What do I actually need?
This blog had me stretching my fingers, rubbing my hands together, and squaring my shoulders!
My cousin and nephew, Jeff, (same person – long story, don’t ask) – is a master motorbike rider, bike equipmenteur (okay, new word alert) and all round nice guy.
Jeff responded to my last blog on travelling equipment:
“Dear Auntie Jackie, You crack me up my lovely. I love your stories. Them there is fightin’ words. I think a challenge has been issued and I accept. Bike vs Horses My favourite subjects, travelling and doing it light and Bike vs Horse is particularly an interesting one.”
Settle down, get comfortable and enjoy the verbal ride……
Here’s Jeff’s thoughts… and in response, mine.
Jeff: Having ridden motorcycles and toured on them for 35 years (ish) I’ve become quite adept at figuring out what you actually need to take on a trip. What people think they need and what you actually need to take are two vastly different concepts in ideals and will do most sane people’s head in.
Jackie: I agree – it did my head in!
Jeff: This does depend on where you’re going, of course. Desert vs coast trips, but really only the amount of water changes and a satellite phone gets packed, more fuel, the rest of the gear stays the same no matter where you go. I am not a horse person and never have been. I can’t even pretend to be. I got bitten by one once that was enough.
Jackie: They bite me too
Jeff: Let’s examine or break down what’s been said in your article. Do you really need to take all of your worldly possessions with you? NO!
Jackie: Erm, yes, ‘cause that is all we had/owned. We only took what we needed and that is all we had in the world at the time. The house was sold, our possessions given away – it was truly all we were left with in the world. We had no home, the Australian bush was our home. So while I agree with you, in our case it was true!
Jeff: Yes, you can blast off to the nearest shop and pick up what’s needed, but most people rarely do, as they have already visited the local to pick up any supplies before setting off for the night. The hardcore guys have what they need and after doing 1200 k days they’re not going anywhere believe me or Noel. The credit card campers will definitely go for run. But no, you definitely don’t have to if you have packed properly.
Jackie: Yes, that’s what we did, took what we needed…. but with a bike you can do it if you need to. We had to cover for every eventually, including a sharp knife to put a horse down if it broke its leg (that’s enough detail on that it’s a lot worse than you think!). With no mobile signal and in the middle of the bush, we were on our own. With five beasts that sometimes did really stupid things (we did too, though!)
Jeff: Secondly, bikes need a lot of TLC if you expect to overtake that road train while riding at 180kph and dodging wedge tail eagles that suddenly turn across your path. You have to check your bike over every night to make sure no bolts have come loose, your foot pegs are tight, remove any mud or debris from the frame, are the tires are in good shape and at the correct inflation, check the oil levels, check all moving bearings (wheels, swing arms, head bearings ok, are the cables still working correctly and are not seizing up due to dust or other, no bits of wood jammed anywhere improper? clean the air filter after every long dirt road, are the attachment points still there and not snapped off after the last big off, is the frame ok? How much fuel have you got left? Will it make it to the next fuel stop? ….. and so it goes.
Jackie: Yes, I kind of knew a bit of that, I just selfishly left it out to make my story look better! That said, I am being educated – thank you!
Jeff: You can’t get very far without any of this (Saddles, saddle blankets etc). I’d say Standard issue for normal riding … yes? Saddles, panniers, blankets. Bikers, too, have these things. A seat, panniers, blanket, handlebars, tires, wheels, cables, blinkers, headlight, brake levers, brake peddle, gear lever, clutch lever, rear rack (some bikers use a sheepskin on the seat to make it a much more bearable ride) Can’t get far with any of these either.
Jackie: Yes, I appreciate that, although I don’t think you strap on the saddle each morning and take it off – at least I hope you don’t. Same goes for brakes, tires, wheels, cables, blinkers, headlights – they stay put – they are the “horse”. So the gear is in additional to the horse (comparing to the bike) – we could go on to say horses have four legs each, a mane, tail… 😉
Jeff – Taking off a saddle is part and parcel of owning a horse and some would say the best part of breaking camp is saddling up and moving on out. So I put that bit down to be part and parcel of owning a horse anyway and since it is part and parcel and not packed gear as such should not be regarded as packed gear.
