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  • Writer's pictureClotaire Mandel

Gear and bikepacking : some change !

Intro Like every time I stop somewhere, when I have the opportunity to earn a bit of money and have easy access to equipment, I look after it, change it, repair it and perfect it.

bikepacking gear

- Canon 5D MKII The great return of the Canon 5D MKII.

Honestly, I've had my hands on a few cameras over the last few years, and really, I've never found anything that was so easy to use, so inexpensive, and above all, that took such sweet pictures. The shutter on my precious 5D had failed when I was in Nepal. It had followed me to a fair number of countries, and I've always found it impressively reliable. For some reason, I switched to the 6D hoping to find something better, a little more technical. But it's never been love at first sight.


So, I'll leave the 6D aside, which I've never been able to get used to. I find the blacks too pronounced, the photos naturally underexposed, the contrasts too sharp. I don't like the photos that the 6D takes, and I feel the same way with some other cameras.

It lacks clarity, colour vibrancy and fantastic aperture priority management. In fact, I've never been able to trust this camera.

In short, this 5D dates back to 2008, and it's a marvel. I'm very, very happy to be shooting with it again. All that's left is to rethink the lenses.

canon 5D MK II

- Canon 70-200mm

I've been saying a lot lately "I can't, I'm too far away". And I think that's been a great source of frustration for me.

It's been even more noticeable over the last few months with the wildlife abounding and difficult to get close to. So when I arrived in Victoria, one of the first things I thought of buying was a zoom lens.

I think it's a shame to love taking photos, to have a beautiful world to take photos of, and to put up a barrier for a few hundred euros.

So I bought this little marvel. About 750g, which isn't much for such a lens, but it's clear that I won't be going home any lighter next autumn. On the other hand, I'll have a lot more photographic scope, for bears, birds and mountains. In short, a good buy.


- Arkel bags

I had a big debate with myself about whether I should change the rear carrying system for something bulkier and more versatile, i.e. swap the saddlebag for a luggage rack and a pair of panniers. Lightweight, waterproof panniers without plastic fasteners, which are quite fashionable at the moment, are really expensive.

arkel panniers bikepacking gear

Arkel is a Canadian brand that produces small, lightweight waterproof panniers with a perfect fastening system. The price is also much more reasonable than many other brands. Which made me lean towards this option.


Then I found these bags second-hand, for $40 Canadian, so I picked them up for everyday life here, and given that I'm going to be carrying more photo equipment, and heading out to desert areas, I figure they could be a very good option! Being able to carry more water and food, more variety and more easily above all.


- Pan

It's always a big debate: pan or no pan. I have the Alpha Pan from Sea to Summit, and it weighs 250 grams. Having tried something a bit lighter, made of titanium, it's clearly not as effective. The food sticks, and for the weight saving, it's a lack of efficiency that makes you no longer want to use it.

sea to summit alpha pan

In a way, it's heavier to carry something you don't use at all, than the heavier version that you use often, if not every day. So yes, I've started using it every day. It expands the possibilities for cooking, but even without any great talent, it's perfect for sautéing a few peppers or making pancakes.

sea to summit alpha pan


- Selle Italia

After wanting to change my Brooks B17, I ended up with the C17 cambium. An horror. Pain, discomfort. A catastrophe. I happened to be offered an Italia saddle in exchange, the Italia max SLR TI 316. It weighs less than 300 grams, and at first sight, that seemed a bit optimistic to set off for Alaska with a brand new saddle, and one that looked more like a road bike saddle. But in the end, it was love at first sight.


After about 8000km, I have absolutely nothing negative to say. I wanted to share my experience because a saddle is a really difficult object to choose, because it's difficult to appreciate. It's an object that requires hours of work, and it's too expensive to choose the wrong saddle every week. For half the weight of a Brooks B17, at a slightly higher price but also without animal leather, it's worth looking into. In any case, I really liked it from the first few kilometres, which can take a lot longer with a leather saddle.


What's more, I'm afraid that the quality of Brooks has gone down a bit. The idea we have of old Brooks saddles may be a thing of the past. I've come across quite a few people who've broken the structure of the saddle, rendering it completely useless. This Italia hasn't even got 10,000km on it, but it hasn't moved a muscle. To be continued! - Dehydrator Admittedly, it's not very practical on the bike, but for those who live somewhere sedentary, or plan to stop somewhere for a few months, finding a dehydrator isn't a bad idea. I bought mine second-hand for 25 euros. If you're a sedentary person, it's a good way of preserving food that's about to be thrown away. It's also a good way of recovering discounted or discarded food so that you can dehydrate it and eat it later.


