Roll’in With My Homies…How To Bicycle Tour With Only Two Panniers

I have been asked several times how I got bicycle touring gear and a camping kit into 2 Ortlieb panniers and no handlebar bag instead of the typical 4-5 pannier set up.  The answer is Houdini is a close personnel friend of Pandemic The Magic bicycle, just kidding. Here are 5 myths debunked about lightweight 4 season bicycle touring.

Myth 1 You must not be camping

I camp and only sleep inside in big cities when it’s cheap and/or makes sense. My camping kit for the last few years of continuous touring consists of…

I had an amazing Vaude Hogan Ultra light which was too hot for the tropics of SE Asia until I lost the poles. A small patchable hole encouraged me to purchase a new tent.

Tent 2, Big Agnes Fly Creek 1. This tent was too small and not tough enough. The mesh ripped almost immediately and the zipper gave out after only 2 months. Things kept failing out of the pocket and hitting me in the head and I wouldn’t describe this free standing tent as free standing.

Tent 3, It’s necessary to have a tent without holes for poisonous bugs up ahead in Africa therefore Tent 3 is on it’s way. Tent 2  I will cut and use as a double ground cloth. Thanks to a online x-mas sale plus coupon I purchased the Mountain Hardwear skyledge 2.1 for $196. Happy New Years and Gears to me!

MSR whisper light int’l stove, which after some cleaning of the fuel pump has been unstoppable at altitude and with use of various fuels in the Middle East, great in all conditions so far.

Franscesco from Italy on the Manali to Leh Highway, Himalayan Mtns., N. India

Cook Pot (unknown brand) , a plastic container from China with a sealable lid that serves as a sauce holder, take-away container and coffee cup. I often cook lunch at breakfast time and store it in the container.

Fork, spoon, chopsticks, knife. I have two knives, a buck knife and an X-L REDRUM type knife that I found on the road in Malaysia. It’s great for cutting watermelons and heads (just kidding).

Sleeping Pad REI  ¾ inflatable, bought off of another bicycle tourist who was done camping in N. India. Until then, I had an $8 blue foam mat that I replaced on route, which I miss.

Sleeping Bag Mountain Hardwear 3 season.  It is a warm, wide women’s bag and there’s enough room inside for me to curl up.

Water bag, Ortlieb 20L it makes a great hot shower and water carrier for expedition type areas. Others have reported they are easy to puncture and that the MSR water bags are tougher but mine is holding up fine.

Dervla Murphy, Ireland To India

Myth 2. You must never change your clothes

Cycling Shirts
Call me a girly girl here but I usually carry 8 bohemian cotton shirts, long and short sleeved purchased cheap on route, shorts,  a couple of tank tops, 5 multi-functional buffs for my shaggy locks and 6 pairs of socks because my only shoes are Shimano cycling sandals given to me in Malaysia.

Be The Adventure Panties
Houdini loves my ‘be the adventure panties’, so I remember to always pack these. I have a fake arct’rex fleece jacket, marmot precip jacket, 3 pairs of thin gloves and faux leather over-mittens that I made for $.50 because my Gortex over-mitts were stolen.

A full set of thermals (brand unknown), pants, 1 short and 2 long sleeve synthetic tops which are all perfect for rain, snow and mtns . In the rain, I pedal in my  Gortex ski pants that I have had for a decade. They are too heavy for warmer rain but are amazing to warm up fast in wet cold temperatures. Travelers since the beginning of time have worn hats so I have 3+ of those as well. I usually find them on the road and wash and wear them.

Loretta Henderson (me) in Tibet, China

Myth 3 You must not have a laptop

Asus Eee PC
On a bad day, writing until I laugh makes me feel better, therefore, I carry an Asus Eee PC ($300usd) purchased in Thailand which I named Prozac.  I also carry a Nikon L120 camera, 3 mp3 players, a cell phone that I don’t use and all the electrical cords. I have a tool bag full of spare bolts and tools that I have found on the roads. I pick up anything metal that might help a magic bicycle or Houdini.

Myth 4 You must be on a short bicycle tour

I have been on the road since 2009, 18 countries and a not counted number of KM’s. Bicycle computers are great but too easy to lose.  The first six months I had the traditional set up of 4 panniers. I cycled for 3 months with one front pannier completely empty. This bothered my brain while pedaling because I was no longer balanced literarily. I send my water purifier home which was never used and never since been missed, called Houdini and had him pack the back 2 panniers. I added a light Ortlieb dry bag that I carry inside a pannier. It can expand and be attached to the back rack to hold a week or more worth of food for expedition areas.

(the front bag is from a backpack I found on the road, it  was an experiment that didn't last long)

Myth 5 You are a midget bicycle tourist

Ok, this might not be a myth. At 5 foot 1 and ¾ inches, I have never been the biggest kid in the class.  I met a tall cyclist who was very weight conscious. He looked at my fit for Houdini set up and said ‘yeah that works because your clothes are smaller and you eat less than me’. This myth might be the secret of how Houdini got out of that box and Pandemic The Magic Bicycle and other WOW(women on wheels) and men can bicycle tour anywhere with only 2 panniers.

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wylie said...

This is incredibly helpful! Thank you so much for this. Did you consider the Big Agnes Seedhouse tent? That's the one I was leaning towards but perhaps will consider #3 that you're considering. What made you decide to go with that one? All the Best and Keep Up the Amazing Adventures, Wylie a.k.a. CouchsurfingCook.

Loretta Henderson said...

Hi Wylie, I choose tent 3 because it's freestanding with lots of mesh. Mostly because of the price. I got one hell of a deal on a tent with good reviews. Ultra lite BA tents don't seem tough enough. The thicker Copper Spur would of been a better choice. My tent 1 was amazing just too hot for the tropics and not free standing.

Anonymous said...

You're an incredible and funny person, I enjoyed reading your site.

You mentioned you don't carry a water filter, how do you prepare your drinking water? Boil? or?


Loretta Henderson said...

Mostly tap or bottled water depending on the source available. I also have purifying tablets. If my stomach is good, I drink tap water. If the water source or tummy gets dodgy I switch to bottled water. I have also boiled but boiling doesn't kill worms or parasites, therefore boiling is a great option only in some areas.

Anonymous said...

Boiling water _will_ kill worms and parasites, it will however not render Mycobacterium spores harmless.

Boiling your drinking water, if you have the fuel to spare, is fine and completely safe to drink in the overwhelmingly vast majority of instances.

buck knife said...

Backpacking adventures are always exciting, especially if you're carrying only what is essential. My motto has always been "maximum satisfaction at minimal cost!"

sleepaway camp said...

I guess there are no general rules when going backpacking (or any of the sort). It depends on what feel you want with the trip and how economical you can pack.

anna said...

I struggle to get everything into 2 panniers and I don't carry nearly as many clothes as you. I do carry a water filter although I rarely use it. Keep meaning to send it somewhere into safe keeping then don't.

I have two spare tires right now, which isn't helping much with packing logistics. I need Houdini's help, I think.

cinderella servranckx said...

hi Loretta,

How can I contact you other than here? got some questions about some countries. anyway... your blog is great! can't go through the whole weblog of yours just to find the visa issue thing. but it does looks fantastic! go on....

regards Cindy

Loretta Henderson said...

Hi Cindy, I love talking about solo female cycle touring, feel free to e-mail me at anytime with visa questions, country info,gear stuff etc....

Skalatitude..."When humans and nature are living in harmony there is magic and beauty everywhere"
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