Friday, September 19, 2014

My favorite camping book: Ultralight Backpackin' Tips

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Since I refer to Mike Clelland all the time, I figure I should finally do a review of his excellent book.

Ultralight Backpack' Tips: 153 amazing & inexpensive tips for extremely lightweight camping by Mike Clelland is my favorite and most used camping resource of all time.

Mountain Man read the book first.  When he's finished it all I heard from him was, "tarp tent this," and, "cut off that," and I thought he was nuts.  Then I actually read the book and Mike convinced me that everything he had to say was not only perfectly sane, but actually a pretty good idea.  Funny how we trust information when it doesn't come from our loved ones...

Mike (I figure I can call him Mike, right?) makes ultralight backpacking approachable and affordable.  He encourages DIYing gear, which is fun and cheap.  He shows you why lightweight backpacking gear can be LESS expensive than the traditional kit.  Gotta love that, right?

I know when most of my friends hear the term "ultralight" they have a negative reaction.  It's too spartan, uncomfortable, kooky, or wimpy.  Maybe it is.  But you know what?  I love and use this book and I am NOT an ultalight backpacker (yet?).  You can choose some of the ideas and lighten up your bag however much you like.  It's not all or nothing.  For example, MM and I make some ultra light choices: tarp tent, re-packaged Pristine drops for water purification, and homemade dry food.  But I also make some conventional choices for fun and comfort: my beloved "heavy" pack and our relatively "heavy" Jetboil because it's just so dang convenient.  Lightening up in some areas allows you to carry your other luxuries comfortably.

The point is, after reading this book, you WILL lighten your bag.  By how much is up to you.

The book is illustrated with fun cartoon diagrams and written in short focused articles, making it easy to pick up and put down.  In fact, I think the content of this book comes from Mike's blog posts on Backpacking Light.  You can check them out there, but I still recommend the book as 1) is a subscription website so if you don't subscribe you won't have access to all content, and 2) I personally refer to this book so often (especially for recipes) that I'm glad to have it on my bookshelf.

So let's talk about those recipes.  This book is worth the price of admission just for the recipes and food related section.  When people talk about backpack weight they always refer to the big three (pack, sleep system, shelter system) but it's really a big four - your food will often weigh as much or more than any of those three items.  Mike tackles the issue of precisely (down to the oz) how much food to bring for every person on the trip.  Prior to reading this book I always had an excessive amount of food left over at the end of the trip.  Now I'm able to pack confidently knowing I've got the right amount.

The book has several recipes for making your own hearty and lightweight camping meals (all Just Add Water!) that are legitimately delicious.  We're talking about flavourful and calorie packed recipes for rice and beans, polenta cous cous, and...the favorite of anyone who tries it....the Spud Bomb.  I've made Spud Bomb for many a group of campers and I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't become totally obsessed.  After using Mike's recipes for years I've started to pick up the "formula" and have been experimenting with my own creations too.

So that's my ode to Mike Clelland, my personal camping guru.  I will continue to refer to him constantly on this site (and in real life) as his work has majorly impacted the way I camp.  I recommend you check out the book and put a few ideas into practice.

How about you?  Are you a fan of Mike Clelland and the ultralight philosophy?  Is there someone else you've gotten advice from that's had a big impact on you?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How to: Make an insulated cooking container for camping

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As I've mentioned before, I am a BIG fan of just-add-water camping meals.  This method significantly reduces the mess and fuss around meal time and lightens your pack - big pluses in my book!

Over the last few years I've signifigantly extended the reach of my just-add-water meals (thanks to the help of Mike Clelland's excellent book) by making my own insulated container.  This has allowed me to branch out from easily hydrated items like cous cous and instant mashed potatoes to items that need a little more time like minute rice, polenta, and dried yams.  No food ever goes into the pot keeping it clean and ready to re-use and allowing you to choose a no-simmer stove such as a Jetboil.

You can buy an insulated bowl from a camping store, but they are often expensive and have only thin insulation.  Luckily it's quick and easy to make your own.  You'll need:

  1. A lidded bowl/container.  I chose a Ziplock brand "Twist and Lock" container.  It's leakproof, cheap, and light.  A 28oz size is perfect for Mountain Man and I to share.
  2. A thermal barrier.  I used foil faced bubble wrap, which you can find at the hardware store.  An unneeded piece of closed celled foam from an old sleep mat would work great too.
  3. An adhesive.  I used a foil tape used for ducting.  Duct tape would work too.  Anything heavy duty should get the job done.

