When we told people that we'd be cycling to Burma on a tandem for three weeks with only a sandwich bag and four panniers, they looked at us like we were mad.
Honestly, you learn to live on very little whilst on the road. When we did our Easter tour last year, we took our individual tourers with us (Neil on his Fuji Touring, Jess on her Dawes Galaxy) and had one pannier each. And even then, we overpacked.
Because we will be unsupported and travelling in a country where the infrastructure is not set up for bike maintenance and repair, we are very careful about what we deem necessary. There has been many a list made. The following is what gear we'll take with us:
- Ortlieb Backroller Classic Panniers: full-sized ones for both the front and back racks. If you live in Berlin, you can pick them up at Stadler near Storkower Straße or Der Aussteiger on Danziger Straße.
- Ortlieb Ultimate6 Classic handlebar bag: affectionately known as the "sandwich bag", and highly recommended because it's just really useful for keeping things that you'll need regularly right at your fingertips, such as maps and cameras.
- CYCLE2CHARGE V2 USB hub: for our dynamo. This will come in handy so we're able to charge our phones/action camera on the go. Starts working consistently around 10-12kph.
- Xiaomi Yi Action Sport Camera: our "Go-Pro" of choice. With similar specs as the Go-Pro HERO3 and at a more reasonable price of €80, it was a no-brainer for us. Take a look at this Youtube video that does a side-by-side comparison of the video output for further research.
- DrinkSafe Systems Travel Tap: Burma is ranked very poorly in world reports regarding tap water quality. Whilst we've heard that bottled drinking water is widely available for purchase, there might be moments where we run out during a ride in the middle of nowhere. So we're taking a filter water bottle to get us out of scrapes if such a time comes.
- VDO M1.1 Wireless Trip Computer: an addition to Strava (follow Neil here and Jess here) which will provide live data on our riding time/speed. Placed right on the captain's handlebar stem in plain sight, it is a nice-to-have so that we're not constantly fumbling with our phones to check the same details.
- Reise Know-How Landkarte Myanmar (1:1.500.000): We do not have an explicit navigation system other than the Google Maps app on our phones for this trip. In the case of Burma, it might actually help to have one because mobile networks might not be as strong as most other countries. But as our route is pretty straightforward (more on that in the next post), we're fine with supplementing our usual approach with a road map.
- Shimano SPD SL Cleats: spare ones for our bike shoes. Our tandem is fitted with Shimano PD-R5800 pedals.
- Topeak Road Morph Pump: small portable tire pump that you can fit right to the bike frame.
- Continental TravelContact Foldable Tire: Again, this, alongside the filter water bottle might be overkill, but we'd rather be safe than sorry on this trip. In the event that our tires get punctured to the point of no return, we'll have a very good spare on hand.
- Loftra SKYLITE Sleeping Bags: just in case we're unable to find accommodation and need to spend the night in a monastery. It is illegal for foreigners to camp in Burma, so when guesthouses/hotels aren't an option, we'll be sleeping with the monks and those sleeping bags might well be the lone barrier between us and a wooden floor. We chose these particular sleeping bags because they're very small and light, and more than warm enough for our purposes.
- ABUS Centuro 860 bike lock: luckily comes in a larger size to accommodate our tandem.
- Typical bike tools such as a 15mm wrench for pedals, tire levers, spare tire tubes, multitool, chain oil, WD40, handlebar tape, spare cables, spare disc brakes, Allen keys, cable zip ties, spare spokes, grease for our couplings, rim tape, and (most importantly) duct tape.
Other nontypical things to consider taking whilst on the road are toilet paper and hand sanitiser. We also have a mini first aid kit with plasters and standard medication.
The vaccinations that we got beforehand were Cholera, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies. If you don't have Hepatitis A and Tetanus already, get those too. Depending on the time of year you go, Malaria may or may not be needed - we personally opted out because we're travelling during the peak of dry season, and the side effects of Malaria pills outweigh the potential benefits.
From a clothing perspective, we've kept it quite minimal as well. Most fellow tourers we meet tend to dress quite casually (sandals, shorts, tops), but we've always preferred being kitted up. Because space is limited and we'll be riding for most of the day, priority has been given to our cycling clothes. We're bringing enough to recycle through 3-4 days on the road at a time, with the hope that we'll be able to get laundry done in the major cities like Yangon, Pyay, and Bagan.
Up to you about what fits best and is the most comfortable. Our favourite, faithful, tested brands are:
Civvies for post-rides are even lower on the priority chain. A couple pairs of shorts, some t-shirts, and flip flops should be plenty.