Our Gear: What I took
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL4 (4 man), weighs 1.8kg. We got this in REI when we landed in Portland, as we decided our two man Terre Nova Ultralight Voyager tent was too small for a long trip. This is a palace. It was in the sale, and was fantastic value. In torrential rain, small amounts of water could splash up into the tent, getting in the gap between the fly and the inner (when the rain was literally bouncing off the ground!), but this was very rare. My only gripe with it is that it would have been nice to have 4 sets of guy lines, rather than two, because it was hard to get the fly to not touch the inner at all. It was huge, and very lightweight, and the envy of every other cyclist who realised how lightweight it was! As with any ‘man’ rating for a tent, subtract one, for a realistic value – so this would realistically sleep 3 people, (but is marketed as 4-man). So, for the two of us, it was brilliantly roomy – we had a gap between our two sleeping mats, which didn’t touch the sides. (Compare this with our other 2 man Terra Nova tent, where we have to overlap our – already very slim – sleeping mats). Hugh carried this on his rear rack, kept in a dry bag, attached with a net bungee.
The 6W Fuse Solar Panel by Voltaic, which sat on my rear rack. Hugh did a lot of research into this, and decided to go with Voltaic. I don’t think we used it enough to give a decent review, but it worked! A small section of the laminate covering melted when left stationary in very hot sun once in Oregon, but I don’t think this has affected it working. It sits in a nicely designed pouch, that attaches (with a bit of a phaff) to my rear rack, an can charge things whilst cycling, because they can sit in the pouch. In heavy rain, I would shove it in a pannier, but it occasionally got quite wet, and survived. I phoned Voltaic to ask for advice about which one to buy, and they were very helpful on the phone.
Apple iPad Mini. I bought this in Portland, Hugh bought one a week later in Eugene when he saw how much I used mine. For blogging/writing, it was great – I used an external keyboard. I got the 3G iPad, thinking that we wouldn’t have regular WiFi access, and got an American T-mobile sim for data – the T-Mobile data never worked, and I was charged for 3 months use, despite a lot of protesting from me. We regularly found WiFi (although if you were only camping in ‘free’ spots, like parks, or wild camping, and not eating in any restaurants, you would struggle), and I didn’t need to spend extra getting a 3G capable iPad.
Anker TC810 Ultra Slim Folio Bluetooth Keyboard Case (iPad case with external keyboard built in). This worked well until the fairly important ‘e’ key got squashed and stopped working. External keyboards that sit neatly with an iPad Mini are ridiculously expensive, but it was worth it because I wrote so much. When it broke, I reluctantly forked out for a Zagg Keys one from Best Buy. I ended up returning it at the end of our trip, because it kept loosing the Bluetooth connection.
Canon power shot S120 camera. I thought long and hard about bringing my SLR on the trip. Hugh was adamant that I shouldn’t – and he was right. Some cyclists we met carried one, and were loving having it, so it is obviously a personal decision, but I think I probably took more photos by having a very small camera sitting in an easily accessible handlebar bag than hoiking out a great big SLR every time I wanted to take a photo. The cyclists we met with SLRs were constantly worried about keeping it secure (an average SLR costs the same as my bike – and is far easier to go AWOL). Forgetting that compact cameras would take much smaller photos, I panicked about storage space on SD cards for no reason – I used 6GB in the whole trip!
We had our UK mobile (cell) phones with us. Hugh joined the UK Three network before we left, and amazingly, and brilliantly, he could use his call time and data from his UK package to call the UK from America. This was great, although Three generally seemed unsure of how ‘free’ this was going to be – but we never got a horrible bill. Calling an American number would have not been part of the package. I never used my phone. We just popped into local shops on the rare times that we needed to call an American number (normally the Sherrif to ask if we could camp in the park), and people were always happy to let us use their phone.
A particularly useful gadget was the Anker 40w 5 port USB charger – which is explained below under ‘rear right pannier’!
