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  1. #1
    Bears on Bikes
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    Pannier advice and camping advice (tent vs. hammock)

    I am planning on riding from PA to CO (paved road only) in May on a very limited budget. That being said, I'll be doing a lot of free camping and choosing my diet carefully. That being said I have 3 things I need advice on:

    1) Is it a bad idea to long distance tour with only a rear rack/panniers and nix the front? I'm worried about two things if I do this: having enough space for everything I'll need, and overloading my rear wheel. I'm considering loading only the rear because an additional front rack and panniers will cost me a hell of a lot more than I would like to spend if it's not necessary. I've multiday backpacked on roughly 50 L of space and can probably cut that down even more. If loading the only the rear is okay, does anybody have pannier recommendations that are +45L (pair)?

    2) Can anyone speak to their experience with using camping hammocks rather than tents? I'm leaning in the direction of hammocks because of their simplicity, light weight, and little packed volume.

    3) Also camping related: does anyone have recommendations for the cheapest, yet most energizing/nutritious/essential food? I'm looking to not spend over $15 a day, but I know I'll be hungry as a bear at the end of every day.

    Thanks guys!

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    1) I generally use only rear panniers plus a small handlebar bag. The handlebar bag is just to keep some items conveniently at hand, not because the extra capacity is needed. The bike does handle a little better when some weight is put in front panniers, but I find it handles well enough with everything in just the rear panniers and that way I save the extra weight of a front rack and associated panniers. I currently use Nashbar's 'Waterproof Panniers' and find that they have plenty of space. I usually pack everything inside them, but if I needed more space it would be easy to put the tent/sleeping bag/pad on the top of the rack and free up pannier space. Ortliebs, Arkels, Lone Peaks, etc. are undoubtedly more durable, but so far the $30 Nashbars are holding up fine and haven't caused any problems.

    2) Haven't tried a camping hammock since I've never found them comfortable to fall asleep in. YMMV on the comfort aspect, but I'd also note that, unlike backpacking, much of my bike tour camping is done in organized campgrounds which are usually set up appropriately for tents and may or may not work well for hammocks. My tent and sleeping pad together only weigh 3 lbs. and pack very small so I don't think I'd save much with a hammock/tarp setup that still protects adequately from rain and stormy weather.

    3) My emergency food is generally peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that provide high-density nutrition at reasonable cost and it stores/travels well. Pasta dishes (mac/cheese, spaghetti, etc.) are also good options - I usually throw some peas or beans into the sauce for more balance.

  3. #3
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Hi --

    1. How much do you weigh? How many spokes on your rear wheel and have these been hand tightened and trued? I think these and the weight of gear will be critical for determining whether the rear wheel is overloaded.

    For 45+ liters I strongly recommend the Racktime Travelit rear panniers purchased from Sierra Trading Post. If you register with Sierra Trading Post you will eventually (within a week or so) receive an email for 30% off making these panniers cost less than $46. Here is the direct link:

    http://www.sierratradingpost.com/rac...f-two~p~4235k/

    Although the front pannier is pictured, the specifications indicate the rear pannier is shipped and that indeed is the case. Normally these sell for $90+. They come with the Ortlieb mount system, which is very nice, and the bag itself is very similar to a backpack design. Overall these are very nice panniers and certainly the best you can get new for less than $50.

    2. I use a hammock and much prefer these for comfort. If you are in an area where hammocks cannot be hung, bring a groundcloth of some type and sleep on that with your tarp pitched. You can see my hammock in this recent bikeforums thread:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/784449

    3. Cannot help you with inexpensive food.

    Bryan

  4. #4
    Bears on Bikes
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    Quote Originally Posted by bwgride View Post
    Hi --

    1. How much do you weigh? How many spokes on your rear wheel and have these been hand tightened and trued? I think these and the weight of gear will be critical for determining whether the rear wheel is overloaded.

