The Outfit

We like to keep things simple. With five people to pack for, and only four panniers and some trailer space to carry it all, we had to make sure every item was necessary, reliable, and light. We carried only bicycle clothing, camping gear, and a few choice personal items. Like most long-distance cycle tourists I have heard of, we sent home a package full of things that we found unnecessary after a few weeks. Many travelers we met were amazed that we were carrying all we needed for a family of five for six months in just a few bags. They were interested to know how we did it and what we carried. So here is a summary.

Luggage: We had four Ortlieb Bike-Packer panniers, their largest at 40 liters. They were totally waterproof and kept our stuff dry always. Each bag held one person's sleeping bag, clothing bag, rain gear, sweater, and personal items. With a removable outside pocket and the quickest and easiest attachment system imaginable, they were a joy to use. Even though we used them for seats when we stopped, they look like new still. An Ortlieb handlebar bag was my office during the trip. It held my wallet, sunglasses, camera, flashlight, sunscreen, bandana, notebook, cell phone, change purse, map, and stuff like that. With no zipper and a simple flap, it was one of the most appreciated items on the bike. A first aid kit and a tool kit, in Ortlieb waterproof bags, sat on the front and rear racktops. A larger waterproof bag held Timmy's sleeping bag and some of his clothes, and this rode in the trailer.

Clothing: We tend toward natural fibers, silk and wool, for base layers, and modern synthetics for outer layers. For cool weather, we each had silk tops and bottoms (Wintersilks), tights (Patti's were wool [Sergal], the kids' synthetic [Patagonia], and Billy brought both), wool bicycle jerseys (Sergal and Cannondale) and a wool sweater. Lightweight wool or synthetic gloves, wool socks (SmartWool), a wool hat (REI) and a synthetic headband (Pearl Izumi, for our ears) completed the layer collection. For warm weather we had two pair of synthetic cycling shorts (Patagonia and Pearl Izumi) and two short-sleeved cotton blend cycling jerseys (No-name cheap units that we loved). We constantly used our very lightweight wind shells (Pearl Izumi), and our seldom-used hooded rain suits (Patagonia) were of waterproof-breathable fabric in a great stretch-panel design. Waterproof gloves (Pearl Izumi) and booties (Burley) made our rain suit complete. We carried only cycling shoes (Specialized), but in the warm months Patti and the kids bought cheap flip-flops. Everyone carried a swim suit, except for Billy who swam in cycling shorts.

Camping Gear: We selected the lightest mountaineering equipment we could find, minimalist gear with one exception: our tent was a few pounds heavier than the lightest one we could have used. The extra weight of an expedition tent, as opposed to a featherweight summer tent, seemed to be worth the extra comfort and security. Our Mountain Hardware Sky View 3 tent was 12 pounds with the footprint, and worth every ounce. Though we are long-time goose down fans, we selected lightweight synthetic Flight 3D and Climber 3D sleeping bags from The North Face which worked quite well and packed into a very small bag. Thermarest Ultra-Light sleeping pads worked well too. Our Whisperlite Internationale camp stove From Mountain Safety Research was light and reliable. We carried two 22oz fuel bottles at first, but found that one 22oz and one 7oz worked better. Each person had a titanium cup and spoon, and we had two titanium cookpots with lids. I sent back my titanium teapot, and brewed tea in my cup. A sharp folding knife was the only other utensil. We carried 8 ounces of olive oil and 8 ounces of tamari (like soy sauce) in plastic squeeze bottles, and salt, pepper, and some other condiments in plastic bottles. Pasta or white rice was our staple food when camping. We had bread and butter and preserves with us most of the time. We also carried energy bars; Clif Bars was our favorite brand and widely available. We had several Mini-Mag flashlights and a candle lantern from REI that we seldom used.

We each had our personal stuff, diary, pens, flashlight and knife, things like that, in an outside pocket of a pannier. Timmy had a little stash of books and toys in the trailer. We each had a book. At first we carried a laptop computer, but it was a heavy thing with the waterproof case, and it took up a lot of room in the trailer. We sent it back with Billy's sister Chrissy when she visited us in Virginia. We also sent back a few pounds of camping equipment and clothing that I don't mention here because it turned out to be unnecessary.