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Keeping the touring load manageable

Old 11-27-12, 10:58 AM
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Keeping the touring load manageable

What have you done to keep your touring load to a reasonable size and weight? If you have any good tricks, tips or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
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Old 11-27-12, 11:22 AM
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1) Please define "reasonable."

2) Please describe the tours you're considering. Credit card tour? Tarmac + camping? Off-road?

3) How much touring have you done so far?

Last edited by Bacciagalupe; 11-27-12 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 11-27-12, 11:31 AM
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The only trick is to take less stuff.
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Old 11-27-12, 11:35 AM
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lightweight tent, smaller lighter sleepingmat, easy on the cooking gear,easy on the amount of cloths.
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Old 11-27-12, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
What have you done to keep your touring load to a reasonable size and weight? If you have any good tricks, tips or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
This has been a problem every time we've toured. We still take too much. Clothing and food are the areas we need to work on. We keep forgetting that there are grocery stores along the way, and did I really need that pair of dockers?
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Old 11-27-12, 12:03 PM
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Yeah. Make a list on a spreadsheet. Having weighed everything, put in a formula to sum the weights column. Save it.

Now eliminate everything you haven't used on a previous trip. If this is your first trip, that's going to be harder. Instead, eliminate everything that isn't on someone else's list. It's not like you're going to the moon.

Now look for the low hanging fruit. What's heavy? What could easily be made lighter? What could expensively be made lighter? Make some decisions. If money is not an issue, spend it!

For the size issue, put everything made of fabric in compression sacks. Don't forget to add the weight of the sacks.
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Old 11-27-12, 12:10 PM
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Weigh every item you are carrying and list them in spreadsheet. Go over the list and eliminate as much as you can especially noting heavier items.

It's best not to carry anything that you "think you might need". Only carry things you know you need. If your not sure you're best off leaving it at home. Second best option is to mail it home after a few days into your tour and you haven't used or really needed it.

edit: just saw Carbon wrote the same thing about spreadsheets. +1 on his post. Do it --> it works.

Last edited by BigAura; 11-27-12 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 11-27-12, 12:10 PM
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2 panniers
Map case with pouch instead of 1.5lb handlebar bag
no fenders
down quilt instead of sleeping bag
Click Stand instead of kickstand.
Lightweight running trainers instead of cycling shoes, cleats, and second set of off-bike shoes.
Minimal clothing
Lighter tires
On a long tour have some consumables (e.g., daily disposable contacts, maps) and cold weather gear mailed to me at halfway point or when needed.
iPad or iPad mini instead of laptop.
Audiobooks or ebooks instead of physical books.
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Old 11-27-12, 12:43 PM
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The reason I posted the question is because of a picture I saw the other day. It was my bike, as I had it loaded for a one-week self-supported tour around 2004. The load is bulkier than what I carry today and also a little heavier. Some of the changes come because of gear swaps I've made and others come because of minor changes I've made in the packing list. For every trip, I re-evaluate the gear load to determine what I need and what I can leave behind.

Almost all my tours are one or two weeks long, with camping along the way, and the load seldom changes. The heaviest I've carried was in the Arctic where I needed to pack food for several days and clothing for a potentially wide range of temperatures. That trip is the last time I used a front rack on my bike. Otherwise, two rear panniers and a handlebar bag will do quite nicely.

Other changes:

• The camera I use now is a lot smaller than what I took a few years ago. That saves weight and bulk.
• I carry less clothing than I did in the past, although I also make it a point to carry full rain gear and cold-weather clothing, just in case I'm caught in rough weather.
• I use recessed cleats, so the shoes I wear for cycling are the shoes I wear when I'm in off the bike.
• I used to carry a paperback or two, but I've stopped doing that. However, I still carry a couple of small notebooks on every trip.
• In the last couple of years, I've switched to lighter and smaller cookware. I also tend to carry less food with me, since I can almost always get supplies in a town before I stop for the night.
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Old 11-27-12, 12:49 PM
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try to get shelter to about a kilo or less.

really think about clothing choices. I've taken to carrying the whispiest of nylon pants as long pants. I did a tour where I eliminated any warm layers for the lower half except thin leg warmers and jogging shorts under a nylon shell. Marmot Driclime windshirt are wildly effective as a mid/wind layer, and packs up very small for its warmth. Driclime, a shell and a down vest is very efficient space/weight wise.
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Old 11-27-12, 12:57 PM
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Don't take tools you will moslt likely never use. E.g., what are the odds you will need cone wrenches?

Don't take spares of items that will likely not fail or that you can live without even if they do. I remember a BF poster's gear list that contained, among other things, a backup flashlight.

Related...Like food, batteries and the like can usually be bought along the way when/if needed, so don't bring extras.

Clothes can vary signficantly in bulk and weight. Let's assume you need long pants for climate or cultural reasons. Leave the heavy, bulky Dockers or denim at home and instead carry light "conversion pants" that double as shorts. And take one pair, not multpile pairs. Also choose any off-bike footware with weight and bulk in mind.
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Old 11-27-12, 01:03 PM
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Limit the volume of you bags/panniers.

Use only 2x panniers and a handleba rbag.

Biggest weight savings come from your bike, bags/racks, tent, sleeping bag, pad and cooking equipment. Don't take too many clothes and never more than 2 of an item. So you can wear one shirt and have another in your bags, there's no need to have a third one.
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Old 11-27-12, 02:37 PM
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When I toured in the west I could pretty much count on no rain so I only carried a poncho for a ground cloth and found shelter if there was rain. Using small panniers and only one set helps. After my first bike trip where I had to relocate because me and my cook fire(dummy learning experience) made me not so stealthy I preferred to make picnic dinners and confine cooking to designated campsites where sounds and smells of camping are expected. If there's no rain and no bugs not putting up a tent keeps ones visibility low.
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Old 11-27-12, 02:54 PM
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I wrote an article about taking less weight on tour.