Chloe’s pannier contents
Rear left pannier- sleeping stuff
- ‘Thermarest’ style sleeping mat. Ours are actually made by Mountain Equipment, sold my Cotswolds in the UK, and are half the price of Thermarest. We have returned several over the years with little leaks, and they have been good about swapping them, even when they’re quite old, although we have heard amazing things about Thermarest delivering replacements to people in weird parts of the world, so if you’re going off the beaten track for a long time, it might be worth forking out for Thermarests.
- Sleeping bag- brought years ago very quickly in a department store in Spain, it cost €90, which is an unbelievable bargain for a down sleeping bag. It is about 7 years old, and started to leak feathers through the seams a bit, which I’m told often happens to even very high quality bags. I went over the seams with Gutermann HT2 Fabric Textile Glue, which has stopped the problem, and hasn’t gone crackly. Before leaving, and before gluing it, I hand washed the whole bag using Nikwax down cleaner in the bath, and dried it in the sun.
- Silk sleeping bag liner, which is useful it it’s too warm to sleep in a bag, and also is always used inside the bag, so the liner has regular washing, but the bag doesn’t.
- Thermarest Compressible Pillow, seemed to be the best of a bad bunch, although Hugh’s (same brand) seemed to be more puffy than mine. Washing and tumble drying restores puffiness, but crushing them up during the day quickly de-puffs them. They take up quite a lot of room, even when stuffed down, but for three months, a half passable pillow was important to us. On previous shorter trips, I’ve made a fairly good pillow from clothes and air trapped in a dry bag.
- 2x bungee nets when not being used. These were very heavy for their usefulness. After some measurement, I found that 400mm x 400mm was a better net size over my rear Tubus Locc panniers – these are harder to locate (try eBay), as the standard size is 300mm. They were really useful for strapping wet clothes to panniers with, but I think their weight may have not justified their usefulness. I found that my wet towel could be attached to a rear pannier effectively by folding it up under the two straps that close the ‘lid’. Had I needed to bungee something too big to fit into the panniers, they would have been great, but that never happened.
- Buff (a versatile tube of fabric that generally goes on your head in various ways) – we expected to wear these under our helmets when really cold, but it was never very cold. I use mine all the time as the best eye-mask in the world (fold it over four times), and would never travel without it.
- An empty old bagel plastic bag (very handy size and shape, bagel bags!) containing –
- ‘Off’ bug spray (contains DEET, everyone told us that the only thing that works is DEET).
- Green bottle of extra strength medicated Gold Bond talcum powder, in it’s own ziplock bag – this seems to be used by half of cyclists, post-ride, after washing, and dries out saddle sores. We found it really effective, and used it every night.
- Aquaphor / Eucerin healing ointment moisturiser which is basically overpriced Vaseline in a tube. It provided a thick barrier to all wind on my face, and lasted all day (albeit it with a somewhat shiny face effect!), when my face got really dry from wind and altitude. I think it would encourage your skin to burn in the sun, so I didn’t use it on sunny days. Often used it at night.
- Cheap after sun lotion, used as a general moisturiser.
- Lifeventure Travel Towel- I love mine, but it’s really old, and I think the current ones are made from less absorbent fabric.
- A pair of flip flops stored in an empty bagel bag, vital for campsite life. Surprisingly, even when I was pretty cold around camp, my feet were rarely cold.
In the front pocket of rear left pannier – easily accessible stuff
- Chamois cream. I feel I am pretty much an expert at Chamois creams now. My favourite, by a long way, is DZ Nuts, the boys version. The girls version doesn’t seem to last for as long, and needed reapplying every couple of hours. It’s harder to find, and more expensive than other brands. If you’re desperate, contact a shop further on in your route, and ask if they can order some in for you (which the lovely girls at FreeWheel and Heel did for me in West Yellowstone).
- Sun cream. The once-a-day sun creams aren’t sold in the US (Calypso is a great, cheap brand of these in the UK). We liked the convenience of the spray bottles of sunscreen sold in the US. Our favourite was the Tropical stuff sold by Family Dollar/Dollar General, which was cheap, and greasy enough to know you had covered yourself, but not too greasy.
