|Home| Portfolio| Trips| Extras| About Us| Site Map|
The notes below are excerpts from emails written for two friends who are meeting up with us in SE Asia. I thought other people may be interested in reading what we carry and why.
Tent - The smallest tent that will also hold any important gear and people is the best size tent to get. The smaller the size of the tent, the more options there are for camping spots. Also try to buy a green or neutral color so it is hard to see in the bush. I had a Eureka Zephyr one person tent that has housed me for a year and a half, including Andy for six of those months! We have now started to use a two person tent with an inner bug screen (no fabric on it besides the tubes for the poles) and a waterproof fly. The inner is self standing, something that I still say is a must for cycling, as you never know where you'll end up. Many a night has been spent in quarries or on rocks or on cement - pegs simply wouldn't have been an option.
Thermarest - There may be other brands of blowup mats that work, but I don't know anything about them. Foam ones are OK for short term, but for long term sleeping and back happiness, a thermarest is important. Make sure it is full length, as it is also important as water proofing for your sleeping bag. The bottom of most tents are horrid in rain, but with a mat, it is possible, and even usual to be mostly dry in the rain.
Sleeping bag - Synthetic filling is best for cycling purposes, as it is still warm when wet, and dries quickly. Three season with a Goretex jacket for added warmth if necessary is a good light combination. (Goretex is breathable, and possibly one of the best reasons to spring for the combination rain jacket/wind jacket/sleeping bag warmer of Goretex. Other less porous items condensate and soak the sleeping bag.
Stove - Andy and I use one stove between us. MSR Whisperlites (called "the internationale" in some places) are my favorite stoves - being able to burn many types of fuel, and burning with very little noise. This is especially important when you are camping in a tiny forest :) Make sure your bottle is so clean that you can't smell fuel in it when you get on the plane or the airlines might confiscate it!! I lost my large bottle on the way to Aus from NZ this way.
Water filter - Ask your local shop for the best one for SE Asia. They'll make sure it is at least crytosporidium safe. I have a "sweet water" which has been perfect for me so far... In a group it would be good to have more than one filter. In Venezuela, Marco's filter gave out and the three westerners in the group... myself included... suddenly had to take some horrid chances on the river water along with the locals who are immune to more than we would have been. All was Ok in the end, and it was the middle eastern restaurant that gave me food poisoning, not the river water, but it wasn't a good feeling when it died on us in the middle of nowhere.
Mess kit - We have one kit between us, plus a large frying pan, plate, and cutting knives. The frying pan is not doing well, and we'll probably leave it in Australia and buy a large wok in Asia that should let us all cook one meal, cutting down cooking time.
Bug head net - Very cheap black "no-seeum" net with a pull tie strap bottom (not just elastic). These are very cheap, and will save your sanity, and are not available everywhere. Get one. We have been living in ours for the past few weeks, and these are only annoying flies here! Biting insects (like the sandflies of New Zealand) are even more important to keep off. Many of the nets need a wide brimmed hat to work. Some have metal to allow them to be used while sleeping, and keeps the netting off one's nose and chin... a good idea in heavy mosquito areas.
First aid kit - Not much needed. Some neosporin, some band aids to stop bleeding (from knife cuts, or leech bites), iodine swabs for deeper wounds, salt for blisters and leeches, some gauze for larger wounds, and some needles, preferably one suture needle and thread. Marco had some pain killer fluid and syringe that was essential for cleaning out a large puncture wound and reducing the pain, but I think he could only have it because he was a certified medic. I have my chromosome tweezers for ticks and splinters and the like. I also have some bite anti-histamine fluid that stops itching and swelling, it is rarely used. I have electrical tape for homemade band aids and blister stoppers and blister patches, as well as general maintenance issues on the bikes. Our travel medkit
Water jacket - they all leak or sweat eventually, and we are going to a warm place, so it is up to you how much you want to spend. Hoods are good. Chin zippers are good. Pockets are good. Vents are good. Anything or nothing is fine. The second use for the rain jacket is a wind stop for warmth when wearing a fleece. If you decide not to bring a rain jacket, then a simple wind breaker would still be a good idea in case of cold or windy (bikes are windy) weather. Green or blue are good colors for hiding in the forest. Don't get camouflage though!!! It isn't a good idea to have anything that looks military at all in rural areas.
Ground sheet - this has been very important in Australia: not at all important in Canada. We have an "emergency blanket" ground sheet, that is thick, blue on one side and aluminium shiny on the other. It helps reflect heat into the tent on cold nights, protects the sleeping mats and bottom of tent from everything - raspberries to large stinging and biting ants; and doubles as a cooking mat. Highly recommended for each tent brought.
