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Gear weight decisions

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Gear weight decisions

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Old 12-29-14, 12:41 PM
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staehpj1 
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Gear weight decisions

After reading the spare cable thread I thought I'd comment on the weight issue and the associated choices.

For each gear item I ask:
  1. What is the penalty for leaving this item home? If it is not significant leave the item home.
  2. Is there a lighter choice or way to lighten this item and if so what are the downsides?
  3. Is there some item that will do this and other functions at a weight savings and if so what are the downsides?

People like to poke fun of small weight savings. The toothbrush handle comes to mind as do things like the tabs on tea bags, but why wouldn't you cut the handle off shorter if the shorter handle doesn't bother you or take the tea bag tabs off if you don't use them. Many of these little things a so small of a savings that you won't notice them individually, but when you make 20 or 30 or 100 of these decisions the difference can be significant. It all adds up. Given that we make lots and lots of little decisions small differences add up. I went from carrying 45 pounds of stuff to carrying 10-15 pounds of stuff while still maintaining the ability to camp and cook in decent comfort, in large part by paying close attention to each and every choice.

I do think that some backpackers go overboard when it comes to buying really expensive items like cuben fiber stuff. I think that bike tourists tend to be less likely to go down that road though.

I also start to lose interest in pursuing weight savings once I am down to some point that for me is probably somewhere in the 10-14 pounds of gear range.

People say things like "lose body weight", "that is less than the weight of a bottle of water", "that is a tiny percentage of total gear, bike, and body weight", and other such comments. On the body weight thing, some folks don't need to lose weight and those who do can choose to lose body weight AND gear weight. On the other comments I'll point out that I managed to lose 30-35 pounds of gear weight and the difference is amazingly significant.
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Old 12-29-14, 12:54 PM
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Well you're preaching to the choir. Of course a lot will depend on where you are touring. A trans-Siberian trip will probably require more gear/spares than a trip across the USA where a 7/11 is usually within a days ride.

I firmly believe that a gear list with weights is a good place to start. Yes I know it's really geeky and you will be called a weight weenie, but it works. It makes you consider the use of each item and where you can make weight savings. This really brought home to me the big weight savings you can get by going from a steel sport touring bike weighing 25lbs to a CF endurance bike at 19lbs. I iterate my list each year and often remove something.

One advantage of doing all this to reduce weight and number of items is that it makes camping more efficient. You can set up and pack up quickly and you aren't lugging loads of stuff around. I'm so happy that I can easily lift my bike and gear up if I ever need to get over obstacles, up stairs or use public transport.

For years I though that 50lbs for bike and gear was as low as I could go and be comfortable, now that weight is between 30 and 40lbs.

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Old 12-29-14, 02:16 PM
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The needs of backpacking and bicycling may be quite different. Although it may depend on your goals of the trip.

For a week long backpack trip, you need to carry most of your food, along with a tent, sleeping bag, fishing pole, and etc.

On my bicycling trips, I don't think I ever carried more than a day or two's worth of food. More is always available somewhere. But I wouldn't get too excited about super-light food either.

If you are cycling with a group that you know, then plan on distributing some items among the group (any way to get group interchangeable parts?). So, everyone might carry a pump and tubes, but only carry a spare tire for the whole group, and oil, grease, cone wrenches, spoke wrenches, and etc could be carried by the group not the individual.
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Old 12-29-14, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post

On my bicycling trips, I don't think I ever carried more than a day or two's worth of food. More is always available somewhere. But I wouldn't get too excited about super-light food either.
I carry a couple of days of "emergency" food that consists of Ramen, couscous, stock cubes and tea bags and I'll almost always have some salami, cheese, flatbread and cookies or trail mix in my handlebar bag. I eat in restaurants quite a bit and stop at a supermarket if one is on the way to the campsite to buy enough food for a single night. Water is usually the heaviest consumable that I carry and I'm obsessive about filling by water bottles whenever I can. If it's a hot day and water will be hard to find on my route I'll put 2L of soda in my saddlebag.

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Old 12-29-14, 02:52 PM
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imi
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Gear weight decisions

I plan and pack as minimal and lightweight as possible for the expected climate,
However, once I hit the road, buy food for a few days and fill my water bottles up, I don't give two hoots about what it weighs
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Old 12-29-14, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
But I wouldn't get too excited about super-light food either.
Nor would I, at least if by super-light you mean freeze dried meals; I don't even use those for backpacking. I too buy food daily or nearly daily on tour so I never carry much food weight on most trips.

Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
If you are cycling with a group that you know, then plan on distributing some items among the group (any way to get group interchangeable parts?). So, everyone might carry a pump and tubes, but only carry a spare tire for the whole group, and oil, grease, cone wrenches, spoke wrenches, and etc could be carried by the group not the individual.
That depends... Unless I am travelling with family I much prefer to have the option to go it alone if group dynamics don't work out. So I seldom do gear sharing unless touring with my daughter. I see a problem or two with your list of potential shared items, at least for me.

Just me, but...
I never bother with a spare tire and wouldn't carry one even with a group. Worst case I'd hitch a ride to a bike shop. I figure that is very unlikely though since in literally hundreds of thousands of miles I have always been able to patch or boot tires well enough to have never been stranded.

I do carry chain oil and have shared that. I have never carried grease. In the unlikely event that I had to redo bearings, oil would get me to the next place that I could buy grease. On the spoke wrench and cone wrenches, sharing only works if you plan to always ride together. I never bother with carrying cone wrenches, but if I did I'd probably carry my own unless with family.

When with a group where we were committed to staying together we have shared a tent, cook gear, and stuff like suntan lotion and bug dope.
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Old 12-29-14, 03:45 PM
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staehpj1, As everyone knows, saving weight is never about a single inconsequential item, but several inconsequential items. Whether an item is consequential or not is in the mind of the person doing the planning, which can be very subjective.

For my touring bikes I'm pretty comfortable with 20-25 lb. of gear. For one of my road bikes, which I want to use on a twisty route, I'd like to make it into the 10-15 lb. range. The upside is that what works for the roadie will also reduce weight on the touring bike.

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Old 12-29-14, 04:24 PM
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A gram scale was very important in my reduction process. It showed me, for instance, that my warmer, bulkier hat that I swore was heavier was actually 2 oz lighter than the small one I was going to pack. That extra pair of socks that weighs practically nothing actually weighs a quarter pound. Clothing can get heavy, and that scale really helped fine-tune the clothing.

The typical packing list has about 60 items. If you reduce each item by an average of one ounce, that's almost four pounds of nearly imperceptible weight gains.

In my experience, pack weight reduction was a sort of spiral. One big decision was eliminating three packs--two front panniers and HB bag--therefore limiting what I could carry. Not only did I reduce bulk and mass to fit my kit in the remaining rear bags, but I eliminated about eight pounds of rack and empty pack weight. When I got on the road with the revised rig, I found I could suddenly ride centuries quite easily. So I carried less food and water between resupplies. And that meant a lighter load. And that meant more easy and enjoyable miles--thus the spiral effect.
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Old 12-29-14, 05:21 PM
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The last time I did a 10 day ride, I had about a half dozen spare tires with me... and used them all.
But, that was a different era when I was still riding on sewups.

The older I get, the more self-sufficient I get.

While I might expect to acquire food and water along the way, I would not count on local bike shops being where I want them, or being open when I need them, or even carrying the spare parts that I need. As far as I can remember, I have never had a bike shop do any work on my bike, although I may have bought or bummed some tools for emergency repairs. I did manage to break my bike rack on my mega-meter trip in Italy, and found someone to weld it back together while on the road, but it wasn't a bike shop.

I did a couple of 100+ mile rides this year, and may try some longer rides next year, and will carefully consider the tools I need.

My cargo bike picked up some odd rear-end clicking as I was heading towards Mom's house before Christmas. I would have fixed it while I was there, but unfortunately she no longer has any bike-specific tools, so while she had 15 and 17mm wrenches, she lacked the cone wrenches and cluster tools. Another reason to carry a few more tools and spares with me. Ok, so I'll probably be a travelling bike shop for my next multi-day ride.
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Old 12-29-14, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
. . .

Just me, but...
I never bother with a spare tire and wouldn't carry one even with a group. Worst case I'd hitch a ride to a bike shop. I figure that is very unlikely though since in literally hundreds of thousands of miles I have always been able to patch or boot tires well enough to have never been stranded.

. . .
We all rely on experience to make choices like this. I would not do a tour without a spare tire. More than once, I've had a tire sufficiently damaged so that it was unrepairable. There's an extra 500 or so grams I need to carry, .
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Old 12-29-14, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
. . .

