Why are you spending so much on a light tent AND carrying a 2.5 kilo tripod?

Spending so much? Maybe. Lightest? No. 2.5kg tripod? Was it useful? Yes. Would I carry it again? Probably not.

I’ll confess, I do like my gear. So sourcing the ‘right gear’ for a round-the-world was a pretty sweet opportunity to deep dive into every single aspect of bicycle travel swag.

Weight wasn’t often the deciding factor. I was far more interested in functionality and dependability. For example, I wanted a free-standing tent so that ground surface and location would matter less, and I wanted it in a colour that would allow us to blend into the land and be less noticeable, particularly when we’d have no idea whether we should be camping where we are.

What we started with is certainly not what we finished with. More on that as we uncover the journey. What I’ll cover below is the gear that stood the test of time. Every month we’d look at our gear and ask ourselves, have I used this enough to keep carrying it. And for the first few months there was a fair whack of offloading, and a few additions.

Let’s break it down into some good ’ol categories:

  1. Clothing – on and off the bike in all climes
  2. Camp – shelter, sleeping and other general camp gear
  3. Camp Kitchen – eating and drinking including water sanitisation
  4. The Tech – cameras, computer, charging etc
  5. Carry – the stuff we need to carry everything above
Camping under a building

Clothing

Layers. It’s all about layers, say our friends down at Patagonia (Australia) HQ in Torquay, and who better to have in your ear about choosing your wardrobe than one of the worlds best adventure clothing brands.

Our route would take us through the searing heat of the Sahara and Central Asia and sub-zero temperatures in Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan so we needed an approach that would bridge these extremes. So here it is, the clothing list as recommended.

Nic’s Clothes List

  • Cycling bib shorts x 2
  • Surf shorts
  • Casual shorts
  • Fast-drying travel pants
  • Performance tee, short sleeve
  • Performance tee, long sleeve
  • T-shirt x 2
  • Casual dress shirt
  • Mid-layer fleece jacket
  • Nano-puff (synthetic down) jacket
  • H2No outer rain shell
  • Polypropylene base layer, long sleeve top and pants
  • Socks x 3
  • Beanie
  • Wide-brim hat
  • Trucker hat
  • Gloves
  • Flip flops
  • Shoes
  • Cycling shoes

Kristina’s Clothes List

  • Cycling shorts x 2
  • Fast-drying travel pants
  • Performance tee, short sleeve
  • Performance singlet 
  • Top x 2
  • Mid-layer fleece jacket
  • Nano-puff (synthetic down) jacket
  • H2No outer rain shell
  • Polypropylene base layer, long sleeve top and pants
  • Undies x 3
  • Socks x 3
  • Beanie
  • Scalf
  • Buff
  • Gloves
  • Flip flops
  • Shoes
  • Cycling shoes

Camp

Choosing a tent that you’re going to live in for the best part of 10 months is a pretty big decision. Yes, you’ve got to lug this sucker many thousands of kilometres but it’s your only refuge for hundreds of nights and a place to seek shelter when the weather turns.

Key things on my mind here were:

  • Big enough inside for us to sleep but not much more (no need to add bulk and weight)
  • Vestibules (sheltered sections outside the inner tent) to fit our luggage when off bike
  • Freestanding so we don’t have to rely on being able to use tent pegs of attaching to other objects
  • Neutral, not bright, colour so we could blend into the surrounds as much as possible

I landed on the Exped Orion II and added the Footprint for extra durability of the floor which also adds floor space under the vestibules.

Sleeping

I went for the Exped Synmat sleeping mat because it’s super light, apparently pretty puncture resistant and also thick and cushy. After spending far too much time patching these things we picked up an Exped Flex Mat, one of the corrugated looking folding pieces of foam, no air! We cut one large mat in half which made it big enough for our torso’s. This became one of the most useful bits of carry, whether sitting on the side of the road to brew a coffee or taking a nap under a bridge while the afternoon sun scorched the land. At night it served as protection under the cushy Synmat.

For sleeping bags we aimed for something that was going to be warm enough in the Alps, figuring we could unzip it or use it as more of a blanket in warmer climes. I went for a Western Mountaineering bag and Kristina was happy with her old faithful bag from MEC in Canada. We didn’t go for inflatable pillows as I’ve been fine with rolling up a jacket as a pillow.

Camping on a boat from Italy to Greece

General Camp Gear

Bathing! When you’re spending an extended period of time in a tent having a little splash to wash the sweat and road grime off daily is well worth carrying something for. Inspired by the bucket bath concept in India for its simplicity and minimal water consumption we went for a collapsible “kitchen sink”. Stock up the water bladders close to camp, heat a litre of water, throw it in with a couple litres of ‘room temperature’ water, add a little camp soap and you’re good to go. Then of course the trusty microfibre towel to dry off, adorn your off bike clothes and you feel a million bucks.