Rear right pannier
- Spare plastic bag to take dry clothes into shower rooms at campsites
- 24 hours worth of toilet paper (literally everywhere in the west was always stocked with paper, from Kansas onwards it is worth carrying your own, but is very easy to replenish the following day with half a roll snuck out of somewhere).
- Wash bag, which included a bar of laundry detergent soap for hand washing clothes. I found that it was quicker, easier, and more effective to wash using soap rather than shower gel when using our portable shower. Lush make great soap that doubles as hair shampoo.
- Dry bag with all food- keeping food all in one place made putting it all in bear boxes easier, and I removed it from panniers if I thought an animal might chew through the panniers to reach the food. It would be easy to miss a hidden snack at the bottom of a pannier.
- Waterproofs: Gore trousers (rarely used, I took them thinking it would be bad if all my shorts got very wet, because of saddle sores, but the padded bit doesn’t really get wet in the rain.) Waterproof jacket, Endura waterproof booties, waterproof helmet cover. Neither of us ever used the helmet cover, fearing our heads would get very sweaty. The helmet cover was high-vis, and being our highest point, would make a big difference to our overall visibility in very poor conditions, but I also feel that if visibility was so low that we wanted more than our hi-vis tops and flashing lights, then we probably shouldn’t be on the road anyway. The waterproof booties were really useful, although when I got them, I was told that none of them keep you dry in bad rain. I found them impressively effective in everything except torrential rain, although Hugh’s didn’t seem as effective, despite being the same brand. Wet feet are miserable, I would highly recommend taking booties!
- ‘Charging station’ all held in a net laundry bag with
- An Anker 40w 5 port USB charger – this was one of the best clever little things we took, I’d highly recommend it to all couples or groups travelling with lots of electronics. We could charge 5 things from one socket, great for sneaky charging in restaurants etc. This Anker one was not particularly cheap, but the reviews of some of the cheap ones appear to be a fire risk, and many cheaper ones don’t handle as much power through each port as this one did.
- This one was really good, although iPods looked as if they weren’t charging – but they actually were.
- It came with a usefully long power lead (about a metre), which is very handy because a lot of power sockets that we used were not at floor level. In the net bag was also every cable that charged all our devices- next time, I would loom these neatly together, and used coloured tape to identify each end of similar cables, to keep things neater, as they always ended up in such a mess.
- I brought a PIXO USB Charger from Goal Zero to charge the batteries from our bike lights and my camera battery via USB, which meant all of our devices charged by USB, which also meant they could all be charged from our solar panel.
- When we used our rear red lights all day, I would try to charge the batteries every day, in case we had no power the following day. My light would have worked for a couple of days with no charging.
In the front pocket of rear right pannier – easily accessible stuff
- Steripen to sterilise river water for drinking. We used this quite a lot in the very hot west, but didn’t use it again from Pueblo onwards.
- A small amount of toilet paper, easily accessible!
- Electrolytes to add to water on hot days, to replace salts lost through sweat. I brought a tube of electrolyte tablets from the UK, which I found surprisingly hard to find in the US. Easily available in the US are tiny squirty bottles of Electrolyte liquid to add to water, they can be found in the soft drinks areas on supermarket shelves, rather than in any medical or sports areas. I prefer the squirty bottles over the tablets, as it was easy to make to taste, and easier to deal with refilling half full bottles etc, rather than breaking tablets in half. I used some of Hugh’s tablets (the Zero brand sold by Wiggle), which left an unremovable pink residue in my drinking tube, which I wouldn’t use again.
- Collapsible Platypus 2 litre water bladder, useful when we needed to ride with extra water, and to use in campsites that had no close water.
- White peaked hat, to put on my head whenever my helmet wasn’t on it, when I was in hot sun (sorting out a puncture in the baking sun is not fun!).
