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  1. #1
    Friend of Jimmy K naisme's Avatar
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    "Ultralight" bike touring

    Skimmed an article in Outside (the issue with the "women of rock") about a guy that is touring the ultralight way. He is using a seatpost bag. Haven't had time to sit down and read the article, but the jest is that the guy rides in a minimalist's way, everything fits in his seat post bag, and he uses his "social" skills to get eats and a place to sleep. In so doing he is able to travel farther in a day because he has less gear and uses a road bike. It is a lot along the lines of ultra light backpacking.
    I know some minimalists believe in the power of plastic.
    I couldn't find the article at Outside's sight, otherwise I would have it linked here. Suppose a google of ultralight cycle touring could yield something. It sounds like an interesting way of touring, a light tarp stuffed in the bag, or a space blanket, a change of shorts and sox, a sweater, and shirt, convertable pants and you're set. I'll get around to reading the article, and fill in the details, unless of course...
    "I will remain the stranger who came from a faraway land." Lance Armstrong

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Hmmm,
    I do credit card touring. I use a couple panniers, and bring
    regular clothers, repair kit, shoes, etc. It's not ultralite, but it's still prob half the weight of some touring rigs.

  3. #3
    brain damaged bovine muccapazza's Avatar
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    I read that article too. The only thing is, you're generally not gonna be able to mooch food and shelter backpacking, still have to carry sleeping bag, shelter, and food. Unless you'tre in Europe that is, with their great alpine hut system. But I'm hoping to apply those ultralight backpacking principles to touring wiyth the gear I'm assemblying.

    WOuld be great to have the financial resources and social engineering skills to be able to pull that off, though.

  4. #4
    Geriatric Member 48x16's Avatar
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    I like camping, cooking, and having luxuries. I work in "the industry" (mountaineering and backcountry travel) and the ultralight **** is out of control. I see it as people sacrificing having a good time because they're lazy and don't want to haul what needs to be hauled. I can agree with it to an extent...cut weight here and there, but whether or not your MSR cookset is ALU or titanium won't matter that much. Whether you have an Osprey Crescent 110 pack or a slightly lighter pack won't matter. Ultralight is for adventure racing. Leave it there. I'll take comfort.

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    And the suggestion of using social skills to get food and accommodation smacks of begging to me. Self supported touring, whether ultralightweight or not, says exactly that. Yes, there may be the bonus of someone *offering* a meal or accommodation, but the morality of *expecting* that sort of hospitality because a touring cyclist is too lazy to carry their own or to earn their own stinks.

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    i used to do ultralight backpacking and didn't know what it was called until i read an article about it in outside magazine five years later. in ultralight backpacking, you carry about 10bls, most of it freeze dried food and energy bars, and you basically jog/run the whole way. i made a pair of bamboo poles to help balance during the tricky part of the trail, and i later saw those telescoping trekking poles becoming popular at about $100+ a pop.

    i've been doing ultralight touring (i guess that's what they call it now, though i haven't seen the outside article). it's the way to go if your route allows it (aka, europe, asia, anywhere overcrowded with plenty of stores and cheap bungalows/inns/hostels along the way).

    i've also done year-long fully loaded tour, and several month+ long loaded tours, mostly in places where i can really enjoy the camping, being way out in nowhere aspect of it.

    having said that, i don't think people should knock doing ultralight tours unless they have done it themselves. for instance, i recently toured in SE Asia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, where there are plenty of restaurants and cheap bungalows. it is safer and just as cheap to eat in a restaurant and sleep in a bungalow than it is to cook and sleep in a tent. it just doesn't make sense to bring a full load though i did encounter two groups of tourers who did. by going light, i get to ride at a fast pace and do double metric centuries without much pain and had fun and didn't have to worry about people stealing my gear. in this case, it isn't about being too lazy to carry your own gear. in fact, it would be stupid to do so

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    Quote Originally Posted by mooncricket
    having said that, i don't think people should knock doing ultralight tours unless they have done it themselves. for instance, i recently toured in SE Asia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, where there are plenty of restaurants and cheap bungalows. it is safer and just as cheap to eat in a restaurant and sleep in a bungalow than it is to cook and sleep in a tent. it just doesn't make sense to bring a full load though i did encounter two groups of tourers who did. by going light, i get to ride at a fast pace and do double metric centuries without much pain and had fun and didn't have to worry about people stealing my gear. in this case, it isn't about being too lazy to carry your own gear. in fact, it would be stupid to do so
    mooncricket, read very carefully what I said. The premise of this particular lightweight situation is that the person is basically expecting the goodwill of others to provide acommodation and food to sustain the ultralightweight concept. If that is the idea of ultralightweight cycling, then I regard it as begging.

