Stuff About Stuff

This isn't a comprehensive list of what we've got with us......that would just take far too long!! But sometimes people ask..."what tent do you have?" "what stove do you use?" And so here's some general info about the gear we use.....and updates in italics.

Bikes & Panniers 

   We're using Trek mountain bikes (4300 Series) which we bought in Bangkok in 2010. These bikes are quite a bit more expensive in the UK but we were lucky to find Velo Thailand ( close to Khao San Road and there we met the owner, Ae. We told him we wanted to cycle from Bangkok to China and he gave us a price lower than ProBike and then more or less completely kitted us out. We were using Schwalbe Marathon XR tyres, two of which which have now done 30,000 kilometres, before finally being replaced with Schwalbe's Mondiale Plus.  A replacement Schwalbe Mondiale has worn out and we picked up some Continental Travel Contacts in Bishkek at AT Guesthouse. We've had about 7 external punctures between us (but quite a few more on the inside from rim tape damage).

We both have Ortlieb Classic roll-top panniers (see photo). These were also bought in Bangkok for our previous bike tour. When we set out we were each using an additional bag on the back rack. When we flew to Norway we put the panniers in 2 large "Chinese laundry bags" (we call them this because we bought them in China and just about everyone in China carries big loads in them). When we started cycling we used these for extra stuff like food, water-proof clothes etc but they didn't last long and have been replaced with stronger bags: one 25 ltr Sea-to-Summit dry bag for the tent and we both have tough dry bags (bought in Thailand for snorkelling) on our back racks. 

We also have Ortlieb handle-bar bags. When we cycled previously in Asia we just used cheap made-in-Thailand bar bags and these were fine. But for this trip we decided to invest in some Ortliebs as we're sure they'll be 100% water-proof. Gayle has the larger one so that the camera in its case will fit inside easily (along with snack food, waterproof gloves, passport, tissues, etc. etc.)

Our bikes at the Norway/Sweden border

The Tent

Our tent is a Hilleberg Nallo 3GT and we have the footprint too. On our last trip when we travelled for 3 and a half years from Europe to Asia and back we used a Nallo 2. We like this tent very much and it was always reliable. When planning this current trip we decided to buy a larger Hilleberg which has a good sized porch for our panniers. It seemed very extravagant to have two Hillebergs but we knew that for most of the time we're in Europe this tent will be our home so it seemed like a good investment.
The only problems so far have been: one cracked tent pole - replaced immediately by the company; and a collection of tiny holes in the fly sheet which totally mystified us.  We e-mailed the company asking about this and unfortunately got some flippant response about ants.  The standard of the response was so poor we complained to the managing director and he agreed with us, offering to repair the fly free of charge.  Unfortunately we haven't been able to take him up on the offer - as it will take about 3 weeks to repair, with postage - so covered the holes with McNett tape.
In Mongolia two of the zippers stopped working properly.  Our friend Gabor gave us two spare to replace them and the zips felt good as new.  But after one tooth began to break on the outer zipper we again contacted the company who offered to send us an entire replacement zipper.  Their distributor in Japan will repair the tent when we get to Tokyo, for a fee.
Hilleberg recommend their "Black Label" range of tents for long-distance touring for more durability. 

The Hilleberg Nallo 3GT, wild camping in northern Norway


the Primus Omnifuel burns everything but the toast
For cooking we're using a Primus Omnifuel stove with a 1 litre fuel bottle. We've always used this stove on our travels and we're very happy with it.  We always recommend it to people about to set off on an adventure.  The build is robust, the design good. The only problem has been when very dirty fuel clogged up the fuel filters.  Over three years we have used it almost daily.  The stove is also easy to maintain. 
We have also had excellent customer service from Primus in answering questions and also rescuing us when our pump was confiscated at an airport. 

Dinner preparation!

For this trip we bought an MSR cookset called the "Quick 2 System" - you get different sized pots, 2 bowls/plates and 2 cups with lids. We also bought an MSR skillet for pancakes, fried eggs etc.  The skillet was a waste of money - in Russia we bought a standard non-stick fryer with a removable handle and it is far better, if a little heavier.  So far the biggest failure has been the rubber insulation on the mugs shrinking away.  MSR have replaced them twice without question after we asked about them.

Sleeping & Clothes

Packing chaos before we left....
We both have down sleeping bags made by Mountain Equipment which are good to about minus 8 degrees. So far we've never been cold in these bags. We have silk sleeping bag liners too. We sleep on three-quarter length Thermarests (Pro-lite Short) and use our down jackets plus fleeces for pillows. We have the usual cycling shorts (2 pairs each), windproof jackets, waterproofs, fleeces etc but for this trip we also invested in some merino wool clothes. We bought Icebreaker after searching for sales etc on the internet. They've kept us warm so far and don't need washing very often.
The biggest failure so far has been with our Thermarests: delamination has occurred where a bubble forms. The mattresses have a limited lifetime warranty and the company have replaced three mats for us in just over a year.  Excellent good customer service - if only the mats didn't fail so often.  it is recommended to wash them regularly.

The Icebreaker merino wool t-shirts haven't lasted - holes appear inexplicably.  Decathlon's cheap merino t-shirts have been better value. 


don't leave home without one


We have some things with us that we could possibly live without.......not sure if that makes them luxuries...and maybe they'll get ditched along the way???
A 10 litre Ortlieb shower and an Ortlieb sink....we've used the sink more than the shower so now we've sent the shower home.
A selection of books and maps. We've never used a GPS and are quite happy using maps only. In Italy we invested in second-hand Sony e-readers for fiction.
A small Netbook with long battery life (ASUS, Eee Seashell series) - seems a bit old fashioned these days
A 1 litre flask with 2 cups for hot drinks on chilly days - priceless
A stretchy elastic washing line and a few pegs, but really we can't beat the old piece of nylon string given to us by a friendly German on a campsite in Hungary in 2007.
Our MSR water filter feels like a luxury because we have yet to use it.  We are not sure now whether we ever will....... (we sent it home and only missed it three or four times in Central Asia)

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