Front right pannier- the ‘not used daily pannier’
- First Aid kit, the smallest little red one made by Lifeventure (as a size guide), upgraded ourselves to contain better plasters, wound dressings, and some burns dressings for any camp stove disasters, painkillers, arnica homeopathic tablets for bruising, and a tiny tube of Savlon antiseptic cream. Also, a ziplock bag with extra micropore tape, Savlon aerosol spray iodine solution (this is great for ‘no-touch’ spraying on wounds, also good for bad saddle sores), and hydrocortisone cream.
- Spare inner tube, with a pair of latex gloves to keep hands fairly clean. We both carried a spare tube each. It was tempting to only take one between us, but we did have a particularly rubbish puncture experience once, where we hadn’t been good at replacing two ‘dead’ tubes, and found ourselves with no decent spare tube, and a very hard hole to find.
- Pair of trainers (sneakers) – without these, by the end with all our posting stuff home, we probably could have got down to just two rear panniers fairly easily. The only day that these were really useful on was a day hike near Jenny Lake in the Tetons. They are a very bulky item for infrequent use. I was intending to go on weekly runs, but didn’t go for a single jog – I take my hat off to any touring cyclist who can face running during their journey, I really couldn’t face it, despite being determined before I left not to loose my post-marathon running fitness. My cycling shoes were really comfy, and although definitely not ideal for days off, I could have done without the trainers.
- 12 part map sheets from Adventure Cycling Association, kept in a ziplock bag, and posted home when we had finished with them.
- 2 spare dehydrated meals- we never used these, but it’s worth at least having a packet of rice as an ’emergency only’ meal. Occasionally we’d reach a town late, and struggle to find food.
- 2x Lifeventure travel washing lines
- Camera lens cleaning cloth, also useful for putting between iPad screen and keyboard, as my keyboard started scratching my iPad, with all the bouncing around
- Sash to string food away from bears
- Collapsible lightweight day pack backpack. I had a Flash 18 from REI from previous travel adventures, and love it, although you could get away with something even lighter weight for cycle touring, in that it wasn’t used often. This is not an essential item at all – you could just use a pannier to transport anything that you needed on a day off wandering around a town.
- A short length of spare inner tube, for re-doing kickstand mounts (we put a bit of tube between the polycarbonate mounts that Hugh made for our kickstands, and the frame of the bike, to lessen the possible damage to the frame).
- Internet banking login number pad. We joined Norwich and Peterborough building society before leaving, specifically because they don’t charge to withdraw cash anywhere in the world. (Previously, I used Metro Bank for this reason, but they recently changed to only have free cash withdrawals in the EU).
- Business cards with our blog and email address – popular amongst touring cyclists, many people carry them. I gave away far less than I expected. I took photos on my iPad of other peoples cards, as they are too easily lost.
Things we never used-
- Sleeping pad repair kit
- Small table top camera tripod – we were too lazy to use it to take shots of both of us
- Spare pair of headphones, and several sets of spare earbuds
- Spare credit and debit card
- USB stick
- Short length of sash/ string
- Safety pins
- Spare SD cards for camera (I totally overestimated how much memory I’d use in a small point and shoot camera, being used to an SLR on other trips. I didn’t even fill one 16GB card with my small Canon)
- A Lacie Rugged 500gb hard drive – I had good intentions of really filming our trip, with Hugh’s GoPro, and thought that we’d need far more storage than cards would offer. We did a lot less filming than I expected, and never used up our SD cards.
- Kingston Technology MLW221 Mobilelite Wireless Reader – I brought this to enable us to use an iPad or Smartphone to transfer data from SD cards to our Rugged external hard drive, but we never used the drive. I should have regularly backed up the cards to the drive (or better still, to a Cloud), but never got around to it. Our maps also marked libraries, where you could use their desktop computers to transfer data, so this is probably an unnecessary gadget for most people.