    Bryan
    Bryan,

    I am 160lbs on trued 36 spoke wheels.

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    regarding hammocks.

    Quote Originally Posted by bwgride View Post

    2. I use a hammock and much prefer these for comfort. If you are in an area where hammocks cannot be hung, bring a groundcloth of some type and sleep on that with your tarp pitched. You can see my hammock in this recent bikeforums thread:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/784449
    How do you like that Warbonnet Blackbird? The mosquito netting feature sounds nice. I'm in the market and am looking at hennessy hammocks primarily. Any experience with those?

  6. #6
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    Personally, I like the way a bike handles with some of the load on the front. I'd be happy to loan you a front rack and some small Jandd panniers for your trip. Let me know if you are interested. Here's a look, they are not waterproof and I don't have covers.

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    The front pannier sorta popped up in the late 70s or early 80s. There is a long history of rear pannier only touring, and there is a trend back in that direction. Front panniers also add a lot of unecesarry weight. One large bag is a lot more efficient than 4 small ones, assuming one can carry it. Of course another option that saves both weight and money is ultralite camping based on a single small/light pack. There was at least one thread on that in the past week.

    My main interest in hammocks was the wonderful opportunities they provide for stealth camping. On various pre-hammock trips I camped on jungly hillsides where a hammock would have been way preferable. I'm another one of those people who just isn't comfortable on them. And my chiropractor eventually recommended against them, because if you have a dodgy back you need to be able to shift into many positions throughout the night. Hammocks are not really simple, they combine all the needs of a tent or tarp system, with the need to hang in the air. That is one more thing, not any less things. Tarps are far cheaper and simpler, and even if they depend on trees the requirements are easier, and they can be set-up without trees but with the same quality of pitch.

    Ray Jardine used to promote corn pasta as the miracle energy food. I just found it hard to get. I have to say the eat well and cheaply thing is tough on a bike. Fast food isn't cheap, or healthy. Many expedients like ramon are super unhealthy. Getting good food cheep unless you juice dandelions, or dive into produce dumpsters, is going to be tough. Once the doc forces you on a healthy diet in middle age, it's tough to do even at home. I have some ideas, but it starts t get real specific, as to what healthy means to each individual, and what a person would be willing to actually eat.

  8. #8
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrBearSir View Post
    Bryan,

    I am 160lbs on trued 36 spoke wheels.
    With that weight and with 36 spokes (assuming the wheel is well built), carrying everything on the back won't be a problem. However, as reed523 notes, it is nice to have some weight in the front. Like reed523, I prefer to have a load on my front. Seems like my bike handles better.

  9. #9
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devoured View Post
    How do you like that Warbonnet Blackbird? The mosquito netting feature sounds nice. I'm in the market and am looking at hennessy hammocks primarily. Any experience with those?
    I do have some experience with a Hennessy Explorer Deluxe, Hennessy Expedition, Hammock Bliss No-seeum, Warbonnet Blackbird, and a homemade hammock.

    All my Hennessy's have bottom entry which was interesting but makes entry into a sleeping bag tedious. I stopped using the Hennessy when camping on Cumberland Island GA because of mosquito bites through the bottom. I now prefer a double-layered hammock to prevent mosquito bites and also to help hold pads in place for insulation (I prefer pads over under-quilts). If I bought another Hennnessy, I would get a side entry model with two layers.

    The Warbonnet Blackbird is a nice hammock, lightweight, easy to enter, and comfortable, but so was the Hennessy. I've never been bitten by mosquitoes when in the Blackbird. If you are familiar with Hammockforums, there was a thread on mosquito bit-through on the Blackbird and I think after more than 50 posts no one experience a mosquito bit through the bottom of the Blackbird. It seems the Blackbird is the most sought and praised hammock on Hammockforums, and it has very high and very quick resale on their For Sale forum. If you buy one and dislike it, no worries with selling it.

