Author Topic: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?  (Read 5474 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Sharpsandflatts

2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« on: December 09, 2012, 07:21:15 pm »
Ok, first time poster here. I apologize in advance for a long-winded post.

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip across the southern tier beginning this coming September and are trying to do some initial planning for what gear we will need to purchase. Between the two of us we currently own a set of ortlieb front and back roller classics and a medium-sized ortlieb handlebar bag. For the 3-5 day tours we have taken thus far, I have carried the back rollers and the handlebar bag, while she has carried the front rollers on her rear rack. This has worked decently for our short trips, but for a ~2 month tour, we'll need a bit more carrying capacity.

It seems to me that the default set up for cross-country tourists is to have front and rear panniers plus a handlebar bag. However, since we will be sharing a lot of our gear (tent, cookware, tools, etc), I'm wondering if we can reasonably forego the purchase of one set of front panniers. I would thus be carrying front and rear panniers + handlebar bag while she would have just rear panniers + handlebar bag. This would mean that all we'd need to buy bag-wise is the back panniers and handlebar bag (we'll probably go ortlieb again) while saving the cost of the front panniers and front rack.

My questions are these: (1) Will this be enough space to carry all of our gear and supplies? We plan on packing reasonably light but we will be camping most nights and cooking most of our meals. (2) Will the imbalanced load (though lighter overall weight) of my girlfiend's bike  cause handling irregularities that will become unmanageably unpleasant over the course of a crosscountry tour? FWIW we will both be riding surly LHTs.

Thanks for the input!

Offline John Nelson

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2012, 07:43:25 pm »
Your plan sounds fine.

(1) yes
(2) no

Offline johnsondasw

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2012, 11:10:47 pm »
What John said.. In bike touring, less is more (to a point).
May the wind be at your back!

Offline Sharpsandflatts

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2012, 11:31:01 pm »
Sweet. Thanks for the affirmation!

Offline staehpj1

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 07:07:51 am »
Depending on packing style you can easily carry enough.  If you were to pack light two panniers each could be plenty.   Even two front panniers each can work if packing very lightly.

You really do not need to carry more for a tour that length than for a shorter one.  I would suggest you consider taking only what you have been using so far on your short trips for your longer trip.  Think about what you really need before deciding.

Some folks happily carry a ton of stuff.  If you are in that camp feel free to ignore my comments.  On the other hand, as I have gone lighter and lighter I have found the experience better and better.

I will say that September definitely wouldn't be my favorite time to be doing a Southern Tier.  I would think you will experience very hot weather.  February is prime time for starting this route in my opinion.  It is nice and cool and the days are starting to get a bit longer, as compares to going in December.  You couldn't pay me to do it in September, but I am a hot weather wimp and don't mind a bit of cold.  Having done it a few times, the experience of riding in 100-110F in the desert is definitely an experience that I have no desire to repeat.

Offline DaveB

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2012, 08:46:37 am »
You really do not need to carry more for a tour that length than for a shorter one.  I would suggest you consider taking only what you have been using so far on your short trips for your longer trip.  Think about what you really need before deciding.
This is an excellent point.  If what you've taken on a 5 day trip was enough, it will be enough for a 2 month trip. I assume you didn't take 5 days worth of clean clothes and had to wash on the 5-day trip so just continue on the same schedule.  At most you will need a bit of warmer clothing depending on where you ride  but that shouldn't add much bulk or weight.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2012, 01:36:46 pm »
Quote
You really do not need to carry more for a tour that length than for a shorter one.

A longer trip across country that includes low population density, less knowledge of the area, and being further from home & friends might mean more self-reliance for bike repairs, etc. Creature comforts in camp might be more important. There are probably all manner of small comforts that are easily put off for 5 days, but not for months. Still, you probably don't need two more panniers worth of more stuff.

Offline Sharpsandflatts

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2012, 07:18:00 pm »
Depending on packing style you can easily carry enough.  If you were to pack light two panniers each could be plenty.   Even two front panniers each can work if packing very lightly.