Simply cut out your foil wrap to fit your container and attach with tape.  Ensure you cover the top and bottom of the container in addition to the sides (lacking top/bottom insulation is a major drawback of most of the insulated bowls you can buy at camping stores).

We made the bottom part of the insulation jacket removable for even easier clean up.

Monday, September 1, 2014

For new cyclists: How to start and stop your bike without looking like a goof

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If you don't feel confident riding a bike, this article is for you.  But you know, it's also for all you experienced cyclists out there - if you have friends who don't feel comfortable riding a bike, this article might help them, thus scoring you a new biking buddy!

Do you ever see people doing something that just makes you cringe?  Not a judging cringe, but a I've-been-there-and-I-wish-I-could-show-you-the-easier-way cringe?

When I see a biker come precariously to a stop (or worse yet, try to start) while still tottering on their bike seat, I get that kind of cringe.

Are you that kind of new biker?  Does the feeling of not being able to confidently stop and start your bike prevent you from biking more?  Have you been told that you need to raise your bike seat but you can't figure out how you'd manage it without falling over?

Guys, I completely understand.  I've been there.

My personal journey with awkward bike riding

A few years ago I started riding a bike for the first time since childhood.  You know how they say that you never forget how to ride a bicycle?  It's only kind of true.  I could still ride a bike, obviously, but I was really awkward, especially when it came to starting and stopping.  Each time I did so I felt like I was going to fall off the bike...and at least one memorable time I actually did. (I cried.  So what?  Yes I am a grown woman.  Shut up.)

It was anxiety inducing to say the least.

But when I looked at Mountain Man, gliding along god-like on his two wheeled steed, I saw no such awkwardness.  How the heck was he doing that?  I asked him what I was doing wrong.  He had no idea, but definitely something.  I surveyed the two of us while stopped at an intersection, and realized there was one big difference.

Picture me: I teetered awkwardly, still sitting on the bike seat and supporting myself on an outstretched leg like a crazy outrigger, my whole body slanted to the side and unstable.  Not only did this position feel precarious, it made it very difficult to get started again.

Mountain Man, on the other hand, was resting easily, standing astride of the top tube of the bike (rather than sitting on the seat), one foot firmly on the ground, body comfortable upright, and free leg poised atop a pedal, ready to take off at a moment's notice.

The difference is that while MM was stopped he was not sitting on the bike seat.  

Figuring out HOW he achieved this was a HUGE biking breakthrough for me.  Once I mastered this move I felt in control and much more comfortable on the bike.  Consequently, I improved dramatically and biking became one of my favorite hobbies.

It's actually pretty simple.  I'll break it down for you.

The Solution

To stop

  • As you are coming to a stop, stand up on the pedals (aka, get your butt off the seat)
  • Shift your weight to one leg (so that the pedal drops to the bottom of the circle)
  • As the bike comes to a stop, step the opposite leg (unweighted, or on the high pedal) onto the ground.

That's it!  You'll be left standing astride the top tube of the bike with your feet comfortably on the ground.

To start

  • Use the top of your foot to push one pedal forward.  Then put your foot on top of that pedal and push down.
  • Use the pushing down motion to stand up & get the bike moving simultaneously.  From this standing position you can get your oposite foot on the other pedal and sit down on the seat.

Easy, right?  Want to see that in a video?  The League of American Bicyclists made a great one.

Once you get this down you can raise your bike seat up to the correct height which will make you more efficient and prevent injuries.  Plus, you'll look a lot cooler.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How to: Get your girlfriend to go camping


It's sad but it's true: there are a lot more men out backpacking than women.  This bums me out, and if one of those reluctant girls is your significant other I'll bet it bums you out too.

If you are trying to get your girl out on the trail with you for the first time, or after some less than stellar experiences, here's a formula to try:

  1. Blow her away with the benefits,
  2. Know and overcome common barriers,
  3. Mind the weather & season,
  4. Choose an appropriate level of difficulty.
Let's break it down.