    Often I use a homemade double-layered hammock. Very inexpensive to make and easy too. It is just as comfortable as any other model I have. You can find many how-to threads on Hammockforums if making your own is of interest.

    I also have several tarps including the Warbonnet Superfly and Hennessy Hex 30D rainfly. For the price the Hennessy Hex at about $50 to $60 is a very good buy and the one I tend to use on most trips. The Superfly costs about $130 and weighs about the same as the Hex (~19 to 23 oz), but the Superfly has "doors" and offers lots of coverage and protection.

    You can see my Blackbird and Superfly (with doors pulled up) in photo 1 and Hennessy Deluxe and Hex tarp in photo 3 here:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...1#post13549929

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    Slept in a hammock for awhile (not cycling)... If the bugs are bitting, put some bug juice on. Seems to last long enough for me.

    Rear loading is fine (I've done it on un trued wheels too), but maybe thrown on a cheaper rack on the front if possible and even just store your water up there to even things up a bit. Make your own panniers if your on a budget (Plastic containors, rice bags, heavy denim etc, whatever you have)

  11. #11
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    I also like some of my weight up front, but it's a matter of handling as much as weight distribution. Before I had a front rack, I rolled my hammock and sleeping bag into a sleeping pad and strapped that to the handlebars, which helped spread the weight a little, but see how your bike handles a rear load. You will probably be fine.

    I love my Hennessy hammock. Far more comfortable then sleeping on the ground for me.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Aushiker's Avatar
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    I completed a ride from Geraldton to Perth with no panniers on the front, just the BOB on the back and a single pannier. I now ride with the load shared between the front and the back (panniers and/or trailer). So guess that sums up my take on that aspect



    As to the tent versus hammock question. I haven't tried a hammock but really haven't seen any reason to go out of my way to do it. There are good lightweight tents on the market now days plus I often ride/bushwalk where trees are in short supply so the whole hammock thing does not excite me. The tent just seems simpler to me. That said if you go with a hammock would love to hear how it works out for you.

    Andrew

  13. #13
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    600 miles 4 panniers.

    R-Front, Tent, rain fly, ground cloth
    L-Front, Air mattress, blanket, fan

    L-Rear, Clothes
    R-Rear, Food

    Rear Rack Bag, tools with tent poles under neath.





    Last edited by 10 Wheels; 12-03-11 at 08:40 AM.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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    On hammocks, I strongly recommend at least trying it. It's not for everybody, but if it is for you, you'll be a zealous convert like the rest of us. The reason isn't necessarily to save weight or for simplicity, but for comfort. For young, effortlessly healthy people like me, this just takes camping from something to tolerate to something to enjoy. For a lot of older people or people with back problems, etc, or who just absolutely can't sleep on the rocky ground, it makes camping something that's possible to do at all.

    Being able to camp in rocky or uneven areas is a plus, as is not having to pack up a wet tent (if you hang your tarp first and take it down last, none of your sleep system gets wet). Lots of hammocks come with bug nets, the cheapest - and the one I'd recommend for trying it out - is the Grand Trunk Ultralight Skeeter Beeter. There's also the heavier but larger (therefore maybe more comfortable Skeeter Beeter Pro for a similar price. Other more expensive hammocks have some features that may improve comfort, but those are right in the price range for someone to test it out. Hammocks retain their value pretty well so you can probably resell all the stuff on hammockforums.net if you end up not liking it.

    Now, as you're riding from PA to CO, keep in mind you're going through an awful lot of Great Plains, and trees may not be in abundance. Once the ground flattens out you may start having problems finding spots you can hang in. The thing about hammocks is they are fantastic in environments where you can easily find two strong trees 12 or so feet apart, but useless in deserts or other places without trees. You have to plan ahead if you are going to be counting on them, and going through places like Kansas, I don't know if I would.

    You can always do what I'll probably do when biking across the country, which is mail your tent ahead to a place where you think it'll start to get hard to find hammocking spots, and then mail the hammock back home from there.

