Gear

Over the years I have tried out various items of bike touring equipment in Africa. Those listed here present a good collection of trusted and recommended. I have left some comments and provided links for where items can be bought. Purchasing through the Amazon links earns me a tiny commission – something to support the website or buy me a coffee on the road.

Bicycle and accessories

  • Thorn Raven bicycle with Rohloff speedhub (internal hub gears): Over 6 years old now with about 50,000km on the clock. The frame has remained robust and reliable, as has the hub. Rohloff recommend changing the hub oil approximately every 5000km, but 10,000km or thereabouts also seems to be fine.
  • Ortlieb Ultimate Handlebar bag Like all other Ortlieb products – waterproof and strong. I have the large 10L version, which provides ample space for an SLR camera, map, travel belt etc.
  • Dry bag: Ortlieb Dry bag : Strong and durable and a perfect size (22L version) to carry tent + poles, groundsheet, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow, with some space left over. Having all camping gear in one bag strapped to the rear rack is the simplest and quickest packing system I have found.
  • Rear rack (Thorn expedition): Came with the bike and never had a worry that it would break. I place some duct tape around the parts where the panniers attach.
  • 2 x Schwalbe Marathon Mondial Folding- 26 x 2.00: Marathon Mondials are the replacement to the much-loved and sadly discontinued Schwalbe XRs. Fortunately these tyres are proving to be equally capable of taking on Africa’s worst roads.
  • Saddle: Brooks B-17 Men’s Saddle Size: 280 x 170 mm: The B-17 is one of the most popular touring saddles. Once broken in and looked after (mine isn’t a great example) it should last many years, slowly moulding to the contours of one’s bottom.
  • Butterfly handlebars: Zoom Multi Position Handlebar – Black: Multi position handlebars such as these provide just what they say. I like to stay upright while cycling and have several riding positions. These do the job well.
  • Bar tape: Bicycle Cork Handle Tape Wrap : I have long used butterfly handlebars and find they need some extra cushioning for long days holding the handlebars. This tape is cheap, soft and comfortable.
  • Kickstand Pletscher Twin Leg 320 mm Kickstand : A fully-loaded bicycle needs a strong kickstand and this is it. Make sure plenty of rubber cushioning separates the stand from the frame when bolting on. You may need to trim the length of the stand with a hacksaw so that the bicycle is not many inches from the ground when in use.
  • Tool kit: (comprising: allen keys, chain oil, grease, puncture repair, spanner for pedal removal, duct tape, pliers, plastic zip ties, chain breaker)
  • 2x inner tubes: Continental Bicycle Inner Tube : A couple of well-branded inner tubes are always important to carry. My rims only accept the narrower presta-type valves, which in most of Africa are not easy to find.
  • 6x spare spokes: With well-made wheels there is a good chance of cycling many thousands of kilometres without breaking a spoke. My rear wheel (now 50,000km) has yet to suffer a broken spoke.
  • 1x pair brake pads
  • Bike lock: Coil Combination Lock 180 cm x 10 mm: A heavy-duty bicycle lock of the type one might use in Europe or north America is less of a necessity in most of Africa. A simple key or combination lock such as this acts as a useful deterrent.
  • Ortlieb Saddle Bag: The mudracer Ortlieb bag I’ve used for the past few years doesn’t seem to be so easily available, but I’m sure other Ortlieb bags, such as this one linked to, provide an equal level of waterproofness. Very useful to quickly access small tools and a puncture repair kit.

