The toughest thing about bicycle touring is making the decision to GO. After that everything else falls into place as you pour over route maps, weather charts and the all-important Bicycle packing list!
When it comes to packing for an extended bicycle touring expedition, less is more, more or less, or to put it another way, a little space can go a long way. As we seek to find a middle path between fly by the seat of your pants lightweight minimalist and the slower moving heavy duty , just in case over packer.
Cycling in South Eastern China near the city of Foshan many years ago, I was stopped and then closely questioned by an English speaking member of the Chinese secret police. Once it was established I wasn’t any threat to the One Party State we got talking. My man was incredulous “Is it true that in houses in your country there is a room just for the bed?” No, not just one but the average is three and getting bigger! The look on his face of genuine disgust for the excesses of the decedant west was unmistakable.
In a country of 1.2 billion people where space is at a premium, the idea that you could have the luxury of so much space that it could be used for a single purpose only is unheard of. The kitchen, sitting room bedroom and bathroom were in effect one room, used for a range of purposes at various times through the course of a day.
So my Chinese lesson was pack multipurpose or at least dual purpose where possible, make best use of the available space. The water bladder doubles as a pillow, my bike light becomes a tent lamp, the groundsheet doubles as a shade cloth. While a cycling jacket with zip off sleeves becomes a vest and a simple dynamo hub can effortlessly charge your electronic devices as you cycle.
Early on in my cycle touring adventures I subscribed to the philosophy that “it’s better to pack it and not need it, than need it and not pack it” which had me carrying significant excess baggage. That was jettisoned on route much like that scene often repeated in Hollywood movies where actors have to lighten the load to avoid disaster, by discarding the extra weight embodied in possessions.
Size matters, weight too. There’s a difference between needs and wants. I have a two week rule; if I haven’t used the item in that time its left at the charity bin or posted home. At other times, leaving novels, shoes or clothing neatly folded on park benches with a note “Free “ has worked .
Over many cycling tours I’ve learned a few things: I’m getting closer to the sweet spot. That magical holy grail of bicycle tourers everywhere, the perfectly set-up bike with front and rear panniers balanced out; roughly 60% upfront 40% on the rear. Stuffed with good quality lightweight (read expensive) camping gear, whilst continually fighting the almost irresistible compulsion to fill every nook and cranny with something, anything that we might use.
In essence you don’t need to carry everything bar the kitchen sink. However, if you did want one, my local camping store is selling lightweight collapsible kitchen sinks, a steal at $34.95!