Jackie: Actually, I look at it the other way – the packing saddles are part of the packing gear. You don’t use packing saddles unless you are packing. They are heavy and take a long time to put on correctly (adjusting the multitude of strapping for uphill/downhill). The riding saddles were special too as for 6-8 hours riding a day they had to be perfect for the horse and rider. So they were larger and heavier – so yes they were special too…. our riding saddles had saddle bags too – something else you don’t have unless trail riding.
Jeff: As is packing up a bike, warm up that engine in anticipation for the day ahead after checking all blinkers and lights work for safety reasons there’s no finer place to be. I’m at peace ahhh in the saddle again. The main difference would be time in packing and unpacking and eventual camp set up. Packing rhythms are great once you find it and become second nature after awhile no matter what your method of travel is. But what is time on a journey with a horse. Stop where you want, have a snooze under the shade of a nice tree while the horses rested and grazed, sounds just lovely.
Jackie: “What is time on a journey” well, we couldn’t just stop anywhere, so we had camps to get to (in the main) which meant there wasn’t moment to lie under the trees. At 3 am we would pack up for four hours (yes, even after that lovely rhythm had set in) – then trek 6-8 hours to find where we could stop. Time and timing was critical. One horse can drink 40-70 litres of water per day (say 50 litres x 5 horses), we couldn’t carry 250 litres of water with us so our camp had to have water for the horses. (That’s an average with light work, our horses were doing heavy work all day, so they would have drunk a lot more, and did, we know as we had to carry most of it in buckets!)
Jeff: MMM difficult (regarding 40% horse gear), this depends on the trek ahead, which country are you in etc. But in OZ is there really a need for an electric fence which would need a heavy battery for it to operate at a proper discharge? Recharging?
Jackie: Our electric fence energiser was small and light (hold in one hand easily), powered by 2 x battery D batteries. The fence was 50 metres long, and nowhere near enough, we had to constantly move their paddock to fresh grass. Each horse needs at least 1 acre each, considering they had less than half an acre between the five it was hard. Then there are the fence posts (plastic). This was imperative equipment, horses are wanderers (especially our lot!). No fence and suddenly they are in the road, killing themselves and other people (quite often we were near roads). Plus we really didn’t need to spend several hours searching for them, (which direction do you go first?) walking miles and miles to catch them each day. Hobbles aren’t enough either – a horse can wander far and wide through the night with hobbles on… (we tried, there’s a great story in the book when I saved a horse from drowning!)
Then if we are away from the roads, there are the wild horses… our lot would follow them anywhere and we’d be left in the middle of the bush with all our gear and no horses.
We had one set of spare batteries and just purchased new ones (they lasted for weeks).
Jeff: How big is the grooming kit?
Jackie: one brush each, one hoof pick each, rasp for feet, comb for main. Yes, tiny, but we had to weigh everything perfectly to ensure the horse/packs were balanced. Ten grams could make a difference between a happy horse and a horse that has a sore back.
Jeff: Water buckets can be the fold up ones, very light and take up not much space, hanky size to 20l in just a fold, fits in a pocket.
Jackie: We had one fold up bucket in our saddle bags for when we found a tap (in a village). But the horses generally stuck their heads in the buckets and leaned on them – especially when two put their heads in at once (you have to remember by the end of the day they are gasping for a drink and regularly drink vast amounts, you just couldn’t hold one bucket for five horses for hours on end) – a folding bucket wouldn’t last two minutes in their paddock on the ground.
Jeff: Spare horse shoes and that gear is a must but only carry one hammer (small multipurpose).
Jackie: Yes we took one hammer, with the claw cut off as we didn’t need it to save space/weight. The boys weren’t shod, we went barefoot, not spare shoes but twenty boots that sometimes we carried and sometimes they wore.
Jeff: Horse food???? Just……..no!
Jackie: Ah, Jeff, this is where I educate you. Carrying food is imperative. Sadly there is not a lovely fenced, rich paddock with every stop (in fact nowhere). Sometimes wasn’t a scrap of grass. So, the horses work all day and then have nothing to eat…. that just doesn’t work.
- Horses eat for 90% of the day. Even grazing uses energy they have to replace.
- A horse should eat two percent of his body weight in roughage every day, when NOT being exercised, when working they need a lot more.
- Having worked all day with no food (except the odd ten minutes stop to let them pick), they needed plenty of grass and supplements.
- Horses can drop weight/condition over night.
- Just one cold night can mean they drop significant weight, let alone no food (and hence the rugs).
