Two bicycle tourists rest beside a bike path.

Ultralight Bicycle Touring – Part Two

In my previous article I discussed some ideas for reducing your weight and embarking on the ultralight bicycle touring lifestyle. This time I am going to talk about some specific pieces of equipment that weren’t mentioned in the last article. As always our current personal tour packing list is available for you to reference.

Dry Sacks: These are terrific for keeping your clothes dry and organized. You will probably even see the compression version of these with straps for really cranking down the size. However you need to be aware of the weight penalty of these compression straps; I found that each bag weighed 100grams more than a lightweight, roll-tight dry sack. Additionally, with the compression sacks you may be inclined to take more clothing and thus more weight. For ultra-light it may be beneficial to actually have less room, which will force you to take less clothes. With Pam and me carrying 4 sacks, getting rid of the compression dry sacks saved almost a pound of weight!

Sleeping Bags: When shopping for a sleeping bag keep weight in mind, as weight can vary from 1 to 7 pounds. The lightest weight bags will be more expensive, but remember that you have to pay for the food to fill the calorie requirement of pushing the weight of the bag around the world. Thus, it may pay for itself to get a lighter weight bag. Once you get the bag make sure you care for it properly and it should last you for many years.

Camp Stoves: This is one area that you don’t necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg for some improvements. If you search the internet for a soda can alcohol stove you will find the cheapest lightest stove that you can use. If the soda can stove is a little too adventurous for your taste take a look the gas stoves which screw directly on to the top of a canister or don’t have much structure to them. Some examples are this generic stove top or if you prefer a name brand the MSR Whisperlite is a popular option. Carrying around a giant Coleman stove is just silly with all the options available these days.

Tent: Very similar to sleeping bags, the cheapest will not be the lightest. For less than $200 you can get the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Backpacking 2 Person Tent which weighs in at ~5lbs. If you can spend a bit more we use the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 Person Tent (2014) which weighs in at ~3lbs but has 2 doors and vestibules which is very nice for partners. Be mindful that a light weight tent will be more fragile that a heavy tent, but we have had no problems using the same tent for multiple tours.

By reducing the weight on our bicycles we have more energy during the day and put less stress on our bodies. If you are at all like us you probably aren’t doing your training rides fully loaded. In fact, before our most recent tour we didn’t even do a fully loaded ride until right before we left. When you strap 40lbs of gear on your bicycle and try going up those hills it may come as a rude awakening how much effort it takes to keep going. At some point you may decide that ultralight is the way to go. If you have any tips or questions, leave them in the comments below.

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Matt Emerson

Matt has ridden over 5,000 miles bicycle touring around the United States, and countless of miles training and riding around town. When not riding he enjoys computers and working around house. Getting the most out of his time alive is one his major priorities.

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