I've just returned from a short three-day tour around the Dandenong Ranges.
The good gear -
-Trangia. Bare aluminium was a good choice, as was taking the kettle.
-Butterfly ('trekking') bars, double-wrapped, with padded gloves. Magic.
-Handlebar bag. I only had one for my bike; I now consider them so essential I'll buy another for my partner.
-Very well stocked first aid kit. Between us we ended up using eight band-aids, iodine, lignocaine/chlorhexadine, anti-nausea medication, nurofen and of course plenty of that godly liniment, Tiger Balm. Next time I will stock hiking-type anti-chafing pads for our feet.
-IPhone GPS. I brought this as an afterthought, planning to rely on various paper maps. The paper maps turned out to be almost useless, whereas the GPS saved my bacon many, many times in only three days. It eventually ran out of power, of course.
-Bringing small containers with dried garlic, shallots, salt and pepper, chilli, olive oil.
-Giving up and asking for help at about 7:30pm after 90km of riding, much of it uphill.
-WikiCamps. This is an iPhone app I purchased for a few dollars and then forgot about. This was the piece of kit that made the biggest difference to our trip, I cannot say enough good things about it.
-Vinyl ground sheet. This thing cost me about $4 and was useful again and again.
The bad decisions and bad gear -
-Being concerned with weight over comfort. Even continuously climbing through the ranges for hours at a time, I didn't at all begrudge the difference between full and empty food bags and water bottles. I could certainly have carried more comfortably, it just would have been slower. This surprised me, especially coming from the road bike scene. I am a 95kg guy and none of my equipment is exactly ultralight.
-Relying upon non-specialist/tourist type maps. This was a terrible idea.
-Coleman Epsilon 2 tent. Somewhat too small for two people, even in close proximity like my girlfriend and I, both of whom are thin - I ended up touching the inner walls, which covered my down sleeping bag in water. Even with that problem aside, it collected lots of condensation on both our bags. (Too be fair, it was admirably wind and weatherproof, although it would want to be at 2.7kg).
Things I regret leaving at home -
-A camp trowel. We did not think we would need one. We did.
-More water (a bladder) and a water filter. Ditto.
-The Scrubba Wash bag and washing line.
Things I am going to buy -
-Powermonkey solar panel.
-A new tent. Should anybody here have a high-quality two-man tent they'are not putting to good use, please PM me and let me know what you'd ask to part with it!
-Some sort of tent lantern or head torch. (Recommendations?)
Things that surprised me -
-Porridge made with powdered milk tastes even better than regular porridge.
One thing that I learnt was how many bolts on the bike weren't stainless. Next time the bike will have framesaver applied and all the bolts upgraded. And a bike coversheet for nighttime.
When the weatherman says there will be 130kph gales in your face, stay in bed.
When the weatherman says it will snow, stay in bed.
There are roomier 2pp tents, but for two people to be comfortable on an extended tour you probably need a 3pp tent. And 2.7 kg is not particularly heavy for a 2pp tent either. Ultralight tents may be a bit lighter, but they are less durable too.
There is a very long thread about tents here.
Camp stools? This is the one to get.
It's probably too generous to call it an "itinery", but suffice it to say it wasn't supposed to involve any particularly steep hills, let alone tackling a mountain range. Since a fair bit of the serious climbing took place after dark, we were very surprised to wake up and discover that we'd climbed to the top of the range (we camped at a horse stud in the Kurth Kiln regional park).
Nevertheless, we stopped in time to make a nice warm dinner (spaghetti bolegnese with parmesan, dried shallots, dried garlic, salt and pepper - we picked up some meat on the way up). I cooked in the porch of the Coleman, since it started raining heavily (fortunately after we pitched). I also had time to whip up a few cups of herbal tea before bed.
We spent the next two days slowly rolling home. To atone for my sins in causing my girlfriend to ride up an accidental mountain after dark, we stayed at a B&B in Gembrook called the Signalbox - I very highly recommend it. All in all, it was an adventure - once we escaped the city, the scenery was absolutely beautiful. I especially recommend the Lilydale-Warburton rail trail - it's a pretty easy ride.
