Panniers are a cycle tourist's suitcases. They are the bags which clip on to a bicycle’s front and rear racks. For our trip, Erica and I are carrying all of our stuff in waterproof Ortlieb Front and Back Roller Classic panniers (two on the font and two on the back of each bike), Ortlieb Handlebar Bags, and a backpack strapped to my rear rack. We thought our family, friends, and other cyclists planning their own longterm bicycle tours might like to know what we are carrying in our panniers for our journey from China to Italy by bicycle.
Where possible I have included a link to each item's Amazon product page. If you purchase anything through one of these links, we'll receive a very small percentage of the transaction, which will help us buy enough calories to keep us pedaling all the way to Italy. Thanks for your support!
- Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack, L
Big Agnes King Solomon 15 Degree Double-Wide Sleeping Bag
Silksak Double-Wide Sleeping Bag Liner
We put a lot of consideration into what kind of sleeping bags to bring on the trip. We settled on the Big Agnes two-person King Solomon bag because it seemed much more comfortable than trying to zip two sleeping bags together and at 2 kg (4.4 lbs) it weighs about as much as one heavyweight sleeping bag. The weight savings come from a lack of insulation on the bottom of the bag. In the traditional sleeping bag design, the bottom insulation becomes compressed when you lie on it and ends up not insulating you all that well. So instead of wasting down insulation on the bottom of the King Solomon, Big Agnes put two sleeves into which you are supposed to insert your camping pads. Our camping pads are too big to fit into the sleeves but we are still very warm and comfortable at night. We use a silk sleeping bag liner to help keep "Big A" clean and to sleep in when it's too hot for a down bag. Both the bag and the liner fit perfectly inside a large Sea to Summit dry bag which we carry on the back of Erica's rear rack.
- Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
Our trekking poles do tripple-duty as kickstands for our bikes, poles for tarp shelters, and defense against chasing dogs. Thankfully we have not yet had to employ their third function.
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Mattress x2
Cocoon AireCore Travel Pillow x2
Very comfortable sleeping solution. For integrating with our Big Agnes King Solomon sleeping bag though, I wish we had gotten smaller Therm-a-Rest or Big Agnes camping pads.
- Helinox Ground Chair x2
We wondered for a while if it was silly to bring camp chairs with us but we are so glad we did. These chairs are one of our favorite pieces of equipment. After a long day in the saddle, it's really nice to have a comfortable seat while cooking and eating dinner. They weigh nothing too. 100% worth the extra bulk.
- Titan Paracord
We use paracord for many things from tying guylines for tarp shelters to lashing our bikes to trucks and cars when hitchhiking.
- Tent Stakes and Guylines
- Mountain Hardware Tangent 2 Tent
We started the trip with an LL Bean Mountain Light 2 tent but a pole broke on the second night we used it. LL Bean's amazing customer service agreed to replace the tent with the sturdier Mountain Hardware Tangent 2 and rush it to our guesthouse in Bishkek for free. The Tangent 2 is indeed much more solidly built and will keep us warmer in the mountains and in the winter but it is a little tight for two people.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack.
We keep our tent, rain-fly, and ground tarp inside this sack. After we pitch the tent, we use the Pump Sack to inflate our Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Mattresses. It seemed silly at first, but the Pump Sack saves our lips and our lungs from a lot of extra work. You just fill the sack with air and squeeze it into the camping pads. Our pads are fully inflated after about five bags of air. If there is a slight breeze to blow more air into the bag, it only takes three bags. Using the Pump Sack also avoids putting moisture from your breath into the camping pad which can cause bacteria to grow and shorten the life of the pad.
- 6'x8' Ultralight Backpacking Tarp
Good for covering the bikes and bags or for extending our shelter in rainy weather.
- Ground Tarp for Tent
- Tent Poles
- AeroPress Coffee Maker with Stainless Steel Filter
Coffee is one comfort that Erica and I are unwilling to go without. I’ve been making great coffee with the AeroPress for years. It’s lightweight and easy-to-clean design is perfect for travel and camping. Get a stainless steel filter to replace the wasteful paper filters.
- MSR Dragonfly Multi-Fuel Stove with Quiet Stove
The MSR Dragonfly burns almost any fuel you can feed it: white gas, kerosene, petroleum, and even diesel. White gas is the cleanest burning fuel you can use but is hard to find outside of Europe and North America. We’ve been using petroleum, which they call benzine in Kyrgyzstan, without blowing ourselves up. The low quality of the fuel or its additives produces a bit of soot which dirties up our stove and pots though. The Dragonfly's flame is more adjustable and can simmer much better than it's cousin, the MSR WhisperLite but it is LOUD. It sounds like a jet engine and that's kind of annoying when you are trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness. The Quiet Stove for the Dragonfly brings the noise down to a decent decibel and seems to spread the flame a little better too.
- MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set, 1.5 L & 2 L
Good size two-pot set for two people.
- MSR Alpine Fry Pan
This lightweight pan replaces the lid to our pots and has a thicker base for more even cooking. It can almost do sunny-side-up eggs.
- Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink, 10 L
This thing has been indispensable. We use it for hauling water from springs and streams and for washing dishes, clothes, and even ourselves. Packs small, weighs nothing.
- Snowpeak H300 Titanium Mugs, 450 mL
Super nice insulated mugs which were gifts from my family. They fit the AeroPress perfectly and keep coffee hot for a long time.
- MSR Alpine Nesting Bowl x2
Light My Fire Titanium Spork x2
Quechua Plastic Serrated Knife x2
- Discraft Ultra Star Frisbee - Frisbees make excellent cutting boards.
Kitchen Knife with Plastic Sheath
- Sponge & Dish Towel
Water Containment & Treatment
- Pocket Shower, 10 L
Can be used to haul lots of water and as a shower when there is a tree branch to tie it up to. We use this a lot more often than I thought we would.
- SteriPen Pre-Filter
Attaches to a Nalgene water bottle to filters out particulate matter when filling the bottle from a stream. It also provides a hole for attaching the SteriPen Ultra.
- SteriPen Ultra
This is probably our most important piece of equipment. The Steripen uses UV light to sterilize water for drinking. It has excellent battery life and may be recharged via USB. We use it several times a day and have never gotten sick from drinking contaminated water. It glows purple during use. We refer to it affectionately as “the light saber.”
- Platypus Bag, 1 L x2
- Nalgene Bottle 1400 ml (48 oz)
Klean Kanteen Thermos 800 ml
Klean Kanteen Bottle 800 ml x2
- Platypus Hydration Bag
Not Pictured: Water Purification Tablets for if the SteriPen ever dies and we don't have enough fuel to boil water.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp
LL Bean Headlamp
I like these headlamps because they have a red filter/light. Using a red light at night preserves your night vision so you can still see in the dark when you turn it off. It also seems to attract fewer insects.
- Rechargeable Collapsable LED Lantern
- Hohner Bluesband Harmonica, C
For hanging out around camp or during long flat stretches. May come in handy if we ever have to sing for our meals.
- Small Sheath Knife x2
Swiss Army Knife
- Swedish Fire Steel
- Exped Camping Pad Coupler
- Jet Scream Whistle x2
- Clothes Pins
- Emergency Blanket x2
Tools & Spares
- 26” Bicycle Inner Tube x3
- Locktite Blue Threadlocker
Applied to bolts before screwing them in, Locktite prevents them from vibrating loose overtime but still allows them to be unscrewed when necessary.
- Safety Pins
- Zip Ties
You can fix almost anything with zip ties
- Koolstop Salmon Brake Pads x2 pair
- Tenacious Tape
Good for repairing holes in technical fabrics like tents and rain jackets
- Seam Grip
- Carhart Tool Roll with:
- Inner Tube Patches & Vulcanizing Glue
- Duct Tape
- 5 mm Nuts & Bolts
- Bicycle Chain Master Links
- Stein Mini Cassette Lockring Removal Tool
An amazing and small tool which replaces three large, heavy tools for removing the cassette.
- FiberFix Emergency Spoke Replacement Kit
- Sewing Kit
- Dishwashing Gloves
Thought I would use these to keep my hands clean while working on the bikes. Never remember to use them though.
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Allen Keys aka Hex Wrenches (folding and set of singles)
Folding set goes in the handlebar bag for quick repairs. The individual wrench set is much nicer to work with when you have the time/space. Sometimes you need both.
- Topeak Super Chain Tool
Very compact and can be driven with a 4 mm Allen wrench
- 8 mm & 10 mm Crescent Wrench
The only nuts on our bikes are 8 mm so this wrench is all we need.
- Sharpie Permanent Marker
- Generic hardware store Pocket Knife
- Spoke Wrench
- Pedro’s Tire Levers
Indestructible and very helpful for seating/removing tight tires (like Schwalbe Marathon tires).
