Its been a while so I thought its once again time for a little gear talk. Its a little earlier than I planned but I now have time. Distance travelled : 10-11,000km Distance Cycled : 8-9000km (this trip) Click on this image to go to Flickr and see the gear tags.
Be sure to also read Gear Talk 3 months in
On bike clothing:
- For months now I’ve been wearing my North Face Trousers with zip off legs + X-bionics cycling underwear rather than my Campagnolo cycling shorts . Now in central Africa it just doesn’t look or feel right to be in Lycra. A note to other cyclists : boys and girls its just not cool to walk into a remote village showing your package or camel toe!! get over that lycra thing! These trousers are getting a little tired now because I also used them for America. Maybe next time North Face could could use rip stop material.
- X-Bionics cycling underwear: Took about 1000km to wear them in but now very comfortable and convenient, shame about the price. Have ordered an extra pair.
- Berghaus Long Sleeve shirt sunbleached, torn (thanks to the crash in SA and various thorns) but still going strong after 8000km+ of blood, sweat and tears. I just ordered another couple. Despite being synthetic they remain surprisingly stink free even after 3-4 days cycling/camping.
- No name cycling gloves Thanks to cheap Malawian tailoring these are once again good as new and I’m only a $1 poorer.
- Falke cycling Socks light and compact, I have 3 pairs in total and still going strong.
- Wide brimmed hat. I’ve always been very pro helmet, but during my time in the deserts I found it too hot and changed over to a hat. In Vic falls I realized I hadn’t worn my helmet for 3 months, exit helmet.
- Sunglasses($3 safety glasses instead of $50 cycling sunglasses).
- Hiking boots bought in SA after my Renegade GTX died. They are now pretty battered after alot of wild camping in the desert but still clean up nicely.
- Bike packer plus rear panniers (old version)
- Ortlieb bike packer plus front panniers . Ortlieb panniers remain legend. My rear panniers are now at 20,000km+, front around 15,000km. Still working well, I suspect that the material is in theory still waterproof but the dozens of thorn holes maybe not so.
- Bum bag : better know as the captains chest (for passort, good camera, diary and other valuables). I’m not a fan of Bar bags so use this instead and store it in the top of my front pannier. Handlebar bags are fairly handy on bike especially for easy access to a camera, but off bike they really are a pain (in my opinion).
- Exped Drypack pro 25 (drysack for clothing and a daysack). Also still going strong, very handy as a daysack for daytrips or shopping.
- Berghaus Verder 65L backpack got replaced in Windhoek by a lighter compacter Ortlieb Dry Sack should I decide to climb any mountains in East Africa I’ll just rent a backpack.
- Berghaus Long Sleeve shirt :Still good as new.
- PHD design minimus vest: Lightweight, warm and compact. Well worth it for those days in the mountains.
- Nike ACG Lightweight fleece: 5 year old and still going strong
- North Face Trousers with zip off legs : This second pair is for off bike use and is still in good condition, lightweight and very comfy.
- Lightweight T-shirt
- Cotton shirt and lightweight jeans. A recent addition, its nice to look smart for special occasions, a small luxury for a long trip.
- Rab Event jacket haven’t used in 5 months
- Goretex packlite trousers also haven’t used in 5 months
- Buff : hat, facemask, sweatband, bandage and much much more all in one.
- Flip flops still buying local ones every couple of months, maybe I’ll try and buy some cheap copy Teva’s sometime.
- Sloggi underwear x3
- Swimming trunks.
- Cross Trainers : I still have the naive wish to do some jogging during the trip, but in reality I’ve only used them about 6 times in 6 months…
Not a great deal of clothing but more than enough. My on bike clothing gets worn all day every day while cycling and wild camping, there’s no point in getting other clothing smelly. Usually I can find somewhere to wash them every 3-4 days, if not…it gets smelly
The living room and bedroom:
- Msr Hubba Hubba 2 man tent : Now after 170 nights of use I’m still of the opinion that this is the ideal tent for Africa. The mesh has a few holes probably thanks to thorns and bushes during wild camping. The tent is spacious, easy to set up, light and surprisingly durable. The foot print is essential to protect the bottom of the main tent, it also doubles as a tarp for shade on those warmer days.
- Exped Synmat 7 a luxury mat that lasted slightly longer than my Downmat did, but not alot. At around 100 nights it started delaminating, it was still useable but not pleasant by 130 nights it was un-useable. The contact with Exped proved fairly useless, they may have a good 5 year warranty but its only valid if you hand in or send your mat to one of their dealers so its fairly useless when in Africa. From Malawi that was going to cost $40 (whatever happened to land mail?). I recently had a Thermarest foam Z-Lite mat send out. From now on I’ll stick with foam pure due to durability. The Z-lite is almost a third of the price of an Exped, half the weight and alot more durable. Though I found it very uncomfortable the first week, I now sleep fine on it. The only downside of a foam mat is the bulk.
