On day twelve we traveled over 50 miles through the most beautiful redrock canyons of our trip. As we passed through Hanksville and set out on toward the pinnacles of the San Rafael Swell, Geoff told me that the first time he came
west he followed this road to Salt Lake. The absence of light in the sand-swept
desert made him nervous; it was so remote and isolated. What if his car broke
down? How would he find help?

Ironic, he said, how the remote desert that once made him so uneasy in a car was
now a place he felt perfectly comfortable to cross over on a bicycle, even
though the nearest phone call, the nearest hospital, the nearest repair shop
were all unreachable without outside help. How, then, are we so content in these
conditions? I realized that a lot of our comfort stemmed from preparations -
condensing and packaging all of our belongings, then whittling them down to bare
necessities, thereby enabling us to carry, with a little innovation, everything
we need to survive these desert conditions. 

Since bicycle touring is different in many ways to other modes of self-contained travel, I’m including a rundown of everything you’d ever want to bring on any length of a bicycle camping trip:

* Panniers: Two full-sized in back, two smaller in front, and one handlebar bag.
Many recommend putting most of your weight in the front for stability, but I
found it more comfortable to keep the bulk of the weight in back.

What to carry in front panniers:

*Camping pillow: ( a necessity if you ask me - you can buy these at Wal-mart
for $4 and scrunch them into the pocket of a jacket if needed.)
* Sleeping bag: small synthetic bags rated to 15 or 20 degrees are most ideal.
Look for bags that weigh 3 pounds or less.
* Sleeping pad: Therm-a-rest makes a 3/4 length, 1/2” thick self-inflating pad
that can also fit into a jacket pocket when rolled up.
* Clothing: No matter how long your trip, keep it light. Also, keep in mind that
even on a two week trip you’re likely to encounter rain, wind, snow, sleet, dust
and even ice. Here’s what I found to be useful:
- three nylon or lycra short sleeve tops
- two pair padded lycra cycling shorts
- one pair synthetic fabric long johns
- one pair nylon zip-off pants that convert to shorts
- four pair synthetic fabric socks
- one polar fleece jacket
- one water-proof parka with hood ( I used my winter coat shell)
- one pair water-proof gloves (I brought ski gloves)
- one pair bicycling gloves
- face/ear warmer
Some purists would even consider this meager amount of clothing to be excessive.
On my trip I encountered weather that ranged from 27 degrees and snowing to 90
degrees and dry with 30 mph headwinds. I used every single thing on this list,
and was thankful to have it.
* Rain suit: I bought a yellow plastic jacket/pants combo at a sporting goods store for $10. Take that, Gortex.

In the handlebar bag:

* Tools: An Allen wrench, two spare tubes, spare rubber for patching tires,
screwdriver, leatherman and pocket knife.
* Energy bars: This is my cover-up term for Skittles and gummy bears.
* Sunglasses
* Pencil and paper, for quick notes
* Sometimes money; however, I keep my wallet on my body at all times.
* Weather radio. I also use a CD/radio headphone set. Use of headphones on the
road is unsafe and I can’t recommend it, but blasting Jimmy Eat World while
climbing has pushed me over multiple hills. Just remember that you’re taking a
big risk - you can’t hear traffic.

Stuff in the back panniers:

* Water: Those that travel in the eastern United States often don’t carry as
much. I found myself carrying up to two and a half gallons in various water and
gatorade bottles. I also strap a 100 oz. Camel Pack to my back, which would make
purists cringe, but I’m willing to endure am occasional shoulder cramp for
easy-to-access water. Plus, it leaves more room in my panniers for food.
* Tent and tarp: Small backpacking tents are ideal. Remember that dome tents
don’t actually keep out any water. We used a L.L. Bean two-person tent. Weight =
6 pounds. The tarp is for covering bikes when it rains.
* Camping stove: we used a primus single burner camp stove that utilizes those
propane/butane disposable canisters. It’s worth it to carry enough fuel for two
weeks of travel - you never know where you’re going to find more.
* Aluminum backpacking pot: works as a pot, plate, bowl and cup.
* Frying pan: we carried a full-size, 13” aluminum pan. Excessive, maybe, but
wonderful to have for pancakes.
* Collapsible fishing rod and lures: allows you to catch your own dinner, and
nothing’s better than fresh trout fried in a full-sized frying pan.
* Sunscreen!!!!! I’m forced to use SPF 30, and easily go through a 4 oz. bottle
in a week. Others are blessed with more sun tolerance than I am, but if not,
it’s probably to most important thing you’ll carry next to water.
* Bug spray: When it comes to keeping misquotes away, I’m not opposed to the
most toxic thing on the market. Give me 100 % DEET over natural citrus rub any
* Other toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrush, camp soap - which works as shampoo,
dish washing soap, hand washing soap, and laundry soup. If you ask me, these
three things are all you’ll need, though I admittedly carried excess stuff. My
theory - if it makes you comfortable, bring it.
* Two to four days worth of food: the things that travel best are dried beans,
rice, soft tortilla shells, pasta, cans of pasta sauce, carrots, onions,
potatoes, apples, oranges and peppers, dried soup packets, chocolate, cheese
(double wrapped), pancake mix, oatmeal, bagels, mixed nuts, and tuna fish. These
are the basics, and there’s always room for creativity.
* Ziplock bags, all shapes and sizes. These act as waterproofing for stuff when
it rains, garbage bags, and food storage bags.
* Headlamp: I use this as a flashlight in camp, and as a double headlight on
night rides.
* And, of course, the optional stuff that makes a traveler complete - camera,
notepad, sketch book, laptop computer, pencils, pens, magazines, novels. Never
take what you don’t need, but never leave behind what makes you happy.

Go to Day Thirteen
The Bare Necessities
What to pack on a bike trip; Day Twelve

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Day Twelve: Pass through Hanksville, Utah and Dirty Devil River; 52 miles; windy with evening thunderstorm; September 24, 2002