Long-term bike tours with not more than 40 liters of luggage are possible. Our basic equipment is sufficient for temperatures down to minus 10 degrees Celsius and we still have tent and stove. Everything starts with reducing your luggage. And to begin take a look at this six points:
“If on the coldest day of your journey you do not wear everything you have, you carry too much!” Clothes are something you generally carry too many with you. We have only two sets (two pants, one long, one short, two shirts, two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear …) and one of them we are wearing. When it gets colder, we simply pull on more layers. Additionaly, we have a set of thermo underwear, rain gear, a fleece jacket, a light down jacket, thin gloves and a cap. There is always a small bag of washing powder in our clothes bag, so we can wash stuff that is sweaty in the evening. If something is not drying overnight, we attach it to the bike during the first riding hours. And when it is too cold for washing and drying, the bacteria are also reduced and you have to wash less frequently. We also do not buy expensive outdoor clothes anymore. Normal sportswear is sufficient and then it is also easier to leave something behind or buy it again when you change the climate zone, rather than to carry it all the time.
We know cyclists who carry up to four different pairs of shoes and are ready to handle every possible condition with SPD shoes, sneakers, hiking boots and sandals. We, on the other hand, have chosen a light approach shoe, which in some situations is not perfect, but actually always works good. The sole is stiff enough for biking, but has sufficient cushioning and footbed to trek a few days with a backpack. We also recommend a non-goretex model. The shoe is cheaper, the foot climate without membrane is much more comfortable, and if it really rains, one gets always wet feet – only the shoe without goretex dries faster. During long periods of rain, plastic bags (from the next store) worn over the socks, keep feet warm and dry. Anyone who is afraid of the loss of power transmission to the pedal with normal shoes can mount powerstraps as a compromise. In addition to our everyday shoe, we have flipflops – luxury enough.
You do not need your own little pharmacy. Even abroad, people are getting sick and most drugs are available worldwide – and often without a doctor’s prescription and for much less money than at home. Apart from a first-aid kit with bandage, adhesive plasters, a small disinfectant, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, a few paracetamol and a strong painkiller, it is best to look for the necessary medication in the acute case. The drugs are taken out from the original packaging, secured with adhesive strips on the back and placed in small plastic bags together with the instruction leaflet. This saves space. And how many times we have thrown away drugs that have passed the expiration date during a long trip.
The modern traveler carries a lot of electronics, and we are not any different. But we have made compromises. From a laptop, we downgraded to a small tablet with keyboard, from e-reader and GPS (and paper maps) to a smartphone, from a video camera to an ActionCam. These devices can all be loaded with USB cables. This saves us bulky power adapters, spare batteries and chargers. A small power bank supplies us in the wilderness and honestly – electricity is nowhere really far away and often available at least in form of a car battery. A system camera with three batteries, two MP3 players – that’s it. For photo backup, the combination of Ipad and Android Smartphone (with mini SD card slot) has proven itself. The iPad can automatically load RAW photo files to a cloud in the background and display still useful images (IOS storage optimizing) from the backed up files. In addition we make a backup on 125GB MiniSD cards through the smartphone. The bulky external hard drive stays at home.
Since the possibility of onlineshoping, we do not worry about spare parts anymore. A huge assortment, fast, worldwide delivery (for example five days to Kazakhstan, three days to Thailand) and all at a fair price. Why then burden the luggage with bulky spare parts? Moreover the material is getting better (good quality tires hold up to 10’000km) and is more easily available in modern countries (pre-planning…). We carry patches, one spare tube, six spokes, some chain links, four brake pads and a brake / shift cable with sleeve. We do not carry a spare tyre. If this should actually burst or tear, it can be sewed with a shift cable (tested …).
Lightweight equipment is pricey, at least when it comes to materials that are supposed to withstand the hardships of a long-term journey as long as possible. But you cannot avoid this point when reducing your luggage. As a consolation one can say that the money that has been saved in the above points now can be put to good use here. We have a very light, yet stable, free-standing (and thus small) tent. If you do not need a freestanding tent, you do not even have to do without a spacious AND robust tent (for example, pyramid tents made of Cuben Fiber). Zippers tend to be more vulnerable than the tent floor. That is why we do not carry any footprint. Inflatable mattresses of the size of a one liter bottle and highly compressible down sleeping bags with a comfort range of -5 degrees Celsius complete our camping equipment. If it gets colder at night, we can still put on thermo underwear and down jacket. We could never travel without a multifuel stove, but we gave up one of the two pans, which requires a little more planning when cooking. Our kitchen utensils are reduced to a knife, a mini-peeler, a pot handle, two sporks, a microfiber rag and a lighter and they can be stowed together with the stove in the pan.