  15. #15
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    30-40L panniers in the back is enough with light and packable gear. The tent and pad, even the sleeping bag can go on the rack. A handlebar bag is nice for camera, wallet and other small stuff. Some people even tour with a Carradice bag (like an oversized seat bag) and handlebar bag. On a long tour, you might need more clothes to cover a larger range of weather, or you might want to carry more food because buying small quantities gets expensive. Or you might want to carry sandals, ie more off-bike stuff. There's a point where you can't just add things on the back and it's difficult to add a single bag on a bike. That's when the front panniers come. Some people tour with front panniers and an oversized seat bag or a bag on the rear rack.

    Ortlieb makes well-regarded waterprrof panniers. Arkel makes good cordura and waterprrof panniers (I use the T42). Lone Peak, Axiom, MEC have all good reputation. I've been looking at Panpacks for a long time.

    Olive oil has one the biggest calorie per weight ratio but you can't really eat just that. My staple dinner is couscous prepared with a bit of olive oil and spices, with a small can of tuna and some veggie, and/or a can of V8. Among pasta/rice/couscous, couscous packs the best, iss the easiest to make, easiest to mix with other things and will absorb liquid better so it's easier to clean afterwards. For breakfast, I often use those instant oatmeal packets. I carry some instant pancake mix and jam on my last trip. Texture wasn't great but it was a nice change from the oatmeal. For lunch, it's usually some kind of bread with cheese, peanut butter or jam. V8 juice is usual for lunch. I often carry baby carrots. Almonds have a high calorie content.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  16. #16
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    I prefer a tent myself, but that is personal preference. I tend to camp for free a lot, but not stealth camp. If I wanted stealth, a hammock might be tempting as long as the trip is somewhere with trees. My tent (Spitfire 1) weighs about the same as a hessessy, but does require a sleeping pad (12 ounces for my NeoAir).

    I find 45 liters to be way more space than I need. On my last month long tour I used a bit smaller panniers (38 liters) than you propose and had plenty of extra space for food and anything else with a lot of room to spare. I keep the tent outside of the panniers though. I went with front panniers only and carried the tent on top of the rear rack. It worked out very well.

    For food on tour I don't worry too much about healthy.

    Breakfast - I like to just grab a granola bar in camp most days and stop at a diner later, but If I want a real breakfast in camp I usually have instant oatmeal. I add sugar (brown sugar or honey if I have it) and butter or margarine. If I have them I throw in berries or nuts. If I don't want oatmeal soft boiled eggs work out well.

    Lunch - Peanut butter and bagels or tortillas, wraps (shredded cabbage adds crunch), cheese and hard salami on chips or crackers (with fresh avocado or other veggies if I have them), hummus (dried if I can find it) or whatever.

    Dinner - Ramen noodles with margarine and a foil pack of tuna or salmon is a favorite of mine. I throw in freeze dried or canned peas if I have them. Various boxed or bag rice, noodle, or potato dishes are good. If close to a store a frozen bag dinner works well. Sometimes I buy a bag salad and maybe a small bottle of wine if I want to treat myself.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 12-03-11 at 09:53 AM.

  17. #17
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reed523 View Post
    Personally, I like the way a bike handles with some of the load on the front.
    +1. Rear only bags can make bikes very squirrelly especially if you over pack. Two sets of smaller bags also encourage you to not over pack.

    Nice Cannondale, by the way

    For food, I suggest testing what you can tolerate around home. I learned...the hard way...that I can't eat anything that has a high fat content while riding. Peanut butter, pizza, and even chips can make me miserable while pedaling. I eat a breakfast of oatmeal squares with coffee (no clean up in the morning), granola bars during the day while riding and then I cook something at night. I have several recipes that I know by heart and can adapt to what's available.

    Also be aware that east of Kansas City, the towns can get really small. Some have grocery stores but many don't. Be prepared by carrying an extra meal or 2.