Camping

  •  Tent: MSR HUBBA HUBBA NX 2 PERSON TENT (GREEN): The previous version of this tent (in yellow) proved to be pretty much the perfect tent for the (mostly) hot nights in Africa, with plenty of mesh interior for airflow and star-gazing. After a number of years (over 350 camping nights) the rain-sheet lost its durability, as all tents do, and I decided to replace it with the MSR Nook tunnel tent, which is slightly lighter than the hubba hubba, albeit a little smaller. Both make excellent size tents for single-person touring if you wish to store your gear inside and have a little rolling space. One-person tents for long-term tours  are perhaps for ultra weight-weenies, of which I am not.
  •  Sleeping bag: (Cumulus Quantum 200): Rated to 0 Celsius. This weighs a mere 450g and packs down to a very small size. Not all nights in Africa are hot. This bag seems to be the right rating for most of the continent.
  • Camping pillow: Exped Air Pillow-Ruby Red-M: Weighs just 70g and packs down to a minuscule size. Sensibly has an inflate and deflate valve and can be inflated in 2/3 breaths. More importantly, it’s very comfortable and holds good grip on the thermarest. Over the years I have tried compressed clothes in a bag and other inflatable pillows, but this has been far the best.
  • Vango – Balmoral Stool Lightweight (450g) and easy to strap onto a rear pannier. Very useful for roadside breaks and camping when there is shortage of soft green grass, which is often the case in Africa.
  • Petzl Tikka R+ Headlamp-Blue. I used a standard Petzl Tikka Head Lamp before, but decided to upgrade to something more powerful and that can also be charged by USB attachment, thus reducing the need for buying new batteries or carrying a rechargeable battery pack.
  • Multi-fuel stove Primus Omnifuel with fuel bottle 2014: A multi-fuel stove is arguably the best option on a long tour, particularly in countries where petrol/gasoline is often the only fuel widely available (such as in much of Africa). The Omnifuel also burns well on gas and white-gas and the construction of the pump is more solid and durable than the plastic parts used in other multi-fuel stoves.
  • Army Knife Forester Black: The main blade here is more useful than standard and smaller swiss army knife blades. It also has a nice safe interlocking system and doesn’t feel chunky when held in the hand like many other models.
  • 2x Cooking pots Coleman Non-Stick Cook Kit : Sensibly-priced and strong. I find a 2-pot system is adequate for a long tour, unless you are planning on cooking a variety of dishes.
  • Tupperware Container, 2 Litre (containing: cutlery, salt, pepper, sugar, filter coffee, olive oil, mixed spices). Sits flat in one of the front panniers.
  • Ortlieb Water Bag – 10L – Black, One Size: Very useful for bush showers and extra water storage when cycling long distances between water points. The straps can neatly be fixed under rear panniers so the bag is held in place firmly.

Camera and Electronics

  • Tripod Velbon Ultra Maxi L Tripod: Over the years I have switched between using a full-height tripod, as linked to here, and the more compact gorillapod above. This Velbon tripod weighs under 1 kg, which is about as light as a tripod supporting a SLR is going to get unless you pay far far more.
  • Garmin Edge 705 Gps : The 705 is some years old since it was first released and I have only been using it a few years, but it provides a level of accuracy I’ve come to appreciate. I usually have it charging on my front dynamo hub.
  • Phone Samsung Galaxy S4 : Used this for a few years now and often take snapshot photos with it.

Clothes and Miscellaneous

  • 3 x Lightweight cotton t-shirts.
  • 3 x Boxer shorts.
  • Tilley Hemp Hat TH5 : Probably my most valued item of clothing. On my head everyday and almost never blows off even at 60km/hr on a downhill.
  • Trekking sandals Karrimor Aruba, Men Hiking Sandals: Simple trekking sandals such as these have always worked well for me in Africa as they can be used for both cycling and walking.
  • Dry bags: Dry Bags Set of 4  Useful for compartmentalising gear which would otherwise sit loosely inside panniers. For example my battery pack, chargers, external hard drive and cables go in one dry bag. Another one acts as a wash bag for toothpaste, soap etc.
  • Flip flops (essential for African bucket showers)
  • 1 x pair of jeans. Not for cycling obviously, but nights out in towns.
  • Wash-bag (containing toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, condoms, soap)
  • Lip balm
  • Day sack Exped Cloudburst 25 : Weighs almost nothing and can be easily rolled up at the bottom of a pannier. Useful for days off the bike.

My kit laid bare

Most of the items in this picture are listed above. I could easily reduce some of the weight, but I’m not an ultra-weight conscious tourer. Depending on how much foodstuff I carry my full load weighs between 25-33kg.