    Your scenario is completely different, and I would not consider criticising it. As I would hope you would not consider dismissing those who wish to do fully loaded touring and whose targets are 60km a day.

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    Like Mooncricket says, it depends on where your touring. I toured Thailand with only an small pack, maybe 4-5 kilo in all. Every little town had cheap accomodation and plenty of restaurants/food stalls along the routes.

    But now I'm on my way to the US to tour the west for 3-4 months and cannot (will not) stay in motels or rely on the kindness of people to give me shelter and food.
    Prefer camping out and cooking my own meals.

    I still plan on touring as light as possible. 2 back panniers, tent and handlebag bar.
    Hate the fully heavy loaded touring. Hate sorting out all my stuff every night. The fewer things the easier it is.
    Plus I like to ride to far and fast, but it's all a personal choice.

  9. #9
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Two words-dumpster diving. I pretty much agree with Rowan, though. I've run in with similar people on the AT, who simply don't bring a thing, and rely on the charity of those who DID save and buy food and equipment. I have left home with under $10 in my pocket plenty of times, whether hitch-hiking or on my bicycle, but this simply means I'll have to stop and work, not beg, a time or two to get where I'm going.
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  10. #10
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    And the suggestion of using social skills to get food and accommodation smacks of begging to me. Self supported touring, whether ultralightweight or not, says exactly that. Yes, there may be the bonus of someone *offering* a meal or accommodation, but the morality of *expecting* that sort of hospitality because a touring cyclist is too lazy to carry their own or to earn their own stinks.
    I am with Rowan on this one. Except I would go one step more and call it being a bum. People that pull that crap ruin it for the cyclists or travelers that through misfortune find themselves truly in need. The people who live off "thier social skills" seldom have any and is the primary reason a lot of people (including myself) no longer list themselves on the "warm showers" list. I got tired of providing food and lodging to people who never have any intention of reciprocation, but were doing it just to mooch.
    But Bums also come from every background, the one that really got me PO'ed was a couple on a $6000 Santana tandem that stayed at my house two days. During breakfast just before they left,They were most thankful for the accomadations and ask how I could so trusting of allowing strangers into my home. Then they said they would never do it since they don't have the time nor trust people staying at thier home .

  11. #11
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    Wow-it's one thing to work hard and save money for a holiday. Quite another to go on holiday and expect free stuff(food/accomidation).

    One of the joys of cycle touring (as well as hiking/backpacking), is that a person can be thrifty and camp/eat inexpensively, or stay at four star hotels/wine&dine. -Or somewhere in between. To call begging for food/shelter "ultralight touring" smacks of basic irresponsibility-and I'm rather offended by it.

  12. #12
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I believe in ultralite being my choice because either you go sag or plastic..My favorite way of touring.. But, both ultimately cause touring to not be on the cheap..But, at least you do not have to carry about an extra 15 lbs. of crap.

  13. #13
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    I've done ultralight touring with camping gear. You can get all your gear down to about 20 lbs if you work at it. I see nothing particularly noteworthy about begging for food and shelter to save a few pounds. That's just being a bum on a bike.

  14. #14
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    Since the Appilacian Trail was already mentioned, it should be safe for me to pop in this one. I started off backpacking with a normal or heavy load and have since progressed to a much lighter load after my AT hike. Many people on the AT have very light loads because you learn how to go light over time and AT hikers have a lot of time. Bike touring should be a very similar experience. It takes time to get to an ultralight load. If you have enough gear to tour then tour immediately and change gear when you feel comfortable doing it. Reading an article is great, but you need to be an ultra light tourist when you feel comfortable doing it and touring as much as possible will let you know how to become a lightweight packer by learning how to do it yourself. Keep in mind that touring with a light load involves more than gear, you need to change habits as well (but not becoming a bum). For instance, you can cary three days of food, or you can learn how to buy food more frequently. Sleeping under a tarp or tarp tent is a completely different experience and you need to be comfortable doing it. Using an alcohal stove, using less clothes, etc all take a change in habits. Fortunately for me, I alread have ultra light practices and am starting off my touring hobby with a light load.
    So the moral of my post is that it takes time and experience to become a light weight tourist and practice make perfect.
    Scott

  15. #15
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    I've done ultralight touring with camping gear. You can get all your gear down to about 20 lbs if you work at it. I see nothing particularly noteworthy about begging for food and shelter to save a few pounds. That's just being a bum on a bike.
    I did a tour just like you described a minimalist tour with just camping gear and a few other things. Always bought my own food. It's cheap enough, I spent about 5 bucks a day on food (and I know it can be done for less). The only time I would consider (and I never did) asking for shelter is if they were calling for very dangerous weather. I stealthed camp the entire trip. I also agree that bumming for food isn't cool if you want to do a bike trip. But if you must bum for food, probably asking a church or asking where the Salvation Army is the best way to do it rather than walking up to private citizens.

