top of the BOB. It makes it a little more difficult to get into my trailer, but I am OK with that. If you plan on stealth camping, this thing makes life much better. I sit in it to eat, to cook, to read, to watch the sunset, to change a flat tire, etc. Absolutely worth the extra weight for me.

Stove: I made a simple alcohol stove out of two beer cans and I love it! It took a couple of tries to get it built right, but now I think it was a great choice. It weighs nearly nothing, and runs off of very cheap and eco friendly fuel (6 bucks gets me two weeks or more worth of breakfasts and dinners). I made a slight addition to mine in the building phase. I found that you had to really heat the stove up a lot in order to get the alcohol vaporized to the point where the stove worked properly. This required a lot of time spent holding a lighter under the stove heating it up. What I did was to build a holder for the stove that I poured a cap full of fuel into as well. This I lit and while it burned it would heat up the stove and get it going at full force. This way I could attend to other tasks while my food was heating up. I plan on improving on this design so that the holder will also act as a wind block and hold the pot up. My one complaint with this little guy is that you can't cook anything that takes a long time to prepare as it only burns for about 6 minutes.

This thing is fantastic, can not recommend it enough. It worked perfectly for 6 months of heavy use before it got lost. I am making another one ASAP.

Cutlery: I have a spoon, fork, knife and a big pot with a lid. Everything is metal. I like using metal cutlery, it lasts longer, and is easy to clean despite being a bit heavier. The pot is for cooking and eating out of and is a light weight aluminum. I also carry a shaker of salt and pepper, hey, I like to eat!

Tools and Bike Parts: Since I plan on going into a lot of remote places, I have included a good selection of tools. I have a monkey wrench, heavy duty scissors, wire snips, a leatherman multi tool, a folding knife, a bike multi tool with chain tool and Alan wrenches, spoke wrench, two tire tools and some Rohloff specific tools and parts. I also carry two spare tubes for the bike (which are thorn resistant and thus heavy as sin plus bulky, in the future I will only carry one) and a spare tube for the trailer. Lastly, I have two spare brake pads for my disk brakes.

Electronics: I have a cell phone which I will convert to be prepaid once my monthly plan goes away. At first I wanted to get rid of the phone but it is just too useful for setting up couch surfing, calling in to bike shops, etc. I also am using the Asus EEE pc, and I love it!!! I can't say enough good things about this computer, it is awesome. It fits in my bar bag, is lightweight and comes with all the software you could need. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION FOR THIS. Plus, it only cost me $350. I have a battery powered camera, nothing fancy just a $140 point and shoot guy with a 4 gig memory card. I try and upload all of my pictures to photobucket as frequently as I can to keep them safe and I have someone back home download them onto a hard disk. The camera has worked great so far. I also have an ipod which I have not used yet on this trip! Go figure. Included with this mess I have power and outlet converters and charging cables along with a small extension cord. Everything is kept in plastic bags to avoid a mess.

Hygiene: I am taking the usual toiletries plus hair clippers to cut my own hair. I may ditch this because of the extra weight and getting my hair cut short the way I like it doesn't cost much anyway. I also have a two liter water bag that I put a shower nozzle into. This serves as a portable shower that works great, or as additional water carrier when going through hot climates. The only negative is that it has a tendency to move around or fall off in bumpy conditions as I keep it bungeed to the top of my BOB. I also have a small bottle of dish soap that I use for everything, plus a rope for utility and hanging clothes up along with some clothespins.

Clothes: I have three pairs of basketball shorts that I like to ride in. For me, these are just more comfortable than cycling shorts. The stitching inside cycling shorts rubs my manly parts in a very uncomfortable way. Basketball shorts feel great, allow more ventilation and are more practical for walking around town. I also have 4 cycling shirts, two short and two long sleeved. I have one pair of warm up pants, one pair of long cycling tights, one pair of jeans, one pair of swim trunks, one pair of non cycling shorts, one tank top, two t-shirts and one dress shirt. I have 4 pairs of wool cycling socks (awesome! they don't stink even after two or three days of riding) one pair of winter socks and a pair of non riding socks. I also have a thermal and a pair of sweats for sleeping in. I also have a very good lightweight cycling rain coat and a fleece zip up. In addition to that, I have a beanie, a riding beanie, a buff, and a sweat band. I have two pairs of riding gloves that I wear at the same time and now have no pain while riding, and a pair of winter gloves. I have a mountain bike helmet from gyro and I love it. The little sunshade it comes with is really useful an it is very comfortable. I am wearing lightweight hiking boots instead of clip in cycling shoes and I have some flip flops. The boots have been great so far, and I think they were the right choice over clip ins as I plan on camping a lot in places where clip ins could be damaged, plus with conventional pedals I can cycle in flip flops if I want to. My first thought was to cut down on clothes, but I plan on being gone for years and I will be in many situations where I will need something beyond cycling gear so I bit the bullet and decided to haul along some non essential clothing.

Food and Water: I carry two days worth of food on me, plus snacks. For food I have found that a great way to get healthy calories cheaply has been to go with lots of fruits and veggies plus trail mix as a snack. My favorite are apples, oranges and carrots as they don't get squished easily. I also really like to grab some avocados and bananas as I go. Trail mix is awesome for some needed calories if you are running low on energy. I like to make my own by mixing lots of different kinds of nuts, dried fruits and some chocolate. Plus it tastes great! Peanut butter and honey sandwiches are excellent for lunch, and honey doesn't go bad and can be used to sweeten oatmeal in the mornings. For dinner I have found a great meal is instant brown rice with a can of black beans and a can of tuna in oil with some salt and pepper. It tastes great, is great for you and gives you a ton of calories. I also like to make Raman noodles as they are cheap as dirt and all the sodium and fat will get put to use as you ride all day, plus they taste good. I will update this with recipes as I read about more and experiment with more foods. I love to eat and am looking forward to coming up with some tasty camping dishes that are easy to cook. I carry 4.5 liters of water on my bike plus I have a 2 liter water bag. I have found in all but the most physically taxing situations, this is far more than I need for one day plus cooking. I have three cages on my bike for water and two on the BOB. Plus, I can load the BOB up with water if needs be for long treks through arid climates. I also have a Steripen for sterilizing questionable water. This may not be used much until I leave the country. I also have an emergency stash of water purifying tablets.

First aid kit: I have a fairly extensive first aid kit that is more than I would like to carry but considering some of the places I will be going, I think it will be very useful. It have emergency pain killers, ace bandage, splints, etc. While in America it is most likely unnecessary, but better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it when it comes to my health.
Odds and ends: I also carry a few razor blades which weigh nothing, a book, sunscreen (spf 50!), a small notebook for writing down directions, phone numbers, etc. Two ball point pins and a tiny LED flashlight as a back up for my head lamp.

Also, I carry a compass which has proven to be invaluable for everything from wilderness to city navigation.

As you can see, I have a lot of stuff. If I don't need anything as I go, I will get rid of it, but considering the scope of my trip, I feel that this is all gear that will be used. Time will tell!