Below is a review of the gear I took on my Altravesur ride.
To make it simple, I’ve used the following key to mark each item:
Perfect = An item I used and was totally happy with, and will use on my next tour
Unused Retain = I didn’t use this item but will still take it on my next tour
Retain = I wasn’t totally happy with the item but will use it on my next tour, due to the expense of replacement
Remove = I didn’t use this item and won’t take it next time
Replace = I wasn’t happy with this item and will replace with something better
Addition = Something I didn’t take but will next time
Clothes and personal items
If you’re riding as I did, taking your time, enjoying exploring towns and pueblos and staying a few days, you will probably want more clothes than if you’re on a mission to finish a route as fast as you can.
You don’t have to be dirty and smelly all the time! After having a shower, it was so good to be able to put clean clothes on. I washed my dirty gear in the hostal bathrooms and dried them where I could.
I had packed for warm to hot weather, I would swap out some items if I was riding in colder weather. My clothes were packed in a vacuum bag, to keep the volume down.
1 x Pair of leggings – Perfect
1 x Pair of short shorts – Perfect
1 x Pair of knee length shorts – Perfect
1 x Pair of padded cycling pants – Perfect
2 x Pairs of knickers – Perfect
1 x Sports bra – Perfect
2 x Long sleeve tops – Perfect
1 x Tidy T shirt – Perfect
1 x Vest top - Perfect
1 x Fleece - Perfect
3 x Pair of socks (short/ankle/long) - Perfect
1 x Pair of flip-flops – Perfect
1 x Pair of trainers – Perfect
1 x Panama hat – Replace (I will get a ‘brim’ that fits onto a mountain bike helmet)
1 x Beanie hat - Perfect
1 x Baseball cap with neck protection – Perfect
1 x Linen scarf – Perfect (good for sun protection)
1 x Buff – Perfect
1 x Bikini top – Perfect (used instead of a bra)
1 x Pair of Long-johns – Perfect (used at night and often in the day also)
1 x Pair of riding gloves - Perfect
1 x Pair of thin liner gloves – Remove
1 x Mosquito head net – Unused Retain
1 x Crash hat - Perfect
1 x Lightweight rain jacket – Replace (The one I took was a piece of old F1 Team Kit, it was heavy and the zip broke)
1 x Thick plastic poncho – Replace (If I can find a lighter plastic one, otherwise retain this)
1 x Washing and hygiene items – Perfect (Decanted into small plastic bottles)
1 x Mixed vitamin pills – Perfect (Decanted into one plastic bag)
1 x Spanish Fan - Perfect
1 x Pair of Sunglasses - Perfect
1 x Vacuum bag for clothes - Perfect
Sleep System and camping
My preference was to have a completely free-standing tent. I really can’t be doing with staking out the guy ropes every time I put it up. I was generally happy with my choice of tent, although in strong winds it felt quite unstable. It’s tall and thin and must be pitched with the thinner end facing the direction the wind is coming from, which isn’t always easy to establish. It survived, was roomy enough for me and all my gear, except my bike, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in it.
Tent - Marmot Tungsten Ultra-Light One Person – Retain (Not so good in high wind)
Sleeping Quilt - Sea to Summit Ember EBIII – Perfect (I would use a liner in minus deg C temps, it got a little chilly at temperatures below 8 deg C)
Sleeping Mat - Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Insulated Wide – Perfect (I’m a side sleeper, this mat is thick, wide with raised edges, so you don’t ‘fall off’ it)
Ground Sheet - Cut out from a cheap plastic 'tarp' - Perfect
Thermarest down Pillow - Perfect
Camping towel - Perfect
Head torch - Perfect
Sleeping bag liner – Addition (If I tour in colder weather than that of the Spanish Spring/Summer)
I really wouldn’t want to have ridden the Altravesur on a fully rigid bike, I’m not sure about a hardtail either.
The Specialized Camber, that I rode, doesn’t have aggressive geometry, it’s more a cross-country trail bike, so I found it a little difficult to ride on a couple of the steeper single-tracks.
I did get carried away sometimes, going too fast with all the weight I was carrying, but soon learnt to calm down a little.
My only criticism of it would be that a full suspension bike is obviously heavier than a gravel bike, but not to a point where I wanted to throw it down a mountain!
