We’re working on lists and links for all the stuff we’ve brought with us for our ride. It might take us a while to get it completed.
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Hope you find our comments on the following products useful 🙂
For Alaska, James and I both bought cheapo Bilt dual sport helmets at Cycle Gear…and both of them proceeded to fall apart. Screws fell out of both our sun visors, causing some seriously annoying vibration every time the wind caught it. His flip down sun visor jammed and the final straw, my crush liner started separating from the shell, after just five weeks! I decided helmets aren’t the place to try and save and went all out for the Shoei Hornet. The difference in wind noise compared to cheaper helmets is astounding, but I still wish I’d gone for the Arai XD like Andrea did. The cushioning is a lot better, making it more comfortable after hours and hours of riding.
Since we like to ride dirt, we both sport some crazy body armor. This is one of the few women’s jackets which armor equivalent to the men’s version. Pressure suits are great because they keep your armor in place when you go over the handlebars and start barrel rolling down the road. You will look like a ninja storm trooper, but you will be protected!
Listen closely because this is VERY important. If you have a jacket or pants with waterproof lining, take them out and buy external waterproofs instead. Here’s why: If it starts down pouring, do you really want to be taking off your pants on the side of the road and standing there in your underwear fiddling with zippers and clasps? Secondly, the whole outer layer is still going to get soaked through and if it’s damp out, likely to remain that way for days. It’s going to be a bad time. I have had the same set of Frogg Toggs for years and worn them hundreds of times. They are starting to look a little rough, but they still work great! They’re cheap and the Frogg Togg Dri Ducks I have stuff down to a pretty small bundle. I can’t recommend them enough!
Also one thing we don’t have, but wish we did, are gaitors. I can usually get my Frogg Toggs to cover the tops of my boots, but sometimes they’ll scoot up and in come the flood waters. Many styles of pants and waterproofs basically funnel all the water right into your boots. Wet shoes take a long time to dry and wet feet can give you all kinds of grief.
Proper riding boots are a really good idea, but for a trip like ours, we both decided something waterproof that we could easily hike in was more important. We sacrificed some protection of our feet when dirt riding, but being able to hop off the bike and explore a scenic trail without changing footwear is definitely worth it for us. Andrea sports the same Dr. Martens she’s had for a decade, having them resoled and reinforced whenever they start falling off her feet. They’re *mostly* waterproof for a while, as long as water doesn’t enter through the top of the boots..
I have some awesome Vasque hiking boots that I love to death. I previously had the Sundowners and they lasted many years of daily wear and serious abuse. I just got these Wasatch ones a year ago and expect them to last at least as long. I have never owned other shoes where strangers are so enthusiastic to declare they have the same ones. Everyone loves their Vasque boots and they all say the same thing: they last forever, they’re waterproof and super comfortable.
Gloves are annoying; it seems like anytime I find a pair I really like, I lose one of them or burn a hole in one picking the bike up and then discover they’ve been discontinued and I can’t buy the same ones and have to get something else. Right now we’re both just wearing cheap Fox Dirt Paw gloves when it’s hot. When it’s cold, I have these Street and Steel waterproof winter gloves and Andrea has some discontinued BMW Motorrad similar to these below.
I really recommend knee guards for anyone riding dirt and especially for new riders. Knees are relatively fragile and sensitive body parts and it’s really easy to dump your bike and land with all of your weight on your knee! I have some discontinued Icon knee guards very similar to the Armadillo ones below and I like how they fit under most styles of pants (I wear my knee guards all the time, even on the street). Andrea is sporting cheapo Fox guards, which are better than nothing, but we’re both really jealous of the fancy Fox Titan Pro our friend Dan has for off-roading; if I were to buy a new pair tomorrow, that’s what I’d get.
I loved my first pair of Fox Switch pants so much that – when I finally managed to destroy them – I bought another. They keep changing the colors and graphics, but the pants remain awesome. Super comfortable, zip off into shorts (if you want to wade into some water at the end of a ride), and have a big zipping side pocket for quick access to your camera, phone or wallet. Also, they’re cut to fit over your boots, effectively deflecting water and mud. While not waterproof in a downpour, the fabric is reasonably water resistant for getting sprinkled on or splashing through smaller puddles.
Andrea sports regular dirt bike style pants which she loved, but found lacking in the pocket department. We had them fixed in Guatemala.
CAMPING, COOKING AND SECURITY
A good stove is a must for the serious adventurer. Being able to make a warm cup of coffee in the morning or bowl of soup after a cold day of riding is priceless for me. Sometimes a smashed Clif Bar just can’t cut it. There are a only a few stoves on the market that run on gasoline and this MSR International is awesome! I originally had the Coleman Dual Fuel stove, but it was a pain to use and quickly jammed and stopped working completely. This stove works like a dream every time. It runs on regular gasoline, so you don’t have to carry extra fuel or deal with hunting down pressurized fuel canisters which may not exist in many countries.
Andrea has the REI 2+ Half Dome tent that is sadly no longer for sale. We both love it because it is large enough for 2 people and any gear we need to keep out of the rain. Some people do the hammock or bivy sack, but I’m partial to a space you can comfortably live in for a day if you’re trying to wait out bad weather. On a long overland journey, this will be your home, so it’s worth it to get a nice one. The tent below has great reviews, it’s cheap and sports many of the same features we like about our tent, but it has one great feature ours doesn’t, camouflage!
Currently when stealth camping, we set our tent up behind the bikes and then put camo covers over the bikes. These covers are cheap, waterproof and pack down small. We also use the covers in cities to dissuade thieves.
We use a long, thick bike lock to secure the bikes to each other and a tree or lamp post when possible. It’s also handy that you can thread it through the arm of a jacket or through a helmet if you want to walk around the city sans gear. I additionally have a Xena alarm lock which I put on the front brake disc to call attention to anyone messing with the bikes or covers.
A sleeping pad is a wonderful thing, I can’t imagine doing this trip without one. A good pad will keep the cold ground from leeching your precious body heat and also turns even rocky surfaces into something reasonable to sleep on. I have an REI mat that is insanely comfortable…but the valve design is poor and broke in a couple weeks. Because of that, I can only recommend the Therm-a-rest pad. I used to have a ProLite and while not as comfortable, it packs down nice and small. Personally I think it’s worth the weight and space to sleep comfortably in the dirt, you’ll save a lot of money over staying in hotels…and I actually pull my sleeping pad out in a lot of rooms to make old lumpy mattresses more cozy! Andrea has the 3/4 length Thermarest as a space/comfort compromise, you really only -need- a thick pad for your shoulders and hips, but I really like having a full pad.
After much research and debate, Andrea and I each bought one of these Kelty Coromell sleeping bags. The semi-rectangular shape keeps you warm like a mummy, but the two can be zipped together to form one giant bag if you need to huddle together for warmth. The bag is good for as low as 20 degrees and the power down fill is super warm yet compresses down easily into a small stuff sack.
I stuff everything into dry bags. You really want a waterproof exterior around anything before you strap it to your bike. We bought a bunch of the cheap Walmart Outdoor Products brand bags and their poor quality is already becoming an issue. These Seal Line ones aren’t that much more and the reviews are glowing, so I would definitely recommend trying them instead!
For items that need a more rugged bag, I use these bags from Klein tools. These are not waterproof, but are built to last. I write the contents on the outside with a permanent marker. Having my items grouped and color coded helps a lot for finding what I need.