You really do not need to carry more for a tour that length than for a shorter one.  I would suggest you consider taking only what you have been using so far on your short trips for your longer trip.  Think about what you really need before deciding.

Some folks happily carry a ton of stuff.  If you are in that camp feel free to ignore my comments.  On the other hand, as I have gone lighter and lighter I have found the experience better and better.

I will say that September definitely wouldn't be my favorite time to be doing a Southern Tier.  I would think you will experience very hot weather.  February is prime time for starting this route in my opinion.  It is nice and cool and the days are starting to get a bit longer, as compares to going in December.  You couldn't pay me to do it in September, but I am a hot weather wimp and don't mind a bit of cold.  Having done it a few times, the experience of riding in 100-110F in the desert is definitely an experience that I have no desire to repeat.
Good points made. I definitely don't want to be one of those "bring the kitchen sink" type of people. Still, there are some things that I think are worth adding to my long tour packing list. For instance, it's pretty easy to plan for weather on a short tour in the pacific northwest summer, but a 2 month trip across a range of climates would seem to require carrying gear for various contingencies (rain jacket, arm/knee warmers, etc.). It also seems prudent to carry a few maintenance-related items that I wouldn't bring on a shorter trip (portable cassette tool, pliers, spare tires).  In addition, I gather that the western portion of the ST has some significant low/no service sections, so having space for more food and water seems like a good idea.

Still, it seems as if 6 panniers will be more than enough room to accommodate what we want to carry. I think I was more concerned about the handling characteristics of a rear-heavy load. But perhaps it's not worth worrying about.

In regards to departure time, I know that leaving from San Diego in late September will force us to contend with some hot weather in the early part of the trip. But it seems manageable and it fits best within our life schedule. We'll have to see how it goes, I guess.

Offline John Nelson

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2012, 08:23:31 pm »
I was more concerned about the handling characteristics of a rear-heavy load.
Lots of people successfully tour with only rear panniers. It can be an issue with short-chainstay bikes, but should be fine with your LHT. Keep the panniers as far forward on the rack as you can without hitting your heels on them. If you mount any load on the rack platform, keep that forward too.

Offline staehpj1

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2012, 07:57:27 am »
Good points made. I definitely don't want to be one of those "bring the kitchen sink" type of people. Still, there are some things that I think are worth adding to my long tour packing list. For instance, it's pretty easy to plan for weather on a short tour in the pacific northwest summer, but a 2 month trip across a range of climates would seem to require carrying gear for various contingencies (rain jacket, arm/knee warmers, etc.). It also seems prudent to carry a few maintenance-related items that I wouldn't bring on a shorter trip (portable cassette tool, pliers, spare tires).  In addition, I gather that the western portion of the ST has some significant low/no service sections, so having space for more food and water seems like a good idea.

There is a ton of variation on what all of that means to different folks.  I have not done trips shorter that 9 or 10 days so I may not have the same perspective, but I always figured that you plan the tools and supplies that might be needed regardless of trip length.  Clothing can be a bit more of an issue because on a multi month trip you may be in different climates.

That said I took pretty much the same stuff on the Southern Tier as I would on shorter trips.  My total base gear weight was 14 pounds.  That included bags, clothing, cooking and camping gear, but not bike, rack, water, food, or fuel.  If you include the bike itself (24 pounds including bike, rack, tool/spare parts bag) the total weight for bike and all gear was 38 pounds plus food and water.  I am probably pretty near the bottom end of the range of what people carry though.

At the other end of the range I met folks on the same route that probably had 150 pounds of gear.

Anywhere in that range is OK if it works for you, but I think leaning toward the lighter end probably makes sense.

BTW, another factor is that folks packing for an over-nighter or a few days probably don't feel the need to obsess over what they are carrying as much.  They might also be more inclined to pack more fresh food from home.  So in some cases they might actually pack heavier.

One plus about the low/no service areas in desert areas is that if you are in a bind most cars will stop and help.  I didn't need to take advantage of that, but a guy I rode with some of the way had several major breakdowns and never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride when he needed to hitch.

