I travelled around the British Isles on a £70 Raleigh Pioneer and with the most basic of equipment.
Why? Because I was skint, mainly. But out of an idealistic belief that one should be able to travel and explore without need of expensive specialist equipment. No cycling travelogue is complete without a luggage list, with enough kit to establish a small village. Here’s what I set out with, and what happened with it.
1 x £20 ultra-basic one-man tent bought online – it survived, though after about a week I had to tape together its pole and tape over the rips in the sheet, particularly when it rained
1 x inflatable mattress – survived, though wouldn’t inflate after 80 days
1 x £20 basic sleeping bag – fine
2 x Carradice Carradura panniers – first pannier broke within hours of leaving, and had to be replaced after seven days. The second lasted the entirety of the trip though had begun to tear apart. An Altura Dryline 56 pannier was bought and proved far better, though its hooks snapped clean off after around 120 days of cycling, rendering it useless
1 x compass – unnecessary, and sent home after 70 days
1 x mini camping stove, cooking bowl, swiss army knife, and spare gas – far too heavy and cumbersome, I posted this home on my second day, and have no regrets about it
1 x beloved bike, with a flask, locks, tools, spare tube, and puncture repair kit – everything except the frame broke. Brakes and brake pads, back-wheel, gears and axle bearing were all replaced. Serious wear and tear
1 x helmet and high-vis – survived
1 x scotch whisky – an absolute necessity. Finished a 35cl bottle of Jura Origin 30 days in, and replaced with Jura Superstition after crossing the border into England where access to quality whisky was heavily diminished
1 x trowel and bogroll – another absolute necessity when wild camping
1 x phone, charger and headphones – survived. Headphones unnecessary
1 x cheap netbook and charger – netbook screen cracked about 120 days in after my pannier broke off over a Bexhill pothole, but an essential item. A long battery life is far more useful than any other feature
1 x digital camera – essential. Over the course of my trip I had to replace my camera four times. One picked up a speck in the lens, the second damaged by heavy rain whilst in my shirt pocket, the third was useless, the fourth fell in a toilet, and the fifth… fell on the floor countless times, but managed to survive
3 x notebooks and pens – useless. I used my free time to talk to people instead of writing. Posted half of these home, the other half were damaged during several tent floods
3 x reading books – also useless. Far less time to read than one would suppose. Some badly damaged by rains
1 x warm hat and jumper – very necessary!
1 x harrington – fell off my bike in Edinburgh, and later replaced with an inadequate cheap ‘showerproof’ coat in Dundee
1 x shorts – fell apart when I climbed Ben Nevis and required stitching back up, but one pair sufficient
2 x jeans – one pair was enough
2 x shirts
2 x t-shirts
4 x undies – plenty. There was never a need for more than four days’ worth of clothes
1 x pair DZR Ovis cycling shoes – essential, but first pair fell apart around 65 days in and replaced with a second pair, which then fell apart 122 days in
1 x cloth and soap to clean above garments – pointless. I was able to wash my clothes when staying with friends or couchsurfing. Never had to use a laundrette
1 x sunglasses – essential, as were spectacles. Lost one pair whilst drunkenly clubbing in Preston
1 x toothbrush and paste, deodorant and shower gel, wax and comb, razor and soap, nail-cutters – toiletries indispensable for trying to appear remotely respectable, particularly after wild-camping for a few days in a row
1000 x hayfever pills and spray – my allergies started to lessen a week or so into my journey as my immune system strengthened, and I had little need for these.
And these extras proved useful on my trip:
1 x poncho – I used this for about four weeks after I realised my jacket wasn’t waterproof. It too was useless, and fell off my bike in Inverness
1 x deep heat spray – suffered very bad muscle cramps after taking a couple of rest days in Edinburgh, but not after
1 x cyclists’ anti-friction balm – expensive but necessary after suffering bad saddle sores around 30 days in. Wish I’d bought this sooner
1 x sudocrem – essential for insect bites and saddle sores
1 x midge net + tropical repellent spray – very essential when travelling across the Highlands. I bought Avon Skin So Soft but didn’t need to use it
1 x pack plasters – helped to heal a bad cut to my knee after a tumble in Jersey. First aid supplies will come in handy.