Jeff: The touring motorcyclist can carry tire removing tools spare tubes and sometimes a spare tyre or two + all tools needed for repairs and spare fuel if your two wheel beastie is thirsty but depends on the area you’re riding too or through. Bourke and wills took a piano!?!?!? The best laid plans of mice and men hey.
Jackie: If only…. I think Burke and Wills took a bathtub too – but they did have several dozen helpers!
Jeff: Compromise is the word of the day Jackie, Compromise, Compromise then Compromise some more, twice more in fact and review that again then halve it and review. If whatever items are left weighs over 25kg reject that entire list and start over. The best part of any trip is looking for gear, the right gear and this will do most sane peoples’ head in. You will no longer be the same person you once were. You will have reached enlightenment (bad pun?)
Jackie: Love the pun! Yes, for our first week we took a couple of items we didn’t need (fold up stool to sit on – mind you, my back argued that we did need it after we threw that out). We couldn’t have one thing that heavy (25kg) we had to have everything small and light. Each bag (four bags for two horses, 2 larger bags for one other), had to be packed to the exact same weight – that could mean moving a jumper from one bag to another.
Jeff: So what do I take you say? Summer Edition. Base weight is 4kg (cover, sleeping, cooking) (from a fading memory) Bag – An AndyStrapz, Canvas (think 30l not sure) 1x. Fits behind the rider, nice back rest but mainly goes onto the rear rack. If it won’t fit in there it’s left out. Cover – DD hammock (modded) and DD 3×3 tarp 1x Sleeping – Sea to summit sleeping bag Mc 2, mat is a Thermarest NEO AIR all season (just divine, we tested this out on a cold floor and actually warmed up) Cooking – Soto gas cooker with canister (goes in the side pocket of the bag), pot 1x light weight tongs knife and fork stainless. tea towel, little bottle of dishwashing liquid.
Jackie: Yup – agreed, we had pretty much the same – we purchased top range, light, camping gear. See full list below.
Jeff: Food – Depends, boil and bag or foil cooking for no mess clean up. San Remo Pasta people are heaven sent, San Remo with a bit of Italian sausage melted in or a steak, sausage, ham, fish yum yum boy oh boy. Yes you can pack in enough for a week as all is dry, preserved or fresh veggies. Ideas are limitless. One trip I made a curry. Water – If you can find a good 5litre wine bag I’ll use that or a 2l plastic coke bottle but that takes up too much room and is a bit of a squeeze to get in sometimes.
Jackie: Food wasn’t so much the issue (for us) – we lived on porridge (oats are light). Packet soups, (very light), noddles (even lighter), rice and snicker bars!
Jeff: Clothes – besides all the leather bike gear, helmet, boots, t shirt, jeans, socks, wallet already on etc I’ll leave that out as it’s not needed here as I’m wearing them. In the bag is 1x t shirt, 1x undies, 1x thick socks (explorer socks are just awesome) 1x jeans. Clothes are the heaviest part of my list, sometimes just left out all together. Even for a week, (see Philip Island run XD) you’re still in your bike gear most of the time as it can get cold, at night too and it keeps you toasty and warm.
Jackie: See the list below for what we had – similar to you (except I had girl underwear, not boy underwear!) Lol!
Jeff: Wet weather gear – bottoms only, tucked into the top flap. Because it rains when you don’t expect it hey!!!!
Jackie: Wet weather gear, Jacket and pants, top line, light. We could be riding in rain for six hours. At times we couldn’t just stop – there was nowhere to stop.
Jeff: Tools – only tools that can be used on the bike are taken, nothing more and nothing less! This goes in the side pocket of the bag (very small). Depends on where I’m riding I will take wire and tape. Tie downs – AndyStrapz, forgotten the type sorry. Map – inside my jacket pocket nice and dry. I’ll take a Leatherman Wave just because I can, mmmm say it with me….. Leatherman Wave.
Jackie:Hehehehehe – love leathermans! As far as tools go, we took sewing gear, leatherman, knife and strapping.
Jeff: Horses for courses and my horse is of the 2 wheel variety every time. Although…. hearing the clip clop of the horses, the wind blowing through the trees, actually getting to see the country’s sights and smells at a pleasant pace, drifting off while looking at the scenery sounds absolute bliss too make no mistake about that. You had a fantastic and a very real adventure to tell as well. It’s hard to do all this blasting along at 80k on dirt roads haha. What can one say but wish I was there.
Jackie: I agree with every word!
