stuff-1280
Packing for a three-week bike tour in western Europe is straightforward for us. We know our bikes, we know what we need to bring, we know the climate, we know the roads will be decent, and we know how to muddle through if anything fails or disappears along the way.

Packing for a 22-month trawl around a largely unfamiliar continent is a more daunting prospect. Once we’d settled on the Americas, we started to consider how to prepare, which in our case meant figuring out what we should take with us. Before we left, we spent much more time thinking about what to carry than we did on where to go. Kit lists on other cyclists’ websites were hugely useful, helping us determine what we needed to take and flagging the advantages and shortcomings of different models and brands.

In our experience, gear lists like this one are the first pages visited by other touring cyclists and unspeakably tedious for everyone else. So, with apologies to those of you in the latter category…

(Note: This is more or less what we were carrying when we rode into London in May 2015; all the stuff we lost or ditched along the way is listed towards the bottom. Everything we bought en route is marked with a [+] sign. Everything bike-related can be found at this link.)

 


 

Camping & cooking

Tent Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3, plus optional footprint & wall gear loft
Sleeping bags old Rab down sleeping bag (Ruth), Alpkit Pipedream 400 (Will), Jag Bag endura silk sleeping bag liners x 2
Sleeping mats Therm-a-Rest ProLites x 2, Therm-a-Rest universal repair kit
Pillows Therm-a-Rest NeoAir (Ruth), Exped Air (Will)

Water bladder MSR DromLite 6l
Water purifier Steripen Ultra

Stove MSR WhisperLite Universal, 1-2 cans of gas
Fuel bottle MSR (887ml) 
Lighter Light My Fire Swedish Firesteel 2.0 Scout
Pans & plates MSR Quick 2 system (minus mugs)
Cooking implements MSR Alpine kitchen set
Cutlery Sea to Summit AlphaLight spork & knife set x 2
Coffee strainer [+] GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip
Containers Coghlans Contain-Alls

 


 

Technology

Navigation Garmin Edge 800
Music Apple iPod Classic 160GB, [+] Case Logic TBC-401 case, [+] Panasonic RP-HJE120K earphones (Ruth), [+] Panasonic RP-HJE290 earphones (Will), X-mini II speaker
Recorder Olympus WS-311M recorderME51S microphone
Camera Panasonic DMC-TZ40, Lowepro Apex 20 AW case
Phone [+] Samsung GT-E1205L (Will), [+] Huawei Ascend Y330 (Ruth)
Tablets Google Nexus 7 32GB (Ruth), [+] Lenovo A8-50 (Will), Mobile Fun case
E-readers Nook Simple Touch GlowLight x 2, Nook neoprene case

Dynamo USB charger PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable
Connections plug adaptors, charging cables, micro USB OTG cable, flash drive, batteries

 


 

Clothes (Ruth)

Bikewear

Jerseys [+] Safetti Espíritu Santo Colombia, [+] Safetti Espíritu Santo long-sleeved
Shorts [+] Condor Italia, [+] Specialized Vita
Socks [+] Suarez, [+] Mavic Infinity
Shoes [+] Mavic Cruize
Caps Swrve
Helmet [+] Scott Spunto
Gloves [+] Specialized Body Geometry Gel
Arm protection [+] Hi Cool sleeves
Glasses Optilabs, Bike Peddler Take-a-Look mirror (original)

Cold- and wet-weather bikewear

Winter jersey Specialized Activate
Base layers Howie’s long-sleeved, [+] Chapeau sleeveless, [+] Tatoo lightweight
Jackets Endura Pakajak, [+] Marmot Super Mica
Overtrousers Gore Path
Socks SealSkinz thin ankle-length
Overshoes [+] Lizard Skins Dry-Fiant
Hats Endura Baa Baa Merino SkullcapRegatta X-Ert
Buff [+] unbranded buff from Salta
Winter gloves Altura Night Vision EvoDecathlon B’Twin silk glove liners

