I got a chance to read a number of gear lists before I took my trip and I found them incredibly helpful. I’ve put my own spin on the traditional list by reporting what I had at the end of the trip rather than the beginning. So here’s the final tally of stuff that made it through 75 days on the trail.
My philosophy can be summed up as light, light, light. The best way to reduce weight is to go without an item. . The enemy of this philosophy is the phrase, “But it just weighs an ounce”. Ounces add up to pounds. If an item is deemed necessary, it should be small/hi-tech/lightweight. This sometimes calls for extremes like cutting off the handle of the toothbrush, or spending extra for the high end gadget. Which leads me to my justification:
One of the most common questions on the trip was, “How much did this cost you?” Paul was fond of answering that the biggest cost was in the lost time getting a paycheck. The amount of opportunity to earn far outweighs the cost of gear. The obvious implication of that fact is go ahead and spend the money on an item if it is going to make your trip better, because you probably won’t get to do it again. This really only played out in terms of the bike, 11″ Macbook air, and the flash new camera lens that I got for the trip. I further justified that decision by the fact that the big ticket items are still very valuable to me after the trip is done.
The Important Stuff
By far the most expensive aspect of the trip. I’m riding across the country, and I want to SEE it. I don’t want to be staring at the shoulder of the road for three months. So, I want a recumbent.
Secondarily, On century rides, I’ve always been sore in the shoulders, butt and wrists. Most journals report that this goes away as the body adapts to touring. Recumbent riders consistently report more comfort in the backside, lower back, and wrists. A little extra effort is required for hill climbs. However, on the flats, with a fairing, they are typically less wind resistant. In terms of effort, a recumbent is a wash… or close enough that it doesn’t really matter. Having said that, short wheelbase recumbent bikes have some challenges with stability on steep climbs and downhills. They also have a longer learning curve. I’ve went with a long wheel base for better stability and more comfortable ride.
The final choice was the Easyracer Gold Rush. I opted for the titanium version as I’ve always preferred titanium to steel, aluminum, or carbon on racing bikes. It has a “softer” feel, and is extremely lightweight. Here’s the link. I justify the cost because it replaces a car for me, and I plan on using it for touring and commuting for the next decade.
I picked the Axiom Randonneur line because they are waterproof, so no additional cover bag when it starts raining. They are superior to the Ortlieb rollers in that they are easier to access. The clips are a lot less time consuming than rolling. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but getting into those bags dozens of times a day it adds up. I also like that the 60L bags have a rear external waterproof pouch. These are good spots for emergency tools, first aid kit, and toiletries.
Quilt bags have no back and no hood. Mine is the Katabatic Chisos. Using a couple of short cords across the open back, this slips over the sleeping mattress to create a single unit. Combined with a packable down jacket this bag kept me warm even on nights when the temp was in the 20s.
- Mountain Hardwear Meridian 1 Tent
A tent needs to provide 2 things at a minimum: protection from bugs and protection from rain. In addition to keeping the rain out, a double walled structure is key for keeping condensation off me as I slept. This tent is the lightest one that can also stand up to moderate wind & light snow. I’ve spent about 150 nights in this tent, which is probably about 15 short of its total lifetime. When I get a new tent, it is going to be this one again.
- ThermaRest Big Agnes Sleeping Pad
A sleeping pad provides more warmth and comfort than the sleeping bag. These Big Agnes pads have solid consturction and internal insulation fill to provide more warmth. Insulated pads still work well on warm nights… just toss off the sleeping bag.
With an AT&T tethering plan and a high res camera I used about 45 GB. The only place I had a hard time connecting was Wyoming and a little bit of Idaho.
- Macbook Air (w/ neoprene case)
I saved about 45 minutes per night vs the other folks blogging on iPads by having an actual keyboard, more powerful wifi antenna (crucial in rundown motels for stealing the WiFi of the businesses next door!). The Air also doubled as my emergency battery for my iPhone while out on the road.
- Cannon 5d Camera with 16-35mm f/2.8 Lens (bag,mini-tripod,charger)
My camera was my big luxury item. 6 lbs of my total 79 were this gear right here.
- Jetboil + 1 can fuel + lighter
Anything more complicated than boiling water is too complicated. Over 80% of meals were in restaurants, so this was just for those times when Ramen, couscous, or mac & cheese was for dinner.
- Small usb & iPhone combo cable
Shoes add a ton of weight and bulk, so bringing an extra pair wasn’t an option. These shoes were ideal for walking, running, and cycling. The recessed cleat made them appropriate for using in towns and restaurants without breaking an ankle. The running setup made them dry out very fast.
- Whistle (for scaring dogs)
For more info on the dog situation, check out this post
- Bike Pump
- Patch Kit
- 2 steel core Tire Levers
- 2 26” tire tubes
- 2 20” tire tubes
- Multitool-bike tool
- Chain lube
- Electrical Tape
- 3x zip ties
- Kevlar spoke repair tool.
- 2x extra master chain links
- USB rechargeable rear blinky light
- Reflective triangle
- 2x Water bottle
- Nalgene bottle (doubles as a ‘hot water bottle’ in the sleeping bag and also a ‘foam roller’ for stretching out a tight IT band)
- Relevate Mountain Feed Bag
- Adventure Cycling Map “Case”
- Waterproof 1-handed iPhone mount
- Mini Speaker + attachment cable
- Food storage bag
- Pillow bag
- Water purification tablets
- Lil bit O’ Cash
- Credit Card
- Toiletries (toothbrush,floss,razor, inhaler,hotel size shampoo,TP)
- Lip Balm
- First Aid Kit
- 12 ACA TransAm maps
- 3x lightweight wool socks
- 3x underwear
- 2x cycling jersey
- Long sleeve wool shirt
- Long nylong pants
- 2x Bandanna
- North Face packable down jacket
- Body Glide
- Running/swimming shorts
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Pack towel
- 1 lounging shirt
- Flip flops
- 100 business cards with blog address
Stuff I sent home, or abandoned at the last minute before the trip
- Power generation, including a solar panel and a hub dynamo.
I was riding a bike through civilization: there are plugs everywhere
- 2 cotton shirts
- Coffee mug
- 200 business cards with blog address (I kept 100)
- Extra stuff sack
- Sleeping bag liner (this isn’t winter camping, after all)
- 2 under-seat panniers
- Pannier attachment hardware
- 50mm lens
- Accessory spare battery pack. (The macbook did this job just fine)
- Thin wool gloves.
- 2nd long sleeve shirt.
The other long sleeve shirt is just perfect for morning rides. Two long sleeve shirts are excessive, because if it is cold enough to need them, then I wasn’t sweating. Therefore, I didn’t need to wash this as often.
- Front bike blinker.
I used my camping headlamp as necessary.
- Fourth pair of socks.
Three sets shirts, socks, underwear gives me three days between laundry. Which is enough.
- Battery operated rear blinking light
Charging a USB light is much more convenient than buying new batteries.