It's also easy to cook a bit more of some of the dishes you plan to eat one evening, and dehydrate some of them for your weekend outings. The reality of dehydrated pre made meal is that they are expensive, not sufficient and not always of good quality. Make yourself a good risotto or dahl, dehydrate a portion and enjoy yourself at camp. For people like myself, who sometimes stop off for a few weeks or months, you have to do the maths. Given the price of a basic dehydrator (probably around 30 euros second hand or 50 euros new) and the price and quality of the products you can find in certain areas, it's worth thinking about it.

For Alaska, Canada or Australia, using small zips of seeds, vegetables, fruit or cooked dishes means you can eat better, and sometimes more cheaply, even if you buy a dehydrator. If you're really just passing through, you can always dehydrate a few small dishes or fruit if you're staying for a few days with a host who has one.


As it happens, during my short break in Canada, I worked in an organic grocery shop where I collected a lot of food, so I stocked up on very cheap dehydrated food for when I hit the road again. As well as eating better, I'd also gain from the price of the products. PS: you can borrow or buy second-hand rather than buying new. - G-one tyres I've been getting a lot of questions lately about the tyres, just as I did before. It's probably the tyres that are the most intriguing!


I'd found a pair at a very good price in Australia and decided to switch to the G-one, without thinking too much about it. It was time to change after about 9000km, and I had a few setbacks and a few punctures.

I'm happy with them, as they were just what I wanted them to be. In other words, a lot of asphalt in Korea, Taiwan, Canada and South-East Asia. And not too bad gravel in Alaska. In reality, unless it's raining and the gravel is too big, the tyre holds up.

It's difficult to find a tyre that's suitable for all the terrains that long-distance travel requires, so you have to make compromises.

schwalbe g-one tyre bikepacking

The fact that I didn't pay a lot for them was a factor, but the reality is that you're seeing more and more of them in the field, and I wanted to try them anyway. The tread is very rolling, so it's perfect if you know it's going to be a nice track or asphalt, otherwise the tyre chases a lot uphill, which tends to wear it out even quicker. But on the other hand, when properly inflated, you can ride fast on asphalt. Much faster than with more MTB-type tyres. It's a relatively thin tyre, so it's quicker to go flat. I have to admit that I've spent a lot of money on tubeless sealant recently! Overall 9000km on a tubeless tyre is not bad.

schwalbe g-one bikepacking tyre

But it was time to change them. If I had to drive in such conditions again, I wouldn't mind using the same tyre. I had no complaints and no regrets. The only thing was that I found the tyre to be really stiff, and I really struggled to get it back into the rim when I had to take everything apart under the sun of the Arctic Circle. If you're wondering, ask yourself what kind of terrain you're likely to encounter over the next few months. If it's too wet/mountainous, it may not be an ideal choice.


Especially as, at 850g, they're not necessarily any lighter than tyres with more aggressive tread. FYI: I'm switching to a pair of Bontrager chupacabra, also in 2.8. I wanted to go back to WTB ranger but it's almost impossible to find them. So I found this pair of new tyres for $20 a pair, and they have the same tread as the WTBs, so it's fitted, business to follow!


bontrager chupacabra bikepacking tyre

 

Nop! Because some things aren't worth the go either.


- Lezyne classic tubeless tool

Perfectly useless. Don't buy this, it doesn't work, it's as simple as that.


- REI half dome+

At first I was pleasantly surprised by the price (on special offer), the space inside and the weight, but in the end I was a bit disappointed. First of all, I find the tensioning system for the outer fabric really bad. It's difficult to keep the sides taut and protect the inner fabric effectively. You often wonder who designs this sort of thing.

And then, after a few months, the waterproofing disappeared.

REI half dome ten bikepacking gear

Which is quite a problem in early autumn in Canada. Quite disappointed therefore. It's the ideal size for two, I think. On the other hand, it's not the lightest, not the cheapest and not the most technically interesting.


I understand that waterproofing is lost, but after such a short time it's problematic. It requires a completely different kind of organisation than having to protect yourself from the rain in the middle of nowhere.

So no, I'm not convinced. Sometimes it's better to pay a bit more, or at least to be really sure of what you're buying.

 

If you've enjoyed this article and/or found it helpful, there are ways you can support my bikepacking trip around the world.


In the about section, you'll find the link to Paypal and Patreon.


Thanks a lot!

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