The Benefits
People who don't camp (well) think that camping is uncomfortable, boring, dirty, and buggy.  They can't see the benefits that camping has to offer.  Play up these benefits to your girl, using your knowledge of her interests to tailor your sales pitch and destination choice.
  • It's breathtakingly beautiful.  So you like the view of the sunset while you're driving your SUV down the highway?  How about as it sets over mountains with no other humans in sight?  How about the sun rise reflecting off an alpine lake as viewed from the door of your tent?  How about a hillside alive with wildflowers?  How about waking up to nothing but the sound of song birds? The views from spots where you'll make dinner or pitch a tent will blow away those at any restaurant or hotel you could drive to.  
  • It's empowering.  Carrying everything you need in one little backpack, feeding and watering yourself, and surviving the night in a tent and sleeping bag makes you feel alive and powerful.  
  • It's a unique experience.  When you look back on your year, a camping trip to a beautiful location is likely to be one of your most memorable experiences.  It standards out from all the plugged-in days we spend in civilization.  And even if it's not the highlight of your year, when your co-worker inevitably asks, "what did you get up to last weekend," at least you'll have something interesting to share.
  • It's thrifty.  When you backpack you can go on a mini vacation every single weekend and hardly spend a dime.  Instead of saving up for one big vacation every year, you can get away whenever you want to and still take that trip to the Bahamas.
  • It's good exercise.  'Nuff said.
  • It will make her the best girlfriend/wife around.  Positive reinforcement is a key ingredient for enjoying any new activity.  When you're out there make sure to tell her how cute she looks in her hiking boots, what a badass she was for hiking all that way, and how much more you enjoyed the trip because she was there to enjoy it with you.

The Barriers
I ran a survey and had over 100 women respond with the top reason they aren't interested in camping.  The big winners were (in order):
  1. No toilets
  2. No showers
  3. Being uncomfortable (sleeping pads, too cold, no AC, etc)
  4. Bugs
Pretty typical stuff, right?  Nothing we can't handle.

Toilet Access
You know how I'm always talking about doing your business in the woods?  There's a good reason.  It's the #1 anxiety that stops women (and probably men) from enjoying the backcountry.  I suggest a two pronged approach.  Choose a destination that includes an outhouse and have your girl read up on how to pee in the woods.  This way she'll have options.  Bring plenty of toilet paper.  

Shower Access
When I first started camping I thought it was totally gross to start my day without hopping in the shower.  I get it...but I've gotten over it.  Here's what to do:

  • Camp along side a clean lake.  Not only will this make for a beautiful site and an easy access point for water, but you two can go for a quick dip in the evening or morning to freshen up.  Be mindful that a brackish or inaccessible lake won't help!  High alpine lakes are usually ideal (although cold as heck).  
  • Bring wet naps.  A quick wet nap "shower" in the tent can leave you feeling fresh enough to start the day.
  • Wear marino wool.  One of the things that alleviates that unwashed feeling for me is wearing the right fabrics.  Not only does marino wool not get stinky after a day of hiking, but it also feels good against your unwashed skin, unlike synthetic athletic fabrics.  A gift of a cute marino base layer could help convince her.  
Take one for the team in support of your larger goal.  
  • Carry more of the weight.
  • Let her use the better gear.  Do you have one good air bed and one crappy old one?  Give her the good one.  If she decides she likes camping she'll get her own gear soon.
  • Keep her warm.  Women get cold a lot more easily than men, especially while sleeping.  Bring a down jacket for cuddling around the campfire; down booties or an extra blanket to keep her feet warm in her sleeping bag; a warmer sleeping bag than you would choose for yourself; delicious hot drinks.
  • Pack earplugs for a better night's sleep.
  • Choose an appropriate season based on your local area.  In the Pac North West that means summer.  Where you live that may mean a cooler season to avoid baking to death.  See "Season & Weather" below.
The best thing you can do about bugs is choose a season (depends on your location, but September is great in my area) or location that minimizes them (oceanside is great for that).  If that's not an option for you deet up, make sure you are using a fully enclosed tent rather than a tarp, have her bring a jacket and long pants and a simple bug head net, just in case.  You can always hangout inside the tent playing cards during dusk and come back out after the bugs have gone to bed.

Season & Weather
Bad weather is the easiest way to turn an otherwise fantastic trip into a torturous slog.  Your first trip should be planned for the ideal time of year - appropriate heat level (not too hot or cold), fewer bugs, low chance of rain, higher levels of beauty (think waterfalls, wildflowers, lush landscapes, etc).  This may mean waiting for a few months before heading out.  Patience is key.  Don't hesitate to take a rain check if you have a poor weather report on your intended departure date.

