(Bike build can be found here)
From freezing snowy mountains to hot arid deserts, cycling the entire length of the Americas involves a number of different climatic conditions. Trying to be fully prepared yet at the same time travel as lightweight as possible can pose some significant challenges. Like most people travelling on a bicycle, I have no desire to carry extra gear unnecessarily.
After cycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the need for winter gear greatly diminished; my route into Mexico followed Baja California, the coast of Mexico and then through Central America (route here). After reaching Colombia, I realised that the only times when I had any sort of inclination to wear gloves or my goose down jacket were at places like the top of Tajamulco (the highest peak in Central America). The thing is, one can always find a way to get by in these situations if there are few enough of them; borrow an extra jacket or wear a pair socks on your hands, for example, or just put up with the temporary hardship. This is how I tend judge whether or not something is worth carrying. If it doesn’t significantly add to my enjoyment / happiness level and I’m not using it regularly and it isn’t essential for survival then I have to seriously wonder whether it’s worth lugging up and down the hundreds of vertical kilometres that a route may entail. Perhaps the question one should ask oneself is ‘can I put up with the hardship of not having it for those few times that it’s actually useful?’. Or, ‘will it really make that much difference to my overall happiness on this trip?’.
For someone planning a similar route to me it may be prudent to consider posting their winter gear from the border of Mexico to Colombia, where it will once again be needed for the potentially freezing conditions in the Andes. This would avoid carrying it needlessly through Mexico and Central America for a few months. However, I’m less familiar with the mountains through the centre of Mexico; perhaps winter gear is necessary on some of the higher routes. Anyway, in order of my ‘perceived’ importance, here’s my list:
- SPOT beacon (AAA x 3 – Lith) – latest version (I have an earlier one). Light and small; I find it hard to find a good enough reason to not carry one particular if you intend to head off the main routes.
- Maps: Alpinequest – excellent navigating app for the Android. Multiple different map downloads for use offline (unlike other apps), drop waypoints for future route planning (e.g. in conversation) and comprehensive route tracking; download other GPX recommended routes from the web.
(NB: Ridewithgps.com – good for working out elevation profiles. Just saw the Google Maps app for cycle routes now seems to have this?)
- First aid kit: emergency foil blankets, bandages (swabs,triangle, large dressing, band aids, hikers wool, mole skin), pain reliever (panadol, aspirin, ibuprofen), needle (gloves, tiny fold-up CPR mask)
FOOD / WATER / COOKING / FIRE
- 10 litre MSR Dromedary Hydration Bag; bike bottle
- SteriPEN Water Purifier – clear water only (use a t-shirt or bandanna to extract sediment/debris) – versions with rechargeable options also exist (a bit heavier but the CR123 batteries can be quite expensive)
- Purification tablets (30+ x 1l each pill for emergency/desperate use only)
- FIRE: lighters (x2) or flint
- Clikstand T-2 Titanium with Trangia Burner – just acquired thanks to Cass’s review. Previously used a beer can stove (very light but probably less efficient; this is how you make it, thanks Tom Allen or compare all options from pedallingnowhere.com).
- Fuel: denatured alcohol.
- Cooking pot; lid/plate; wind protector (multiple layers of aluminium foil folded together)
- Snap lock bags
SHELTER / SLEEPING
- Tent (green MSR – Hubba plus footprint, there is now a newer version but my one has worked well – can be too hot in hot climates if you need the fly on. I’m 6’4″ and fit OK. Somewhat lightweight but not the absolute lightest option available. I traded slight weight gain for practicality.)
- 6’x8′ tarp (good for sitting on, temporary roof to protect from the rain or having in vestibule of tent; used a lot)
- Sleeping bag (Macpac Sanctuary 600XP (NZ brand); -4 (comfort), -11 (limit),-30(extreme)) (bit big for me, would prefer warmer, doesn’t seem to be quite enough down in this version), inner liner bag
- Sleeping mat
- Dry bag
- Waterproofs: jacket (Mountain Equipment – Goretex), trousers (cheap since not used that often), reflective vest
– Tops (polyester): 1 x bright yellow bright shirt, sleeves (to stop sunburn), cycling gloves
– football / trackie shorts (light poly, use for swimming, cycling, running); 2 x underwear (poly (dries quicker), not padded)
– 3 pairs cycle socks (wool, smells less)
- Day casual: shorts/trousers, 1x black collared t-shirt, 1 x t-shirt (poly), 1 x merino underwear, Fleece (polyester, a bit bulky(merino wool version could be better? although expensive) – use this a lot, stuff it with clothes for a pillow).
- Night: Merino top, Merino leggings, beanie
- Additional warmth (below freezing): Virtuoso goose down jacket from Outdoor Research, warm gloves.
- Salewa Firetail – Goretex, grippy sole, reasonably lightweight, quite a thick sole. Can be used for cycling, running and hiking. Flat pedal use, yet to be fully tested on a long tour. I have the older version, this is the newer version which is bit different. Another option could be the Salewa Wildfires. Or try these Fiveten Aescents.
- Head torch
- Toiletries bag: Toothbrush / toothpaste, soap, dental floss, ear buds, head shaver (wahl: lightweight battery beard trimmer – cheap, lasted well)
- Contact lenses (monthly); 120 ml solution
- Glasses + case
- Sun cream, sunglasses (+ case)
- Toilet paper
- Insect repellent (only carry in malaria areas)
- Washing powder (or soap): in small bottle, wash cycle clothes daily
- Bear Mace – I had to use this and I can safely say that it worked very well in my situation. Here’s my ‘bear’ experience.
- Log Book, pen
REQUIRE RE-CHARGING (USB)