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Deciding on 'Credit Card' Touring vs. Loaded

Old 06-15-18, 03:22 PM
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Deciding on 'Credit Card' Touring vs. Loaded

I'm probably over-thinking this, but that's my nature.

I'm trying to decide between acquiring sleeping gear for bikepacking vs. keeping it light and simple, and staying in B&Bs and the like, and eating out.

Thing is, I don't plan to tour often, or for long stretches. I have very full-time job, a relatively young family and therefore only so much time. My plan, at least for the next couple of years, is doing 3-5 short tours a year. Maybe 1-2 tours of 2-3 nights, and 2-3 overnight trips. Some from my house, others where I drive to a destination (all within Ontario-Canada, or north east US).

I have a road bike and a cross bike. I own an Arkel meatpacker (15L) that can hold enough spare clothes, toiletries and non-camping/non-cooking items for trips of the length I'm planning. I could add a top tube bag if needed. A good, lightweight tent, bag and pad is around $1,000CAD. I can go cheaper, but that will add weight and bulk. I'll also need to add bags to hold the larger items. Maybe I can get away with a top tube bag and a handlebar bag to carry the additional items. I have a jetboil stove and can toss that into the mix for a more self-sufficient experience.

But given the small number of trips I'm planning, I'm leaning towards using only the Arkel bag and putting money towards a roof over my head...and food, and a faster ride so I can ride further with the limited time I have.

Anything else I would want to consider, given my situation? I'm sure I'm missing some details to share in asking this question...so please point out any key things I've missed.

Thank you!
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Old 06-15-18, 03:58 PM
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How much do you want to be able to ride fast and far each day vs. spending some time seeing the places you tour? One focus is on riding, the other on seeing the place. Personally, I donít think you can really do both. Iíve done high mileage days and I think you canít really put down 100mi in one day and have time to spare for experiencing the places you go through. Not that you canít CC tour and go slower. Only asking because you mentioned it in your post. And you can definitely keep it under $1,000 and get a nice tent, pad, and bag. Klymit pad $60, hammockgear econ quilt $150(depending on temp rating needed), tarptent $250(depending on model). Thatís just over $450 for some very light, compact gear with good reputations. Those prices being normal prices, not on sale or anything. Iím not saying you should camp, but rather just to show that if you have an interest in it, itís very much attainable for well under $1,000 with decent equipment.

If it were me, Iíd pack fast and light for camping on the overnighters and do air b&b or something on multi-night trips. That way you can keep it quick and simple either way.

Last edited by 3speed; 06-15-18 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 06-15-18, 04:00 PM
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Eh, many of us don't associate with those who credit card tour. That isn't real touring. Plus, if you minimize your experience during the tour, you'll minimize the opportunities of meeting the locals, having horrible and great experiences, meeting other tourers, etc. So are you wanting to bike tour or just escape your family?
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Old 06-15-18, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut
Anything else I would want to consider, given my situation? I'm sure I'm missing some details to share in asking this question...so please point out any key things I've missed.
One thing I might add is your personal preference.

Loaded touring and credit card touring are different in a number of ways including how heavy your bike rides on the road, and what it is like in that overnight. Some like having a bed in a mostly climate-controlled zone and for others there is something nice about sleeping out in the tent closer to nature. In some cases it might be easier to encounter folks out camping and in others a credit card tour might bring you closer to more populated urban areas. I'm not sure there is a single correct answer as much as there is an approach that works for you. As you point out, there are cost trade-offs here between some camping gear and individual nice lodging prices. However, I'm not sure I would make this choice mostly as a cost choice... If you really prefer sleeping indoors and going light, I expect you'll find yourself doing that some of the time even if you've bought the tent and gear. If you really prefer camping out and cooking out in the wild, I expect you'll find an inexpensive way to do that instead even if you thought it was going to be credit card touring...

Me personally I've ended up with a bit of a hybrid of both. I like the sense of flexibility I have and sense of taking it all with me that taking camping gear provides -- and I also like the creature comforts of a bed and a shower after a day of riding too. So I'll often end up carrying some light camping gear even when I also end up with most days in a motel. I'm not too excited about making reservations in advance - but instead letting it unfold as it comes.

So somewhere in this equation I'd bring in your personal preferences since there isn't one right answer as much as there is an answer that best fits what you want to do...
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Old 06-15-18, 04:53 PM
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I do weekend rides to a nice old hotel with a great kitchen and a very good wine cellar, taking all day to get there through the Hill Country.
Fitted out much as club cyclists have for a century or so for self supported rides at pace on secondary roads in challenging terrain the load is only what is necessary and no more on a machine designed much like the classic British club bikes of the '60's-'70's with modern components. A long brisk ride in scenic rural countryside with an excellent meal waiting at the end in the comforts of a well managed historic hotel is how I roll.