- A few minature cable ties
- A couple of velcro straps, potentially useful for strapping things to the bike
- CatEars – yeah… These don’t work. We used them a couple of times, but they might as well go in the bin. When we went on our test ride trip in Holland, we cycled into the wind for a week, and the white noise of wind drove me insane. I actually ended cycling with my head turned to the side to stop the noise. I therefore thought that these little pieces of fur fabric which velcro onto helmet straps would be invaluable, but they just didn’t seem to make much difference, and I rarely felt frustrated by wind noise in the US. I wouldn’t recommend bothering with them. They also made me look like a total idiot.
Front left pannier- clothes
Vulpine merino wool short sleeved cycle jersey – red cycling top. Really great, but not cheap. Bought in a Cycle Surgery sale with a small discount. I loved this top for riding in for the first couple of hours of the day, which was always a bit chilly. This was really cosy in cold and cooler weather. Good pockets on the back. The tiny reflective strip on the back fell off within 2 washes. Survived being tumble-dried fine. Being merino wool, it doesn’t get smelly.
Mavic Athena SL Jersey – white sleeveless cycle top, useful for humid conditions, but I preferred a thin white long sleeved shirt when it was really hot. This Mavic top is well made from nice-feeling material, but the pockets at the back had thick, fairly tight, elastic tops, which made it a bit sweaty.
Thin white long sleeved cotton shirt – this made a huge difference when it was really hot (basically half of Oregon until Kansas, but I think I would have worn it even more had we not been riding late in the season). It felt as if this shirt stopped the sun from baking me. It was thin enough for me to use suncream underneath it, a slightly thicker one would probably have provided more protection from the sun. It really is incredibly hot out there, and we regularly spent 8 hours under intense sun. Being cotton, it would stay wetter for longer if it got wet (I’m talking about from sweat here!), so I wore a different top in the early mornings, until the sun was up, which dried sweat instantly.
Gore Bike Wear Ladies Oxygen Waist Shorts – black/white shorts – by far my favourite pair of shorts, worn the most. Most comfortable pad, short enough to make the terrible tan line high enough not to matter, but long enough to feel decent in restaurants. Small mesh pocket on the front right hand leg, perfect for keeping sweets in. Lycra stayed tight, but towards the end, one part of the right thigh started to degrade a bit- the first stage in eventual see-through-ness. They were pretty expensive full price, but I got them heavily discounted from Wiggle. I’m going to buy another pair, and in the future, I’d look at Gore shorts before any other brands. I tried on so many pairs of shorts, and the other two that I got felt far better than any others I tried, but these Gores blow the other two out the running. Impressive.
Craft Ladies Performance B shorts – blue/black shorts – nowhere near as good as my Gore shorts, but OK. Fairly thin, hard pad. They were longer than my other pairs, and would have left terrible tan lines, but I wore these the least. The plasticy gripper bits at the ends of the short legs got all stuck to each other in tumble dryers, and never properly recovered. I wouldn’t buy these again.
Hincapie Wmn Performer II Shorts – nowhere near as good as my Gore shorts, but OK. Pad quite soft, a bit too soft for long rides. The shorts were very short; I felt a bit self conscious off the bike in such short shorts. The Lycra went a bit baggy.
Icebreaker merino wool long sleeve top – black with white stitching detail- handy for cooler cycling mornings, and I slept in this regularly in the colder west.
North Face micro fleece, pale blue – handy around camp, and on long cold descents, as it’s fairly wind proof.
North face zip off shorts/trousers, for off the bike. Hardly ever wore the trouser bit of these, could have just taken the shorts, and a pair of leggings.
I’ve had the merino top, fleece and trousers for 10 years, still going strong, if a little tight!
Fleece trousers – OK, I know they probably look terrible, and they don’t pack small, but they are very warm for their weight, and are nice and cosy around a campsite, keeping muscles warm. I spent ages trying to find some, until I found these for a fiver (new) through an eBay seller.
Regular top (blue patterned one) for off the bike – it’s worth having one piece of clothing that isn’t screaming ‘I’m a cyclist’ to feel a bit normal!