Here are my 8 suggestions:

Lose weight before touring (10 pounds on you is the same as 10 pounds of gear)

Don't ride on heavy tires.

Carry things with multiple uses.

Don't carry toiletries in heavy containers.

Clothes add up.

Let the post office carry it for you.

Don't carry more water than you truly need.

Don't carry heavy food.
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Old 11-27-12, 03:03 PM
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It depends on how you plan to tour, what you currently carry, and how light you want to go.

Basically carry only what you need. You really need surprisingly little. Weigh and think about each item. Buy consumables in small quantities and only as you need them.

My ultralight article has some tips that may be applicable even if you merely want to reduce the load a bit.

I have gone pretty light (base gear total not including food and water 10 pounds) and have not found it to not be uncomfortable at all. I actually find the lack of stuff and the simple style to be a plus and the lighter bike to be a joy to ride.
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Old 11-27-12, 03:15 PM
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One area where I've added weight in the last couple of years is with my tires. I now use Armadillo tires because of their strength and durability. I've also moved from 28 mm to 32 mm and now 38 mm because I've ridden and toured on some loose surface roads and trails.

The other area where I've added is carrying a computer. Before 2008, I didn't travel with a netbook computer. Now it goes with me on each trip.
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Old 11-27-12, 04:09 PM
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All good tips above.

A few other tips I learned in the long distance hiking world are:

1) You should be able to wear all your clothing at the same time. Everything should work together as layers. This will reduce your clothing bulk quite a bit.

2) Decide whether you are going on a camping trip or a cycling trip and pack accordingly. When I finally figured out I enjoy cycling more than camping, I stopped carrying heavy camping gear and the cycling got much more fun.

As a subset of the above, consider going stoveless, though that's definitely not for everyone. My "kitchen" used to take up an entire front pannier. My travels improved when I left my stove at home.

I have successfully resisted the urge to carry electronics and am happy with that. I enjoy library visits for internet use and journaling. I carry a few sheets of paper with crosswords and Sudoku puzzles instead of a book. Again, I spend little time "camping"--if I'm not cycling or being a tourist, I'm sleeping.

Good luck with your quest.
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Old 11-27-12, 05:02 PM
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I find the best ideas to lighten my load come to me when I am about halfway up a long mountain grade.
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Old 11-27-12, 05:03 PM
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One good trick to managing your load is to get into shape before the tour. The load will feel a lot lighter.
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Old 11-27-12, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus

As a subset of the above, consider going stoveless, though that's definitely not for everyone. My "kitchen" used to take up an entire front pannier. My travels improved when I left my stove at home.
.
I liked making picnic dinner meals from what I bought at the end of the day and could start the next day. Eliminating water for doing dishes gave me water to drink. One fresh lemon can make canned food taste better.
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Old 11-27-12, 06:45 PM
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Checklists.

Looking at what I am actually using and mailing stuff home (as well as updating the checklist).

I know I do better when I have a defined checklist than when I leave my bike sitting for a few days while I contemplate adding more stuff to the load. I also know that I sometimes bring stuff I don't use. If I don't use a spare inner tube, I'll probably still bring one next time. However, I do try to adjust the checklist based on what I use. I've also stopped a week or two into a long trip and then mailed stuff home.
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Old 11-27-12, 07:23 PM
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Checklist

I make notes on mine of what was used and not used on each trip. I don't go quite as light as staehpj1 has, and may never make it to that level. But I have gotten the load a lot lighter over the years. Some of it by using newer lighter products versus the old faithfuls.

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Old 11-27-12, 07:32 PM
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As much as possible, I aim to keep the weight of the stuff I'm carrying down to half my body weight. I've mentioned this very rough "fomula" here before, and it seems to work for me. When the weight of the bicycle, my panniers, and everything I'm carrying goes above half my body weight, I struggle. I can still ride, but it's quite an effort.

One of the things I do to keep the weight of my stuff down is to use only 2 panniers. I see people with 4 panniers, and I'm not sure what I would put in 2 additional panniers.

I also know that in many instances I can buy what I need along the way. I don't have to start the ride with a full set of clothing for every occasion, I can buy a sweatshirt or wicking T-shirt or whatever as I need them.
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Old 11-27-12, 11:01 PM
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Proposed Additive process rather than Subtractive: Start with nothing but the clothes you ride in. Buy only what you absolutely need as you need it. Bring a credit card and cash. Start on a warm, dry day with a real short ride.
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Old 11-28-12, 12:24 AM
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too much emphasis on lists and spreadsheets and weights.......those are all great,
but try it the old-fangled way.

unless i missed something here............nobody said "why not pack all your crap
into your panniers, load up your bike, and go for a spin."

how does your bike handle on a smooth surface, on a rough road, up and down
hills? how's it feel after 3 hours? maybe try an overnighter?

while still loaded.......can you pick up your bike? can you carry it up a flight of
stairs? three flights of stairs? how much trouble is it to lift all your stuff over
a 3- or 4-foot fence? or cross a drainage ditch?

if traveling by air, can you fit everything into one box, one checked bag, and a carry
on? how bulky is everything? will it all fit on one luggage cart?
[*with bike box horizontal, cart won't fit into most airport elevators*]

now ask yourself:

do i NEED 6 spare tubes?
do i need that short-wave radio?
do i need that laptop computer?
do i need that 250mm zoom lens?
do i need 4 pairs of cycling socks?
do i need...............
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