Off-bikewear

Tops Ayacucho singlet, Kathmandu singlet, Whistles smart top, [+] Mountain Gear Limarí shirt, [+] Marmot Kayla hoodie
Fleece [+] Columbia fleece
Trousers/shorts [+] Marmot Lobos, [+] Kalenji Essential 3/4 Trousers, [+] second-hand jeans from Medellín
Skirt Abercrombie & Fitch
Swimwear Marks & Spencer
Underwear yes
Shoes [+] Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Fancy Ox trainers

 


 

Clothes (Will)

Bikewear

Jerseys Rapha Country, [+] Specialized Solid
Shorts [+] Exustar E-CS20, [+] Funkier S210-B7
Overshorts Endura Hummvee 3/4 [minus liner]
Socks [+] Nike Performance Cushioned, [+] Icebreaker Multisport Ultra Lite Micro, [+] Mellow Johnny’s SockGuy
Shoes [+] Specialized BG Tahoe Sport
Caps [+] Mavic Roadie, [+] Mellow Johnny’s Classic
Helmet Catlike Kompact Pro
Gloves [+] Specialized Body Geometry Gel
Arm protection [+] Hi Cool sleeves
Glasses Optilabs Serengeti (prescription), CroakiesBike Peddler Take-a-Look mirror (compact)

Cold- and wet-weather bikewear

Winter jersey Rapha Winter
Base layer Rapha long-sleeved
Gilet Gore Path Windstopper Active Shell
Jackets [+] Marmot Aegis, [+] Cannondale/Jump Colombia lightweight windproof
Longs Craft Active Thermal tights
Overtrousers Endura Superlight
Socks SealSkinz mid-weight & mid-length
Overshoes Gore Windstopper
Buff [+] Merino
Hat Rapha merino
Winter gloves SealSkinz Thermal PerformanceDecathlon B’Twin silk glove liners

Off-bikewear

Shirts Rapha long-sleeved merino poloMarmot Dexter, [+] Levi’s Stock Workshirt
T-shirts Craghoppers NosiLife, [+] Ser Urbano Lucha Libre
Trousers [+] Marmot Cruz, [+] belt from San Juan Chamula in Mexico
Swimwear Adidas Infinitex Essentials
Underwear yes
Shoes [+] Nike Capri II trainers
Down jacket Alpkit Filo
Hat [+] Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero
Glasses Boots Woodcock (prescription)

 


 

Health & hygiene

Soap Dove
Shampoo
Toothpaste, toothbrushes x 2
Comb
Nail clippers
Sunscreen
Earplugs Mack’s

Ibuprofen & paracetamol
Nytol
Plasters & blister plasters
Tubular support bandage
Wound cleansing gel, wipes & pads
(including hydrocolloid)
Steristrips
Antibiotic skin cream
Antibiotics & dental antibiotics
(one course of each)
Anthisan bite & sting cream
Concentrated antiseptic liquid
Antibacterial cleansing wipes
Acyclovir
Lamisil Once
Acupressure travel sickness bands

 


 

Everything else

Key stuff passports, UK driving licences, vaccination records, travel insurance documentation, bank cards

Mandolin [+] Breedlove Crossover OF (2013)

Compasses Silva Ranger (Ruth), Silva Field (Will)
Non-bike tools Leatherman Wave, Leatherman Micra, small adjustable spanner
Headtorches Petzl Tikka XP2 (Will), [+] Black Diamond Spot (Ruth)
Towels Lifeventure soft fibre trek towels x 2 (extra large)

Backpacks Exped Cloudburst 25l & 15l
Security purse Craghoppers Travel Wallet
Dry bags Alpkit Airlok & Airlok Xtra, Exped FoldLifeventureSea to Summit, various sizes
Luggage straps bungees, Sea to Summit Accessory Straps x 4
Ziplock bags, plastic wallets various sizes

Tape [+] duct tape
Cable ties, carabiner clips, safety pins, Velcro fixings various sizes
Needle & thread
Travel washing line
Multi-sink plug Lifeventure

Playing cards [+] cheap 52-card deck
Business cards 200, from Moo
Notebook Alwych A618/80
Pens various

 


 

Gone but not forgotten

Like most touring cyclists, we’ve modified our kit list as we’ve travelled, mostly by paring it back. Here’s what we’ve lost, ditched or sent home along the way.