- Cumulus Lite line 300 (customized to 250g down), still going strong. Light, compact and generally warm enough. I bought a blanket as an addition to get me through the Zimbabwe winter. I bought the sleeping bag direct from the factory in Poland so it was alot cheaper than in the shop.Their service during the ordering and customizing process was excellent, my next winter bag will probably be from them too
- Inflateable Pillow a nice little bit of luxury.
- Lafuma Chair Quite a heavy item and difficult to get a hold of (they often stop producing them). I got one second hand before my trip because I think that Chairkits for Exped mats reduce the life of the mats (my theory, no proof). This thing is quite big and heavy but is easy to setup and gives great back support and is ideal for long sitting breaks or an afternoon snooze. The only downside is that you sit on the floor, not ideal if wet or surrounded by biting ants.
- Lightweight Hammock: I bought this thing back in 1995, always plan to take it with me then cut it out at the final pack because of the extra 500g. Here I’m loving the comfort it gives during long breaks (like in the desert) or even for a short break if the ground is wet or full of ants. So much comfort in a little bundle.
- Machete : Great for clearing brush when hanging a hammock, clearing the ground when camping in the desert or woods, as a hammer for tent pegs and very handy for digging a toilet. NOT meant as “protection”.
- Optimus Nova Plus Multifuel burner Still a big fan of this. It struggled with the dirty fuel in Zimbabwe where I had to clean the jet every couple of days, usually I clean it once a month. I use the 0.6l fuel bottle, for longer stretches I use a 0.5l coke bottle for the extra fuel.
- Optimus Terra Panset Replaced these in Windhoek for a slightly smaller pan. I think the Optimus set is ideal for 2 people, its a bit large for one person. I also use a small frying pan as the lid.
- Titanium Spork Still going strong, can eat just about anything with it, spaghetti doesn’t work very well though.
- Sea to summit kitchen kit (herbs/spices etc) A convenient set/bag to keep all my kitchen utensils in (knife, leatherman, pan handle, lighter, spork etc). Though the original containers are too small for anything more than a weekend.
- Opinel pocket knife (a little old fashioned, but cheap and still my favourate)
- Bottle of wine (for the flavour of course)
- Mug: My cheap plastic mug died months ago, now I use a local good old fashion tin/enamel mug that only cost 50c. And to think I almost bought a titanium mug before the trip, that lightweight/forum/keeping up with the Jones’s brainwashing really is non -sense.
- MSR Dromedary watersack (2x 4L) great for storing that extra water and easy to attach to my MSR water filter. I also use one of these as a shower when wild camping. The small caps have started leaking recently though, I still need to do some Mcguiver trick on them.
- MSR water filter : Haven’t used it for months but gives me great piece of mind to have it. The last couple of countries have had boreholes in almost every village. Its a little bulky but easy to use, though MSR claim it only takes 1 minute to filter 1 litre this is a little ambitious (laboratory conditions? ), in reality it takes 2-3 mintues with fairly clean water. The dirtier the water the more often you need to clean the filter (with scotchbrite). Sometimes after every litre making a more realist time of about 30-40 mintues to do 4-5 litres with a poor water source. Though every water filter will have the same issue I suspect.
- Spare tire Marathon XR: Not sure why I brought this, if it all goes wrong its easy to get a local 26″ tire. A local tire may get more punctures than an XR but its a good stop gap until a new tire can get mailed out.
- Innertubes : I foolishly bought the Schwalbe ultra light inner tubes before this trip, they really where crap, two exploded while pumping my tires up. I managed to get some local ones on the way.
- Chain : I have a spare chain most of the time. More through convenience than because I want one. I have a 10cm piece of chain for emergencies, the spare chain is just because I buy one when I can get my hands on one if I’m within 3000km of my next change.
- Rohloff rear sprocket : Yup have a spare one of those too
- Rohloff oil service set : I’m replacing the oil about every 8000km, not a problem according to Rohloff, and in the long run saves alot of money.
- Naturally I have plenty of other junk not worth mentioning.
Electronics and gadgets:
- Kindle e-reader I’m not a big reader but its great to have this thing, Thousands of books and weighs almost nothing. Just don’t drop it
- Laptop Acer aspire one N255: Fairly light and despite all the abuse its still ok. Good for backing stuff up, writing blogs, resizing photos and watching videos in my tent/room. Its surprising how much you start to appreciate a film after being on the road for a while.
- Varta usb battery charger : I use this to charge my AA batteries, it also works to charge my ipod etc.
- Ipod nano (new type) Loving listening to podcasts and music on this thing(should of got the 16gb though).
- B&M E-Werk transformer from hub dynamo to Varta/ gps. Because I use this 2x AA batteries keep my GPS running for weeks rather than 2-3 days. Keeping my other batteries charged for other things. I can also link it directly to my phone to charge that.