Small pair of pyjama shorts, handy for night time toilet trips. I changed into these after washing each day, and hung out around camp in these, with leggings (and then fleece trousers when really cold) over the top when it got colder.
War Child top– I took this to get a bit of charity branding in, but being black, it was a really bad colour to cycle in, because of the sun, and because of visibility. When it was warmer, I slept in this instead of the icebreaker top.
Regular leggings – useful for on the bike when cold, and off the bike walking around towns. I purposely didn’t bring a sporty fabric pair, as I wanted them to feel like normal clothing off the bike, but I did bring a pair which had some synthetic material as well as cotton, so they dried quicker.
Bikini – this was vital, when washing. In the West, we washed far more often in rivers, or using our portable shower, than in proper shower cubicles, and we continued to use our portable shower throughout the trip. Rarely were we able to wash without any swim wear on (unless in a proper shower, of course!). My bikini top had total structural integrity when only done up around my back, which was really handy for discreet public changing, because I could put a top on before removing it. This regularly had to hang off my front pannier to dry the following day.
Icebreaker merino wool sports bra – not the most supportive or flattering of sports bras, but I am a huge fan of merino wool (it doesn’t get smelly!), and this is one of the few merino wool bras available. I found this in a shop in Germany, they’re not easy to get hold of in the UK, although I’m sure the internet would help.
3 pairs of pants (underwear) and 1 x regular bra – yeah, OK, OK, 3 pairs is a little excessive, but they’re not exactly big, and it’s useful to not be thinking about pant washing all the time (bear in mind that you might want to be wearing a pair of pants whilst washing/drying another pair of pants – then three pairs rather than two makes more sense). Cycling shorts, by the way, are designed to be worn without underwear. Don’t even think about going for a long ride with them on, I never did, but shudder to think about those consequences!
3 pairs of Merino wool socks – because merino wool doesn’t smell, and stays warm when wet – Icebreaker Micro Ultralite Run and Multisport socks – found them cheap on eBay, they did the job fine. No padding. Someone advised me to go for padded socks, because cycling shoes are very unforgiving with very rigid soles, but I didn’t find thin socks to be a problem. Smartwool Run Light Cushion socks – brought when we landed from REI, fearing that I might want thicker socks. These were fine, and more padded, but I rarely felt the need for extra foot padding, although these were a lot warmer than the other two – probably too hot as an only pair.
Nike RU TW Mesh Daybreak Cap – white hat, used for jogging in hot sun at home, this was lightweight, but offered good sun protection whenever off the bike (so without helmet) in the sun – really useful for times like flat tires in the sun, or swimming in the sun.
Gloves – I took spare sets of gloves, terrified of losing them. I was also intending to swap my short fingered gloves on alternate days, to change the pressure on my hands regularly, but the Endura gloves ended up being so much more comfy than the others, that I only rode with the Endura’s. With hindsight, I could have easily done the whole tour with just the Endura’s, and no long fingered gloves.
Above: the consequences of wearing gloves!
Endura Wms FS260-Pro Aerogel Mitt – short white gloves. Loved these, absolutely loved them, although they did start to lose their shape, and get baggy, which meant the palm pads slipped to a less comfy position (this was fair wear and tear – I can’t imagine any other gloves would have stood up any better). The palms got disgustingly dirty and smelly very quickly, and were frequently put in washing machines. I didn’t tumble dry them after a couple of tumbles seemed to accelerate their degradation. The white top fabric got pretty threadbare. They were really good in hot weather because they are so thin. Gel pads.
Garneau 12C Air Gel – spare, short red/black gloves. Before I got the Endura’s, I wore these in the UK for ages, and loved them, they were better than anything else I had found, but they were blown out with the arrival of the Endura’s. They are also quite thick, and much hotter than the Endura’s. Squidgy, rather than gel pads. Much furrier snot wiper than the Endura’s!