Jeff: Final words. For whatever your method is, be it car, bike, push bike, horse or motor home or boat. DUAL USE….very important words, can I multipurpose that? This should be in the fore front of every thought, every decision when looking for any gear for any trip! Pick a bag (smaller, you can do it) suitable for your trip. If it doesn’t fit in dat bag, it ain’t comin. This will not only save valuable weight but space as well thus saving on wear and tear (animal and vehicular) but save on fuel which = $$$$$ back in your pocket for the next mission. I’ll shuddup now. Can’t wait for your next book mate. Love always. Jeff Parry. Ex Jeff’s Touring Gear Proprietor.
Jackie: I agree to a certain degree…. horses make things a bit trickier than that. They ate more than us, they need water – bikes don’t (apart from fuel, but they have an inbuilt take for that). However, two uses for everything was our philosophy when sailing around the world on our 33ft boat!
What does everyone else think? Have you done a journey where packing only the imperatives is important?
Want to read more about this story? click here to learn more and read an excerpt.
List of gear
Two large canvas bags (usually on Ned)
Four rectangular-shaped buckets in each canvas bag (each held ten litres of water)
Feed for horses – usually only five kilograms maximum
Nose bags for feed
Twenty plastic electric fence poles
Fifty metres of electric fence on a make-shift winder
2 x D batteries for the electric fence (and two spares)
Electric fence energiser
Rope halters with reins, instead of bridles (and spares)
3 x Pack-saddles (2 x purpose made pack-saddles, 1 x riding saddle with adjustments to carry packs)
2 x Regular saddles
Saddle blankets (We started with incredibly thick, large blankets for the pack-saddles; however, they were heavy, and we opted for thinner, lighter blankets.)
Packing bags – started with four large plastic panniers, switched to eight backpacks
Saddle-bags – behind the two riding saddles (“hand bags!”)
Horses’ boots – sometimes carried, sometimes worn.
Mozzie nets for us and horses
Rugs for each horse
Two soft brushes (from house hold dustpan/brush set) – with handles cut off
First aid kits (one each in case we became separated)
First aid kit for horses
Clothes – I had two t-shirts, a shirt, two pairs of pants, underwear, long-johns, two jumpers, socks and wet weather gear. Noel had the same but more cotton shirts instead of t-shirts.
Boots and thongs (flip-flops)
Tent – Later we had two tents (plus a tent tarp that went over the two tents and tent poles).
Sleeping bags (goose down) and inner-sheet
Down-filled mattresses (blow-up)
Food – Noodles, packet soups, Snickers bars, porridge, Vegemite, oil, oats, granola bars, some small fruit and vegetables, small packets of sauces, a few dried-meals, pasta, salami, cheese, chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, sweet chilli sauce, rice, peanut butter, crackers, dried potato, dried peas
Wash gear – small bottle of shampoo, cake of soap
Comb – although I rarely brushed my hair. A finger-comb worked well.
Plastic knife, fork and spoon each
Plastic bowl each
Absorbent towel each for Noel and me and one for the horses
Small radio each
Book each (I was reading a Dick Francis novel; I love his style and characters. I am a big fan. Noel enjoys Mr Francis, too, and would have read the same book. Noel chose thrillers; anything that had nothing to do with the trail!)
Scales for weighing gear
Torches and matches
2 billies (pots), one for water, one for cooking (We gave away the frying pan.)
Small-hand (folding) shovel
Sharp knife each
Pain-killers, lots of pain-killers!
Riding hats and sun hats/caps
Glasses (prescription and sun-glasses)
Small solar cell for charging batteries (radio) and phones
Claw hammer (with claw cut off!)
Notebook and pen
Horse documents (inoculation information/vet check/dentist check details/dates)
Sewing gear, repair kit
Leatherman – tools/knives in pouch
Trail maps and guides – to help lighten our load we carried the relevant sections only, and arranged the following sections to be mailed to us at appropriate opportunities.
Waterproof map holder (slung off saddle pommel)
Hair ties (to keep my unruly mop out of the way)
Rasp for horses’ feet
2 x lightweight fold up water bags (brilliant) with straps and string to tie up in a tree
20m x 6mm nylon rope
Horse fly nets
Walkie-talkies (never used)
GPS (Global Positioning System)
We started with stools (small fold-up) but discarded these at Crookwell, together with the farrier’s apron, whips, and additional clothing and spares.