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How do you get your gear to the start of a tour?

Old 04-12-16, 09:01 PM
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How do you get your gear to the start of a tour?

I'm heading to San Francisco to start a tour of the pacific coast. This is the first time I've ever travelled to start a tour -- I've always just ridden out my front door! So now that I'm shipping my bike via bikeflights.com I'm wondering how to get the rest of my camping/touring gear there. I fit all 4 panniers/racks in the bike box but it's pretty much maxed out now (my bike shop only had the 54" size) and I've still got all of my clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, etc to go. I'm taking a backpack on the plane so will be able to fit some things in there (and I'll be wearing as many clothes as possible on the plane) but what do y'all do? Even if I take a checked bag on the plane, I'll need to keep it somewhere while I'm touring. And even though I crammed in a bunch of camping gear in the bike box, I can't imagine the guys at REI are going to want to deal with packing all of that stuff up when they box up my bike to ship it back to Portland. Should I plan on shipping a box back with all of my stuff via UPS? Any advice? Thanks!
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Old 04-12-16, 09:13 PM
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step 1: go to thriftshop (salvation army, goodwill, etc.)

[alternate step 1: put stuff in cardboard box, skip step 2]

step 2: buy crappy suitcase for $1

step 3: pack gear in suitcase

step 4: check suitcase on aeroplane

step 5: donate suitcase to thriftshop

at end of tour...........lather, rinse, repeat.
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Old 04-12-16, 09:22 PM
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"clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, etc to go"

That stuff is fairly robust, how about a lightweight duffel bag that can be folded up & toted on the bike while touring?
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Old 04-12-16, 11:26 PM
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I agree with a cheap nylon duffel that you can either fold up and stow or donate. That should cost about $10. On the return you could just box your gear up and mail it USPS ground service to your home.
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Old 04-13-16, 03:53 AM
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Keep at least two panniers with you for the flight. Tie rear pair together with zip ties to make them one checkable bag (under 62 linear inches). Pack your gear in them just as you would while touring on the road. Any rack top tie-ons pack with the bike if allowed by shipper. Repeat for return trip or mail home as suggested above. No need for disposable duffel bag or suit case. Small front panniers or handlebar bags can be carried on. Alternately, handlebar bag items can be consolidated into front panniers for the flight. Send your stove by ground or with bike. Buy fuel at the destination.


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Old 04-13-16, 04:16 AM
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Panniers in a duffel.
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Old 04-13-16, 04:58 AM
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Careful with flying with a stove. Certainly no fuel. I ship my stove and fuel bottle in the bike box.
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Old 04-13-16, 05:19 AM
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Buy a duffel bag and check it in. You can either ship it back home before you start your ride, and trash it/give it away.
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Old 04-13-16, 05:55 AM
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First it sounds like you must have a lot of stuff. Can you cut back a little on what you are carrying?

That aside, I have carried stuff most or even all of the ways already mentioned. The thrift store suitcase is my favorite way to get stuff to a tour if I have enough to warrant it. I usually have paid $6-8 for one and have left it in the airport. Be sure to ask where you can leave it. If you leave it laying anywhere be sure it is wide open so it is obvious that it is empty. You don't want to cause a bomb scare.

A cardboard box works fine, but there is one drawback. They always told me that for a cardboard box they were responsible only for loss and not damage. They made me sign a waiver to that effect every time I flew with one.

I have used duffel bags most often for getting home from a tour. Walmart has some decent collapsible ones with wheels for pretty cheap. I use them for getting home and then use them for other trips until they are ragged enough to use to get to a tour and discard at the airport. The one I have used is the "Protege 32" Expandable Rolling Duffel Bag, Black" and also other sizes of the same bag. I think the 32" one is $15, so disposing of it or donating it at a thrift store isn't completely out of the question. If you aren't too weight conscious carrying it along on the tour might not be out of the question.

BTW, my preference is to fly Southwest and check my bike as baggage on the way to the tour. Two checked bags and a carry on are free, but there is a $75 charge for taking a bike as one of the two checked bags. I find it convenient to ride right out of the airport rather than having to go to where ever my bike was shipped and dealing with picking it up.

On the way home I usually am too lazy to deal with packing a bike and schlepping the box in a strange town so I just pay a bike shop to pack it and ship it home for me. It is nice to just be quickly shed of the bike and not have to deal with packing it at the end of the tour. Packing and shipping by a bike shop has usually cost me ~$100 total for packing and shipping and I think the highest was $120 when my daughter's bike was shipped from Reno to Tallahassee (mine went to Maryland for $20 cheaper at the same time). To me it was well worth the expense on the way home. I never do that to get to a tour though.