One big decision was eliminating three packs--two front panniers and HB bag--therefore limiting what I could carry. Not only did I reduce bulk and mass to fit my kit in the remaining rear bags, but I eliminated about eight pounds of rack and empty pack weight. . . .
In my mind, that's the big decision. Once you decide to ditch a set of bags and a rack, you save a fair amount of weight in terms of the rack and bags and you are forced to pare down what you actually do carry because you will have fewer panniers to work with.
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Old 12-29-14, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
In my mind, that's the big decision. Once you decide to ditch a set of bags and a rack, you save a fair amount of weight in terms of the rack and bags and you are forced to pare down what you actually do carry because you will have fewer panniers to work with.
I usually go the other direction. I tend to pick the gear first, then the bags it fits in, and then the bike suited to carry it all.
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Old 12-29-14, 05:51 PM
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No doubt every ounce counts. It's cumulative on a long tour. Lots of ways to knock it down, including tire weight. I've found that 28 mm 700's work just fine long as you stay pretty much on pavement, and weigh lots less than 38's. My 140 lb buddy can climb a hill faster than his 160 lbs riding partner. Double all this for long distance hiking. And so it goes.
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Old 12-29-14, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I usually go the other direction. I tend to pick the gear first, then the bags it fits in, and then the bike suited to carry it all.
Do you tour with front and rear racks and 4 plus panniers? I thought you had gone lightweight in your touring.
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Old 12-29-14, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Do you tour with front and rear racks and 4 plus panniers? I thought you had gone lightweight in your touring.
No, I take the least number and weight of bags and racks that suit the gear I pick. The gear choices come first. Then the bags.

I started out with 4 panniers in 2007 when I did the Trans America with 45-ish pounds. As I trimmed the gear list I have used a lot of different setups. When I was at 22 pounds of base gear (including bags) I used two small front panniers and just a tent on the back. At 14 pounds base gear weight (again including bags) I did the ST and used a light rear rack with two very light silnylon dry bags tied on and a handlebar bag. I have also gone with a small dry bag, a bar roll, and a small backpack each with 3-4 pounds or so in each of them. I think my lightest packing list was about 9 pounds, but I usually take a some extras so have never actually gone with less than 10 pounds.

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Old 12-29-14, 07:08 PM
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staehpj1: Sorry to ignore your template, but no one else seems to be following it, either!

I find that every bit of actual weight I save by gambling that a part won't fail adds "stress" weight to my shoulders, which slows me down even more than a few ounces or pounds would. I carry enough tubes and tools to handle just about any breakdown that can occur on my trips, which are usually only 2-3 days and not far from civilization.

The places I choose to cut back are in the toiletry and clothing department. For example, I find that the teeny-tiny toothpaste tubes that come with disposable toothbrushes (not the trial size ones in the drug store - the REALLY small ones) save a good amount of weight over larger tubes. I also opt to carry a disposable razor and shave with the hotel-provided bar soap. I've got a hairbrush without a handle that weighs next to nothing. And I save all my torn and tattered t-shirts to wear on my tours so that I can throw them away once they are soaking wet, rather than having to carry them home with all that extra weight on them.

Overall, as many riders have expressed in various threads over the years, once I get rolling, it doesn't really matter how much weight is on the bike. The pure adrenalin and joy - not my lightweight panniers - are what get me up the hills. Heck, I'm drooling to put on a set of 26" X 2.5" Maxxis Hookworm tires right now, despite everyone telling me they're really heavy suckers!
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Old 12-29-14, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
No doubt every ounce counts. It's cumulative on a long tour. Lots of ways to knock it down, including tire weight. I've found that 28 mm 700's work just fine long as you stay pretty much on pavement, and weigh lots less than 38's. My 140 lb buddy can climb a hill faster than his 160 lbs riding partner. Double all this for long distance hiking. And so it goes.
The real test comes if you ever go over a mountain pass that takes 2 hrs.
You will realize that every once does count.
Most folks can handle the mild discomfort of a few steep grades.
This is why I have 28 mm tires. it does help.
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Old 12-29-14, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
For each gear item I ask:
  1. What is the penalty for leaving this item home? If it is not significant leave the item home.
  2. Is there a lighter choice or way to lighten this item and if so what are the downsides?
  3. Is there some item that will do this and other functions at a weight savings and if so what are the downsides?
Expanding on your third question, I also ask whether the item has just one purpose and if so, can it be replaced with something which has multiple purposes.