There were a few other minor mishaps. First, I took a fall riding in the dark when I encountered an unidentified obstacle on the shoulder. I was riding slowly and carefully, since I'd only brought back-up lights, so it was a fairly minor accident. (Plus, the fully laden Surly not only handles like a truck, it also crashes like one - slow and stately). The problem was that I was too stupid to change my socks before bed. I changed everything else, but since my socks were dry merino (and I was exhausted) I didn't bother. Turns out I'd managed to cut myself under the sock and woke up with a 1" septic wound right where my shoes rub against my shin. No fun riding home on that. It's a small thing, but it would have ruined an extended tour.
Another issue was when my girlfriend went over a bump descending at high speed and her Ortlieb front pannier disengaged from the Kona Sutra and went flying onto the highway, narrowly missing both me and a (presumably very angry) motorist. This was not the fault of the Ortliebs (which were fantastic) but rather the crappy rack on the Sutra, which has a curious rail that interferes with the clasp of the Ortlieb. I didn't realise this until Day 2, so couldn't fix it on tour. I'll take a hacksaw to it this week, or replace it with a better rack. (Incidentally, I consider it the only really weak part on the Sutra - and the new models don't use this rack).
I was genuinely surprised by how friendly everybody was to us. It's something to do with the cycling - we had a number of other cyclists roll up and give us advice and directions (something which saved us twice). The people who let us stay in their paddock were lovely, and we had a whole bunch of people just wave and say hello. I'm a fairly sociable sort myself, but I think this was a real surprise for my more reserved partner.
Another minor thing - we should have brought way more scroggin (trail mix, whatever you call it). Way more. We ran out half way through the first day. I ate a lot of pumpernickel bread, which was good, and oat bars, which weren't. We should also have made more effort to buy fresh fruit along the way.
As for the tent, I'm leaning towards the Macpac Minaret at the present. It has an offset floorplan so that one side comes to around 250cm, more than enough for me. Since I'm 6'4" and use a fairly enormous sleeping bag, the length is very important to me.
Macpac Minaret has always been rather lacking in good ventiation. Most people I know who have used it (10-15 years back now) used it as a solo tent - it's not overly roomy.
For a couple including a larger bloke like yourself I could suggest a better tent as maybe the MSR Hubba-Hubba, or if you have a bit more money, the Exped Venus 2 is really nice. Hubba Hubba is lighter (mesh inner, which I don't like) and the Exped Venus 2 is very robust construction.
I've also heard that the Minaret is on the small side and has limited ventilation. The small size doesn't worry me particularly but the lack of ventilation is definitely a problem. I don't ever imagine using this tent in seriously cold weather, so a two-door tent would be a better choice I think.
The MSR Hubba Hubba doesn't seem to be receiving much love these days, although I gather it was groundbreaking when first released. The Exped Venus 2 looks fantastic, although painfully expensive. I am currently trawling through the thread on tents suggested above for other suggestions and will keep looking for second-hand tents in a large size.
What do people think about the other Exped models? They all look to have a fairly generous floor plan, head space and ventilation. The four-season tent would probably be overkill, as I can almost never imagine needing to camp at temperatures below 0 degrees, deal with snow etc. In particular, the Gemini 2 looks good.
How to you guys ensure no one will steal your bike while you are sleeping? Do you put a chain that is tied to one of your legs like a prisoner?
I am hoping that my wife can come with me to do a tour for at least a week or two in the near future (That is when the kids become independent, so wen don't have to worry about them)
I prefer three pole tent designs such as the Wilderness Equipment Dart 2. Three poles makes it a little heavier, but the the vestibules are supported by a pole, not simply pegged out to sag and flap when they get damp. At 2.55m the Dart is plenty long enough that your sleeping bag won't get wet from condensation. There is plenty of room in the vestibules to stack your panniers, and two doors.
