This section aims to give general advice on different
types of equipment. Should camping equipment be
taken? Is an expensive sleeping bag required?
Is a water filter essential? Kit reviews of some
of the specific equipment we took is below this
The Weight Factor
We had 45 kg total each including the bike and
pannier racks. This equals about 25kg of 'kit'
each including the pannier bags, which themselves
weigh about 3-4kg total. Out of all the long-distance
cycle tourers that we met, this was at the lower
end of the scale. Many were carrying 5-10 kg more
than us. See our kit
list to see exactly what we took. At the end
of the day it is not too important to minimise
the equipment weight, because the bike frame carries
the weight, not your back. Of course, on hills
an extra payload will add to the toil, but not
by a huge amount. We feel that weight minimisation
should not be a key issue.
We each took a good quality lightweight cycling
Gore-Tex Paclite waterproof/windproof jacket.
These had a short cut so that they did not interfere
with the leg motion. However, they had no hoods,
which proved to be a pain in a real downpour.
We also took a pair of cheap waterproof trousers
each, which only came out when it was really
raining or freezing cold.
We had 2 pairs of cycling shorts each. This
is fine, as long as you wash them regularly
- maybe take 3 pairs if you are really hygienically
minded. We tended to cycle in t-shirts most
of the time. This was not ideal because they
seem to make you sweat more than a thin thermal
top. A thermal top is easier to clean, lighter
to wear and does not smell so bad when slightly
dirty. Any other clothes can be bought for almost
no money on the route.
A big decision is whether you want to camp out
on this trip or always use accommodation. It is
possible to avoid camping along the route by using
a mixture of hotels or hostels. It's also likely
that local families will be willing to accommodate
you, especially in Turkey and Iran. The good thing
about camping is the freedom that it allows. We
camped in many beautiful areas and it cost nothing
because we mostly camped on rough land. A tent
means that you do not have to reach a certain
destination to find proper accommodation. On the
negative side, you will have to spend a small
fortune on all the kit to camp out with: tent,
sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking equipment.
This stuff will probably double the luggage weight.
My advice is to take camping equipment. The camping
experience was a definite highlight of the trip
for me and the extra flexibility was invaluable.
We were in a group, so the question was whether
to use one 3-man tent or three 1-man tents. We
opted for a 1-man tent each to allow more personal
freedom and flexibility. The disadvantages are
the increased weight penalty and extra expense.
We chose lightweight, expensive tents (due to
a sponsorship deal), but these were not strictly
necessary. Cheaper versions would do fine. The
main thing is to see the tent erected before you
buy it to see if you are comfortable with it.
I have another tent at home that cost me £60
new, which would have done fine. A decent size
porch is important so that you can safely store
your pannier bags away at night.
We took sleeping bags that were warm down to around
-10'C. This might seem excessive but there were
several nights when we were thankful to have that
warmth available. The night-time temperature in
Iran and eastern Turkey was cold (below zero).
There are many options available from many manufacturers.
A down bag (using natural duck or goose feathers)
is generally considered to be the best option
because they are lighter and generally warmer
than the synthetic (using man-made fibres) alternative.
However, they are more expensive and are practically
useless if wet. We took down bags, but I'm sure
that a decent-ish synthetic bag would be just
as good. If you have a cheaper sleeping bag already,
then it is probably better to just buy a warm
liner that will allow cold weather use, if required.
There are two basic choices, either an inflatable
mat or a standard foam mat. An inflatable mat
will be more expensive (say £60), smaller,
heavier and much more comfortable. However, it
may be slightly colder and you may experience
an occasional puncture (take the specialised puncture
repair kits!). Another advantage of an inflatable
mat is that you can buy chair conversion kits
(or just make one yourself) that will fold and
hold the mat to make a comfortable camping chair.
I would recommend an inflatable mat, if only because
of the extra comfort available. We took lightweight
versions (Thermarest Ultralites) and occasionally
got a cold backside on a cold night. If you are
travelling in the cold winter months then a thicker,
heavier, bulkier version would probably be better.