    On the tent vs hammock issue, when the world looks like this



    You'll need a really, really, really long rope to reach from tree to tree And that starts around Kansas City. Take a tent.

    This is what is in that picture



    She was sprinting away from us at about 40 mph.
    Last edited by cyccommute; 12-03-11 at 09:25 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrBearSir View Post
    I am planning on riding from PA to CO (paved road only) in May on a very limited budget. That being said, I'll be doing a lot of free camping and choosing my diet carefully. That being said I have 3 things I need advice on:

    2) Can anyone speak to their experience with using camping hammocks rather than tents? I'm leaning in the direction of hammocks because of their simplicity, light weight, and little packed volume.

    Thanks guys!
    I have done 2 self-supported tours in Australia of 2100 km and 1500km. On both I used a Bob Ibex and 2 panniers. I also used a Hennessy hammock. I cooked food and ate occasionally at a restaurant in the evening.

    On my next trip I will be using a different style: The bike will be a smaller wheeled one 20" vs 26") and I will use 4 panniers. The Ibex is a PITA when transporting by aircraft with the bicycle. I will use a Nallo 2 GT tent because it is VERY strong - good for the storms I expect to experience on the west side of Ireland (maybe) and on the ring road of Iceland. I won't use the Hennesy on my next trip (Australia) because a fair bit of the distance between Perth-Adelaide had few/no trees, just shrubs. The last 2 Aussie trips had trees.

    I will use oatmeal more than in the past, and will use rice and lentils and soaked beans and... more so on this trip. Milk powder works fine. Stores ate over 100 km apart..

    My trips are unsupported and I do as much bush camping as possible when there are no campsites, etc within 40 km. Otherwise I take the easy way out to shower and do laundry in the sink.

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    I have a Warbonnet Blackbird and will say it is extremely comfortable. I used it form Pittsburgh to Washington DC and slept like a baby including through a storm with high winds that knocked large trees down across the trail. I was traveling to DC during Hurricane Irene.

    With a hammock you will not be able to keep your gear inside. I placed a lightweight tarp under the hammock/rainfly and kept everything including the bike there. You also may have trouble at times finding a place to set it up, although most I talk to have always found a way. There are ways to use it as a tent but you will want a ground cloth, a large piece of tyvek works well for that. I have tied up to a picnic table and a post and even hung it in the pavilion of a YMCA in Cumberland, MD between the support pillars.

    I like the tent for ease of finding places to set up, and the fact I can put my gear inside, but the hammock was much quicker to set up and tear down and worlds more comfortable. If the hammock is set up properly you will be able to lie basically flat and be very comfortable. You won't be tossing and turning because of the hard ground. You will need some type of insulation under you though since you won't have the ground underneath you. I used a sleep pad. If I every had to use the tent again I would miss the hammock.

    The other upside is the small space it takes up and it's light weight. My hammock and rainfly come in at under 3 pounds total and fits easily in my rear Ortlieb along with my sleeping bag and other gear.

    Spend some time on the hammock forums. I will say I am very happy I chose the Warbonnet Blackbird. It has been perfect. I got the double layer bottom so I put the pad between the layers. I love it.

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    Yeah, forgot to mention hammocks do eliminate the need for padding under you for comfort, but do NOT eliminate the need for insulation under you! In temperatures of 70 or above, most people can sleep with no insulation underneath but beyond that you need to either use a pad, or a hammock-specific "underquilt." Lots of these quilts are made by cottage manufacturers. A pad isn't as comfy, but a UQ is more expensive - but the ultimate in comfort from what I've heard (don't have one yet myself). You can use any pad you would use sleeping on the ground, but keep in mind you'll probably want it to be wider: you need something to insulate your shoulders and other wide body parts that press against the side of your hammock, thus compressing your sleeping bag. A 24" wide pad is said to work for almost everyone. Some hammocks have a double layer allowing you to slide a pad in between the layers, but you can also just put it directly under you.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jude View Post
    Yeah, forgot to mention hammocks do eliminate the need for padding under you for comfort, but do NOT eliminate the need for insulation under you! In temperatures of 70 or above, most people can sleep with no insulation underneath but beyond that you need to either use a pad, or a hammock-specific "underquilt."
    It's very dependent on the person. Someone considering it out should try it out and see what works. I carry a closed cell foam pad and have never made it through the night without tossing it out of the hammock because it gets in the way. I think the coldest I've slept is in a low of 53 F. Some under insulation would have been nice, but I still tossed out the foam pad. Slept fully clothed in my summer weight sleeping bag, and I was chilly, but I was fine.