    Cheers,

    http://poorguyonabike.crazyguyonabike.com

  16. #16
    brain damaged bovine muccapazza's Avatar
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    Um, guys guys, guys, chill a little, let's not get our knickers all bent of shape up on our high horsies. Sorry if you got the impression Ultralight touring, as defined by Outside magazine (who are not a bicycling specialty mag) and as I remember it, was about begging. Actually, it was a profile of ONE bicyclist who was doing more or less what Mooncricket described. He was basically credit card touring around Europe, with a HIGH credit limit, he had a large saddlebag and handlebar bag, he charged all his own food and lodging, but if he connected with some nice people who offered him a place to stay, he was open to that. He was NOT begging for food, for crying out loud. My cheeky comment was merely to point out that the comparison with ultralight backpacking was a bit off, because your credit card would be useless in the wilderness, would still have to pack in your food, etc, etc. My final comment was just to point out that I don't have the financial resources to tour like that in Europe, North America, or anywhere else, and that I certainly would never be able to charm any locals with my sunny socialability.

    Of course, without reading the article, you wouldn't know that. Again, sorry that anyone got that idea.

    To sum up, Ultralight Touring = Credit Card Touring as we know it. Cheers.

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    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muccapazza
    To sum up, Ultralight Touring = Credit Card Touring as we know it. Cheers.
    That's cool. The only disadvantage of credit card touring (other than the co$t) is having to make sure you end your day at a place to stay that takes plastic.

    Cheers.

    http://poorguyonabike.crazyguyonabike.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by muccapazza
    Um, guys guys, guys, chill a little, let's not get our knickers all bent of shape up on our high horsies.
    It's OK. But I have read a few journals of people riding bikes across the US who have set out with the prime aim of doing it so cheap... they don't even have the resources to start with and end up pretty well begging from the get-go.

    FWIW, I toured Northern Europe towards the end of 2003 with bike and gear set-up totally less than 30kg (as judged by the weight of the airport scales, less the weight of the box, but adding back the stuff in my backpack). That included tent and cooking gear. There is nothing like hefty monetary penalties for overweight luggage to make sure you are within weight limits.

    Of course, I also ride the ultimate form of lightweight touring: randonnees -- two 1200s and a 1000, and a plethora of shorter ones. While some discount them as touring, I don't -- simply on the basis that they have allowed me to experience places I would not otherwise have experienced. And to a large extent, I have either had to support myself, or pay for the privilege of support.

    I should also note that no-one on this forum was ever in my sights with previous comments...

  19. #19
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muccapazza
    Um, guys guys, guys, chill a little, let's not get our knickers all bent of shape up on our high horsies. Sorry if you got the impression Ultralight touring, as defined by Outside magazine (who are not a bicycling specialty mag) and as I remember it, was about begging. Actually, it was a profile of ONE bicyclist who was doing more or less what Mooncricket described. He was basically credit card touring around Europe, with a HIGH credit limit, he had a large saddlebag and handlebar bag, he charged all his own food and lodging, but if he connected with some nice people who offered him a place to stay, he was open to that. He was NOT begging for food, for crying out loud. My cheeky comment was merely to point out that the comparison with ultralight backpacking was a bit off, because your credit card would be useless in the wilderness, would still have to pack in your food, etc, etc. My final comment was just to point out that I don't have the financial resources to tour like that in Europe, North America, or anywhere else, and that I certainly would never be able to charm any locals with my sunny socialability.

    Of course, without reading the article, you wouldn't know that. Again, sorry that anyone got that idea.

    To sum up, Ultralight Touring = Credit Card Touring as we know it. Cheers.
    Well, the original post said nothing about credit card touring. It did say, "he uses his "social" skills to get eats and a place to sleep," which read a lot like begging for food and shelter. Not having read the article, perhaps this was a bit strongly worded. Certainly there is nothing wrong with accepting hospiality when offered. It's an excellent way for cyclist and resident to meet and learn about each other providing value for both parties.

  20. #20
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    I agree that there is nothing wrong with accepting food/accomidation WHEN offered. In fact its a great way to meet new folks, or in a different country, to get a better understanding of a (perhaps) different culture.

    There is nothing wrong with credit card touring, or ultralight self-supported touring in my opinion. Nor do I have a problem with asking for assistance (on occasion) if needed-due to injury, theft, mechanical trouble or to get out of really severe weather.