- Garmin etrex : I use a huge scale paper map for my general planning and this thing for the day to day stuff, I haven’t been lost yet(well ok twice) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised which roads have been on these open source maps. Though I must add it took us about 2 years to start understanding each other. So don’t buy one a month before your trip, it’s not worth the hassle and money.
- Fenix LD20 LED torch Awesome high powered and fairly light torch. I also have a small head torch for reading and cooking.
- Usb mains adaptor (with 2x1000mA sockets so I can recharge ipod and batteries in 1 go)
- Camera Panasonic Lumix TZ5 my trusty camera seemed like it was going to die in Namibia, but its still limping on. It has now been hanging on my frame in a small bag for 15,000km. Its fairy compact and makes great photos, hanging it on the frame gives quick access as I don’t have a bar bag.
- Panasonic Lumix GF2 due to the impending demise of my TZ5 I bought this camera and entered the world of DSLR, I’m still learning but it makes great photos and is one of the lightest and most compact DSLR’s on the market. Though because my photo’s are mainly for my blog, if I was doing a shorter trip I think I would combine camera/phone/music in one with one of the better smart phones, saving alot of spaces, weight and chargers. Correction : its not a DSLR its a digital system camera, shows what I know abou camera’s…
- External hard drive 500gb : Bought this in Bulawayo to back up my photos and videos. It has the secondary bonus that you can take videos/ e-books from other travellers.
- Various wires, plugs and cables for all of the above, this is a bag that easily weighs a kilo, room for improvement…
- Phone : Samsung Galaxy Mini my Nokia C3 wasn’t fitting in with my USB power plan. I got a good trade in for an Android Samsung. Its “fairly” cheap for a smart phone and I’m now a smart phone convert. Loving all those apps. Here are the main App I use :
- Facebook/Twitter/Gmail : to stay in touch
- Xe Currency converter : Less chance of getting shafted by money changers
- Latitude : I update it almost daily for my Route page so people know roughly where I am.
- Google maps: handy once in town for finding stuff and getting orientated.
- Calender : Tracking visa expiry date.
- Internet : Googling somewhere to stay in big cities.
- Whatsapp : a nice chat program to stay in touch with friends around the world.
- Warmshowers/Couchsurfing : Warmshowers isn’t very well covered in Africa but there’s plenty of couch surfers.
- Badoo: If I feel like having a date.
Including Uganda, commuting and this trip Mr Hyde has now cycled about 14,000km. The Rohloff hub about 23,000km.
- 26″ Rigida Sputnik rims with Rohloff/Son : Still super strong, I haven’t had to adjust the alignment during this trip. The rims are showing brake wear but nothing to worry about yet.
- Marathon XR These things remain legend. Front has done 8000km+ rear 6000km+ and both show little sign of wear. I’ve had few punctures. Even this crazy situation (200+ thorns in each tire) resulted in only 1 puncture per tire. When I can get my hands on it I also use slime.
- Brooks saddle : Speaks for itself, love them or hate them, I wouldn’t leave home without one.
- S+S couplers : An expensive extra on an already expensive custom frame. But not only do they allow for a smaller box when flying, they also mean I can put my bike in a normal car if I get stuck somewhere.
- Tubus Racks : Lightweight and still going strong
- Rohloff/Son : Doing what it says on the box.
- Bike buddy : These things are great, I’m using a MK1 for my fuel bottle on the top tube and a MK2 for my 1l Sigg bottle. Fairly light weight and very robust. A very flexible solution if you don’t have enough bottle holders.
- Pedals : Despite my worries in the early months of the trip, they haven’t fallen off yet…..
- Drive chain : I little disappointed that the Middleburn chain ring (39t) was almost worn on one side after 4500km I reversed an old Blackspire chainring (42t) and kept side b of the Middleburn in reserve. The Blackspire was worn even worse after 4500km despite using much better roads. I’m now going to use side b of the Middleburn and after that will never again use aluminium chain rings. I have a surly chain ring on the way. The Rohloff sprocket (17t) is doing great, reversed it at about 6000km and have installed a new one after another 6000km. Chain : I use shimano xt/deore and usually get about 4-5000km out of them before they get worn. I try to change them on time so they don’t wear the rest of the transmission out too quick.
- Kickstand : I managed to strip the threads on the mount for the kickstand so it no longer works, I really do miss it. Parking is now quite a pain.
- Airhorn : handy for telling people you’re coming, saying hello and people just can’t resist using it so its also a bike alarm.
- Rack attachment eyelet : yup managed to break one off, the rack is now mounted on the mudguard eyelets. I’ll try and get it brazed back on some time.
- All in all I’m very happy with Mr Hyde, despite a nasty crash in SA and not sparing the wip on dirt road descents in Uganda and Lesotho, and some serious overloading with food and water in the desert he has always cracked on without complaint.