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February 26, 2017 5 min read 1 Comment
With just over a week to go, I have packed and repacked my bags every weekend and every time I do, I remove an item. With a motorbike, space and weight is key. Every little bit will affect how far you can travel, and how many more important supplies you can take. For example, even though I've packed a fair bit, I'm saving space for energy bars, fruit, and upwards to 6L of water.
Here's what I am bringing:
I now refuse to go anywhere without my trusty sidekick, the Killswitch Pack. It'll be the only piece of "luggage" that I'll be wearing this whole trip because it keeps my phone, iPod, and wallet out of my pocket.
I know what you're thinking - how the hell is a collective 108L of cargo "minimalism"? I mean, surely that means you're taking an entire stove and washing machine with you?
Fitting 40 days of supplies into 108L is a bit of a task. In the above picture, I have included a 2-person tent, a full sleeping bag, a spare motorcycle jacket, and two 5L jerry cans. Now if you think about it, that doesn't leave much space for things that you'd just "like to have around".
I'm not a fan of carrying much cargo. It changes the balance of the bike and how far you can go on a single tank. But a 40 day trip through Outback Australia makes it necessary to prepare for any and all problems along the way. I'm going into this trip knowingthat my bike is going to break down - it's just a matter of when. With this overly cautious mindset, I feel like I'd be mentally prepared for anything that goes wrong.
I'll also bring a prototype/sample of the Ashvault Backpack to see what 18,000km can do to it.
I have a rule: If it doesn't fit into these bags, it's not coming with me.
First and foremost: fuel.
My 16L tank will go about 250km if I have no cargo and am sipping fuel. However, I'll have enough cargo to outweigh a small child, and will be facing headwinds that are stronger than any in the city. Another 15L might seem like overkill, but I will be able to make an estimated 400km on the combined petrol - enough to turn back around to the nearest town if I get in trouble.
If you have ever tried to carry fuel on a sportbike, you know it's not an easy task. Without spending $250 on a couple of 4L Rotopax cells, you need to find a way to make a $13 petrol can work. Luckily, these fit nicely into the Oxford saddlebags without the bags needing to expand. With 5L on each side, it makes for a much more balanced ride than the Rotopax in my situation.
Gratitude is a forgotten art. I think about all the times it has rained in the city, and people get in all up in a huff while standing under an awning of a cafe in the CBD (central business district, or "Downtown" in North American-speak). I can promise that none of those people have ever been caught in a rainstorm 700km away from the nearest big city. On a motorbike. In a forest. (guess who has?)
At that point, the simplest things are now essential to life. Whether it is extreme desert heat or torrential rain, it's important that one has shelter that can ward off both. No amount of sunscreen is going to make you feel better if you're straddling a 100°C engine in a 46°C desert. In Australia, there have been record temperatures that have measured hotter than Africa and South America. Freak heatwaves have caused deaths across the nation only last week. And as a Canadian who is quite comfortable in shorts at 15°C, this is a very scary thing.
I've always had a thing for gear. Motorcycle gear, tools, even interesting office stationary. I've had to pack and unpack and repack multiple times over the last few weeks and every time I do, I minimize a little bit further. This is so I can have extra space for water, food, and other supplies if need be.
Tools & Repair:
I'm a minimalist by heart, so it wasn't hard to pick out just a few items of clothing and make it work. Half the battle will be personal hygiene, but living on a chicken farm for 3 months definitely helped me prepare for that.
This is all the clothes I'm bringing for 40 days.
There are some things that living in the city would never let you worry about. One of those things is having potable water around you at all times. In the desert, your skin and hair lose moisture very fast, not to mention sweating in the desert heat. Dehydration is the number one cause of heat stroke, and if you've ever had it, you know that it is one of the worst states to be in. When I was 10, my family visited Disneyland in Los Angeles and we weren't ready for the heat of Southern California. And as a kid, the last thing on my mind was sunscreen. All my attention was on getting on rides and meeting Mickey himself. I ended that trip with severe heat trauma and nearly passed out at a restaurant. I was violently ill in the airport on the way back home, and didn't feel right for weeks after. My parents didn't know what happened at the time, but now I'm over cautious when it comes to heat.
With one week left to go, my goals for the week include finishing up work and spending my time loading and unloading my bike, taking time to strap it down and learn what works best. It will be a learning curve as soon as I hit the road next Tuesday, but as the old saying goes, "there's no such thing as bad weather - just bad equipment".
April 17, 2019
I have done the fullest round Australia solo trip three times on my BMW K1200RS and your writings are the best I have ever seen. They bring back real memories. Thank you for your work. I agree with all of it. Andrew