As always, suit yourself.

PS: $1,000 buys a lot of memorable stays, meals and beverages and does not take up room unused in the closet 360 days per year.....
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Old 06-15-18, 04:56 PM
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Well, I live outside Toronto and if I ride from my house, say for 3-4 days, the concept of meeting locals isnít what you get from a tour in a far off place. I love riding my bike. I like to get away and recharge the batteries, longer I ride the better I feel; and itís not about speed, rather time and distance. So this isnít really touring at all. Your question helped me rethink this, thanks!

That said, if I drive down to the GAP rail trail and did that for 4 days, the ride in of itself is in a new area and while riding I feel Iím exploring the landscape. If I meet people in the towns or along the way thatís nice, but not my intention. This would be an adventure ride for me, compared to my norm. I recently did 4 days in the finger lakes area of NY, staying at one hotel. Riding to destinations and staying there would have been more adventurous for me.

Also, I like researching routes, finding cafes or minor places of interest to pause at. Because I canít ride as much as I like, the planning and basic thinking of cycling related stuff is great for me. If I only thought of riding the same old out-and-back routes from my house...well I donít think much of that. But extend these routes to 300k loops and throw in some overnight stops, thatís more exciting and manageable with my schedule.
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Old 06-15-18, 05:49 PM
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I agree with Mev, do you prefer camping or do you prefer sleeping indoors? For the small number of trips you are talking about and the small number of nights per year, staying indoors certainly is not a big budget buster. Tours that I plan myself, I might stay indoors on average one out of five to seven nights, thus mostly camping. But I prefer to camp in interesting places, often in state (provincial) or national parks. But I know people that will go out of their way to stay indoors where they can buy their food from a restaurant near the motel.

Don't let cost be your deciding factor, do what you think you will enjoy the most.
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Old 06-15-18, 06:08 PM
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Seems like quite a lot of expenditure and weight addition relative to the few days/nights you'll be on tour. Plus where you live, you probably need two sets of gear to account for the seasons.

​​​​​
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Old 06-15-18, 06:24 PM
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Thanks for replying with your ideas and things to consider. This has given me some clarity.

If i had the time, I would definitely do some long distance self-supported bike touring in other provinces and countries. just canít manage this at this point in my life.

Should have mentioned, I have access to several rail trails not far from home, and recently discovered an app marking out our Trans Canada Trail (lots of rail trails in my area). So my recent thinking of touring was partly driven by exploring these trails in 100-200km in a couple directions (didnít realize they went that far, and not far from home).
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Old 06-15-18, 06:39 PM
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I've done both and enjoy both. When working, (retired now), DW and I would take one week vacations CC touring. When we started, we were on our carbon bikes with a handle bar bag. Along the way, we added a back rack with a bag. We toured Nova Scotia, Oregon Coast, Lake Michigan, Natchez Trace, among others. It was just easier or seemed so. We often shipped out bikes to a bike store and back home. And flew to our starting point. The LBS put the bikes together and we were on our way.

Our longer tours have also been terrific. We have biked the southern tier, Mexican Baja, and more. A lot more flexibility but also more difficult and what feels like more planning.

At the end of the day, I am not sure these types of tours are worth comparing. . I think it is a lifestyle choice that like us might change over time.. Both are great because seeing the world from a bicycle saddle at human speed is the way to do it.
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Old 06-15-18, 07:06 PM
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If money isn't the issue then definitely credit card touring.
The riding experience will be more pleasant. Less weight.
If you only have a few days and hotels can be had easily where you are going why not? Taking a shower is nicer in a hotel. (vs. my usual sponge bath in a restroom)
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Old 06-15-18, 07:17 PM
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They changed the name to The Great Trail.
https://thegreattrail.ca/
https://thegreattrail.ca/explore-the-map/
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Old 06-15-18, 07:43 PM
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This is such a personal decision. I have always fantasized about carrying a tent and camping on my bike overnights. But then when I think about all the hotel luxuries I'd be missing out on at the end of a day sweating on the saddle, I quickly change my mind. Other people have just the opposite experience.

An advantage of staying in hotels is that, if you get tired of it and want to switch to camping, you can just not book a hotel on the next tour. Once you've bought all the accessories for camping, you're kind of married to it. That's just my opinion.