    At a certain temperature, you definitely need to worry about insulation, but what the temperature is will depend on the person. Definitely worth figuring out, because knowing that you won't need insulation on some trips can lighten your load.

  22. #22
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    Here's a cheap and nutritious menu.

    Breakfast: Oatmeal or Muesli
    Daytime: Peanut butter sandwiches and bananas
    Evening: Rice and Beans

    In fairish weather you can get by with just a tarp and sleeping bag. Lie on the folded tarp, if it rains pull it over you and wait it out. Sleeping pads are for softies!

  23. #23
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    One key drawback to hammocks becomes obvious when no or few trees or poles are available like portrayed in cyccommute's picture.

    When faced with such a problem, there are practical solutions. I offer a few images to illustrate these.

    1. Images 1 and 2 show use of a Spear winter tarp (tarp designed for a hammock) in ground mode. Sleep on the ground under your hammock tarp. Bring a ground cloth of some type for such occasions. Most any hammock tarp will provide good coverage for sleeping on the ground.

    2. Image 3 shows a hammock in bivy mode to offer insect protection.

    3. Images 4 and 5 show how to use a bike as a second support post when one tree or pole is available.

    P.S. I should add that images 1 and 2 I found on an ATV forum, image 3 from Hennessy's site although I think Dan the Man (bikefoum member here) posted that image first and is his image, and the last two images are mine.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by bwgride; 12-05-11 at 07:16 PM.

  24. #24
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    Wow thank you all for the input! I'm actually MrBearSir's traveling companion for this upcoming trip and plan to continue riding around the US after splitting up with him in CO. At this point we are considering going halves on a small 2 person tent in anticipation of some of the flat states in the middle It seems like both tents and hammocks have their uses, with some of you simply proficient in both, using whatever suits a particular tour. Hearing the wisdom and experience of riders on this forum is absolutely invaluable.

    Regarding the use of a front rack: I don't think I could even mount one on my bike (1983 Cannondale ST-500) and the added cost/weight certainly isnt appealing. I can understand handling being more smooth with weight up front though. So far I plan on using an Ortlieb ultimate 5 handlebar bag I picked up cheap, a set of arkel t-42s on the rear and storage space ontop of the rack for sleeping equipment. Is a top tube bag worth looking into as well? Does anyone really use one of those? I tend to be a very light traveler when on foot and I plan to keep that approach when touring.

    To Jude specifically: You dont happen to work at Trophy bikes on Walnut street do you? I live in south Philadelphia.

  25. #25
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    I can't believe you could hang a hammock off a bike like that...how could it possibly support your weight without falling over?!

    Hammocks do have the limitation of not being usable in non-wooded areas, but I don't view that as a drawback - you don't sacrifice anything by just not using one. It's possible that you'll end up without a place to hang - but that won't happen with good planning. Just as it's not really a "drawback" of a mountain bike that you can't go fast on-road, it's not a drawback that a hammock can't be used everywhere...but it's all semantics anyway.

    No, I don't work at Trophy bikes...why did you think that? I have gone there a bunch though, the West Philly one is near my job and the No Libs one is the closest bike shop to my house. Well, the closest that isn't just a bunch of neon-colored bike accessories for hipsters.

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