As far was food and water on those places where you will be 80 or 100 miles between services...  There are only a couple places like that.  So my solution on the ST was t to have a 12 ounce 18 liter backpack (REI Flash 18) that I could put a few liters of water and maybe some food in.  I used the water in the pack first and never needed to carry any substantial weight in it for very far.  When I didn't have the pack I have crammed a couple recycled 32 ounce gatorade bottles in my jersey pockets.  Of the two the pack was actually more comfortable and was great as a laundry bag, bear bag, grocery run bag, and so on.

In regards to departure time, I know that leaving from San Diego in late September will force us to contend with some hot weather in the early part of the trip. But it seems manageable and it fits best within our life schedule. We'll have to see how it goes, I guess.

I hope it all works out well for you.  If you like hot weather it may not be a hardship.  It would be miserable for me, but as i have said I hate hot weather for touring.

Have a great trip!

Offline tonythomson

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2013, 10:51:08 am »
My only addition to the above is to ensure that you have enough space left in your panniers for the times you need to carry extra food and water, the latter especially as you may be encountering hot weather.  Although that said there are very few days on the ST where you will not find something and that was me doing 50 miles per day.  Knowing what's ahead is the key and these days with Google Earth etc there shouldn't be too many surprises.

Have fun it's a great ride.
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline John Nelson

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2013, 11:19:27 am »
My only addition to the above is to ensure that you have enough space left in your panniers for the times you need to carry extra food and water
Great point Tony, although the extras need not necessarily go "in" your panniers. I often strap these extras on top of the pannier. I can strap a Platypus or Gatorade bottle to the top of my Ortlieb rollers using the same strap that closes the pannier. The top of the pannier creates sort of a "shelf" to put these things on. I do, however, like to have extra space in my panniers and like to put extra stuff inside whenever it fits.

Offline indyfabz

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2013, 01:12:37 pm »
You really do not need to carry more for a tour that length than for a shorter one.  I would suggest you consider taking only what you have been using so far on your short trips for your longer trip.  Think about what you really need before deciding.
This is an excellent point.  If what you've taken on a 5 day trip was enough, it will be enough for a 2 month trip. I assume you didn't take 5 days worth of clean clothes and had to wash on the 5-day trip so just continue on the same schedule.  At most you will need a bit of warmer clothing depending on where you ride  but that shouldn't add much bulk or weight.

Agree except that weather variation can, in some cases, add to the load somewhat. I hope to do a 6-day from Philly to western Mass. in mid-June. Highly unlikely that I will need my larger, warmer sleeping bag and clothing for 40 degree nights and morning like I did for my 9-day trrip in MT.

Offline jiminwa

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2013, 03:14:45 am »
As some others have said, you should have empty space in your panniers when packed. Rule 1: things expand. Rule 2: wet things expand more. That box of dry cereal that you start to crave will need space. I use a third water bottle holder on the bottom side  for white gas (metal container of course). The propane stoves are a lot more convenient, but I carry each type in case of malfunction or availability of fuel. I would avoid a heavy handle bar bag. Use one that can hold your personal items and slip off easily when you are away from your bike.

Offline staehpj1

Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2013, 06:22:42 am »
As some others have said, you should have empty space in your panniers when packed. Rule 1: things expand. Rule 2: wet things expand more. That box of dry cereal that you start to crave will need space. I use a third water bottle holder on the bottom side  for white gas (metal container of course). The propane stoves are a lot more convenient, but I carry each type in case of malfunction or availability of fuel. I would avoid a heavy handle bar bag. Use one that can hold your personal items and slip off easily when you are away from your bike.
I don't doubt that to be the case for some, but I don't think it is anything near a universal truth.  There is another rule that also is not a universal truth, but should be considered as well.  That is that if there is extra space many (most?) folks will fill it with stuff they otherwise would not have carried.

Also, lots of folks wind up mailing stuff home and discarding stuff thus reducing the load.  I find that I get better at packing as the trip goes on, again reducing the load.  On every tour I have done the needed space either remained the same or more often the load actually packed smaller.  In a pinch, for short term storage where towns are far apart or whatever, there is space on the top of racks, under pannier flaps, and in jersey pockets for extra food and water.