Friday, January 27, 2012


So what does one take on a bike trip?

I'm going to be doing what's often referred to as 'Credit Card Touring' for this trip: that is, I'll be staying the night at backpackers', hostels, B&Bs and other places that provide such luxuries as a roof over your head and a warm bed. New Zealand's pretty well equipped for this, because it's hard to find a place where you're not within cycling distance of at least one town with a warm bed for let.

As a result, the list of things I need to take with me is substantially reduced. I don't need to take a tent, or a sleeping bag, or a bed roll. I don't need to take cooking gear either, nor do I need to take more food than I need for the day. This makes it practical for me to pack pretty light - in fact, I plan on fitting everything I need into two standard size bike panniers.

I still don't want to weigh myself down with a bunch of stuff I don't need, though, because everything I take I'm going to have to lug the length of NZ, up and down hills and through the rain and all. Also, bag management is going to be an issue, so every extra item is one I have to pack, unpack, organize, reorganize, lose, find, curse at, and cram into a corner of the bag. I'd like to keep all that to a minimum if I can.

This leads to a few sensible directives on what I pack:
  • Everything has to be quick-dry travel/sports gear where practical. I'm going to be washing each night, and it needs to be dry in the morning.
  • Not a lot of clothes. Two changes of clothes plus some 'civilian wear' for when I'm taking a day off should be all I need.
  • If a piece of clothing can serve more than one purpose, that makes one less piece of clothing I have to take with me. Clothing I can wear on and off the bike is perfect for this.
  • Take everything I need, but nothing I don't.
I've been picking up in bits and pieces the stuff I needed since I decided I was doing this trip, and I got a large part of it in post-Xmas sales, which made everything a bit more affordable. Finally last night, I took the opportunity to lay out everything I'm taking neatly and take stock of it.

One source for a lot of my clothing has been Icebreaker. They're a New Zealand company that makes excellent thermal clothing from Merino wool, and they have a variety of stuff that's exactly what I need for the trip: warm, breathable, lightweight and quick-drying.

Here's what's in my packs:
  • Microfiber towel. Not all hostels provide one, and this is small and dries fast.
  • Softshell cycling jacket. Doubles as a good off-the-bike windbreaker.
  • Short-sleeved shirt and long-sleeved shirt. Loose-fit t-shirts from Icebreaker. These work as 'civilian' clothing as well as for cycling.
  • Cycling shirt. A standard cyclist shirt. I'm not even sure I need this with the other t-shirts packed.
  • Ultralight Daypack. This backpack scrunches down into a tiny bundle that zips up and a thin foam pad I can stick in the back of the pannier. When I'm taking a day off, I can un-scrunch it for use as a walking pack.
  • Toiletries. Ultra-concentrated shampoo, shower soap, and washing liquid, along with the usual supplies.
  • 'Stuff sacks' - lightweight drawstring sacks for organizing all this in my bags.
  • Jeans. Just regular jeans for day-wear.
  • Cycle shorts. After much looking I found some decent sports shorts made from a technical fabric that have zippered pockets, which are pretty essential for riding a recumbent. A quick visit to the tailor got them modified to have drawstrings around the legs so I won't get unexpected insect visitors while riding.
  • Thermal underpants. From Icebreaker.
  • Arm warmers. Also from Icebreaker. I'm not sure I'll need these.
  • Underpants. Also from Icebreaker.
  • Socks. Yes, also from Icebreaker. Specifically designed to be comfortable when cycling.
  • Balaclava. Icebreaker. No, this is not a paid ad for Icebreaker.
  • Thermal tops. Not from Icebreaker, remarkably.
  • Cycling Gloves.
  • Cycling Shoes.
  • Rain gear - a rain jacket and pants, both made from Gore-Tex breathable fabric.
  • First aid kit - because it'd be irresponsible not to.
  • Parts & Tools: Spare folding tyre, spare tube, tyre patches, multitool, pump, duct tape, chain links, brake pads, tyre levers.
  • Sunscreen. This is NZ we're talking about.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Technology: Laptop & Charger, Kindle, USB cable, USB charger
That's pretty much the lot of it. I'm pleased to say that it all fits into the panniers without any shoving - in fact, with a bit of room to spare.

There's also a few accessories that'll go on the bike itself:

  • Solar Charger. This has an internal battery big enough to charge my phone 4 or 5 times over, as well as a solar panel to recharge during the day. More about this rig in a later post.
  • Front light - a ridiculously powerful 450 lumen rechargeable light.
  • Rear light - a 'fiber flex' fiber-optic rear light.
  • Bike lock - I don't want to have to end my trip early with no bike.
  • Camelbak - because I need to stay hydrated.
  • GoPro Camera - so I can videoblog.
  • Gorillapod - so I can mount the gopro in unusual places.
Tomorrow my flight leaves for Auckland, so I'll be on the road on Monday. Look out for my first on-the-road update then!


  1. Hello,

    Probably too late for this comment but I've done a few long tours and I'd recommend taking a second pair of light weight-shoes to wear in the evenings etc. If you get soaking wet / muddy during the day then it can be pretty handy to have a spare pair of shoes.

    Have a great trip.


    1. Don't worry, I've gone ahead and done that. I might have tossed them if I'd run out of room in my panniers, but since I have plenty of room, I opted to include them.