This is not a paid advert. We have spent our hard earned cash on all of this equipment, our choices are made from our experience. Our relationship with the brands is based primarily upon replacement parts and customer service.
More than a trip, it’s a way of life we chose. A simple, sporty, nomadic and outdoor life. Having a shower a week is a well-accepted habit. Whilst sleeping between four walls is an exception and indeed uncomfortably foreign, eating well is a necessity that we can not do without, regardless of place or conditions. Cooking without a kitchen can be learned. We were already proficient ‘wild’ chefs after two years of living in a van. Only there, we had two stove rings and a cupboard. On the bikes, we’ve found a system, more or less efficient, called the food bag. A 32-litre Rack Pack that contains everything we need to make food. Here is the content of our pantry :
Our food bag is our cupboard. For the uninitiated, it’s a real mess. For us too in all honesty but we still try to organize it by having lots of small bags in the big bag, a culinary Russian doll of sorts:
- The vegetable net, which was originally a downhill bike body armour bag.
- The stove bag, for the stove, with its multifunction key, windshield, fire steel and rag.
- The dry herbs bag
- The spices bag
- The pans bag
- The cutlery bag
- The breakfast bag containing coffee and what is on the menu at the time (rice and sugar or cereals and fruits or porridge and peanuts…)
- The bag bag, essential for all the unused bags that we didn’t manage to refuse at the counter and that will surely be useful one of these days…
Our stove is an Optimus Polaris Optifuel bought in September 2015. It runs on petrol or gas canisters both without needing any extra parts. We mainly use fuel from petrol stations, which is much cheaper than gas (nothing better than bamboozling the attendant who wonders where our engine is hidden). To avoid the smell of fuel in the food bag, the 1 liter petrol bottle is transported on an external bottle cage. We cook on average twice a day and our litre of fuel lasts between 8 and 10 days. Therefore our stove has prepared at least 1200 meals and burned at least 60 litres of petrol. Popcorn, risotto, pancakes, mulled wine, French fries, ratatouille, pasta soups and so many more meals, it has adapted its flame to all kinds of dishes. The intense cold and damp of the German winter, the suffocating heat of the Uzbek desert, the high altitude of theTajik mountains, the low quality petrol in Laos, and even a cleaning product containing a tiny quantity of petroleum products (dodecane, labelled as C12H26) as an emergency fuel, nothing seems to upset it. We both had many stoves before this one: a Jet Boil, an MSR whisperlite, an MSR Pocket Rocket, Campinggaz, but none lasted so long nor so efficiently.
The design of the stove is simple, easy to disassemble, clean and repair. The few pieces that might break can be bought in a repair kit and we’ve only replaced the burner plate and the preheating pad so far (after using cleaning product for emergency fuel). We’ve put lubricant on the pump leather every so often (cooking oil works great too) and flipped it over giving it a second life. If we were to award a prize to our best piece of equipment, our stove wins first place hands down.
The pots: we have an MSR fry pan and an Optimus pot (replacing our Jetboil pot having given up after 3 years of good and loyal service).
The chopping board: We cut a rigid Ikea chopping board from our van in two but it broke a year in. We’ve since replaced it with another Ikea board given to us by Reece our Warmshowers host in Bangkok.
The knife: we used an Opinel for a long time before replacing it with a sturdier kitchen knife and we try to always have some way of keeping it sharp.
Plates: we have two folding Fozzils bowls. Nothing better if you don’t like washing the dishes: unfold them and lick until clean, then back in the cupboard.
Folding tupperware: handy for cooking a big meal in the evening and keeping it for lunch the next day or for sprouting lentils or peas.
The oil bottle: our oil consumption being quite important, we need a container large and solid enough to carry it. Regular oil bottles are never sturdy enough to be shoved in the food bag without leaking. Our 600ml Evernew bottle has been used intensively for the past 3 years and never leaked.
5 bottles. We have 6 bottle cages between us, of which one is taken by the fuel bottle. We always have 5 bottles of water of at least 1.5l each. We replace them as soon as they start giving a weird taste to the water.
A 4l Ortlieb water bag, handy for carrying more water when needed.
An Ortlieb foldable sink, useful for washing the clothes.
A Platypus Gravity Works water filter, very easy to use and super efficient. A two-liter bag for dirty water is connected to the filter and the water comes out clean and drinkable on the other side. The ceramic captures particles as well as protozoa and bacteria up to 0.2 microns (giardia, salmonella and cryptosporidia). We only need a tree, shoulder or even the bike’s handlebar to hang the dirty water bag from and gravity does the rest. We have used it extensively in countries without safe tap water and in remote areas to filter from rivers, ponds and even animal watering troughs. We used it for our 8 litres daily for about 5
months, which makes a total of more than 1000 liters. Filtering 2 litres takes less than 5 minutes unless the water is very muddy (it’s surprising what we can filter!), in which case it is necessary to back flush regularly to keep up the flow. This filter, however, doesn’t remove viruses. In really suspicious cases, ‘organic’ fertilisers or poor sanitation for example, we boil the water after filtering. In our opinion, investing in a ceramic pump filter can be wasteful and even counterproductive. Three times more expensive, three times heavier and unable to filter even mildly dirty water. Our friend Stéphane was happy that we could filter the water for him in the Pamir, his Katadyn filter clogging before having given him a sip from the sandy Panj.