It performed faultlessly, even after hitting a tree hard. Although I haven’t unboxed it since returning home, it looked in perfect condition after my second accident.
Standard, out of the showroom Specialized Camber FSR 2017 except for tubeless tyre
upgrade - Perfect
Standard tyres - Ground Control and Purgatory – Tubeless - Perfect
Tyre pump - Perfect
Suspension pump - Perfect
Allen Keys - Perfect
Chain lube- Perfect
Tyre sealant- Perfect
Suspension oil – Remove Unused
Puncture repair items – Perfect (I repaired my Rollpacker with some patches, which worked well)
2 x Inner tubes – Replace (with just one as I didn’t use these, and they are heavy) Unused
1 x CO2 canister and adaptor – Unused Retain
1 x Spare chain link - Unused Retain
1 x Litre bottle for water – Perfect
1 x Front light Retain (Used in my tent only)
1 x Rear light Unused Retain
1 x Cable bike lock – Perfect
1 x Stand – Addition
1 x Quick release pedals – Addition (I will further research their reliability before buying but these would be great on hike-a-bike sections)
I chose the Arkel Rollpacker luggage as they looked the most suitable for a full suspension bike. At 25 litres they are some of the largest bags about. I was very pleased with the rear one but am on the fence about the front. I had strapped my tent on top of the front Rollpacker, this may have been the reason it hung so low, which is one of the annoyances with it, as on drops and large bumps it would hit the tyre even with the forks on full stiff.
When I fell off my bike riding down from the Puerta de la Ragua, the luggage took a hard hit. On my final day of the ride, the front Rollpacker bracket snapped, I managed to fudge a repair to continue. I can only think I may have cracked it in the aforementioned shunt. I will probably buy a new front bracket if it’s cheap enough, unless I find something as big but with a higher fixing.
Update: Arkel kindly provided me with a new front bracket, free of charge, although I paid the delivery costs of around £35
As for the Gorilla cages on my forks, I’m unsure if I’ll ride with these again due to one of them being the cause of my accident that ended my tour prematurely. I don’t know if I had broken the cage earlier in the day, that failed, then fell into my wheel. Or if I had secured the drybag incorrectly, that caused it to fall into the spokes. But psychologically it’s going to be a hurdle!
1 x Arkel Rollpacker25-Rear (bracket and bag) - Perfect
1 x Arkel Rollpacker25-Front (bracket and bag) – Replace/Retain (unsure if I will use this again, it hung a little too low and the bracket snapped)
2 x Gorilla Cages and Cleats (two aftermarket dry bags) – Replace/Remove (unsure if I will use these again due to psychological reasons, as it caused my accident, and broken arm!)
Update: Cyclemiles, that supplied my Gorilla Cages, kindly supplied me with a new cage, free of charge. I have purchased some Gorilla Cage-specific dry bags that look much more suitable, and rigid than those I used.
1 x Monki Cage and Cleats (bottle holder) - Perfect
1 x Small bag for phone, money etc – Perfect (final iteration was a bum bag that I kept on my rear luggage)
I carry a lot more than things than a bikepacker on a mission would. All the extra gear doesn’t fit into the bike bags, so I carry some in my rucksack. The rucksack is quite heavy, and when I’m tired it feels extra heavy! I carry my laptop, electronics, solar charger, poncho, cold food, food for the day, two small water bottles, some paperwork, my long johns and a fleece in it. I would like to not have to ride with it but can’t see I can keep my luxuries if I didn’t use it.
Exped Women’s Lightning 60 litre - Perfect
1 x Drybag to protect electronics - Perfect
1 x Insulated bag for perishable food - Perfect
2 x Small water bottles 600ml - Perfect
I’m happy with my cooking stuff, perhaps I’ll buy a new stove, the one I have is around ten years old and it sometimes falls apart! I especially like the Sawyer filter; it meant less pressure when it came to me having enough water.
In every Ferreteria (hardware shop) I went in, in Spain, it was possible to buy the butane aerosol shaped bottles. I only found a proper threaded canister for my stove in Seville.