For example, I rarely bring cycling jerseys on tours and instead I bring wicking T-shirts. Wicking T-shirts can be worn on the bicycle or off. They also don't have the weight of pockets and zippers. And I'll bring a long-sleeved merino wool top for the same reason ... it's lighter than a long-sleeved jersey and more versatile.

And instead of a soap for every purpose, I bring a small bottle of cheap shampoo. It works for dishes, laundry, and me.


In addition, I ask a fourth question ... can I buy this en route?

Shampoo is an example. I won't bring a huge bottle of shampoo because on all the tours I've done so far I have been able to buy shampoo along the way.

Same with food. I carry about a day's worth, two days max, because on all the tours I've done so far, I've never been more than 2 days away from some sort of food source. It has been tight a couple times, but so far not alarming enough to carry more than that. Although if I were going to a more remote area I would.

I've also bought clothing along the way if I felt chilly.

Unless you are going to a really remote area, you'll usually encounter shops at least once a day.
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Old 12-29-14, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
One big decision was eliminating three packs--two front panniers and HB bag--therefore limiting what I could carry. Not only did I reduce bulk and mass to fit my kit in the remaining rear bags, but I eliminated about eight pounds of rack and empty pack weight. When I got on the road with the revised rig, I found I could suddenly ride centuries quite easily.
Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
In my mind, that's the big decision. Once you decide to ditch a set of bags and a rack, you save a fair amount of weight in terms of the rack and bags and you are forced to pare down what you actually do carry because you will have fewer panniers to work with.

I had toured with a rear rack, two panniers, rack bag and handlebar bag ... and was quite comfortable with that set-up. Then in 2004, I set off on a 3-month tour of Australia and thought I needed the front rack and two more panniers. That idea lasted about 3 days. I struggled up hills with a lot of difficulty and was not enjoying myself at all.

Fortunately we stopped at an acquaintance's place where I was able to lose the two front panniers and about 10 lbs of gear. Freedom!!

Since then I've returned to the rear rack, two panniers, rack bag (my Carradice) and handlebar bag for all my tours ... including travelling for 8 months around the world. I wouldn't want to carry any more than that!! Way too difficult to get up hills ... way too difficult to manage in train stations ...


I read somewhere once, a long time ago, that if you can't lift your loaded bicycle and carry it all at least 20 or 30 steps, it's too heavy ... and either means taking up some bodybuilding to increase strength ... or lightening the load.

And personally I've discovered that I can cover a lot more ground a lot more comfortably if the bicycle + gear < half my body weight. That's just a formula that works for me.
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Old 12-29-14, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
And personally I've discovered that I can cover a lot more ground a lot more comfortably if the bicycle + gear < half my body weight. That's just a formula that works for me.
That sounds like a great formula, and I am already there with 4 smaller panniers (1500 cubic inches per pair) and a rack trunk bag. But it was hard getting up some of those hills, so some conditioning issues are in the mix also. My goal for next week is to eliminate 2 panniers and front rack for a Florida loop tour. I think I tend to carry too much food.
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Old 12-29-14, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by DeadGrandpa View Post
I think I tend to carry too much food.
What we tend to do is to stop at a grocery store at lunch.
There we pick up the fixings for a nice lunch (buns/rolls, raw veggies, cold meats, cheese, yogurt, fruit, orange juice, maybe a small cake of some sort ... it varies with where we are).

We also select something for dinner that night (maybe frozen or canned meat, a packet of pasta or rice, half-dozen eggs, a selection of fresh veg and fruit ... whatever we feel like).

We also select something for breakfast the next morning (I'm not a breakfast eater so that will vary depending on what I think I might be able to stomach before 10 am and what is available in the shop).

We also select some cycling goodies (fruit, maybe a package of cookies or a small cake).

And if necessary we top up the stuff we always carry (coffee, powdered milk, sugar, cheese, crackers, oriental noodles)

We eat our lunch, and then cycle the rest of the day carrying dinner, breakfast, snacks and the basics.


Around dinner time we arrive at our destination. If the shops are still open, we might top up what we bought for dinner. For example, if it has been a hot day, we might get some ice cream. Or maybe we'll get another yogurt.

