Separating gear from stuff.
Probably the most challenging part is to streamline all the stuff ‘you-think-you’ll-need’ to the gear ‘you’ll-really-need’ because you won’t fit as much into the lighter and more minimalistic bikepacking bags as you would into a set of heavy panniers. To get a good overview, it can really help to create three piles beforehand. In one you add all the gear you need for camping — tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooking utensils as well as your camping stove. In the second pile, you place what you think is necessary for staying safe — rain gear, a set of extra clothes, a first aid kit, spare parts and your toolkit. In the very last jumble, toss everything which isn’t crucial to your survival, but rather a luxury, like the medium sized travel towel, soap and those clothes for days spent off the bike. It’s necessary to resist the notion to bring something “just in case”; instead, ask yourself if you really need it. If you’re in doubt, leave it out. Needless to say, that the third pile stays where it is, at home.
The core pieces of gear.
Of course, it’s always tempting to throw everything overboard and to start fresh when undergoing a fundamental change. There is some amazing light-weight gear out there and when you just start to think about it, you’ll find that you can ‘lighten’ your load even by changing the smallest things or taking it as far as cutting the handle of your toothbrush. But don’t worry, you don’t really have to plunder all your savings to go ‘lightweight’ or spending the rest of your days awkwardly brushing your teeth with only half-a-toothbrush. Instead concentrate on the core pieces of your equipment. In our case this meant our tent and sleeping bags and pads. We replaced our heavy and roomy all-season tent for the lighter and smaller three season version. Additionally, we traded our bulky, 1.8kg (4lb) sleeping bags for down-filled quilts, weighing no more than 0.9kg (1.9lb) and packing way smaller. In the end, we even decided to keep our old sleeping pads, simply because we did not want to invest more money, and they fit just fine. So instead of spending all our money on new gear, we agreed on replacing only those items which really made a noticeable difference. In the future we might keep exchanging more bits and pieces, but at first it is a smart approach to not worry too much about every nanogram. Carrying some extra weight on a bike is, in the end, more forgiving than actually having it to carry on your back.
Going lightweight might be not every cycle tourer’s cup of tea. A few fellow ‘bike tourists’ who skeptically studied our new setups, did not only consider us as spartan but also silently were giving us those pity looks as if we had to suffer under our minimalist approach to bike travel. Our lighter, agile rigs have encouraged us to explore more remote and wild places which we could only dream to do before. And in case the promising looking path turns out to lead nowhere, the relatively light bike makes it less painful if you have to push it for a while.
Of course, we gave up some of our ‘comfort,’ but we also gained an incredible amount of new possibilities of where we can go, and so far we don’t miss the luxuries we have given up.
So before you do change, make sure that it is something you really want, but keep in mind you also don’t really have anything to lose, apart from a gram here and there.