Camping & cooking

Tarp Terra Nova Competition 2 [barely used & sent home], plus pegs, poleguyline [discarded]
Chair attachments Therm-a-Rest Compack 20 x 2 [unused & discarded]
Camping trowel Coghlans Backpackers Trowel [discarded]

Water MSR Dromlite shower attachment [unused & sent home]
Water filter Steripen FitsAll [barely used & sent home]
Stove spares MSR Whisperlite expedition service kit [unused/unnecessary & sent home]
Fuel bottle MSR (590ml) [unused & discarded]
Coffee maker AeroPressAble fine disk filter [discarded as a bulky luxury]

Technology

Dog deterrent Maplin Ultrasonic Dog Chaser [useless & discarded]
Headphones/earphones Sennheiser CX 300-II x 2 [both broken], [+] Sony MDR-EX10LP [lost], [+] Panasonic SE-CL711 [broken], [+] Panasonic RP-HJE120K [accidentally severed by a bicycle wheel], [+] JBL In-Ear Vibe [broken], [+] Panasonic RP-HJE125 earphones [lost]
Phone Samsung GT-i8160 [lost], Apple iPhone 4 [broken]
Tablet Google Nexus 7 32GB [broken]

Clothes (Ruth)

Cycle jerseys Vulpine Alpine [uncomfortable & discarded], [+] Louis Garneau Jr Mistral [ill-fitting & discarded] [+] Adidas ClimaLite T-shirt, Specialized vintage [both worn out & discarded]
Cycle shorts Endura Hummvee 3/4 [overpacked & discarded], extra Endura 6-panel liner [uncomfortable & discarded], Endura Hummvee Lite 3/4 [worn out], Condor Italia [worn out, discarded & replaced with another pair], [+] Vairo [uncomfortable & discarded]
Cycle socks Decathlon B’Twin, Condor Cycles [both worn out], [+] Specialized , [+] unknown brand [both lost]
Cycle shoes Mavic Cruize [worn out, discarded & replaced with another pair]
Overshoes Gore Windstopper [worn out & discarded]
Hat [+] Gorras Siter summer cap [discarded]
Helmet Louis Garneau Sharp [damaged]
Cycle gloves Louis Garneau 1 Calory [lost], [+] Mazzi [worn out], [+] Specialized Body Geometry Gel [lost], [+] Serfas Zen Short-Finger [worn out & discarded]
Base layers Rapha sleeveless [unused & sent home], Chapeau sleeveless [worn out, discarded & replaced with another one]
Jackets Gore Paclite Shell [faulty & sent home], [+] Decathlon B’Twin rainproof jacket [emergency purchase & since discarded]
Longs Icebreaker Everyday Leggings [overpacked & sent home]

Tops Peter Storm travel shirt [horrible & discarded], two more singlets [overpacked & discarded], [+] Cyco T-shirt [bought en route & sent home], Gap shirt, [+] about three or four others [discarded]
Fleece Ayacucho lightweight fleece [worn out & discarded]
Trousers/shorts North Face Horizon Falls [unsuitable & discarded]
Longs Polartec leggings [worn out & discarded]
Dress [+] summer dress from Chilecito [unworn & discarded]
Skirts Craghoppers NosiLife, Benetton denim skirt [both overpacked & discarded]
Buff standard x 2 [both lost in the laundry]
Down jacket Alpkit Filo [no longer needed, we hope, & sold to Johanne in Huaraz]
Sandals Keen Whisper [worn out & discarded]

Clothes (Will)