Difficulty - Ease into it!
If you've been doing this for a while your idea trip probably looks like bagging peaks, hiking from dawn until dusk, 7 day loops, ultralight gear, etc.  Forget that stuff.  Plan something with your partner in mind.  You first trip should:
  • Go for 2 days, 1 night.  For most newbies, one morning without a shower is all they can fathom. Leave her wanting more.
  • Hike ~5 miles.  This will have you hiking for 2-3 hours.   If you get to the end of 5 miles and are still enjoying yourselves, you can drop you packs and keep day hiking.
  • Not straight uphill.  Here in Vancouver many of the popular short "city" hikes are just 1 hour uphill slogs (I'm looking at you, Grouse Grind) leaving many people thinking that this is normal hiking.  Choose a trail that doesn't shoot relentlessly up so you can enjoy the stroll.
  • Go slow.  You've only got 5 miles to go.  Stop and smell the wildflowers.  Take pictures.  Pause for licorice.  Look up and enjoy the beauty all around you.
  • Choose beauty.  Don't choose a spot for the achievement points, choose one that melds beauty with conveniences.  A beautiful lake or river, a good view, and allowing camp fires will go a long way.
  • Bring diversions.  When you are only hiking 5 miles you may end  up with a lot more time to kill in camp than you're accustomed to.  Plan to have something to do.  You can make cocktails and hangout lakeside, play cards or Pass the Pigs, or do some reading.  Don't just sit around letting the mosquitos bite.
If things go well, there will always be next trip to increase the intensity.

A note about car camping
Some people might suggest that you should start with car camping and use that as a stepping stone to move to backpacking.  Personally, I suggest the opposite.  For me, car camping reinforces many of the things that I don't like about camping (dirty bathrooms, bugs, going to bed feeling dirty, sleeping on the ground) without offering any of the key benefits that make backpacking worthwhile (feeling like I am living inside a postcard, solitude, achievement).  If I'd started off with car camping I may have been scared off entirely!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trip Report: The Hesquiat Peninsula (Part 1)

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I've divided this trip report into two portions in the interest of space.  The first portion is the "useful stuff."  The second is my personal trip report.  

This summer I spent a few days hiking the Hesquiat Peninsula.  Never heard of it?  That's the best part. Currently, less than 100 hikers follow this route each year.

Mountain Man and I learned about this trip in a hiking book called Hiking the West Coast of Vancouver Island written by Tim Laedem.  I highly recommend that you buy the book if you are planning to do this trail.

Why this Hike is Worth Your Time

1) Did I mention that it's remote and very few people have done it?  How cool is that?  You actually need to charter either a float plane or a boat (the plane is usually cheaper - surprise!) to get into and out of the hike.  For a few days you can be the King of the Hesquiat!

2) If coastal hiking floats your boat, this hike delivers.  Tide pools, sandy beaches, sea life,  rocky cliffs, ocean views.  Lots of beautiful and interesting things to see.

3) There is no elevation gain.  A weird benefit?  Yeah, kind of, but if your a mountain dweller like me it's a pretty novel to hike for four days on essentially flat land.  Don't worry though, you'll still get a great workout - there is lots of climbing and scrambling over rocks, just not hoofing it up long inclines.

Vital Stats
  • Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.  Closest town is Gold River, BC.  
  • 28 miles/46km
  • No elevation gain
  • I would recommend spending 4 days/3 nights on this hike.
Getting There

In order to get in and out of the hike we chartered a float plane through Nootka Air in Gold River to drop us off at Escalante Point and pick us up at Hesquiat Lake.  The service at Nootka Air was friendly and very flexible.  We booked the smallest plane that could accommodate us which kept the price down (under $300/person).

Other options for transportation include chartering a boat from Tofino - more expensive and takes a lot longer, but possibly worth it if you want to combine the trip with a visit to Tofino.

What to expect

Section I - mega tidal pools Escalante Point to Estevan Point

Section II - boulders boulder and more boulders from Estevan Point to Hesquiat Village

Section III - gorgeous white sand beaches from Hesquiat Village to Le Claire Point

Section IV - mix bag of craggy headlands, pocket beaches, and forest by-passes from Le Claire Point to Boat Basin

What to Bring

Based on my experience on this hike I highly recommend you bring the following items:

sturdy pair of water shoes.  Keens, Teevas, Fourfingers...whatever.  You'll want something that's both sturdy and comfortable when wet.  I didn't realize that this wasn't a hiking boot friendly trip and so only had a pair of cheapy water shoes with me (well, luckily I guess as I almost never bring extra shoes backpacking).  I hiked for two days straight in them and they were trashed in that time.  That said, I suggest you bring hiking boots as well.  It's unlikely you'll be able to keep them dry, but sometimes wet hiking boots are better than sore feet/stubbed toes.  

