Posted by Andrew Godlewski ● Jun 20, 2019 10:09:34 PM
Gear Worth Writing Home About
We’ve been on the road for almost five months! During our time cycle touring, we’ve braved 100+ degree heat, freezing nights, downpours, hail, and a few thunderstorms. Through all these conditions and all this time, our gear has been critical for keeping us safe and comfortable. Without a doubt, you’d expect a good amount of wear and tear on our stuff: the tent has multiple holes in it, bikes have quite a bit of rust accumulating on the components, and our Chromebook didn’t survive getting beat up in our bag. However, we also have a few incredible pieces of gear that have survived in tack and continue to provide value as we bike our way across the US.
We want to highlight here the gear we use on this 9-month cycle tour that is worth writing home about. I’ll admit that, in making this list, I was surprised to see the things we included and excluded. For example, you won’t find common “camping gear” like tents or sleeping bags, nor will you find common “cycling gear” like bikes or tools. Rather, they are things for the long-term cycle tourist/backpacker to consider to make their life easier on the road.
Remington Shortcut Pro Razor
During our last cycling trip in the Balkans, I used a rechargeable razor that basically peeled the skin off my face each time I shaved. I mean, great that the hair came too, but waking up and cycling on windy days with a beat up face was less than ideal. The Remington Shortcut Pro is one of the best things I could have purchased. Not only is it rechargeable and easy on my beard, it also is perfect for full haircuts, which Suzie gives me every couple of weeks. It’s small enough where I can easily store it in the bottom of my bag most of the time, and it holds a charge for several weeks of use. My favorite part is that it’s super easy to run water through for a cleaning after you are done with this. At $48 on Amazon (link here), I think this is the best option for dudes who need to shave and cut their hair on the road.
Joseph Joseph 20029 Can-Do Compact Can Opener
It seems like a silly thing to add to this list, a simple kitchen appliance. But the truth of the matter is that can openers are either the normal, crazy heavy and bulky ones from a regular kitchen drawer, or tiny and pathetic ones sold for backpacking that either break or make no sense at all how to use. Try not bringing a can opener because you hate both models so much, and within a day of cooking you’ll find yourself forgetting you forgot you had one and dulling your brand new knife trying to cut a hole big enough to extract the sealed contents. You need one, but both options aren’t ideal. We finally found something better: this tiny, circular opener that actually works really really well and takes up no space at all. Once you figure out how to set the thing on the can, the finger grips make it intuitive to use from there. You’ll never go back to either models again.
I use my Petzl TIKKINA Headlamp every single night. The version we have is not the top of the line model from Petzel, but it’s seriously all we need. It has three settings, with it’ brightest at 150 lumens. We also have rechargeable batteries, which are well worth it to avoid the hassle and wastefulness of buying tons of batteries. I’ve found these hold a charge for about a week of steady nightly use.
Nothing is more impractical than carrying around a physical book or two while on the road, though there is sometimes nothing better than the luxury of having a book to read to lull you to sleep at night. If you’re an anti-kindle person because you like the smell and feel of a book, you should probably get over this… it is 2019 after all. Just try it so you can finally join the modern world and enjoy the bounty that is many books in one tiny, electronic one. The paperwhite has a built-in back-light so you can read without using a flashlight. I’m worried about hurting my eyes so I just keep it on a lower setting so it still feels like I’m reading a book and not a computer. Plus, the battery life lasts forever… like a few weeks or month forever. Also, using my library card and the Libby app, I get access to thousands of free books delivered through my Amazon account. That last bit makes it budget-conscious and pretty darn magical.
Ortlieb Panniers and Handlebar Bag
This is not going to be surprising to any cycle tourist reading through, but our Ortlieb Bags cannot be skipped in writing our list. Known as the gold standard for panniers, these bags are durable, waterproof, visible, and they fit everything we’ve needed for almost a year on the road. I honestly would not ride with another bag. When we got robbed on our second day in Chile, I was almost more upset that the thieves took the bags versus all the stuff in them. Luckily, I was able to get my rear panniers replaced. Suzie and I both have Ortlieb’s handlebar bags and rear panniers. I also have a pair of smaller panniers on my front rack. I love that these bags all come with straps, which you can then use as carry on bags for the airplane or day bags when going out on an excursion off the bike. We bought our Ortlieb gear through Moosejaw’s website, which you can check out here.
