If you ask people who’ve done it, you’ll likely get a different answer from each one. It all depends on what you personally deem necessary, what your comfort level is, what your budget looks like, the region, terrain, climate, if you plan to live mostly in hotels or wild camp, cook your own food or not. There are a lot of variables.
Some people tour with 10 kg of equipment, some with 40 kg, others with anything in-between. With those questions in mind, you can ask yourself; Are you going to cycle with the traditional front/rear rack and four panniers, or a lightweight bikepacking setup with frame bags? Perhaps a combination of them?
With four panniers you have a lot of volume, super quick mounting/dismounting of the panniers and easy organisation. Basically you have no limit on how much you can bring. The downside is that your bike handles like a tank and there’s a lot of drag on windy days. This setup is more suited towards asphalt, gravel and non technical dirt roads.
If you’re planning to cycle across the world like we are, it’s likely these types of roads are the ones that you’re mostly going to come across. Therefor, racks and panniers is the most commonly chosen setup among independent world tourers. It’s also the setup we’re using because it allows us to bring all the things and clothes we need in order to be self sufficient for extended outdoor life in all of the four seasons, in remote regions of the world. A rough estimate is that we’re each bringing around 20-25 kg of equipment, excluding food and water. We’ll make sure to weigh the bikes loaded before we leave!
What suits you best, you can only ask yourself and your needs. There is nothing right or wrong 🙂 Once you’ve actually been out for a week or two having learned the daily routines and what items you actually have use for, you will get a better idea. Less is more in many cases. Looking at what other people have brought can give you some helpful ideas, but don’t let the vast lists scare you. Everyones items will differ!
Below you can see 97% of the items we are bringing, as we ran out of bedroom space for the few remaining things.
We have chosen touring specific steel bikes with steel front and rear racks. These have a relatively relaxed frame geometry allowing for a more upright posture, as it’s more comfortable to cycle for longer periods of time this way. The reason we chose steel is because of its strength, and the ability to weld the frames/racks in the unfortunate event of cracks or breakage. Steel also flexes and absorbs shocks better than aluminium. The downside is that it weighs a little more.
Generally, touring specific bicycles have steel frames for those reasons, and they are built to be dependable. Our unloaded bikes weigh in at 19.3 kg (Daniels) and 18 kg (Theas) respectively, with racks attached. Older mountainbikes are often made of steel too, so if you want a cheap alternative to convert into a touring machine, you could look for those second hand! You can use whatever bike you have, as long as it has strong wheels.
Touring bikes typically have large gear spans with a triple front chainring and a 9-11 speed rear derailleur. This gives you small increments between each gear – ideal for loaded cycling. Light climbing gears – so called “granny gears” for those steep hills, along with plenty of heavy gears for flats and descents (or for when you’re lucky to have one of those golden moments of tailwind).
They also have many more eyelets on various places of the frame and fork, allowing for mounting front racks, 3 bottle cages, bikepacking cages etc. Installed from stock is bar end shifters which is known for their simplicity and reliability, and they can run non-indexed which means you don’t really have to adjust the derailleurs ever. We also use the stock mechanical disc brakes which are relatively maintenance free as opposed to hydraulic ones, and they still provide more than plenty of stopping power.
The wheels are rolling on Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tyres. They are known for their durability, and yes – they are puncture proof. Daniel has cycled 7500 km with no flats so far. There are plenty of other testimonies confirming this puncture free life. If you have the option of getting them and don’t care about weight, it’s a good choice.
We’ve both changed our handlebars to our personal preferences giving us more hand positions, and installed rear mirrors on them. Mirrors are of great importance and can save your life if you travel in countries, or on roads where car traffic is less forgiving. Definitively get one!
A golden rule is to bring as simple and repairable components as possible, because the further away you go from the populated world, the harder (or impossible) it’s going to be to find replacement parts for modern components. Therefor it’s also wise to learn some basic bicycle maintenance.
For storage, we both have four 20L waterproof panniers which hook onto our racks, giving us a total of 80 liters each. One pair in the front and one pair in the rear. To organise items inside, we used different coloured dry sacks. These are in no way near full, even with all of our equipment stored inside. This is because we have to account for food and water. And it’s always nice to have some spare room instead of not having it. We also have removable handlebar bags for quick access to our most used items.
Our wardrobe primarily consists of merino wool clothes as they are light, anti-bacterial, and you can wear wool for a very long time before it starts to smell. We really only have one main set of clothes, with the exception of an extra change of t-shirts and padded cycling shorts, three pairs of socks and four pairs of underwear.
Because let’s face it, when you cycle eight hours a day you’re quickly going to become smelly and dirty in a few hours, so there is no real reason to pack multiple sets of clothes. Less clothes also means less weight. For colder climates we have down jackets, boots and rain wear. It’s ideal to bring layers so you can increase your warmth incrementally.
For camping we use a relatively light, freestanding tent for two persons. It has double entrances with absides for pannier storage. During summer when it’s too hot to use the outer tent, you can pitch it with just the inner tent allowing for better air flow and temperatures. We have liners to sleep in for hot climates, and really warm down bags for winter climates. We’ve also decided to bring camping chairs. They weigh almost one kilo each, but from Daniel’s experience it’s worth being able to sit down in chair to eat after a long day of cycling.
In the route through Europe we aim to cook most of our food on a tiny multi-fuel gas stove, buying regular food ingredients from supermarkets to save money.
For a full list of all of the items you can check it out by clicking here.
Until next time!
Always keeping a chocolate bar in the backpack is a good idea, just in case!
I assume you’d probably want to add some light clothings to your wardrobe from down the road, nice souvenirs after all and irrelevant weight. Maybe you’ll meet some nice peeps out there and decide to stay in a city for a few days, could be nice with something else other than sweaty clothes 😀
Thrilling times ahead!