Non-cotton shirts - Cotton makes you colder in the cold and hotter in the hot. Not a good combination, making the phrase "cotton kills" in adventure circles. We have long sleeved nylon shirts that are tight weave and UV rated. Columbia PFG line if you are curious. We sometimes feel a little silly wearing the same shirts, but as we are both very very sensitive to sunburn it is important for us. The vents in back keep up cooler, and the light color is helpful in the sun. They have tie up sleeves so they can be both long or short sleeved, and look cleaner in towns when we roll up the sleeves, hiding the dirt that gathers on the cuffs only minutes after washing them! I'm not sure how to advise on the whole shirt thing, for those who don't sunburn easily.
Cotton night shirt - comfortable tee-shirt for night use. OK, so there is a good use for cotton. :)
Shoes - They get wet. This isn't necessarily a problem, as Kiwis will tell you, they don't hesitate to tramp through a river in their boots. I wear Tevas - great to keep cool, great in water, great traction with the ground, less smell in the evening, easy to clean and shower in. No having to worry about socks. However.... I get eaten by insects if I don't have socks on. I get pricked by bushes. I've had support problems when carrying too much weight while hiking. My feet get cold in the rain and early mornings. Andy says he'll never have a pair after watching me. But I wouldn't live without them. Up to you.
Fleece jacket or vest - this is mostly important as a pillow. It also doubles as warmth when cold. Not all fleece is the same. Try sleeping on your fluffiest, or most likely candidate for a night. If it works, great, if not, try a different one. If you only have one... try different folding techniques... or take a pillow case and find a cheap wine box and remove the inner lining for a blow up pillow/water container. (I've only heard of these solutions, not tried them. Another I've heard of is a pillow case that doesn't let dust or mites, or anything through for hostels... might be a good tip for Asian hostels, but I have no experience on this one).
Wind/bug pants - make sure they are light, but can be away from your skin to keep mosquitoes from biting. I typically don't wear anything more than shorts when it rains, as skin dries quicker and is much lighter than drenched pants. However to keep bugs off in the evening, they might be essential (as they have been on all of my trips so far).
Swimming gear - always a good idea, they are typically small, can double as extra or daily clothing, and allow for public showering. I have Umbro shorts and a nylon sports bra for swimming gear. Sometimes used for laundry clothes when everything else is dirty (swim clothes hand wash very easily).
Computer - I haven't met anyone else who is carrying one, but without it I wouldn't be able to download and fix my photos, build the web site, keep emails and other information, etc, etc. I can't imagine only having the number of pictures that I have room for on my chips, or having to save only small copies of my best photos that are emailable and toss the rest, or upload them in small format only to a web server, or continually circle back to a big city with a print shop I know and pay for downloading, CD burning, etc etc. Food for thought, but people do make it work without one, and those on short trips, or only one trip at a time probably don't need one. I didn't take a computer to Venezuela, I just brought lots of chips, and tossed any photos that didn't look perfect on the camera's screen.
Camera Waterbag - these are "Seal Line" brand bags, bought from kayaking shops ( I have a size 5 bag for my camera, chips, lens cloth, batteries and macro lens. It is essential for electronics. If you don't have any electronics, don't worry too much about it. If you do... good waterproof bags are not sold everywhere.
Book bag - For our books (Nature ID books, Lonely planet, extra maps, etc) we use a bag that is still roll top, but is of lesser quality (we have a laminated nylon bag). We carry one between us.
Head lamp - We have Petzel Tikkas. They are amazing when they work - portable daylight that lasts about three months of constantly nightly use on only three alkaline batteries! Their only downfall is that they have faulty switches after a battery change or two they stop turning on easily. This seems to be a true product flaw, as mine was bought in Santa Barbara California, Andy's was bought in New Zealand, and now we have met a bunch of people with the same problems here in Australia. But, that said, most people still have and carry them. They are known for good equipment though, so perhaps a different Petzel is an idea if you really are against swearing for a few minutes each night after the first three months of ownership. As for me? I'll keep working on improving my patience and keep the long battery life of the Tikka.
Sewing kit - Rip-stop nylon tape is the answer to most of our problems, but it seems to be found only at paragliding and sailing shops, which are extremely few and far between. Bring your own stock.... camping shops rarely know of it's existance, and carry very little stock when they do. Black is our preferred color, as it hides well behind a layer of cloth, but anything will do. It fixes everything, with very little repair time, from mouse holes in panniers to knee wear holes in water pants, to sleeping bag bags, to the sleeping bags themselves. Other than that, simple needle and thread kit is nice. I have an old hotel kit, but I have run out of many of the colors from sewing new teva velcro straps on my old shoes, and fixing up my Umbro shorts when they split.
Bug socks - most shoe types still leave ankles ready for easy eating in the bug world. All socks have to be is tightly woven on the ankle. Watch for holes when they are stretched that tiny bugs could crawl through (such as gnat sized sand flies).
This is not a complete list, but a good starting point :)
For a biking gear list - click here!