What's in the bag?

“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability.... We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”

― Thomas A. Edison

It's the start of a new year and I am back in the Highveld preparing for my first solo cycle trip ever! I haven't shared as many stories from my and Amanda's trip last year as I would have liked, but diving head first into tour cycling has been, I must admit, a tad overwhelming. It's not something you can truly prepare for: if you think you have an idea what it's like, scrap all your assumptions right

“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability.... We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”

― Thomas A. Edison


I'm very glad to have had an introduction from someone as experienced as Amanda, and now I'm preparing for my first solo trip, cycling from my parent's farm through the eastern Free State all along the border of Lesotho. This is, as always, a plan that is subject to change. The single most important quality of a good tour cyclist (other than a positive attitude) is flexibility - you never know what's going to happen on the road!

So, when your first aim is to be prepared for almost any situation and you have to fit your entire life onto a bicycle, what do you pack? This post is a small introduction into the essentials of a tour cyclist (if that tour cyclist is me).

The survival kit
The survival kit

First, I'll run through the essentials other than clothing. In order, from left to right, top to bottom:

  • Light weight towel (actually, this one is not so light weight, but it's on my wish list!)
  • Light weight tent
  • Hammock (doubles as pillow)
  • Super glue (handy to close up small cuts and fix close to anything)
  • Waterless hand sanitiser
  • Yoga mat (doubles as mattress)
  • Camping stove with butane gas
  • Salt
  • Small containers of milk (for tea and coffee)
  • Tabard insect repellent
  • Multi tool with everything from pliers to scissors and a bottle opener.
  • Sleeping bag
  • Reading material (I will invest in a kindle once I can actually support this lifestyle, for now I'm holding on to my money!)
  • Portable cellphone charger with small solar panel
  • Extra tube and tyre
  • Home made rusks (with all the good stuff: seeds, nuts and dried fruit. This is breakfast, and should contain enough energy that you can cycle the first 20km of the day on one or two.)
  • Coffee
  • Incense (This is one of my luxury items!)
  • Zambuk (a South African staple!)
  • Insulation tape (like super glue, to fix almost anything!)
  • Headlamp
  • Watercolours, with booklet, pencils and pens (for making art on the road)
  • Sunscreen (50+ factor)
  • Camping pots and pans
  • Mug (good ol' blikbeker)
  • Bialetti mocha pot (I cannot go without a good cup of coffee in the morning!)
  • Tea towel
  • Biodegradable wet wipes
  • Dry lube for bicycle chain
  • Bovril (or Marmite) - good source of salt when the cramping gets bad!
  • A pocket knife
  • Army edition cutlery (thanks Dad!)
  • Needle and thread
  • Bicycle wheel pump
  • Ziplock bags
  • Cable ties
  • An extra blanket and a ground sheet
  • Laptop in a sturdy casing with charger
  • External hard drive
  • Toilet paper (for emergencies!)
  • Mouse (for photo editing)
  • Road map (I'm pretty old school like that.)
  • Tea
  • Candles (another luxury item for me. There's something about incense and candle light...)
  • Bandages and plaster
  • Chia seeds (light weight super food! The foodstuff varies, obviously. This is what I'm starting out with.)
  • Sugar
  • Toiletry bag - I make all my own toiletries with bicarbonate of soda, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, bentonite clay, activated charcoal and essential oils. If you would like a blog post on that, tell me in the comments below!
  • Apple cider vinegar and coconut oil (see above)
The closet
The closet

Oh, the agony of getting rid of so many favourite items! I've now scaled my closet down to the following:

  • Swimwear and light scarf
  • One light summer's dress
  • Kenyan Kikoi (this is probably my favourite item. It can be used as a towel, a blanket, a shawl, a dress, or even worn as pants.)
  • One warm top (this will obviously change once we move into winter)
  • Foldable hat
  • Two pairs of cotton underwear from the lovely Ivy White
  • Two pairs of shorts, one for wearing and one for sleeping
  • Five pairs of thick socks
  • Three pairs of tights for cycling
  • Three long sleeve button up shirts for cycling
  • Two short sleeve shirts for wearing, and one long sleeve shirt for when it gets colder than expected
  • Four pairs of sleeveless shirts to wear under button up shirts
  • One pair of jeans
  • Sandals
  • Fancy, warm shoes - but super comfortable!
  • Extra sleeves for sun protection and cycling gloves
  • Sponsored bandana - all thanks to Oppikoppi circa 2011
  • One skirt
  • Rain coat
  • Cycling shoes (these obviously don't go in the bags!)

Not shown in the pictures are a few other items:

  • Cellphone and charger (I used the cellphone to take the pictures!)
  • Helmet
  • Purse, and essential documentation like ID
  • Headphones
  • Patching kit for punctures
  • Rope

These are the items on my list for the moment. If you think there is some essential item I'm missing, please let me know in the comments below!