« on: March 22, 2015, 11:21:29 am »
I don't know about the Thule system, but the claim that it's universal seems overblown to me. Most standard panniers, whether from Ortlieb, Arkel, REI, etc. will fit on any standard rack. You might have to change racks if you go from a road bike (again, most any standard rack) to a suspended mountain bike, but that's the extent of the changes.
Flats are the major repair you'll need to deal with on the road. Broken spokes might be second; start with wheels that are well built (correctly tensioned and stress-relieved spokes), and carry a FIberfix spare. At least on roads in the US, you'll rarely be more than a day or two away from a bike shop, and you can limp/hitch that far for the rest.
Do a search for tires in this forum. We all have favorites, from light racing tires to heavy tires that ride like iron. How wide a tire can your bike handle?
Comfortable saddles depend on what's on top of them. 1/3 to over 1/2 of the touring cyclists I've seen ride Brooks B-17 saddles, like me. Other people have an allergic reaction to the name or material. Ride lots until you find one that's comfortable on your bottom, but remember that what's comfortable after a half mile test ride is rarely comfortable after 50 miles. There's a certain amount of toughening of the hide that's required to ride long miles day after day.
What tent do you have? It'll probably work. Choose your poison, a heavy tent you can sit out a day long downpour or a lightweight poncho. I'll only say that in mosquito territory, doors, netting, and enough space that body parts don't lie against the tent wall are good ideas -- the little buggers can bite right through waterproof fabric.