Camp Kitchen

Little changes between a weekender and living on the bike for this one – in fact, I think the only thing that really changes for me is the fuel source for the stove, and maybe a couple extra pots for adding variety and convenience into the meal prep.

So, two critical things here: clean water and cooking fuel.

For water we’ve chosen the MSR MiniWorks for water filtration and the SteriPEN for water sterilisation. The filtration only really comes into the mix when you’re particularly worried about the water source. When it’s obviously got particles or discoloration in it, this does the job of getting out what the SteriPEN can’t penetrate. But the SteriPEN has, hands down, been one of the greatest purchases we’ve ever made. We are yet to get ill from water when using this.

Fuel. While I’m a big fan of Jetboil for the shorter trips, fuel canisters would become an issue on this epic. A stove that can burn white gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and jet fuel on the other hand was naturally going to be more versatile, so we decided to carry the MSR DragonFly with the largest fuel bottle, the 30fl oz (887mL).

Cookware. When you can match them to your bike, why wouldn’t you? Bring on the Ti cookery from Snowpeak. I chose the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset and the Trek 1400 with a couple of Ti Sporks. We pack the stove into the 1400 and use the pots as our bowls. Oh, and I best not forget the coffee maker and cups.

The Tech

Not only are we chasing a world record but we’re capturing stories as we travel and we need to lug all our own gear, so here we cover camera gear, computer and power supply.

Remember, this is 2012, doing this in 2022 I’d be rolling out with a very different setup.

We started with the MacBook Air for its size and weight thinking it would be adequate for quick edits on the road but it didn’t end up having the grunt to create and export video content quickly, so we upgraded en route to the 16” MacBook Pro with bumped up specs.

Always having duplicates of files is critical as there’s no chance of going back for the shot! I threw in a few 500GB USB drives for this.

Power supply. I went for a folding solar panel and battery from Brunton (they don’t make them anymore). This only had a USB out and so I had to make sure I had all the necessary cables for charging things from it. The idea for this whole setup is that I can drape the panel over the rear panniers while cycling to power the battery pack and then charge all of our electronics from the battery.

Navigation. A Garmin GPS with very basic maps globally but enough to point us in the right direction. We’ve also found we can cache Google Maps on our iPhone when we pass through internet locations and then turn off the mobile data and still see our little blue dot because the location taps into other technologies (GLONASS etc). We’re not carrying any physical maps because the rate at which we move through different locations would make it pointless or fill our luggage.

Oh, and almost forgot, I hauled a tripod. Not the smallest one.

Filming Equipment

  • Canon 5d Mark II
  • Canon 7d
  • Canon 24-70 f2.8l
  • Canon 50 f1.8
  • CF Cards x 5
  • Canon LPE6 batteries x 5
  • Zoom H4n audio recorder
  • SD Card x 2
  • Sennheiser ew100 lapel mic kit
  • Rode VideoMic
  • GoPro

Other Tech Equipment

  • SPOT Tracker
  • Garmin eTrex 30 GPS
  • iPhone x 2
  • Brunton solar panel and battery
  • MacBook Pro 16″
  • USB Drives x 5
  • Assorted cables and adaptors
  • Tripod

Carry

My philosophy here is one of “have space, will fill” and so while we have to carry a fair whack of kit I’m still aiming to keep it pretty lean.

Frame Bags

Eric at Revelate Designs is one of the pioneers of this category and has one of the coolest blogs out there – he regularly posts epic photos of his family adventures in Alaska and abroad. We were fortunate to have Eric custom make these to our full-frame triangles along with rounding our kit out with the Jerrycan, Gas Tank, Mountain Feedbag, Handlebar Harness and Seat Bag.

Panniers

These ones definitely don’t come into play for my weekenders but are extremely useful for long-form bicycle travel.

Ortlieb’s reputation in this department is without question one of the best options available. I went for the ‘front panniers’ for both front and rear to keep the volume and load down. The difference in volume is 12.5L front vs 20L rear. Putting 50L on my bike was going to be plenty in my opinion, especially when we add the other bags in the line-up.

We added Ortlieb duffle’s to the mix too, to carry our tent in one and some of the tech in another.

Racks

We came across Old Man Mountain through Aaron at Fusion Peak Cycle Fitting. He’d been running one for years and had done some pretty rough riding with it. We wanted something that was rock solid and so the additional load these can take over the competition made this an easy decision. The only downside to them is the skewer mount makes taking the wheel off a little fiddly, which is a trade-off for the additional load capacity which is attributed to the axle mounting rather than eyelets on the frame or fork.