Last edited by staehpj1; 04-13-16 at 06:00 AM.
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Old 04-13-16, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
The thrift store suitcase is my favorite way to get stuff to a tour if I have enough to warrant it. I usually have paid $6-8 for one and have left it in the airport. Be sure to ask where you can leave it. If you leave it laying anywhere be sure it is wide open so it is obvious that it is empty. You don't want to cause a bomb scare.
Don't leave your suitcase or bike box laying around in an airport - even if it's open. If it gets closed and reported as a suspicious object and the airport gets evacuated you could find yourself in a whole world of trouble...
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Old 04-13-16, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by imi
Don't leave your suitcase or bike box laying around in an airport - even if it's open. If it gets closed and reported as a suspicious object and the airport gets evacuated you could find yourself in a whole world of trouble...
That is why I said to "be sure to ask where you can leave it". You do have to be careful who you are asking. Asking both TSA staff AND airport staff might be a good idea. Noting their names is also probably a good move, just in case there is a problem, being able to say "TSA officer Joe Blow told me to place it where I did" is probably a good thing. My strong preference would be to be directed to a dumpster, unclaimed baggage area, or some other such place, but in practice I have usually been told something like "leave it against that wall" (them pointing at a nearby wall).
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Old 04-13-16, 07:23 AM
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How do you get your gear to the start of a tour?

Ah, sorry staehpj1, I reread your post and realised I had misinterpreted it...
Think we're in agreement here
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Old 04-13-16, 08:25 AM
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Cardboard boxes I Abandoned at the Arrival Luggage carousel at the airport, oversize cartons come out a different door ,
than the bags. I flew over the US & across 'the Pond' several times.


still say Amtrak Portland to Emeryville-Oakland is better than 'bike flights' shipping & flying PDX to SFO .

Last edited by fietsbob; 04-13-16 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 04-13-16, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
First it sounds like you must have a lot of stuff. Can you cut back a little on what you are carrying?
+1 - Would be interesting to see your gear list. Sounds like too much IMO.
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Old 04-13-16, 09:04 AM
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Wear your helmet when you get on the plane, once on the plane it can go in the overhead. Although that is very light, it is very bulky. And you don't want it crushed.

Most airlines allow a carry on and a personal item, like a brief case. My next tour will start with a plane ride, a front pannier will be the personal item (it is smaller than a brief case) and one rear pannier will be my carryon. The hooks that hold the rear pannier to the rack make the pannier too wide for the airline carryon dimensions, so to play it safe I will take those hooks off before I get to the airport since I will not have any tools with me after I get thru security. (I probably could leave the hooks on, but I fly out of a tiny airport on tiny planes and they often insist on checking things that meet the criteria, so playing it safe.)

The two mesh duffles in the photo (the two black bags, one with red ends at 340 grams, the other with blue ends at 410 grams) were stored in the bottom of my panniers for 892 miles. They weighed very little and I almost forgot they were there.

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Old 04-13-16, 12:40 PM
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I've gotta ask, four panniers and you still have "clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, etc." What's in the panniers?
Further, where are you gonna put all this stuff once you're on tour? Figure that out, and put it in there for the flight. Try to make it a small enough item that it can be a carry-on.

What I've done: stuff all but one pannier in the bike box (the last wouldn't fit) and use the last as a carry-on.
From the above comments, this seems to be a typical method: put most of your stuff in the bike box and carry-on the rest. If you have too much stuff to pull this off, maybe it's time to re-think how much you're bringing in the first place. But hey, it's your tour, do your thing.
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Old 04-13-16, 05:49 PM
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hmmm, i've done several tours before with 4 panniers to evenly distribute weight and have never felt like I've carried too much (I'm a minimalist to begin with) but this is the first tour where I've travelled to the start of it. Plus, it's spring so rain gear is a must, and it's the coast, so colder/damper nights mean wool to me. I'm sure my pack list checks out like everyone else's. going to finish packing tonight so will make the final determination of what has to come on the plane with me and what can go in to the box. thanks for the input all!


Originally Posted by BlarneyHammer
I've gotta ask, four panniers and you still have "clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, etc." What's in the panniers?
Further, where are you gonna put all this stuff once you're on tour? Figure that out, and put it in there for the flight. Try to make it a small enough item that it can be a carry-on.