Luckily, I had bought a cheap adapter on Ebay to enable me to re-charge my canister from the aerosol bottles. This I did throughout my ride. The link to this adapter is here https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/292685121323
1 x 500ml butane threaded canister- Perfect
1 x Titanium stove - Perfect
1 x Long handled titanium spoon - Perfect
1 x Collapsible bowl - Perfect
1 x Collapsible mug - Perfect
1 x Sawyer Squeeze water filter system - Perfect
1 x 2 litre cooking pot - Perfect
Plus food (instant noodles, instant potato, bread, jam, tea, coffee, sugar, milk, biscuits, sweets) – Perfect
Wind shroud for stove - Addition
My YouTube films are very basic, I only use a GoPro, without gimbal and don’t use a drone. My notebook and camera are very basic too. I’d like to attract more subscribers to my channel, and think I need better equipment and content to do this, so I may review my whole media production equipment setup. If I continue with the current standard of my films, I’ll keep my current setup.
As far as navigation goes, I had taken three mobile phones with me, all with SIMs with data. It was lucky I had taken three, as I broke my newest one on the second day of the ride. I smashed another completely in my tour-ending accident, so was left with one properly working.
I was navigating using Google maps on my phone. I got by but it was hit and miss when it came to losing signal. I had uploaded the Altravesur GPX to Google Maps, which is then stored in Googles My Maps. Although I had uploaded Spain offline maps in Google Maps, the Altravesur route would not open offline. On the last day of my ride I discovered that if I opened My Maps, in its own separate App, then I could see the Altravesur route offline. My Maps has very limited functions though. I had played around with Orux maps, on the advice of a bike shop in Spain, but I couldn’t get my head around it at the time but have since spent some time learning how it works, it looks quite good. I had paid Komoot for world offline maps, before my tour, only to find the rubbish app wouldn’t upload the long Altravesur route, I had an emailathon with their helpdesk, but the matter didn’t get resolved.
Having crashed in a remote area, with no phone signal, I will definitely buy an SOS signalling device such as a Garmin In-Reach. Also I would consider buying a Garmin for navigation.
Solar Charger - Big Blue 28 - Perfect
Battery Packs - 2 x Pebble 8400mAh power packs - Perfect
Phone holder - SP Gadgets mobile phone bracket clipped to GoPro handlebar bracket - Perfect
Update: The SP Gadgets did get broken in my accident, I have bought a new one
Camera - GoPro Hero 5 - Perfect
GoPro Mount - GoPro Chesty – Replace (after falling heavily on this, and it causing me to be winded and some rib bruising, I will think about using a different camera position)
Small tripod - Perfect
Charging cables for devices - Perfect
Laptop and charger – Perfect (I may replace this with something lighter)
Spare GoPro clips, clamps etc – Perfect
SOS device – Addition
Navigation device - Addition
1 x Emergency Blanket – Unused Retain
1 x 3 metres paracord - Perfect
3 x Safety pins – Unused Retain
1 x Sewing kit - Perfect
1 x Large darning needle – Unused Retain
1 x Super Glue - Perfect
1 x Tube of Adhesive - Perfect
3 x 20cm strips of Tank Tape - Perfect
3 x Tyre Levers – Unused Retain
1 x Compass – Unused Retain
2 x Bungees (Additional support for rear Rollpacker) – Perfect (plus additional 2)
2 x Camelbak bladders (1 x 2 litre and 1 x 3 litre) – Replace (perhaps I will use plastic bottles)
1 x 100 litre holdall - Perfect
1 x Swiss Army Knife - Perfect
1 x Knife in sheath strapped to bike - Perfect
10 x Cable ties - Perfect
1 x Umbrella – Replace (This was a cheap rain umbrella, perhaps I will replace with a trekking umbrella)
1 x Notepad and pencil - Perfect
1 x Insect repellent - Perfect
8 x Spare batteries AAA and AA for torch and lights - Perfect
1 x First aid kit (antihistamines (for bites), anti-septic cream, plasters, bandages, painkillers) – Perfect (I add antihistamine cream)
1 x Small bottle of Fisiocrem (for sprains and injuries) - Perfect
3 x Plastic bags – Perfect (Used for rubbish, shopping etc)
1 x Small reel of wire – Unused Retain
2 x Spare strap clips – Unused Retain
1 x Fire lighter rod – Unused Retain
2 x Lighters - Perfect
1 x Wad of toilet paper - Perfect
1 x Pack of tissues - Perfect
1 x Dust Mask - Perfect