Altura M Night Vision Glove – Hi Viz Yellow – long fingered waterproof gloves. Brought in the sale, these were fairly cheap, although I wouldn’t trust them to be perfectly waterproof (they’re not Gore Tex, which was far more expensive). They are very bright, and add quite a lot to our overall visibility, and I only intend to wear them in very wet weather, so I thought I might as well get the garish high vis version (well, actually, they were the only ones cheap in the sale!). They are not particularly comfy, or padded, but they are warmer than my Gore windstopper gloves, even though they don’t look it. I only wore these a couple of times when it was really cold. When it was raining, it wasn’t normally particularly cold, so short gloves are fine. Not necessary.
Gore Bike Wear W Power SO Gloves (windstopper gloves) – these are great for warmth in British winters, but totally unnecessary in American summers. I was expecting some of the long, high descents in the Rockies to be really cold, but they weren’t too bad. I posted these home. I kept a pair of long waterproof gloves, but rarely used them.
Endura Luminite II Overshoe – not the Rolls Royce of overshoes, but I didn’t feel that any I saw were particularly good. These are fleece lined, so nice and toasty. I found they kept my feet dry in all but torrential rain. Water can run down into them, unless worn under trousers. The velcro can get a bit scratchy when worn against bare skin. I wore them above trousers, to keep my trouser legs tight. Quite reflective. The Kevlar enforced toe area has got a little damaged with small holes. They stink – they take ages to dry when wet. I got a size too big, to wear over chunkier shoes in London, which doesn’t seem to matter.
Gore Bike Wear Solid Gore-Tex Lady Women’s Trousers – as waterproof trousers go, these are fairly good. I hate wearing them, but think they’re probably no worse than any others. They were actually the only women’s gore tex trousers I could find, brought in an Evans sale. I suspect I will wear them far more in London, not wanting to arrive at work covered in mud and rain, than in the US when getting wet and muddy wasn’t an issue. These are really long, and would be too long for anyone very short. There have little velcro tags to wrap them around your lower legs, to stop them getting caught in the chain, but I think this design could be improved, I wasn’t totally confident they wouldn’t come undone and end up getting ripped in the chain, so I put my little booties over the top. The fabric feels nice, as waterproof fabric goes. Rear zip pocket, but no other pockets, which is a bit annoying for using them for hiking. Small reflective details.
Mountain Equipment gore tex rain jacket – owned already. Does the job. Keeps me dry. Not particularly light weight, as rain shells go.
Specialized BG Tahoe Sport Women’s MTB Shoe – I love these shoes, and tried on pretty much every women’s shoe I could find, including ordering loads and loads online to then return them through ‘free return’ agreements. None came close to being remotely close to being comfortable, except these. There is a slightly cheaper version that doesn’t have a Vibram sole, but these ones had a thinner top mesh material than the cheaper version, which was great for the US. Hugh had the cheaper, hotter version, and often had hot feet. If I was only going to wear these in here UK, the cheaper version would probably be more appropriate. The Vibram sole felt a bit more comfy, and they also came in a nicer colour! I’m not sure I would have wanted to walk around all day in these, but, for rigid cycling shoes, they are remarkably comfy (they have recessed cleats). I checked the cleats for mud and stones stuck in them every morning, like with any cleated shoes, particularly after traipsing across a campsite.
Specialized s3 Helmet. It took ages and ages for me to find a helmet that fitted my apparently odd shaped head, and this one seemed to be the best fit. I think there are various varitions of the S3, some look quite different to mine. Usefully, it has a visor, to keep rain out of my eyes, which most road helmets don’t. It is very lightweight (several times I’ve pedalled in London without realising I’ve forgotten my helmet), and very vented, which is great for hot weather (it’s so vented that it gets a bit cold in London!) The downside was that it is black in colour. They did sell a white/gold one, but I really didn’t like it, and when I bought it, I didn’t believe that being black would attract the sun as much as I think it probably did. Just before I left, a friend told me I was ridiculous to wear a big black helmet on my head in intense sun (I thought it would be OK because of the huge vents). In a panic about it, I bought some white reflective tape from eBay (the reflective nature of it wasn’t purposeful, it was just that I tried it with white electrical tape, and it looked like a mess, but we had some other reflective tape at home, and it was much neater), and covered it in white stripes. My only criticism of the design is that the triangular sections that go around my ears of the straps are not adjustable, and feel too big.
