Words and photos: Beth Puliti
Originally published in Issue #42
I recently came across a photo from the very first day of our bike tour, which happened to commence in Munich, Germany, nearly two years ago. Along with wistful memories of bucolic bike paths, belled cows and big mugs of beer, it evoked a surge of mixed emotions. That simultaneous feeling of excitement and terror. The adrenaline, anticipation and anxiety that pulses through your veins at the beginning of every big adventure.
“Oh my gosh! Our very first day!” I exclaimed. “It rained on us so much. Remember sneaking a few sandwiches from the hotel breakfast buffet? And that nude beach we passed in the middle of the city? I was so nerv—”
My reminiscing was interrupted by a howl of laughter from my husband, Justin, as he leaned in closer to examine the photo. “Look at how much stuff we had!” he cried. “Look at our panniers! They’re enormous! Look at your panniers! What could you possibly be carrying in those things?”
We started out with what we thought were the essentials, but since that first day, we’ve lightened our loads tremendously over the past 22 months. We even switched over to mountain bikes and swapped our rack-mounted panniers for bikepacking frame bags more than a year ago.
Bike and gear changes contributed significantly to the weight loss, but so did a few other things, namely: trimming excess clothes down to one set we sweat in and one set we don’t; procuring a smaller-footprint, lighter-weight tent; and swapping our multi-fuel stove and cook set first for a smaller titanium stove and then ditching it altogether when we pedaled through lands overflowing with cheap, ready-made food options.
That said, after all the pruning, there are some things we just can’t live without. I was not asked to endorse these products. They have simply proven their worth during our travels and I thought others might benefit from a list of the stuff we can’t seem to quit. Here are a few:
WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM
We switched out our bulky hand-pump system for a handheld UV purifier a few months into our tour and have used it countless times in developing countries. It allows us to fill up a water bottle from a tap, stream, well or other source. With less than a minute of swirling the UV stick—ta-da!—we have safe drinking water. No set up, no pumping and no waiting necessary.
We’re using a SteriPEN, which is certified by the Water Quality Association and destroys more than 99.9 percent of viruses, bacteria and protozoa. It closely resembles a magic wand when it’s lit up, and as far as I’m concerned, it might actually be one.
MINI BICYCLE PUMP
As much as I’d like to never carry or use this thing, it’s served us well on those all-too-frequent occasions we flat. We’re using the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV, and have had zero issues with it throughout nearly two years of use. It resembles a small floor pump, and is nearly as efficient as one. It accommodates both Schrader and Presta valves, and is compact and lightweight enough to fit into a frame bag or backpack.
SILK MUMMY LINER
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: Inside my sleeping bag on a cool evening under the stars. On the floor of homes I am kindly invited inside to sleep. On the overnight train/bus. As a barrier to unwashed bedding in cheap hotels. There are so many places I’ve used this thin piece of fabric that packs down to the size of a fist. We’ve been using Cocoon’s ripstop silk liners.
I have worn this piece of clothing nearly every single day. It’s proven itself time and again in relentless winds, on frigid early mornings, even under the stifling sun. Its secret to versatility is as simple as the cloth it’s cut from. Merino wool has magical qualities. It controls temperature, it has natural SPF protection, it’s moisture wicking, it’s fast drying, it’s odor resistant and it’s ultra-soft. We have personally found the Ibex tees to be superior to other Merino wool shirts we’ve tried.
I’m not sure what to say about this other than it will be one of the most useful things ladies will pack in their bags. I bought the Diva Cup before our trip, and haven’t had to buy a single feminine product in 22 months.
Beth Puliti is a writer and photographer currently traveling through Europe and Asia by bicycle. In the past 23 months, she has pedaled over some of the tallest mountain ranges in the world, which have doubled as some of the best teachers of lightweight travel. Follow her travels at www.bethpuliti.com and @bethpuliti.
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