On long term trips, quality and comfort go over efficiency and lightweight considerations on the long run. So my furniture (i.e. camping gear) consists of the minimum necessary but who are there to provide maximum comfort.
The aim at finding a tent was that it had to be durable, but as lightweight as possible, equipped with a good moskito net and very waterproof (you never know).
I found a good tent by Exped, a swiss outdoor equipment producer. Though this tent is far from being perfect, it protected me already from quite some nasty rainfalls and cold nights. It is a geodate tent, meaning that you can basically put up everywhere.
The only downpart of the tent is the actual putting up of it: It shouldn’t rain, because then the interior of the tent will become wet.
I’ll be sleeping on the simple foam insulation matress Ridge Rest Solar by Therm-A-Rest. I detrust self inflating matresses which will certainly go leaking at some point and are a trouble to inflate, whereas I came to love my foam insulation matresses on my hikes, which you just have to unroll and they’re ready to use. The Ridge Rest Solar is a thick ribbed foam matress which takes some time to wear out and yields considerable more comfort then a standard foam matress.
The sleeping bag used is the Deuter Exosphere -4°, which might be an overkill temperaturewise in the warm regions I cross but I’ll thank myself when I spent the first night around and under 0°C in the Iranian desert. It’s filling is synthetic fibre which is less sensible to humidity, meaning that I can just put it into my compression bag when in a hurry. Down filling would need some time to air first. The advantage of the Exosphere is that it is elastic, allowing me to move around in my tent more easily.
If it is too hot for this sleeping bag at night I can still switch for a Cocoon inlet, which also enhances the temperature range of the sleeping gear. A fleece jacket wrapped in a towel will have to serve as a pillow.
There is no better thing then a hot tea on a cold morning and hot food after a long day of cycling. My exquisite cuisine consists of whatever energy spending food there will be available (vegetarian food largely preferred) and is prepared on a Trangia cooking set. I have not yet come across a more compact and reliable set then this one. I just modified it in one detail: Due to the relative non-availability of spirit (the chemical one) in muslim areas I changed the stove to the Edelrid Hexon Multifuel, which burns all kind of fuels, is very robust, lightweight and incredibly powerful, heating a litre of water in just three minutes.
Besides the usual toilet items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deo-crystal, soap & toilet paper) I use a quiet small first-aid kit. Due to the fact that nothing is as available everywhere on earth as medicaments are, this first-aid kit consists only of patches, dressings, medicaments against diarrhea, headache and of course some condoms 🙂
Maps & Literature
Good preparation shows to be essential on a bike trip, determining the choice of bike, equipment and route. On trip I carry basically all the time three types of books with me: One Cycle-Touring Handbook, one phrase book for communication (because locals tend to know their region better and the general purpose of communication) and one lecture for quiet evenings and long waiting periods.
In my opinion there are two cycle-touring handbooks on the market that suit our needs: first, the “Fahrrad Weltführer” by Thomas Schröder and Helmut Hermann (in German, Reise Know-How Verlag) is the detailed one available on the market. It comes with an overabundance of experience and informations for countries all over the world. Visa, entry points and road quality for every country outside Europe are listed here, as well as good bike shops even in remote areas. It is fun reading some of the co-authors’ travelogues as well.
But the better travelogues as well as a more detailed chapter on gear and stuff are found in the “Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook” by Stephen Lord, Trailblazer Publications (in English). The book’s philosophy is more laid back, more like a “just do it” approach, saying that getting on track is the goal, without the sternness of the above book (but also the detail). The co-authors really add up to this book: At some points I just laughed out loud reading the co-author’s travelogues.
I decided to take the first book with me, because of the more detailed descriptions and the good “build quality” i.e. the book cover and the pages seem much more robust then the adventure cycling book, which is only a paperback.
As I plan my trip to go to India so far, my phrase books are the corresponding ones from the “Kauderwelsch” series by the Reise Know-How, containing not only basic phrases but also a quick understanding of the respective language by their special approach. They are small, handy and lightweight, fitting easily in every pocket -> perfect for my trip.
Update: Buying the phrasebooks for countries in which you will spend less then 2 weeks time is pretty pointless. For those, it is sufficient to learn the basics by some internet translation programme I’d say now.
My maps are also by the Reise Know-How Verlag, using the Open Map Project. They are water- & ripproof and contain height profiles, which are quite important for planning a route. They may contain some inprecise informations due to the incompleteness of the OMP, but if so I buy a more detailed map in the respective country. Still they are great in giving an overview on the country.