Sea to Summit Roll Bag
How can a fully waterproof bag be as thin and light as a stuff sack while still being actually waterproof? I have no idea, but I’m happy Sea to Summit offers one. Not your father’s canoeing bag, this baby is light, easy to roll, and tough. I strap and scratch and treat this thing like I’m intentionally trying to ruin it, but it somehow still holds up. At less than $30 at REI, compared to what we’ve paid for these types of bags in the past, it is seriously a steal.
Its difficult to find a place to plug in and recharge, especially if you’re getting meals from grocery stores and staying in National Park sites, rather than RV parks. Carrying one (or three in our case) of portable charging bricks means your important things stay powered. Plus, we always buy equipment and batteries that recharge because we don’t like the wastefulness of buying battery after battery. Charging bricks can power days worth of equipment before they themselves need recharging, so having two is a great bet. They’re heavy, hence the term charging-brick, but totally worth it. There are many to choose from; more weight means more charge per brick, so do your research based on the portable power you need and the weight you’re willing to carry. Here’s the one we bought.
Andesgear Ground Mat
The Colchonets Alpaymo ground mat from Andesgear has been a god-send for me. I don’t sleep very well when camping. Between thinking raccoons are going to rip apart the tent’s rain-fly and envisioning Jason lurking in the shadows of the trees we camp under, the last thing I need is to also be uncomfortable when laying down. This mat packs up smaller than any other mat I have used and is super light, yet when inflated it provides a DELUXE level of comfort. I can’t say enough positive things, other than that this is by far my favorite piece of camping gear. Get one! The company is Chilean (we bought this in Osorno, Chile), but you can find this mat on their website here. At $110 USD, it’s considerably cheaper than anything remotely as comfortable.
MSR Whisperlite Stove
For anyone traveling internationally on a tour through multiple countries, you can’t go wrong with the MSR Whisperlite Stove. It’s nice to have hot food for dinner, and when travelling for as long as we are, there is no way to afford going out to eat every night. The MSR Whisperlite is great for so many reasons: it packs into a small space, it’s self cleaning, it uses regular gasoline from any gas station, and it is super durable. We had our first stove for 7 years before it needed to be replaced. Since it’s powered by gas, you can fill it up anywhere in the world for less than $2 dollars and have about two weeks of fuel for cooking. It’s pretty simple to set up, too, taking us less than three minutes to have up and running for dinner or coffee in the morning. My only mild complaint is that it burns at one temperature: blazing hot. This means you need to stay vigilant when cooking and can’t really walk away, lest you have a charred cooking pot on your hands. You can find this on Amazon here for only $90.
Rumpl Stuffable Fleece Puffy Pillowcase (But actually a pillow)
Camp pillows are never good. There, I’ve said it. Normal camp pillows give you two options: Option one is a blow-up (what are we, napping on an airplane? No thanks.) Option two tries to be a normal pillow that stuffs into itself when travelling, only to be un-stuffed into a lumpy, disappointing pile. Both never work like they should, and I know, as I’ve tried every option and wasted tons of money. Thank goodness for option three, the NAME OF THE PILLOW. Essentially this is a small-sized pillow case, with a deluxe, faux fur side (so soft!) that zips close. It uses your own clothes as the stuffing, meaning you stuff your puffy down jackets and other heavy clothes items in, then zip it up. When un-stuffed, this baby is flat, rolling and packing down tiny. You can change the thickness of your pillow to your liking, depending on how much clothes you shove inside. Plus, you’re using items that would have otherwise just sat in your panniers overnight, so why not put them to use instead? It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the closest option I’ve found to the real thing. $25 at REI