    Quote Originally Posted by naisme
    ...but the jest is that the guy rides in a minimalist's way, everything fits in his seat post bag, and he uses his "social" skills to get eats and a place to sleep...
    Naisme's summary is what smacks of irresponsibility to me on that fellows part. Routinely requiring (free) assistance, without forethought, is poor judgement IMO. Now, I would have no issue if this chap had a pre-planned route with free accomidation (the warm showers list/churches/schools/family/friends as examples). I have issue with folks who routinely need free assistance to continue along in a safe&healthy journey. There is huge difference between stopping to work & saving money as needed, versus just asking for hand outs.

    If I have a chance, I'll check out the article. Perhaps the cyclist helped out a bit with odd jobs where he stayed.

  21. #21
    cyclotourist
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    There is a difference between ultra-light touring and ultra-cheap touring. I have met people doing the ultra cheap thing, camping in people's back yards, or sneaking in to campgrounds and out again without paying.

    If you are gong to be ultra cheap and NOT sponge off people, then you probably can't go ultralight as you would need camping gear, cooking gear (probably), all those things that add up the weight.

    I really don't see the big deal about light weight bike touring - I can see it in backpacking or ski touring, where the weight is on your back. A few extra pounds doesn't make a huge difference on your bike and if it makes you more comfortable, then why not?

  22. #22
    Senior Member biodiesel's Avatar
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    I've found that some of the comforts of home should stay home, getting simpler is sometomes getting a pure experience and i really don't use half the junk i bring.

    I think the ultralight craze is a mutation of the attempt to go without so much of the stuff that people are ironically now buying more of.

    Best way to see a lot of country on a bike.
    Carry next to nothing and plan motel stops. Camping? Just bring the sleeping bag/ bivy bag and sleep in the open.

    Longer than a few days you will sacrifice comfort. My record is San Francisco to Eugene with under 20 pounds.
    I packed so light i went without my coffee mug (drank from the last nights little styro ramen bowl), silverware was one spork, left the pot gripper at home, two pair of socks, two shorts, two shirts, in the rain i'd wear both winter and summer jersey to stay warm and sleep in the long sleeve one (stinky) at night in a sleeping bag and bivy on the ground with a light 3/4 pad. I did laundry at coin ops every 3rd day (stinky) wore rain pants and rain coat and washed everything else. Ate with a spork, carried waterbottles in my pockets and groceries lashed to my back in plastic bags made into courier bags.
    It was fast (80 miles a day) and fun. And stinky.
    next time i go it's either less or more.

    But... you remember that bit from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (the book) when describing the infinate uses for the towel ...and after all of that (provided it was still clean enough) you can dry yourself with it...?
    Carry next to nothing, and you find the most use from everything.
    you become imaginative, resilient, and resourceful.
    And of course, very... very stinky.

  23. #23
    Friend of Jimmy K naisme's Avatar
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    Here's the link to the article. The guy is Gary Erickson, the founder of Cliff Bars. He travels with 8 pounds of stuff. And to quote directly "...without a support van to shuttle me to a hotel, or a tent and sleeping bag to make camp, I'm forced to engage with the locals. I've got to go ask someone in the street or a farmer in a field for help finding a decent meal and a cheap place to sleep. I usually end up in some great place no guidebook has listed." Not sure that it smacks of begging, but it does suggest social engineering is a big help. The article states his many experiences, and being the head of a major corp probably doesn't hurt.
    http://outside.away.com/outside/gear...w-2005_10.html
    "I will remain the stranger who came from a faraway land." Lance Armstrong

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    Quote Originally Posted by naisme
    Here's the link to the article. The guy is Gary Erickson, the founder of Cliff Bars. He travels with 8 pounds of stuff. And to quote directly "...without a support van to shuttle me to a hotel, or a tent and sleeping bag to make camp, I'm forced to engage with the locals. I've got to go ask someone in the street or a farmer in a field for help finding a decent meal and a cheap place to sleep. I usually end up in some great place no guidebook has listed." Not sure that it smacks of begging, but it does suggest social engineering is a big help. The article states his many experiences, and being the head of a major corp probably doesn't hurt.
    http://outside.away.com/outside/gear...w-2005_10.html
    No, I don't think that smacks of begging at all. My take is that he engages with locals to find the location of accommodation, rather than asking straight out, or with a motive, to seek accommodation with the person. The evidence of that is "some great place no guidebook has listed". I also would agree that he is well resourced to take on any tour he wanted. I doubt money would be an issue for him.

  25. #25
    Senior Member biodiesel's Avatar
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    Money was a big issue on my last. Part of the Cali coast was camper unfreindly due to a highly publicized homicide shortly before my tour, i hotel-ed the first part. Had poor maps so i had to ask around alot. Nice B&B one night, part of a winery only open a few times a year. Got great advice for the most part.
    Of course, like i said, money became an issue. I could only spend so much then it was back to camping and smelly.
    8 pounds is perfect if you have the $.

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