Whatever you choose, enjoy the rides. I've been doing two or three overnight rides a year since the late '90's and they are always a highlight of my year.
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Old 06-15-18, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by travelinhobo
Eh, many of us don't associate with those who credit card tour. That isn't real touring. Plus, if you minimize your experience during the tour, you'll minimize the opportunities of meeting the locals, having horrible and great experiences, meeting other tourers, etc. So are you wanting to bike tour or just escape your family?

Those that have the means to credit card tour don't associate with bums.
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Old 06-15-18, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut
I'm probably over-thinking this, but that's my nature.

I'm trying to decide between acquiring sleeping gear for bikepacking vs. keeping it light and simple, and staying in B&Bs and the like, and eating out.

Thing is, I don't plan to tour often, or for long stretches. I have very full-time job, a relatively young family and therefore only so much time. My plan, at least for the next couple of years, is doing 3-5 short tours a year. Maybe 1-2 tours of 2-3 nights, and 2-3 overnight trips. Some from my house, others where I drive to a destination (all within Ontario-Canada, or north east US).

I have a road bike and a cross bike. I own an Arkel meatpacker (15L) that can hold enough spare clothes, toiletries and non-camping/non-cooking items for trips of the length I'm planning. I could add a top tube bag if needed. A good, lightweight tent, bag and pad is around $1,000CAD. I can go cheaper, but that will add weight and bulk. I'll also need to add bags to hold the larger items. Maybe I can get away with a top tube bag and a handlebar bag to carry the additional items. I have a jetboil stove and can toss that into the mix for a more self-sufficient experience.

But given the small number of trips I'm planning, I'm leaning towards using only the Arkel bag and putting money towards a roof over my head...and food, and a faster ride so I can ride further with the limited time I have.

Anything else I would want to consider, given my situation? I'm sure I'm missing some details to share in asking this question...so please point out any key things I've missed.

Thank you!
At my age I don't like camping more than a couple of days in a row. I would much rather have a roof over my head each night and take the opportunity to sample the local cuisine along with the local beers. I think it adds to the experience. Using warmshowers in foreign countries gives you a chance to get a small sample of what life is really like there.
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Old 06-15-18, 08:39 PM
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I don’t like sleeping on the ground. As a result, I don’t tour with camping gear. I also don’t stay at hotels every night.

I do everything I can using hospitality sites like warmshowers or couchsurfing to find hosts for as many nights as I can. Every tour I get hosted several nights, usually having unforgetable interactions with local people. On my most recent trip, I spent 7 night of 28 with hosts. The other nights I stayed in rented rooms, apartments, or hotels.

When I toured with camping gear, I had 2 racks, 4 panniers, with stuff tied onto the top of the rear rack. Now, I tour with either 2 rear panniers, 1 rack, and a bar bag (one bike) or 2 front panniers, a lightweight front rack, and a saddle bag. I‘d guess about half the weight. Carrying much less weight on the bike makes for much easier touring, in my experience.

As mev points out above, even when I was carrying camping gear, I often popped for a hotel anyway. On my most recent tour (Slovenia, Croatia, and Northern Italy), my rooms cost between €30 and €80 a night. I don’t need to save money when I tour.

For me, the enjoyment factor is much higher carrying less weight and sleeping indoors every night. Note that my tours require quite a bit of planning to insure I can find a place to sleep every night. I rather enjoy this aspect of touring, so it isn’t a burden. In fact, on my recent tour, I left a part of it unplanned and found I spent more time during the ride doing planning on the fly versus knowing where I was going the next day in advance.
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Old 06-15-18, 09:15 PM
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We've done and have enjoyed both. Go do a tour with what you've got now ... see how you like it. As you go, if you think you'd really like including camping in the mix, then start making preparations for that.



See the story of Rowan's and my last tour (probably last one for quite a while) in February here. i mention it in Post 34, then tell the story, with photos, in Posts 37 and 38.
2018 - Your Short Tours

I have fond memories now of that particular credit card tour.

.
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Old 06-15-18, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by travelinhobo
Eh, many of us don't associate with those who credit card tour. That isn't real touring. Plus, if you minimize your experience during the tour, you'll minimize the opportunities of meeting the locals, having horrible and great experiences, meeting other tourers, etc. So are you wanting to bike tour or just escape your family?
​​​​​​Are locals hanging out in self supported camping areas? In theory the ideal place to be up/close/personal/share with others would be a hostel. You can't avoid that concept there even if you wanted to.