- Topeak Mountain Morph Mini Pump
Powerful tire pump with pressure gauge
- Travel Power Plug w/ Surge Protector & USB x2
- JBL Clip Portable Speaker
Has an audio cable so you needn't rely on power-sucking bluetooth.
- JayBird Bluetooth Headphones
Ok sometimes bluetooth is nice but it does drain batteries quickly!
- WD MyPassport 1 TB Portable Hard Drive x3
Erica backs her photos up to one hard drive. I use two.
- Philips Sport Headphones
- Apple iPhone 5
- Limefuel 13000 mAh Battery Pack
- Xiao Mi Battery 10400 mAh Battery Pack
- Xiao Mi 4
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite x2
Weighs less than a single book, holds thousands.
- Apple MacBook Pro
- Chinese GoPro Knockoff
- Fuji x100s Camera (because it was taking these photos)
I love this camera so much it may require its own post at some point.
- SanDisk Extreme 32 GB SD Card x2
- NP-95 Battery x5
Because the battery life of the x100s is not great and we sometimes go days without seeing a power outlet.
- Kunming Alleycat Reflective Vest
Patagonia Down Sweater
Icebreaker Tech Top
Pearlizumi Cycling Shorts - Haven't actually used these yet. I am comfortable cycling in boxer briefs.
- Pace Cycling Cap - Keeps the sun and sweat out of my eyes.
- Giro Atmos Helmet - Nice lightweight helmet. Medium fits a little tight with the cycling cap.
OR Sun Hat
- Cycling Gloves
- Patagonia Leashless GoreTex Jacket
- Minus 33 Merino Wool Polo
- Icebreaker Merino Wool Shirt
- Outlier Slim Dungarees - Look and feel like jeans but are lightweight and quick-drying
- EMS Waterproof Pants
- Heavy Smart Wool Hiking Socks
Medium Smart Wool Socks x2
Light Smart Wool Socks x2
Dexshell Waterproof Socks
ExOfficio Boxer Briefs x3 - Comfortable, odor resisting, quick drying underwear. I cycle in these almost every day.
- Wooly Merino Wool T-Shirt x3 - Good quality, lower cost alternative to Icebreaker
- EMS Convertible Pants x2
- LL Bean Polarized Sunglasses
- Salomon Eskape Aero Hiking Shoe
Very comfortable, lightweight, and well-ventilated shoes for on and off the bike. I'll discuss why we decided against clipless pedals and shoes for cycling in another post.
- Chaco Z1 Unaweep Sandals
It's very nice to have sandals to change into at the end of a long day. Chacos are a bit heavy but I can walk all day in them.
- Patagonia Leashless GoreTex Jacket
- Specialized Chamonix Helmet
- Kunming Alleycat Reflective Vest
- Patagonia Torrentshell Pants
- Decathalon Sun Hat
Polartech Wool Beanie
- Specialized Winter Gloves
- Specialized Cycling Gloves
- Zero rh+ Cycling Pants, long
Zero rh+ Cycling Pants, short
- Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket
- Quechua Heavy-weight Long-sleeve Shirt
Patagonia Mid-weight Long-sleeve Shirt
- Quechua Merino Wool T-Shirt x3
Quechua Merino Wool Tanktop
- Mammut Convertible Pants x2
- Murphy & Nye Swim Shorts
Quechue Merino Wool Tights
- Heavy Smartwool Hiking Socks
Gore Bike Wear Cycling Socks x3
Dexshell Waterproof Socks
Decathalon Women's Underwear x4
Sports Bra x3
- H&M Black Dress
- Salomon Eskape GTX Hiking Shoe
Erica went with the GoreTex version of my shoe.
- crocs Sexi Flip Sandal
The only time crocs and "sexi" have been said in the same breath.
First Aid & Medication
- Sterile Gauze Pads, Alcohol Swabs, Medical Tape, Neosporin, Ace Bandage
- Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Immodium, Tylenol, Broad Spectrum Antibiotics, Cortisone Cream
- Doctor Bronner's Pepermint Soap
- SPF 50 Sunscreen
- DEET Bug Repellant
- Sea to Summit concentrated soap
- Aquaphor Healing Ointment
- Sea to Summit hand sanitizer
- Wet Wipes
- Sea to Summit Pocket Wash
- SPF Lip Balm
- Aloe Lip Balm
So that's what we're carrying! Do you think it's a lot or a little? Let us know in the comments! We've met some cyclists on the road carrying twice as much stuff and some carrying much less. We feel like we've struck a pretty good balance of weight and comfort. In a future post, we'll discuss the bikes we are riding and how we cary all this stuff. Thanks for reading!