What I've done: stuff all but one pannier in the bike box (the last wouldn't fit) and use the last as a carry-on.
From the above comments, this seems to be a typical method: put most of your stuff in the bike box and carry-on the rest. If you have too much stuff to pull this off, maybe it's time to re-think how much you're bringing in the first place. But hey, it's your tour, do your thing.
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Old 04-13-16, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by erbfarm
... I'm sure my pack list checks out like everyone else's. going to finish packing tonight so will make the final determination of what has to come on the plane with me and what can go in to the box. thanks for the input all!
Nobody ever accuses me of being an ultra light biker, I think four panniers is the norm. But there are several ultralight packers on this board.

Are you sure there is no weight limit on your bike box? I never used that shipping service so I do not know if there is or not.

My trip along the same route you will ride, four panniers and one handlebar bag. But that had no food in it other than some granola bars. A trip to the grocery store and the saddle bag that was previously empty would suddenly be full, but that of course also included the 1.5 liter bottle of wine. Don't forget your cork screw.

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Old 04-13-16, 06:37 PM
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I still think you can fit most of it on the plane depending upon how bulky your gear is. Some items may go with the bike however you choose to ship it. See edited post above.

previously added to above post...



Above photo contains all that you need. A one person Big A tent is in a small front pannier along with most of the foul weather gear needed. (poles are on the rear rack bundled along with the sleeping pad in bike box). Additional woolies are in a rear bag along with a highly compressible summer down sleeping bag and vest. The other front bag is not even half full with cook kit, the remainder reserved for food (and that 1.5 litre of wine!) suggested by Tourist MSN That leaves one complete rear bag for everything else. Extra room in each rear bag for whatever.

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Old 04-13-16, 08:15 PM
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ok just finished packing up box and got EVERYTHING in there but my modest cookset and my clothing, map, phone, toiletries, and those types of smaller things. But all four panniers, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, stove, two racks and fenders, rain gear are in the box. phew! I'm going to have REI in San Fran pack up bike for return trip home and I hear they have big boxes so that would make things a lot easier. I crammed everything into the 54" box, but a 56" would have probably fit everything else. Definitely a 58" would have. I had to sit on my bike box to close it and then I attacked it with Gorilla Tape, but it's sturdy and secured now.
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Old 04-14-16, 03:38 AM
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You saved $18 by cramming it all into the 54" box!

54"x9"x29"= $23 (up to 60 pounds)... L+G= 130"
54"x9"x30"= $41............................ L+G= 132"
55"x9"x29"= $41............................ L+G= 131"

Looks like their rates jump when you exceed 130" of length + girth (L+ [2xW] + [2xH]) just like UPS. It's amazing that Bike Flights can ship for so little in essentially a flat rate box up to that weight limit. It goes up to $24 at 65 pounds, up to $41 at 75 pounds.

A "Crateworks" box is exactly 46"x30"x11". By no accident it's length + girth is 128", just under the 130" price jump point.

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Old 04-14-16, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by erbfarm
hmmm, i've done several tours before with 4 panniers to evenly distribute weight and have never felt like I've carried too much
Oh, don't get me wrong, I've always used four panniers too. But it sounded like you had a whole mess of stuff still to go. Don't forget you'll need to carry it on your bike! And if you can carry it on your bike, you can probably carry it on the plane the same way, so do that. Sounds like you got it done though. Happy riding!
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Old 04-15-16, 12:12 PM
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I don't understand the problem. When I fly with the bike, the sleeping bag, pad, tarp go in the box with it. The panniers, helmet and tent go in a box as checked luggage. Now, that's for an overseas flight where you don't get charged for 1 piece of checked luggage. If you're going from PDX to SF, wouldn't it have been as cheap to take the train?
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Old 04-15-16, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by travelinhobo
I don't understand the problem. When I fly with the bike, the sleeping bag, pad, tarp go in the box with it. The panniers, helmet and tent go in a box as checked luggage. Now, that's for an overseas flight where you don't get charged for 1 piece of checked luggage. If you're going from PDX to SF, wouldn't it have been as cheap to take the train?
It's between $50-$100 to take Amtrak from Portland to San Fran. Usually take the train to Emeryville, CA and transfer to a bus there. But it takes 18 hours. Personally I like the train/bus so I'd do it!
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Old 04-15-16, 01:00 PM
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One can also "wear" lots of extra gear on the flight, yes, it's a bit uncomfortable but for how long?
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