Sunglasses – mine are made by Ryder. No idea what model. I took a semi-hard sunglasses case – this was pointless. The sunglasses were almost always on me! Early in the mornings, and in heavy rain, I kept them in a soft sunglasses sleeve to stop them getting scratched in the top of my handlebar bag.
Fuel bottle and Fuel. We both carried two waterbottles and one fuel bottle each. We used red metal MSR fuel bottles. We originally bought white spirit / alcohol fuel (often only availbale in larger bottles, which meant it was useful for us to be carrying two fuel bottles, to decant it into). After a frustrating evening spent in West Yellowstone trying to track down some fuel to buy, we eventually turned to Google, and discovered that we could use a readily available de-icer product called Heet in our stove. It worked, we’re still alive, and it can be bought anywhere. With this knowledge, and a much easier to find product, we could have got away with one fuel bottle between us.
SIS waterbottles – these were just what we had kicking around at home. Cheap (in fact I think they were free with some other products), did the job fine. Had we realized they existed earlier, we might have invested in some of the cold-insulated bottles that Camelbak make which are designed to keep water cooler (although I think these wouldn’t be hugely effective in such massive heat). Ice is very readily available in the US, and when we refilled our bottles in restaurants, people always offered to fill them with ice, which was very welcome.
Dog Dazer (Chloe) and Bark Genie (Hugh) – battery operated devices that create ultrasonic noise that dogs don’t like. Also cans of Halt! dog spray. See tips for cyclists section.
Things that Hugh carried that I didn’t duplicate:
Hugh carried the tent (listed at the top), tools and the cooking stuff.
Trangia Cooking Stove – this was great, it’s not the smallest of things, but was really good, hassle-free, which is important for such a long trip. I’ve got a tiny very lightweight MSR burner at home, but it is a phaff to keep it clean and working happily.
Cooking Pots which Trangia make (one big, one smaller), and come as part of the stove kit. The kettle was posted home!
Sea to Summit collapsible-sides big bowl to store cooked food in cooking process!
2 x Sea to Summit collapsible-sides smaller bowls to each eat from
Opinel knife – French made folding knife, really good, locks into handle.
US army issue can opener – I found this really hard to use, but Hugh seemed to have the knack!
3 x Sporks – if we went on a big trip again, I’d invest in titanium ones. Our plastic ones snapped and needed replacing half way, and Hugh always complains that the plastic absorbs the taste of washing up liquid.
REI cooking spoon – melted into a weird shade of green, but we seem to have survived!
Sea to Summit Pocket Shower – taking portable shower was Hugh’s genius idea, which I had dismissed as being unnecessary weight, thinking that we’d find real showers more often than we did in reality. Many other cyclists we met stank. Properly stank! This shower was brilliant. A dry bag with a small shower head attached, which always looked a bit breakable, but survived the trip, with a lot of use. The idea of it being black is that if you leave it in the sun, the water heats up, but in actual use, we were always using it late in the day, and wanted to get on and use it rather than wait, so we just had cold showers, which were fine. There were several times that we nearly got the thing stuck in trees, but always managed to get it down eventually. We tied our own bit of thin sash onto the top, and tied that round a stick or stone to chuck it over a tree branch.
6’ Kryptonite cable (which we could loop between the two bikes and a post) and a cheap small combination padlock. For easy access, Hugh kept this under the net bungee that held the tent on his rear rack.
Tools – Small Topeak multitool, tyre levers. Additional 6mm Allen key, small set of long nose pliers, small adjustable spanner, tyre boot (a temporary fix for a ripped tyre), and chain lube.