Beginnings
In the beginning

I’m still collecting gear and still have new sponsors coming onboard, which is lovely. The latest are Endura Uk, manufacturers of high quality cycle kit. More of that later. In order to do this ride, I’ve asked a lot of questions of myself. Everybody whose ever walked,climbed or cycled has the same battle. Weight is the enemy, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. A few years ago, I would have gone on this trip as light as possible, nowadays I like a little more comfort.

At 51, my body and mind have taken a hammering. I’m writing this on a lovely day when I should be cycling, but my mind/body are saying ‘no way Jose’. I only mention that because it’s the most important aspect of this ride given where I’m coming from: a position of recovering slowly from a serious illness.

The picture here is what I started from. A lightweight 1 person tent, folding bike and trailer. That is not what I’ll be using and here’s why. I’ll be away for 4  months at least, plodding along and hopefully enjoying the ride. That’s the key and why I’m not using this stuff. The bike is lovely, but takes too much looking after with all thsoe mechanisms that fold and small wheels that have alarming wear rates in the wet. The Wild Country tent is fantastic and I use it for short trips, but over a long period, I need to recover and be able to rest, write and generally relax in it. being able to just ‘sit-up’ is not what I call comfy, so I looked around and came up with this, thanks to Arapahoe Outdoor  in the USA.

A letter sent cold revealed this wonderful single skin, Ultralight Teepee. I’ve now been helping develop this for a year, and the outcome is a tent, with a single, adjustable pole, clip in bathtub ground sheet that is 12 feet across and 6 feet high!!! What does it weigh? well 2.5kgs, yes that’s right, with pole pegs etc. It has two entrances with covered diagonaltwo-way zips and tensioners all around. The model I’m waiting on is Siliconised nylon, doesnt absorb water and is extremely UV resistent.  Arapahoe Outdoor ‘bond’ the fabric using stitching in only a few minor, but stressed areas. They are totally supportive of the ride and I love this product. The only down side is that it needs 10 pegs, but rocks will do if the grounds really hard.

4 man Ultralight Teepee
4 man Ultralight Teepee

People look totally gobsmacked when I erect this on a site. it take 5 mins admitedly, but only 2 mins to take down. I’ve used it stacks and have had no condensation problems at all thanks to 4 x big zippered vents. In short it’s fantastic. Arapahoe do an 8 man version for groups of backpackers. Oh, by the way, the new model is green!!!

I can keep my bike in here and the trailer, in a cut away in the groundsheet that I cover with a polythene sheet. That means all my gear is safe and sound with me, in the tent. It has an added bonus that lots of people can sit in the Teepee and chat of an evening, if it’s cold and fires are not allowed on the site. The only other ‘mod’ is the addition of a mosquito net. Light and effective, weighing very little, a double one covers all my kit, giving me a ‘bedroom’ to sleep in bug free. Added bonus is the ability to cook inside, safely. Roll on Scotland!!!

You can see Arapahoes products at www.arapahoeoutdoor.com although be warned the website is ‘in development’.

I turned my attention to sleeping next. I have a short and a long thermarest. I hate the short one and the long ones old. I’m not made of money, but support from Multimat UK, left me with an old-fashioned  closed cell foam mat, which has great insulation, durability and can be used without risk outside. I can fold it up in such a way as to use it to cushion my chair kit, so thank you to Multimat for generously donating it. On the prep’ tours I used a relatively cheap Vango down bag, single season, and carried a silk liner donated from OK Leisure in Okehampton, Devon. It was fine, in fact it was really comfy and cosseting. It was only just warm enough though on colder nights. I scratched my head over this one and found that it fits perfectly inside my summer season Coleman bag, so bingo, problem solved. I’ll probably  take the silk liner too for hot nights.

Elevenses, yum!!

Food is the most difficult thing for me. I need stacks of it and it’s heavy. Luckily, the Uk has shops everywhere, so I’ll shop daily, as I did on the prep tours. Cooking it is easy, isnt it? Well, no, not in my experience. I have a gas burner from Coleman (78gms), but gas is expensive and I seem to use stacks. I have a meths burner, and I love it, a Mini-Trangia. Trouble is, you cant get meths everywhere, easily and I think it’s quite expensive. I sold my old Coleman petrol stove, bugger!!!!

Petrol is really cheap, even now, as a comparison. It’s freely available too ( if you take a 1 litre bottle, cos the pumps usually deliver .5 litre as a minimum, so I may well try to ‘find’ another one. I’ve used all of them over the years, MSR xgk, whisprelite, Dragonfly, Optimus, Coleman. Although weighty, the cheap Coleman featherlite or 442 dualfuel have always been the most reliable.

Nothing to go wrong and self contained too. If you’re fussy, you might take a spare generator, but thats it, and as an emergency, you can remove the wire and cook well away from the tent!!!!  No pumps and cleaning rods, no shaker jets and billions of small seals. Just a lump of tin really, and all the better for it.

Cooking wise, I’ve a deep frying/wok type pan, a teflon lightweight pasta pot and a small trangia kettle. Ok so the kettle could go, but I like to be able to brew up whilst eating and not have to wait until I’ve washed up. Accompanying this get up is a mini coffee pot (Bodum style).

I know you can make it in a pan, and it works well ( see Travelling Two’s website for this), but the same thing applies as above. My coffee brews as I cook my porridge and it’s all ready together! See simples!!!! Other stuff includes a weeny tin opener, a couple of sporks and a knife for cutting  stuff. I may even include a very small chopping board, although I still have ten fingers, so it must be doable without!
Old Faithful camping stove
Old Faithful – and I sold it, bugger!!

Clothes wise, it’s what ever I have ie: Lycra shorts by Polaris (cheap ones), Cycle tops and ancient base layers, a fleece (thin), an invaluable Sprayway synthetic duvet and hood, Sealskinz sock and gloves, and a range of Buffs, kindly donated from Buffera and brilliant for everyting they say the are. ( www.buffera.co.uk)Shoes are a pair of SPD mtb shoes, and a pair of crocs for the campsites. A few undies, socks, Tees and one pair of off bike trousers and that’s it, save the lovely stuff I cant wait to receive from Endura. Their kit gets rave reviews. Have a look at www.endura.co.uk Be warned, you will want to spend money, a lot of it!!!

There are a plethora of other things I have. A phone charger, solar panels, maps, journal  Power Monkey, Straps, first aid, washing kit etc etc. Maybe I’ll detail some of this later, but it isnt that exciting! The kit itself will be carted around in a homemade trailerbox on board a Carry Freedom Y frame (small) trailer. I prefer them to panniers and I get to stick stickers all over it for the sponsors. This is not the origianl plan. I decided not to use the equally brilliant Carry Freedom City trailer because this one is better for box hauling. The City now does the Food shopping and lighter weekends away. Again, brilliant products from www.carryfreedom.com

DOH!!!!

Finally, if you have a desire to use a protable BBQ, as I often do, dont forget to remove the cardboard from the BBQ before lighting it, lol!!!!

See you next time. Feb 1st – Tick tock tick tock!