One of the lessons I learned on my way to Land's End last year is that the weight and size of everything you are carrying is very important. Whilst a fully loaded and heavy rucksack on your back and fully loaded panniers is fine whilst you are pootling about on the flat, any inclines really take their toll. At some points during my adventure last year I was required to lift my bike over styles and fences to get where I needed to go - having a fully loaded bike which you can't pick up makes this an interesting challenge - resulting in some unusual techniques......
Last year I reached a point where I started to realise the folly of packing "everything I might possibly need" and had to post home a box of gear which I simply had no need of - and certainly no need to lug 500 miles. This photo here shows all of the gear I shipped home after about 100 miles. Yes, that is a laptop sitting at the bottom there.....A redefinition of "need" is required.....
So this year I'm taking a much more spartan approach to packing. One of the differences with this year's trip is that I intend to camp more and b&b less, so a slight change of priorities is needed. Many of the gadgets I took last year are out and I shall be living a more basic lifestyle on the way.
The tent I had last year was little more than a sleeping bag with poles and had no room for anything other than me inside it - this was great as a weight and space saver. I pretty much bought it with the memory of being younger, thinking "I can sleep anywhere, on anything", unfortunately my optimism failed to take into account that I was then 40 years old and needed a little more.....
So this year, I'm spending a little cash on this one (about £300 depending on where I end up shopping). It's the MSR Hubba Hubba NX and weighs in at around the same weight as last year's tent. This is designed as a two man tent (although you'd have to be pretty good friends) which will give me enough room to stash my gear inside the tent too - without resorting to the arrangements of last year when I had my rucksack on my legs and a pannier either side of my head. The porch on this model should also allow me to sit inside the tent and cook should the weather become inclement. The other real benefit of this model is the pitching system, which is designed around a "hubbed" pole design, where all the poles are attached to a central hub, snapping together and pegged out to positions on the floor without the need for guy lines unless the wind really gets up. This hub system should make it really quick to pitch too.
Last year, with my "I can sleep anywhere" attitude fully in swing I only took a light foam sleeping mat with me. The ravages of time had taken their toll and this was simply not enough. I spent some seriously uncomfortable nights under canvas, waking every hour to shuffle around in my crowded cocoon.
So again, this year I am reaching into the coffers for something a little more sophisticated and I will be purchasing a self inflating mattress, like the Hi-Gear pictured here. Whilst remaining small and light, the small but significant cushion of air should in theory allow me a much better nights sleep without compromising my ability to carry it up hills on the back of the bike.
Last year I was also carrying a set of "normal" clothes to change into after the day's riding - this included a pair of jeans - something I shall be ditching this year. I think I used them once at the end of my trip and I have an advantage of being able to post a box of stuff down to the end of my journey this time, so no need for these.
I shall be retaining a good portion of the gear from last year - essentials like bike maintenance tools, camping stove (tiny gas canister and platform) and first aid supplies (deep heat and insect repellent included).
One of the other things I shall be changing from last year is that I picked up a cheap set of mess tins, cup and cutlery from the local camping store before I went. This time round, I am looking for a more lightweight solution and considering the GSI pinnacle cookset which contains everything I shall need and weighs in at only 300g.
So a few changes here and there - no bulky DSLR cameras, no heavy additional power suppliers and definitely no laptops this time. Essentials only is the key this time round.