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Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.
– John Ruskin

Everything I own is in the faded bags that I carry on my bike. I could list every one of my possessions. Wherever I go, all day, every day, I have to carry them.

Four waterproof panniers – two red, two black – clip on racks alongside my bike wheels. On top of the rear rack is a spare tyre and my tent, sleeping bag and tiny camping mattress in a blue waterproof canoeing bag, held down by a pair of elastic bungee cords. At least, it used to be waterproof. Like most of my well- worn things, it has seen better days and has been repaired with one of my most invaluable possessions – duct tape. I need everything that I own. I no longer have underwear, for instance.You don’t need underwear.

My clothes go in one pannier, more or less of them depending on the climate. I ride in the same clothes every day and have a cleaner t-shirt and trousers for days off. To protect myself from the sun and to look as little of a freak as possible, I ride in trousers and a long-sleeved shirt. The other clothes double as a pillow when I camp.

Another pannier carries my cooking gear, the stove, petrol bottle, mug, pan, a plastic plate that doubles as a chopping board and pan lid, a spoon, food and water. The front right pannier, the easiest to access, holds what I use regularly during the day: the map, diary, camera, music, pump, basic tools and a book.

The final pannier, my ‘pannier of doom’, is loaded with stuff I rarely use but still need to haul around with me. This is the weight I begrudge the most, and I am always looking for ways to cut it down. It includes a battery charger, essential documents, first aid kit, longer-term spare parts that I know I will need before I next reach a bike shop, such as a chain, derailleur, brake blocks, a bottom bracket and spokes. There are also usually a couple of spare books in there. Books are my biggest weakness.

Finally, a small bag clips to the handlebar. This carries things that I need while I am actually riding: sunglasses, gloves, hat, suncream, lypsyl and snacks.

The focusing effect of having to carry all of my belongings helps me keep my life uncluttered. Except when loaded with food and water for several days, or equipment for extreme cold, I am able to pick up every thing that I own in the world and carry it.

I really value how few things I really need to survive, and discovered that I actually enjoy the simplicity of owning very little.

This is an extract from my book Moods of Future Joys.

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  1. Walter Baum Posted

    Digging these last few posts about life on the road. The last one about camping quelled my instinctual fears about “baddies” out on the road looking for trouble in a strange way. And this here helps with minimizing my planned pack load. I have seen plenty of accounts of folks explaining that half the items one packs with them wind up as dead weight, but these descriptions from a practiced wanderer help relegate what is mandatory and what will become burden. I’m still packing underwear even if I might come to disuse it!

    Keep it going Al, you’ve been a real inspiration for me.

  2. Aww, reading this made me want to reread the whole book, but my copy of it is in a different country! *sadface*



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