BTW - what time of year are you planning to tour EnZed? It can get cold and even snow any time of year. I've not regretted taking a four-season tent on two trips there so far.
I've never worried about it - just be mindful of security when choosing a camp site.
Ah yes, this was bushwalking/trekking/touring lesson number 1. Break camp early, get the travel done, make camp by mid-afternoon, relax, bathe, launder, cook, sleep.
When it comes to bikes and camping gear everybody has become preoccupied with weight and ultra-light weight.
Me, I don't care. For my money I'd rather carry a little heavier load and not sacrifice strength and durability. 1 or 2 kilos extra on an already loaded bike is barely noticeable.
I own a One Planet, Caddis 2-3 person tent. It is no longer a part of their industrial range but there are other similar models. At the time it was around a half the price of the very similar Macpac Olympus tent. I also owned an earlier Olympus. The Macpac, although very well designed and constructed, but very expensive, faded and gave up the ghost a good many years ago. The One Planet Caddis is still going strong after ten years of very demanding use. It has often been pitched in full summer sun for up to three weeks, pitched on sand and subjected to the worst of conditions eg. thunderstorms, gale force winds and the like. It has never leaked, collapsed, suffered condensation problems or let me down in any way. It is very well ventilated, spacious, was much cheaper than the "brand named" tents and has been exceptionally good value. I can't recommend the One Planet Industrial tent enough. The Nissen model has since replaced the Caddis but has been built with the same quality fittings and attention to detail.
I recently bought a Hilleberg Soulo single man tent for solo bike touring and whilst the Hilleberg tents have a very good name if I was looking to buy a roomier new tent this would be my choice;
The Industrial range tents have been around for ages, spare parts such as poles are readily available and repairs can be done in Melbourne if anything happened to go wrong.
These tents (and other items in the range) have been used by school groups, tour and gear hire companies and others for many years. They are very good value for money. One planet ironed out any problems a long time ago.
I purchased the Exped Venus II (the regular version without the siliconised fly, possibly the so-called "UL" variant rather than the "Extreme").
It was somewhat more expensive than the three-season Gemini 2, as well as being a little heavier. However, I felt that the cost difference and weight penalty is justified by the versatility of having a solid inner tent (no flying sand, snow, high wind) with stronger poles.
Despite being a two-person, it’s light enough that I wouldn’t mind lugging it around on my own (which I do anyway, since I carry all of the camping gear except my partner’s bag and roll). I'd much prefer the comfort of a big, comfortable tent than the extra speed from carrying a lighter pack. Oh, and it’s a fairly stealthy colour, which is nice.
I’ll take it out for a test this weekend in the ranges, although it looks like it will be very temperate weather.
Regarding the question about avoiding bike theft, I think the usual solution is to leave your bicycle leaning slightly on the end of your tent so that, if disturbed, you are likely to be woken. Dunno whether that would actually work for me, I sleep like the dead. For me, the more practical solution is to let the bicycle get nice and filthy (except around bearings of course) and not to buy a fancy titanium machine, but I know many will disagree here.
As to the planned New Zealand trip, we were planning to go in early summer. I’m not quite sure that I’ll be able to get away for that long after all, unfortunately, so we might defer NZ until next season and tour Tasmania for a shorter time (maybe a fortnight) instead. Given how much the tent cost me, that's probably just as well.
Most times I am camping out it is never an issue. Usually we are in the bush at isolated sites, or in small town camping grounds. In a bigger town (say the size of Bendigo or bigger) I would just snib up my wheel ringlock and maybe put the cable on it. There was just one occasion where I had a bike stolen from a campsite, in a bigger town. Luckily it was recovered next day.
For a single-person tent, consider the virtues of the Exped Vela 1. It's the first Exped tent I bought, and a very innovative design - no zipper at all on the fly, huge vestibule that will swallow all your panniers, a roll-up fly that allows easy venting on hot nights, and a long roomy inner.
I love it, and at 1.8kgs it's fairly light. I've lived in this tent for 3 months on the road.
