With intentions of packing light and simplistic, we brought the bare minimum in terms of extra equipment. From solar panels to smart phones, all was left off our list. In this page we discuss some of the essentials that you will need on your trip. We are also presenting the fact that bike touring doesn't have to be a huge expense - we did this trip on a budget and you can too. Click on the button to see information on our toolkit.
Concious about the environmental impacts of travelling, we decided to search for an alternative to bottled water. First of all, we researched into each country and region we were in to be up to date on the local tap water situation. Bangkok had clean potable water but tasted a bit fishy... for the rest of Thailand and the surrounding countries, their water wasn't safe to drink. For Vietnam and Cambodia, every cafe would provide ice tea with purchase of a coffee or a meal. We took this opportunity to fill up our bottles with this icy refreshment. The locals also realise that the water isn't safe for human consumption and often have huge purified water tanks in establishments. They were always kind to accept our request of filling our water bottles!
Despite this, we would still be in situations where either tap water or buying bottles were our only options. So we invested in two Grayl water bottles. This fantastic innovative product provides three filters to different situations. The one we took with us purifies up to 99.99% of harmful bacteria. This timelapse in Angor Wat, Cambodia, gives a representation to its size and design. This product is very durable and is a great solution to our modern day crisis with plastic bottles.
Along with out Grayl waterbottles, we carried two plastic BPA-free bottles and a 'bladder'. 'Bladder', 'goon-sack', 'camelsack', what ever you call it, it's a useful bit of kit to take on your trip. When in use, it carries a large quantity of water with a practical drinking tube. When not in use, it folds up into a small space and weighs nearly nothing. You will drink plenty of water when cycling, and you definitely want to have enough on you for the longer journeys when there's nowhere to refill.
A few other necessities
Pen & notepad
Soap container & multi use liquid
If there's room
Camera and Tripod
Compass (had mine on my bell)
When we brought the bikes, they both had Dynamo Bicycle Light Systems already installed. My light was a hub dynamo, which was built into the front wheel. It functioned by the spinning of the wheel when I pedalled. It didn't rub against anything and the wheel spun smoothly, not slowing me down. On the other hand, Max's bike had a sidewall dynamo light. It was attached on the forks, by the front wheel and had to flick a lever to put the cog onto the tryres 'tracks'. Compared to mine, his light system worked by friction on the tyre. This type of dynamo will slow you down if you plan to cycle long distances in the dark. They are great options as you don't have to purchase batteries, but are definitely heavier than detachable lights.
There's a million options on the internet for bike lights and the decision will depend on what you want to do during the night. We didn't cycle much after dark, instead we walked around, resting the bum. Meaning, we didn't need to invest into high-tech lights. Here are a few options that interests us and we might use on our next trip. We haven't tried none of these yet though, so let us know if you have experienced them already...
I've seen them in MEC (Mountain equipment company), a Canadian outdoor retailer, and they seem to be really easy to attach and remove. Bear in mind that they are for you to be seen, not for you to see!
A headtorch is great for all types of trips, and if you have one that is strong enough (minimum 300 lumens recommended for cycling safety) then it's not a bad idea to stick it in the bag for the trip.
We didn't have a GPS on our trip simply because we couldn't afford one! Did we pay the price in the end? In Vietnam it didn't really matter as my Ipod picked up our location pretty much everywhere. But in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the GPS was never able to locate us... However, there were fewer roads in Cambodia and Laos, so you can't go wrong.
In Vietnam it would be useful as finding alternative routes parallel to the main highway makes cycling a lot more enjoyable. We planned our routes on the ipod in advance taking smaller roads, but when there was no signal it was a little bit more difficult and we became less adventurous for this reason. There's so many options to choose from and a multitude of blogs on how to choose... but like most of things, we were quite happy with out.
A very handy thing to bring along on your trip. They allowed us to attach our bags to our bicycles and when we rented scooters. When we would put them on buses or trains, again they would come into use. They take little room, are lightweight and versatile. You can pick them up in any camping store for a low price.
Be careful with these straps because of the hook, they could damage your bag. Alternatively you can use inner tube.
With already being the victim of a stolen bike, we decided to get a couple decent locks for this trip.We thought it would be quite easy to buy some strong locks out in Asia, particularly a U lock, but it wasn't as easy as expected. Outside major cities, locals don't need to lock their bicycle within a community. Most big cities had less cyclists and were using large chains for the motorbikes. We finally found a good chain, not too heavy and in a nice bright colour. It was at a reasonable price (1000 Baht), it bound both bikes together and would withstand a saw.
If you have a good lock, we advise you to take it with you. If you don't, and plan on having an expensive bike over there, it's a wise thought to buy before hand and bring with you. On the other hand, if you start your trip in Hanoi or Saigon,
Vietnam, there is way more options than compared to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.