Sunday, September 09, 2007

2007 TOUR: Gear...what worked and what didn't...

I thought it might be helpful to other novice tourists who are in the gear gathering stage to see what worked and what didn't work on our tour.

REI Quarterdome 3 UL
This was perhaps one of our most expensive purchases, but considering that we camped about 95% of the time, it was money well spent. We practiced setting up and taking it down in our livingroom before we left (always a good idea). The two doors were nice because we would get up at different times to use the restroom and didn't have to step all over the other person. Also, the rainfly provided an ample vestibule for our panniers, shoes, etc., One nice small feature are the mesh pockets in the corners of the tent that are perfect for putting your glasses, contact case, or the compression sacks for your sleeping bag, etc.,

REI Sleeping Pad
You know you're serious about camping when you get a sleeping pad :) Laura purchased the women's version and I purchased the men's. Given another chance I would have purchased the women's version as well, since it seems to have more cushion. We were debating vs. the 3/4 or the full and decided to go with the full. It didn't weigh/cost a whole lot more and you could really stretch out on it.

GSI Enamel Cup
I loathe this thing. I was kicking myself half the time for bringing it. It worked to store liquids but if those liquids were hot, you had better have fingers and lips made of asbestos. I bought it to drink my coffee, but it was damn near impossible to hold it. I would have to tear a little piece of paper and wrap the handle to hold it. It sucks.

JANND Expedition Rack and Front Extreme rack
During my research, these racks were always mentioned. They are indeed robust but are also pretty darn heavy. After I put the front rack on my bike, the thing steered like a pregnant pig, which is to say, not very well. They did do their job and carried all our stuff. I do have some points of criticism. The attachment hardware is pretty uninspired compared to the hardware of the Surly Nice Racks, which came with a ton of hardware so you could really dial in the fit of the rack. Also, the welds on the rear rack are in the most inopportune places. I couldn't position my panniers (Ortlieb) exactly where I wanted it because the mounting clips couldn't wrap around the welds.

Dynamo Wheel with Shimano DH-3N70 hub
I built this wheel specifically for the tour. I didn't want to worry about running out of batteries or not being able to see in the dark. The wheel is heavy. I estimate around 3 lbs. During the tour we never really rode when it was dark, so I was more or less riding around with 3 extra pounds just for kicks. I think if we were touring during the winter or did more night riding it would have made sense, but since we were riding in the middle of summer with the long days it really wasn't necessary. I would have fared equally as well with a regular clip on front light.

Cargo Net
This thing is awesome. Both Laura and I used it to attach our sleeping bags to the rack. But more importantly, we used it to dry our clothes. At one point I had a shirt, cycling shorts, cap, gloves and socks tuck underneath the mesh while I rode to dry them out. They also let you expand your carrying capacity. On our trip we would pick up loaves of bread along the way and tuck it under the mesh instead of putting it in our pannier.

Trangia Stove
This is the little stove that could! This stove is so simple to use. There are no moving parts, nothing to snap off or lose in the middle of the night. All you do is unscrew the top and drop a match in the middle. Bam! Instant burner. We used these every morning to make coffee and during the evenings to make hot coco. We also used it to make rice, corned beef and hash and pasta. Laura brought her MSR Whisper Lite but we only used it when we couldn't find fuel for the Trangia. The Whisper Lite took a little longer to set up and had the added bulk of the fuel canisters. During our trip I simply bought HEET, an inline anti-freeze (can be purchased at any hardware store or automotive store) to use as fuel. My only complaint is that it did go through fuel a bit quickly, but usually finding more wasn't a problem.

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