Friday, January 24, 2014

Tour time – How to pack light for a riding holiday

Seems a long time since I have been for a ride but that ends in a couple of days when I touch down in Northern Thailand to ride the superb roads there. I will be renting one of my favourite bikes again, the Kawasaki ER6N. Nimble and all day comfortable with more than enough power from it’s 650 twin.

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Nan district, Northern Thailand

Hopefully the air will be mostly clear unlike the last time I rode there. After this I fly to Philippines to do a ride I have thought about many times -  a kind of circumnavigation of Luzon taking in the mountain region and the northern coastal roads.

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Northern Luzon island, Philippines.

This ride will likely be by 125cc scooter as not much choice in rentals. Sure there is a few bigger bikes available in Angeles city but they are old and nearly worn out so I’d rather take a modern small bike that will make it back. Besides most of the riding there needs to be at a modest pace since you are often in remote areas and road surfaces change frequently without warning.

I’m considering taking my Olympus Pen camera for this tour having splurged on a compact 20mm lens so you won’t have to suffer poor quality iPhone photos again. (well except in this post below…) However I am still travelling very light and after a couple of almost forgotten requests on how I pack everything into a small bag I have decided to finally post a few things I do in this regard.

Firstly when I previously mentioned taking only a carry on bag this applies solely to SE Asia where it is always warm. Also I always rent a helmet and if possible also rent a jacket. I mainly travel light because everything has to fit onto rental bikes without any hard cases or luggage facilities. You could try storing a suitcase at a hotel and bringing more but life on the road is more simple with less.

Below is my bag and the items I will take with me for next 5 weeks travelling – besides what I leave wearing. I wear my riding jeans on the plane, in this case the BMW city pants, a t-shirt  and usually a second long sleeve shirt which is handy for inside cold planes and early morning riding. I also wear a pair of leather low cut boot style riding shoes. The mesh jacket if taken can be simply folded over my arm like a normal jacket once I remove the foam back armour which you can see resting on floor of my red main bag to be reinstalled before riding.

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Carry on bag weight is an issue now days so before arriving near the check in counter I move my camera out and clip it to my belt. I put the GPS which is inside a case with battery into my green ‘man purse’ which if asked about I state this is my purse, they never challenge it except a Qantas woman did one day where upon I suggested she show me where airline policy states that only female passengers are allowed to have a purse and she backed off. My tablet computer is already in the man purse but if you have laptop be sure to remove that and hold it separate as they are not included in weigh in. I have all my cables and chargers in a zip tie bag and depending on the airline may move these out to and put them in pocket of jacket or jeans. Some airlines allow 10 kg so I move nothing, some 7kg which means I need to shift just a little sometimes nothing but then some airlines like China Eastern allow just 5kg which is funny because then you will see the Chinese carrying totally wild amounts of duty free onto the plane. I use the self check in when in Asia wherever possible to avoid this game altogether but if none exists then it only takes a minute after which I move the items back to the main bag for the 20 security checks. (well 8 is record at Changi but give them time)

(Update I have given up on this and been checking my bag in again as I got tired of having to rush to join the madness of the people trying to board first to obtain space in the overhead storage bins as well as lugging the bag around some of the airports with literally miles of distance needed to walk. <KLIA2 Grr!> So now I can sit back and board at final call after the madness has finished but the downside is a long wait at some airports for unloading of luggage which I have had blow out to over an hour)

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I purchased a set of very small plastic pump bottles from eBay and rather than buy and carry toiletries I simply fill these which are more compact and the whole set fits inside a small clear bag. I have bicycle racing ultra light weight and compact rain jacket and rain pants and bicycle racing shoe rain covers but I have rarely used them as I do not ride SE Asia in the rain seasons. Usually the only rain I encounter is a storm which can I easy sit out somewhere. In Malaysia under a overhead bridge with a group of local riders who said this was their daily routine and the storm would be past in 30 minutes or the next time I donned my rain gear then round the corner was a roadside petrol station with a collection of cafes so I again joined the locals for a hot coffee and about 40 minutes later the storm had again passed. The rain jacket top also doubles for a wind break on cooler mornings or if riding up high in northern Thailand although layering two t-shirts can often get you by if it is just to take the edge off in the morning.

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Computing wise I only bring a tablet, currently that is a Dell 8” which provides full windows so I can edit GPS routes yet it still fits inside my man purse. (that mouse is very small this device is same size as ipad mini) I have a compact triple outlet USB charger with folding power prongs which charges everything except the camera. If I take the camera I usually just bring an extra battery which is smaller and lighter than a charger. This trip is too long for that so I have to take a charger but already replaced the huge factory item with compact folding power prongs one from eBay.

Any long cables have been replaced with short light weight ones and he only item I cannot lighten so far has been the charger for my electric razor which unfortunately on a longer trip like this has to come with me and weighs far more than it should.

Lastly with clothes I never take more than 4 or 5 changes of shirts, socks, underwear. I actually choose the lightest of everything not just for weight but cooler in the tropics as well. One pair of shorts and pair of sandals rounds it out. You can get clothes washed in SE Asia for a $1 a bag or if no time in the schedule I hand wash one set every day in shower or hand basin and always carry oversized pegs with hooks to hang items near windows or air conditioners to dry.

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A pair of shorty summer gloves, a summer Buff and sunglasses are also in the bag along with a small rain cover for the bag itself, bungy straps and laundry bags. Just remember anything minor you can buy along the way just make sure you have the important stuff and buy some things as needed. So there it is all together and that is my take on packing light.

5 comments:

  1. Five weeks in two wheels in beautiful scenery! I am also a big fan of packing light and do laundry during trips. Ride safe and enjoy your trip. Please bring back lots of pics that'll make us envious ;-)

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  2. Have a great trip, and thanks for the write-up on travelling lightly.

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  3. Always make a list of the minimum items required and then ruthlessly divide that list in half - you'll never, ever need virtually most of the bits and there's usually shops where you can get things in an emergency unless you're in the Sahara! Have a great trip!

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