Oftentimes, I think about the vicious cycle of slaving long hours for some capitalist pigs just to make enough for rent, gas, food, utilities, medical bills and to keep all the junk we surround ourselves with running. How much money would I need to bike from place to place, carrying all my earthly possessions on the bike? I know, stuff breaks and sports equipment and bike parts are expensive. Yet I dream about stepping out of the door, hopping on a heavily loaded bike and perhaps four, five months later ringing a door bell at my mom's place. "Hi mom, just riding by and I thought I would stop by for a few days and do my laundry!"
The question is where to pack the minimum necessary items for a long bike trips in a way that would not collapse the bike and make it still rideable uphill? This problem has been addressed by thousands of people, there are setups described on the Internet, and many companies make high quality bike touring gear. Here is a table comparing just a few of those products - basically Revelate Design bags vs. Thule universal bike rack and Ortlieb panniers:
|Product||weight [oz]||weight [g]||volume [liters]||cost $|
|Pack n' Pedal Tour||35||990||NA||89|
|Ortlieb Roller classic||67||1900||40||150|
A lightweight setup using Revelate Designs Tangle frame bag, a handlebar mounted Sweetroll and the Viscacha (larger of the two) seat bag would weight 935g, have volume of 32.5 liters and cost $295. Under a kilogram for all three bags is very light and I see why this is a choice of many long distance bikepackers as well as racers (Tour Divide, for example). Yet 32.5 liters of scape does not seem like enough for self-supported bike trips which would include camping.
Last year, touring the Sierra Cascades route on a road bike, I had the two Backroller panniers about 75% full and carried a Camelbak Hawg (about 13 liters). I did not carry a tent, sleeping bag or cooking stuff (stove and pot), but I did pack an emergency bivvy, which was the size of a hammock when packed. Since we stayed in hotels and motels, I did bring some off bike clothes, like long pants, T shirt and a puffy jacket.
In comparison, the Thule Pack n' Pedal rack with frames and two Ortlieb panniers weigh more than three times as much at 3,315 grams while providing only 7.5 L more space. Cost would be comparable at ~ $260, but I already have the panniers so subtract $160. The rack is rated for high loads (55lbs) and both the rack and panniers are completely waterproof and non-wettable (I know Revelate bags are waterproof, too but the fabric must get wet on the outside in a rain). The big disadvantage is that all the weight is on the rear wheel using this setup. Adding a frame bag or a handlebar harness would distribute the weight better, but add even more weight.
Verdict: bags for minimalist touring on trails around Lake Tahoe, rack and panniers for long road trips through the Pacific Northwest. Two water bottles and a credit card for bike touring in Europe.