It looks like a nice tent, and long too. On the other hand, the extra kilogram weight provides a four-season tent that's as big as a house, so I can't imagine spending the required dosh just to shave 1000g on a solo tour.
Fair comment. However a couple of points:
1. the Vela 1 is 1.4kgs lighter than the Venus 2
2. another virtue for me is the very quick set-up time for this tent, with just one pole it is much easier to erect and to pack away (about 2 mins to set-up)
3. the dosh is not so great as you might think - a very good price here with free Australian shipping but currently not in stock.
And I'm wanting to offload my vela 1 as with my 183cm body, size 12 US feet and a exped downmat 9 do not work happily together with the exped vela 1. PM me if your interested
Masi Speciale CX 2008 - Brooks B17 special saddle, Garmin Edge 810
It's interesting that the Vela 1 doesn't fit you, I've had it recommended to me precisely because it's good for taller people (and I'm taller than you). Why the Exped Downmat 9, can I ask? As far as I know they are fantastic kit for alpine conditions, but probably overkill for more temperate climes.
My current mat is a full-size Macpac "Lite 3.8", which seems to be an almost perfect copy of the much-loved Thermarest Trail Lite. It's extremely comfortable - so much so that on soft ground I can sleep on my side, which would normally be pretty painful. It is probably a bit heavy at 800g.
As for the Venus II, we tried it out the other night up around Kurth Kiln, near Bunyip State Park in Vic (car camping, I confess). Apart from being a bit chilly, the conditions were extremely mild, so I can't offer anything more than a fairly useless "armchair review". Still, I was very impressed. There was no issue with condensation at all - there was as little at the top of the tent, but nowhere near either of us. It's still a cosy fit - if I go somewhere very cold with the two of us I'll drape my waterproof shell over the footbox of my bag. The tent is otherwise extremely spacious with huge vestibules and a genuinely functional gear loft. It's very easy to set up (except in that the V-profile aluminium pegs are hard to drive without a hard object like a rock). There are lots of small details that I appreciate - the stuff sack is a sort of side-entry, so that one can simply fold the tent as if it were a blanket and place it in there without having to stuff it all in (although of course, this increases the packed volume of the tent). The toggles to attach and inner tent and to tie back the vestibules and doors are a very clever design I've not seen before, which with a bit of practice are easy to use one-handed. Unlike my last tent, one can easily reach underneath the tent floor to remove any sticks or stones (I set up in the dark, again) without having to get out of the warm.
I purchased a headtorch too, a Mammut T-Peak (on sale). It is far brighter than my existing bike torch, as well as weighing much less. It will definitely go in the kit for next time. I'd also like a larger billy for the Trangia (for stews and baking) but have had real trouble locating one.
You'd find great value in a Synmat7. A full-length Synmat will be 300g lighter weight than your Macpac mat (short Macpac Lite 3.8 is listed as 800g), but an insulation R-value of 4.9. Your Macpac is probably only 3.5. I have found the Synmat to be a great mat, the only thing (when combined with my self-inflating pillow.... and pillow-case ) that will enable me to sleep as well as on my bed at home.
Very light plastic peg hammers can be purchased from gear shops and will hit your pegs in very nicely. It is now part of my standard kit - taken on all camping tours.
There is such a pot - the 4.5L Billy. The complete Trangia can be packed inside the billy. I've thought about buying one but not sure whether it will really be worth getting.
Yeah that's the one I'm after, it's just finding it in Australia that's tricky. I'd also be after the smaller one for the 25 series. I think it should double as a sink for doing dishes, as well as allowing more elaborate meals for 2 like ratatouille and Irish stew. It would also allow me to bake bread and cake, if I ever felt so inclined (probably not).
The Synmat looks good, but expensive. The mats we have were purchased in anger after returning some Kathmandu junk, and I am very pleased with them. Maybe an upgrade will be in order in the distant future though. I gather the r value should be around 3.8.
One piece of kit I keep forgetting to try out is my Thermolite Reactor bag liner. Reports of their effectiveness vary wildly, but it can't hurt methinks
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