My cheap water shoes were toast in two days.  The Vibram 5 Fingers fared much better.

Hiking poles.  I will be the first to admit that hiking poles are a bit dorky.  (Of course, those who know me know that I couldn't care less about being dorky.)  But for real guys, they saved my booty on this trip.  Slippery boulders without poles would have meant a lot more bumps and bruises.

Cash.  Hang on, didn't I emphasize how remote this trip is?  It's remote from the point of view that there are no roads and few hikers, but there are actually three people who live along the route.  At two of these spots cash might come in handy.  There's a family who lives at a spot called the Hesquiat Village and they sell a variety of things that might be of interest to you - homemade fudge, a nice space for camping, artwork (which they can ship to you), or even a boat ride to Hot Springs if the weather is right.

Bear Line.  This should be on your typical what-to-bring-list, but did I mention that we saw 5 bears within the space of 12 hours?  Hang your food!

Other Tips
1) It's pronounced Hesh-quit.

2) Everything on this hike is prettier, more interesting, and easier when the tide is out.  Bring a tide table for the week you'll be hiking and make sure you spend the low tide out along the water and take your breaks when the tide rolls in.

3) People live at three different points along this trail.  First you'll find Brent the lighthouse keeper at Estavan Point; then the family Diane, Dave, Jeff, and Koryanne at Hesquiate Village; and finally Peter at Cougar Annie's Garden in Boat Basin.  All three have access to radios.  There is also an emergency use cabin in the forest near Homais Cove.  It's about 200 feet before the totem pole.  All of these people are a resource should you find yourself in an emergency, and more than likely a friendly face for a short  visit when you find yourself hiking by.

3) Get a guidebook to help with logistics.  The map in the guidebook is useful, a full topo is overkill.

Taking on a unique hike like this one is a special opportunity. You can bet that if a road is ever built to the Hesquiat it will become a popular route fast.  If you're looking for a unique get away I suggest you check it out!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Backpacking cocktails

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A cocktail or two can make a long campfire a whole lot more fun.  But what to bring?  After many tries, I keep coming back to the same few favourites.

Mountain Man mixing up a batch of Mojitos.

Vodka Lemonade

Expecting hot weather and time to chill out in the sun?  Then vodka lemonade is the drink for you.  This makes a great cold, quick cocktail when you plan to leave time on your trip for hanging out lakeside.  

To prepare this all you'll need is vodka, lemonade crystals, and a plastic bottle.  Never bought lemonade crystals before?  You can usually find them in the bulk section.  Alternatively, you'll definitely find a brand such as Country Time near the iced tea crystals.  

The trick to this drink is to mix your lemonade crystals & vodka before you leave for your trip.  This will create a sweet vodka liquid that you simply mix with cold water to make a complete drink.  

I personally mix about 1/4 cup lemonade crystals to 1 cup vodka.  It's going to look like a LOT of lemonade powder (and it is).  This is one of the reasons that it's useful to pre-mix.  I've found out the hard way that we always bring too few juice crystals if we pack it separately.  However, there is considerable personal preference here, so start with this ratio then test it by mixing a drink with water and make adjustments to accommodate your taste.  

Baileys and....lots of things

When winter camping or spending a night huddled around a campfire Baileys Irish Cream is delightful.  A few different ways to prepare your Baileys:

Fastest way to make friends at a backcountry ski shelter?  Share your Baileys.
  • Straight Up.  If you're like me and have a taste for things that are very rich,  you don't need to mix your Bailey's at all.  It's almost obnoxiously creamy with a nice little bite of liquor.  
  • & Hot Water.  If straight Bailey's is too much for you, or if you'd prefer a hot drink, try mixing your Baileys with equal parts hot water.  The first time I heard about this I thought it sounded weird but trust me, it's worth a go.  Mountain Man prefers Bailey's this way.
  • & Hot Chocolate.  A classic combo! The cream will make your hot cocoa richer while the liquor will make it more fun.  
  • & Coffee.  Does this even need to be mentioned?  I do this at home.  Does that make me a lush?  
  • & Liquorice Tea.  Or I guess many kinds of tea (Chai? Earl Grey?).  But in particular I find that Bailey's combines admirably with Liquorice tea.  

Mountain Mojitos  

Are these recipes too simple for you?  Maybe you're like Mountain Man would prefer to make something overly complicated simply because you can't sit still? (Kidding, love you darlin'!)  Then Mountain Mojitos are for you.  

