The packer’s conundrum: Will it all fit?

“On a long journey even a straw weighs heavy.”
– Spanish proverb

OK, let’s find the straw in this pile of gear.
Pile of gear 1As of today, the stuff shown in the photo at left is what I plan to haul on my bicycle when our transcontinental journey begins in San Diego on Sept. 20. As I pack it into the bike’s front and rear panniers, some weeding out is inevitable.
The heaviest single pieces of gear are the Eureka Horse Creek sleeping bag, the REI Quarter Dome T1 solo tent and the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook. Each weighs under 2.5 pounds. And I consider each an essential item. The weeding out will probably involve articles of clothing and ancillary electronics gadgets.
I carried essentially the same gear on the Illinois Great Rivers Ride, a trip through southern Illinois last September and everything fit nicely into my Arkel panniers, with room to spare. The panniers, in fact, have so many zippered compartments that it’s sometimes difficult to remember where stuff is stowed.
I used that weeklong ride in Illinois, which included some formidable hills, as a shakedown cruise for the cross-country ride. The Illinois ride was fully supported, but I carried all my gear to see how difficult it would be on a long journey. It turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.

Fully loaded in Illinois

Fully loaded in Illinois

Everything seemed to be nicely balanced in the panniers. And once the bike gathered momentum, the load became less noticeable. But obviously you can’t travel as fast with a full load as you would without, especially up hills.
The only “heavy” item that I didn’t carry in Illinois was the Dell netbook. But I’ll need that if I want to maintain this blog on the road to keep my wife and three sons — and anyone else who might be interested — up to date on the journey.
In his book Made in America, travel writer and humorist Bill Bryson notes how the Pilgrims, who arrived in America aboard the Mayflower in 1620, packed for their voyage to the New World.
Plaque on Mullins house in Dorking, England

Plaque on Mullins house in Dorking, England

“It would be difficult to imagine a group of people more ill-suited to a life in the wilderness,” Bryson wrote.
“They packed as if they had misunderstood the purpose of the trip. They found room for sundials and candle snuffers, a drum, a trumpet, and a complete history of Turkey. One William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and 13 pairs of boots. Yet between them they failed to bring a single cow or horse or plough or fishing line.”
I hope I’ve packed a bit better than the Pilgrims. I’ll have only two pair of footwear — Lake MX 155 high-top biking shoes and Keen sandals. No sundial, trumpet or candle snuffers. But it would be nice if I had room for a cooler full of cold beer.



Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Journeys

5 responses to “The packer’s conundrum: Will it all fit?

  1. Jack Z. Smith

    Are you losing your senses? You’ve got to make room, somehow, some way, for that beer cooler. And pack it full of that great Rahr’s beer from Fort Worth, Texas.
    Your friend,
    Jack Z.

    • Jack,
      Thanks for looking at the blog. Today, I packed all that stuff in the panniers and it did, indeed, fit — with room to spare. I guess I can take that cooler of Rahr’s after all. Take care.

  2. dee gulledge


    I can’t believe the day is already here!!! Now that you have room for beer, you need to add a new page to your blog….beer I drank along the route! Can’t wait to experience the sights, aches, pains and joys with you every day! Hope you had a great sendoff party. Be safe, be healthy, be in Moab next year for riding! I want you to try Milt’s double cheeseburger after we ride through Arches! Carpe Diem! dee

    • Dee,
      Thanks for the good wishes. Yes, the day is almost here. I leave tomorrow morning for San Diego. I’m driving out there in a one-way rental. We gather on Friday evening at the Point Loma Hostel, do a shakedown ride on Saturday and set out on Sunday. We, indeed, had a very nice sendoff gathering and we wished you had been able to join us. Take care and thanks again.

  3. Hi there,
    Nice post, I just found it and I’m already a fan.

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