What You Need for Self Supported Touring by Bicycle

  Equipment   Concerns   Considerations    Necessary Options
Equipment - Luggage        
Consider these things as you decide how to carry your gear:

You might want a trailer if:
  1. your tandem can't carry enough, or
  2. you need to leave your gear and ride away before camping, or
  3. you need to carry something too bulky for a pannier or rack, or
  4. your suspended bike can't handle a proper rack, or
  5. you need more security than a pannier would afford, or
  6. you need a place for a small child to ride, or
  7. you don't feel strong enough to handle the high weight of panniers on a bike, or
  8. you are riding a tricycle with insufficient mounting area.
Waterproof or Water Resistant?
  1. Waterproof only works if the lid is closed.
  2. Waterproof can be used to haul water and wash dishes/clothes.
  3. Waterproof generally has no (or fewer) compartments because stitching makes it harder to seal.
  4. Water Resistant will either be lighter, or have more compartments.
  5. Water Resistant is generally less expensive.
  6. With Water Resistant, you use One-Zip bags (or DryBags) to internally organize and keep things dry; with Waterproof, you use One-Zip bags (or DryBags) to keep moist stuff away from the dry stuff.
  7. Waterproof allows condensation built-up that can endanger high tech equipment.
Attachment System - Easy to Remove or Hard to Fall Off?
  1. Look for bags that offer both.
  2. Easy removal doesn't necessarily mean instantaneous, but should mean it can be removed and remounted without tools and without readjusting a lot of straps and cords.
  3. Hard to fall off may incorporate some kind of grabber for the rack, or use of materials that won't loose their stretch over time.
  4. A unit that can be repaired with parts from a hardware store may be a better deal than a fancy proprietary clamp and strap arrangement.
  5. Be sure parts on the pannier, particularly the hooks, are designed such that they won't be dangerous inside your tent.
  6. Look for large rain flaps over zippers (the biggest potential leak) and the larger the zipper and pull, the easier it will be to operate. Of course, straps and buckles may last longer and be easier to use than zippers, but few manufacturers use them.
  1. You can start with smaller panniers for the back, then move them to the front, and add larger panniers at the back, for longer, or out-of-season, or more intensive, tours.
  2. A large, partially full pannier can be more versatile than a small packed one. This is particularly true if it is equipped with horizontal compression straps to keep a partial load from flopping around.
  3. Many of the larger sized panniers have an extension part that can make the storage area taller.
  4. Panniers are sold as pairs; the capacities are for the pair.
  5. A standard grocery bag holds 2730 cubic inches.
  1. Top-loading are more waterproof and expandable.
  2. Side-loading are easier to access while on the road.
  3. Be aware of your need for heel clearance in back, and/or toe clearance in front.
  4. Mountain bags are tougher, but weigh more.
  1. add to cost
  2. store toxics like stove fuel
  3. store quick-access stuff like first aid and toilet paper
  4. store occasional use stuff, like rain gear and tubes (grin), or headlight and batteries
  5. store things (on front) that need to dry while you ride
  6. store daily access stuff like jacket, maps, or snacks
  7. store small items that might otherwise get lost or broken
  8. on the side are better than top pockets if you are stacking your tent/bag/mat on the back rack.
  1. Bright colors can be seen by drivers better.
  2. Bright colors can be seen from the road when you would rather be camping inconspicuously.
  3. Bright colors will eventually get dirty and/or fade.
  4. Whatever color you choose, if you get good quality, you will have to live with it for a loooong time.
  1. Keep heavy items low and to the inside.
  2. Side-to-side balance is important; front-to-back balance is not inportant.
  3. The main unit should NOT be partitioned for flexibility.
  4. Compression straps can stabilize a load.
  5. Shimmy sources:
    • overloaded handlebar bag
    • handlebar bag stabilizer cord too loose
    • uneven side-to-side weight distribution
    • stack on rack lashed too loosely
    • stack on rack is off center
    • stack on rack is on a bouncy surface