We'll have breakfast in the morning ... and when we finish that, we're down to the basics (coffee, powdered milk, sugar, cheese, crackers, oriental noodles) which we carry till lunch, when we add dinner and breakfast. So we don't carry much weight in food for at least half the day, nor do we carry multiple days of food.


Oh, and ... we have been known to stop at fresh fruit and veg markets to pick up some snacks along the way. Or ice cream shops. Or bakeries.
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Old 12-29-14, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post

And instead of a soap for every purpose, I bring a small bottle of cheap shampoo. It works for dishes, laundry, and me.
I take this one step farther (and accept frizzie hair for the tour). The only soap I bring is Dr. Bonner's (usually peppermint). Works for: hair, as soap, for dishes, to clean bike parts and possibly most important, to wash off poison ivy and oak. And it is so strong that a couple of ounces will last a week plus easily.

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Old 12-30-14, 12:01 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I take this one step farther (and accept frizzie hair for the tour). The only soap I bring is Dr. Bonner's (usually peppermint). Works for: hair, as soap, for dishes, to clean bike parts and possibly most important, to wash off poison ivy and oak. And it is so strong that a couple of ounces will last a week plus easily.

Ben
I carry 2oz of Head and Shoulders shampoo and use it for everything. I can wash with literally a couple of drops of the stuff. Lather the hair and then use the suds to wash the rest of me. If I stay in a motel I stock up with the shampoo in the room. I have though about giving the Dr. Bonners liquid soap a try.

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Old 12-30-14, 12:03 AM
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Machka 
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I've got hip-length hair ... so I do tend to carry a bit more shampoo than that. But even so, it's still quite a small bottle ... about 100 ml (3.4 oz).

And in the interests of going a bit lighter, I usually have 6 or 8 inches of my hair cut off before a tour to bring it up to about waist length.

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Old 12-30-14, 04:26 AM
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Interesting thread. Almost exactly like twelve million threads over on Whiteblaze.net or Backpackinglight or Hammock forums. I am a long time backpacker and a developing (first long trip next month) tourer. My backpacking base weight is about 11 lbs - maybe 12.5 for winter camping in the mid-atlantic. - includes down quilt, shelter (yes, I DO use a Cuben tarp - as well as a large 10X11 or 8X10 silnylon, depending...), clothes, kitchen, personal hygiene. When I start a new backpacking section on Monday, I generally carry 6 days' food and 2 liters of water. I filter along the way. My loaded 'Monday weight' is about 21-23 lbs including backpack and 2L water. So it ain't magic.....

Anyway, in preparing for this trip coming up, I am at a little bit of a loss to try and figure out - from all the cycling pictures and discussions and all - how someone can actually fill up four 1100 ci panniers, add handlebar bags, frame bags, etc, etc, and still honestly say they need everything they packed. Is there something about cycle touring that I didn't get? I have set up my bike with rear racks and low riders, but honestly I don't think I'll need front panniers if I have a decent trunk bag and a decent handlebar bag sitting on my mini rack up front.I do plan to bring 5-6 days' food, may not need it, but it's only a few extra oz anyway - small price to pay if I get stuck in camp due to a monsoon or arctic blast rolling in. I use Harmony House food (cheap plug here), their stuff is invaluable on a long trip and I can design my own dinners with it. Also Ramen, Oatmeal, cocoa, instant coffee, etc. And I'm no hero. I know folks whose base weights are 8 lbs or so. The REAL gram weenies. Of course, some of 'em get cold at night, and some try to bum food, filter, etc from time to time......

To me, bike touring is just like backpacking or expedition kayaking (I've done that too) - your bike is just a backpack, and it is up to you to make it as weight acceptable as you need it to be while planning for contingencies and maintenance. I plan to pack as I do for any ul section hike, but with a few additions - like hand tools, tube, CO2 pump - stuff like that.

If folks are really interested, i recommend you do a search on UL backpacking and you will be educated quickly - but beware...... it ain't cheap. There are many cottage vendors, diy plans, etc to help you get to your goal. Or, if anyone wants to talk about gear lists, I'd be glad to tell you what I do to shave weight. From there, you can make your own decisions about gear. One thing for sure: whatever weight you carry, just make sure you are ready to carry it.

p.s. Lose the toothpaste, folks, and use baking soda. It is dry and light. In fact, why would you carry anything that is full of water - except water, that is....
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