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Old 06-15-18, 10:59 PM
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I enjoy the outdoors and camping, so vote for self-supported. If you have the gear, you can choose to camp or sleep in a hotel; eat in a restaurant or cook your own; and also visit places that may not have food/accommodations near by. Wild camping is particularly easy from a bicycle since it is efficient enough to survey good spots, yet small/light enough to carry and disappear, and for me, it happens to nicely mix civilized touring/amenities by day, and secluded wild camping by night.

Camping gear also need not be such a huge investment in money, or carry weight/bulk - my UL camping gear is an incremental ~5lbs/10L, cost me <$700, and allows me to self-supported short tour out of a single <20lb/30L pannier. I also own a Jetboil, but it's too big/heavy/single-purpose for how I prefer to travel now.

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Old 06-16-18, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by u235
​​​​​​Are locals hanging out in self supported camping areas? In theory the ideal place to be up/close/personal/share with others would be a hostel. You can't avoid that concept there even if you wanted to.
I have stayed in hostels were I hardly saw anyone else (other than in passing like any other hotel). Stayed in a private room and there was no breakfast so not much interaction with other guests.
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Old 06-16-18, 07:14 AM
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I normally haven't toured for only 2-4 days, usually 750-2500 miles at a time and try to avoid the big cities if possible.
I carry complete self sustaining equipment "just in case" but will use any reasonably priced motel or other accommodation
I chance upon at the end of each day. I've camped out in all manner of situations and terrain during my lifetime, so camping
out during tours isn't a big problem but there are reasons I will use motels if they're available.
--security--I can lock all my stuff and bike up in a room and then go out and explore about at my leisure at the end of the day.
--comfort--camping out in the areas I enjoy touring (up north) is also bug season, so it's a lot more enjoyable inside a motel
then out whacking at mosquitoes while setting up and taking down camp, never mind cooking and washing etc.
Back to what to carry. Don't expect things to go smoothly all the time so carry repair equipment including a good 1st aid kit.
Unless you make reservations, there is the chance, especially if you're touring on weekends or holidays, that all the motels
are booked up. Then again, if you have problems during your day's ride, you might not reach that reserved motel, so having
camping gear with you will save the day....just thoughts to consider...
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Old 06-16-18, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
I have stayed in hostels were I hardly saw anyone else (other than in passing like any other hotel). Stayed in a private room and there was no breakfast so not much interaction with other guests.
Sounds like a crappy B&B minus one of the B or just no one there

Me personally, I've camped, hunted, fished, in various forms since I was born. Hammock, tent, cabins, trailers, bunkhouses, in the hatch of my car etc.. When it comes to my bike trips and camping in general (2-10 days not "tours"), I can't justify the jump up to carrying cooking/preparing stuff and multiple days of food on the trip and never have (unless no chance of getting more food somewhere and I've never had that on a bike trip). I'd gladly purchase and eat a cold can of beans, sardines, veggies, and something like dry breakfast cereal right from the bag or can before I'd cook something. If I really want something resembling breakfast, dinner, I'll stop at the first dive. You are in the middle of no where in a strange place, dirty, living outside, sleeping in a tent/hammock possibly treating your own drinking water, all the greatness of the experience, is your desire for perfect oatmeal for breakfast or no hot coffee really the tipping point where you draw the line? Everyone is different, just my view.. Heck, at home I mix raw oats with peanut flour (PB2 or similar) and water and eat it.

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Old 06-16-18, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
I have stayed in hostels were I hardly saw anyone else (other than in passing like any other hotel). Stayed in a private room and there was no breakfast so not much interaction with other guests.
locals don't hang out at hostels. you're more likely to run into gap-year backpackers from your part of the world staying there...
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Old 06-16-18, 10:26 AM
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I've done both. I don't personally find sleeping in a tent everynight or if I cook my own meals to enhance the biking experience. If that is what I cared about, I'd go camping. Then again, I enjoyed the trip I did camping as well, even if setting up and taking down camp was a bit of a drag every day.

If you have the money and there are accommodations where you are going, go CC for the first time. Some people think it is cheating, but my free time is mine, not theirs, and I'm certainly not in a competition with their preferences. At the very least, trying out a CC tour for your first one is not going to cost you much more than a nice set of camping gear.

Originally Posted by spinnaker
Those that have the means to credit card tour don't associate with bums.
Beat me to it

IN any case, a big part of traveling to me is meeting people. Hard to do that if you insist on traveling self contained and stealth camping. Not that those things are a bad way to spend time alone, if that is your goal.

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Old 06-16-18, 11:03 AM
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Buy the gear ahead of time, carry it on your bike ,

vs just spend $ as you go, carry less,
and stay indoors at night, dry, clean sheets, showers,
eat in restaurants , talk to the locals.. etc...
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