Cycle jerseys Rapha Lightweight [worn out & discarded], [+] The Cat on a Bike reflective, [+] Safetti Espíritu Santo Colombia [both bought en route & sent home]
Cycle shorts extra Endura 8-panel liner, [+] Coach Argentina [both worn out]
Cycle socks Condor Cycles, Rapha x 2, [+] Castelli Rosso Corsa 6, [+] Giant Coolmax [all worn out], [+] BBB Technofeet [lost]
Shoes Specialized BG Tahoe Sport & Shimano MT-42NV [worn out]
Hats Cycling Club Hackney cap [worn out], Swrve cap, SealSkinz Belgian-Style Cap [both unused & sent home]
Buff Reflective [lost]
Gloves Specialized Body Geometry Sport [worn out], Specialized Body Geometry Comp [too small & discarded]
Base layer Rapha sleeveless [unused & sent home]
Cycle jacket Gore Path [faulty & discarded]
Gaiters Trekmates MountainXT Pioneer [unused & sent home]

Tops [+] Santos FC [bought en route & sent home], T-shirt [overpacked & discarded], Craghoppers NosiLife [time for a change, discarded], [+] Adidas Response long-sleeved [worn out & discarded]
Trousers/shorts North Face Meridian [irreparably torn & discarded], Swrve Herringbone 3/4 [worn ragged]
Sandals Keen Arroyo II [worn out & discarded]

Health & hygiene

Soap Dr Bronner’s Baby Mild Liquid Soap [greasily unpleasant & discarded]
Chamois cream Chapeau Original [unpleasant & discarded]
Clothes wash Dylon Travel Wash x 2 (75ml) [ran out & much missed]

Everything else

Headtorch Petzl Tikka Plus [failed & discarded]
Mosquito net Lifesystems MicroNet Double [unused in 16 months, discarded]
Luggage Randi Jo Fabrications Multi-Use Tote, Randi Jo Fabrications Bartender Bag [both sent home], [+] The Cat on a Bike lightweight bag [bought en route & sent home]

Guidebooks Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring, Time Out Rio de Janeiro
Latin American books ‘A Death in Brazil’ by Peter Robb, [+] ‘A Brief History of Peru’ by Fernando Rosas, [+] ‘Open Veins of Latin America’ by Eduardo Galeano, [+] various Spanish course books, Teach Yourself Complete Brazilian Portuguese, [+] Océano Básico Diccionario: Español-Inglés [all read & discarded]
Maps [+] Michelin National Map 763: Peru, [+] Auto Mapa 11: Rutas de la Argentina, [+] Auto Mapa 14: Rutas de Chile, Marco Polo: Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay & Uruguay (foldout), MC4: Brasil 2013 Rodoviário (A5) [all used & discarded]

Playing cards Bicycle Rider Back [soaked in a storm & discarded]
Music Ruth’s childhood recorder [unused & sent home]
Rag from Mechanicsville, Iowa [worn out]

 


 

Recommended retailers

Much as we would have loved to pick up our stuff in one massive shopping spree, we ended up doing it piecemeal.

London bike shops
Bike Yard East
Brixton Cycles
Condor Cycles
London Fields Cycles
Oak Cycles

The nice folk at Brixton Cycles built and sold Ruth her Long Haul Trucker, while the equally nice Ryan at Oak Cycles built Will’s frame/forks and then, with his wife Nik, built up the bike from components Will had sourced himself. Celia at Bike Yard East is an expert wheelbuilder and mechanic who works from a small shipping container at Hackney City Farm. Condor really specialises in road bikes, but the range of components and accessories is broad and the advice is always expert. London Fields Cycles is a fine if occasionally slightly erratic local bike shop about 200 yards from our front door. The much-improved Evans is easily the best of the major chains.

Online bike shops
Chain Reaction Cycles
St John Street Cycles (aka SJS Cycles)
Wiggle

Chain Reaction and Wiggle are two of the biggest and (in our experience) best mainstream online cycle shops. St John Street Cycles are great for rare, heavy-duty and just plain strange touring components. For a handful of hard-to-find bits and pieces, we also used Bike 24 (the best prices we found for Rohloff hubs), Bike Components, Compass Bicycles, Dotbike, Merlin Cycles, Tokyo Fixed and Triton Cycles. Our prescription glasses came from Optilabs.

Outdoor shops
We found Cotswold Outdoor to be much the best of the major outdoor chains in terms of both stock and staff expertise. Online, All Outdoor, The Outdoor Shop and Sport Pursuit are all excellent.