There are many filters available. The expensive
ones force the dirty water through a ceramic stone
filter. The cheaper ones are not as effective
and generally use a separate chemical treatment
stage to clean the water. A cheaper filter will
normally treat far less water before a replacement
filter is required. A water filter is not strictly
essential for a cycle tour like ours - we met
many tourers who did not have one with them. It
is always possible to use bottled water, tap water
(if it's safe) or use iodine tablets. But a water
filter gives you piece of mind, flexibility and
can work out cost effective in the long run, especially
if shared among a group of tourers. Bottled water
can be expensive and we generally went through
at least 3 litres a day each. My advice is to
buy an expensive version (possibly second hand)
- you can always sell it when you return.
Again, you need to decide if you are going to
cook for yourself, or simply use restaurants or
cold, pre-cooked food. Cooking your own food is
cheaper and probably safer, because you know what
is in it and that it's cooked properly. It also
means that you are generally more flexible and
the food can even be tastier than restaurant food
(depending on your culinary skills).
The only option here is to take a stove that
can burn petrol or diesel. These are the only
fuels that are readily available from the many
petrol stations on this route. Also, please,
do not buy an MSR Dragonfly (like us). For want
of a better word - it was utter rubbish (see
kit review below). Our stove clogged up continuously
with the poor quality fuel used is the poorer
A good quality metal fuel bottle is required
to hold the fuel. We had a 650ml version that
kept 3 of us fed properly for 4 days/nights
cooking. A larger one (say 1000ml) would be
better for a group of 3 or more.
Essential stuff. We took a travel first aid kit
each. It's best not to take anything too basic.
We used a standard travel kit that seemed to cover
everything. We also had a small supply of clean
needles and syringes, just in case of a serious
accident. We also had an emergency dental repair
kit in case of a bad tooth accident. These are
cheap and small and could save a lot of pain.
This one's for your GP. Probably best not to take
too many Immodiums tablets (a pill that 'bungs
you up' if you have bad diarrhoea). These pills
are expensive and it's a good idea to flush it
Short Wave (Worldband) Radios
A radio can provide entertainment and useful news
updates on world affairs. It is great to hear
home news and live Premiership football on Saturdays.
We used a cheap and cheerful radio costing £5
in Iran. It worked, but not too well. It can pick
up the BBC Worldservice and Voice of America on
short-wave, but I would definitely invest in a
good quality radio (say £30+). Roberts Radio,
Sony and Sangean make worldband models. There
are many options for radios. A digital tuner is
a good idea, but it would be useful to pre-program
in the many frequencies that the radio stations
can use before you leave. The main English speaking
stations are the BBC World Service (www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/schedules/frequencies)
and Voice of America (www.voa.gov).
The SW frequency that a radio station uses vary
according to the country you're in and the time
of day. The individual frequencies can be found
on the station websites. The more expensive models
have a loop aerial - a long, separate wire aerial
that can be used to enhance the quality of reception.
Worldspace Satellite Radios
An alternative is a Worldspace satellite radio.
These give perfect radio reception almost anywhere
in the world for not too much money. The newer
receivers are not too large or heavy, but the
service is switching to a 'pay-as-you-go' scheme.
Using the Worldspace network you can receive many
music, news and entertainment channels including
the BBC Worldservice. It is worth noting that
the small satellite receiver dish must be placed
within 'Line of Sight' of the satellite i.e. no
roof, tree or obstacle between the dish and the
satellite in space. Please see www.worldspace.com
for model details and programming.
We were lucky to get sponsorship from Psion who
gave us palmtop computers on the cheap. These
were great for us because we all had to write
stuff for this website. The Psions have a digital
sound recording facility. This was a nice touch
and there's something authentic about recording
sound alone. We have sound recordings of many
types of music, speech and other events. Sound
recording equipment can be bought for not too
much money (£20+).
We took the Lonely Planet Istanbul to Kathmandu
guide book. It was good and gave lots of accommodation,
restaurant and historical site information. However,
it was not always 100% accurate. You might want
to take the individual (more detailed) country
guide books - you can get them sent to main post
offices using the worldwide Poste Restante service.
Of course, you might not want to take a guide
book at all. To do this you'll need more patience,
some language skills and accept that the info
will not always be correct. In fact, in some countries
the local people will tell you wrong directions
or information, rather than admitting that they
do not know the answer. However, not having a
guide book will increase the 'local' experience
and increase contact with the local people.