To make those you'll need
  • White Rum
  • Confectioners Sugar
  • A little squeeze bottle of real lime juice (like this)
  • Fresh mint leaves
Again, pre-mix your rum and sugar at home.  Start with 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of rum and work from there to find your personal level of preferred sweetness.  

Pack your sweet rum mix into a plastic bottle and bring along your lime squeeze bottle and your fresh mint leaves, wrapped in a paper towel to keep them from sweating themselves into oblivion.  If you can pick fresh mint on your trip, bonus!

To assemble put a few mint leaves in your mug and add lime juice (1 part).  Muddle with your spoon.  Add rum mix (2 parts) and water (2 parts).  Mix and enjoy.  

A note on packing

I recommend repackaging the appropriate amount of your drink of choice into a disposable plastic water bottle (or two) prior to your trip.  Plastic water bottles are light weight, cheap, and reusable.  If you're worried about leakage you can get more piece of mind for slightly more weight by using a plastic soda bottle.  And let's be honest, if you've made space for liquor, you're probably not concerned about ever last milligram of weight.  

What's your favourite drink to kick back with in the backcountry?  Cheers!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How To Set your Bike up for Cycle Touring

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We've talked about tips for buying a touring bike, how are you going to get all of your stuff onto it?  You'll need a few more accessories to go from townie to touring.

Racks are contraptions that you add over top of the front and/or rear wheels. They create a flat surface that you can strap bags/other items to and also provide the base on which to attach panniers. When you buy a rack make sure that it's strong enough for the poundage you plan to load it down with. 

When you buy a bike for touring make sure that it has rack mounts for both front and rear racks. Front racks are certainly not required, but why limit yourself?

For cycle touring it's commonly recommended that you seek out chromoly-steel racks rather than aluminum (like the rack pictured above).  The reason for this, according to MM (who is an engineer when he's not off adventuring), is that steel is not only stronger but also can be welded easily while aluminum cannot.  That way your rack is less likely to break; and if it does you have the option of repair rather than replacement.  Can you imagine being left to MacGyver a way to carry your bike bags without a rack?  Yikes.

That said, like many people I am still using an inexpensive aluminum rack and haven't had any issues with it (yet!).  Once day when I head off on a longer cycle tour I'll opt for an upgrade.

Panniers are bags that are specifically made to clip securely to your racks. Choose bags by deciding the carrying capacity your require, if you'd like them to be waterproof ($$), and making sure the clip system works for your bike.  

In my experience Mountain Equipment Coop has the best deal on Panniers.  Both MM and I have the ones below.  While they aren't the fanciest bags you'll ever find, they are well priced and excellent quality.  

Handlebar Bags are great for keeping a few valuables or much used items close at hand.  While jumbo handle bar bags may seem practical at first, my experience is that carrying a lot of weight on your handlebars is annoying.  In fact, many people may prefer to forgo this all together, which is a perfectly valid choice.  I use a small, inexpensive handle bar bag and as I talked about here, use it to stow my valuables so that I can easily take them with me when I park my bike.  

Trailers are an alternative (or possibly an addition to...if you have legs of steel) to panniers. Instead of carrying your gear in bags on your racks you can pull it in a trailer behind you. This is a pricier option but it does increase carrying capacity and allows you to haul gear on a bike not equipped with attachment points for racks. However, it's still not advisable to use a trailer on a carbon fiber bike. The torque of the heavy trailer could damage your light weight frame.

Fenders are covers that fit around your wheels, attached to the hubs and - on a road bike - inside the fork.  Before I got fenders I didn't see what all the fuss was about, but MM insisted.  Then, the first time I rode on a wet day after installing them I realized how wonderful they were.  I remember instinctively bracing myself as I rode through a puddle, ready for the water to soak my shoes and...nothing!  Not only do these babies keep you from drenching yourself, but they also prevent you from spewing a rooster tail of water at anyone who's behind you.  How nice.  They are fairly inexpensive and will make foul weather riding all the more pleasant.

Kickstands aren't just for kids bikes.  A cycle touring bike without a kickstand can be a pain in the butt, however, a traditional "leaning style" kickstand wont do you much good when you're bike is loaded with gear.  I recommend a pricey but oh-so-worth is double legged kickstand - I talked all about my beloved stand here.  

Have you set your bike up for touring yet?  What's your favorite piece of gear?


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