The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Packing: The male and female perspectives


Being a man, a key element of the trip has been choosing the stuff we take with us and how to pack it. Hol tends to manage the emotional side of things (goodbyes, tears, parents) whilst I busy myself with packing and repacking panniers and researching the benefits of a 'travel washing line' vs. a piece of string*. With only a few days left to go we have pretty much got this all stuff bought now and it is piled up in a room at my Dad's house in London waiting for final loading up on Saturday evening.

The split between male and female approaches ranges from amusing to farcical. Whilst Hol is downstairs on the laptop writing to travel companies and newspapers I have been upstairs staring at an ever increasing pile of stuff and wondering how it can possibly fit onto the tandem. Whilst I am seriously considering a switch to speedo style pants to save space (we would be in Europe after all where the y-front seems broadly acceptable), Hol is busy popping to her Mum's house to drop things off we don't need. But instead of coming back free of possessions, she comes back with an even bigger bag of different 'essentials'. The penny only dropped when I lured Hol into the Aladdin's cave of the spare room and it dawned on her that her worldly belongings would need to fit into something the size of a large shoebox for the next few months.


None of the above is true. I completely understand the lack of space and am perfectly in control of fitting my belongings into it. I just have a slightly different approach to these things. Some call it scatty, I call it energy saving. What Nick suffers from is quite a severe obsession with anything that can be organised into a more efficient arrangement; kit, routes, bags, bikes, dates, times, budgets, photos, music, people and anything else that can be put into a spreadsheet and colour coded. I don't think I've ever seen a man happier than Nick laying out our kit in categorised piles. The fact that we weren't close to packing yet and it would all have to be moved the moment after was apparently irrelevant.

I am more in the opinion that what doesn't fit in we will have to leave behind, what we forget we will buy on route and what is now red for 'urgently needed' on the spreadsheet will probably seem highly irrelevant when our main concern is getting through the day without it being entirely consumed by saddle sore. That said, obviously the moment we urgently need something that isn't in the panniers, Nick could well be the first person I blame. Surely he knows that you can't have all the control and organisation without taking on board dangerous levels of responsibility.


Packing for 18 months worth of multiple climates, terrains and activities is complicated. It is even more complicated when it all has to fit on a bike and we have to carry it 600km across Northern Spain on foot. We have tried to keep things to the minimal by making kit transferable. This works to a point apart from the moment the skies open on you in the middle of the Atlantic and all you have is a Kag in a Bag and some tracky bottoms. Consequently we are packing three sets of kit:

Stage 1
: Panniers full of cycling and camping gear and Vaseline.
Stage 2: Small rucksacks with basic walking stuff, top ups of contact lenses etc and pilgrim costumes.
Stage 3: Big trip rucksacks with full wet weather gear for the Atlantic and paints, Spanish learning books and high brow novels for Hol (likely to come back untouched).

Stage 1 we will set off on an over-loaded tandem with, stage 2 will be brought out to us by two friends, Anna and Joe, who are flying out to meet us in St Jean Pied de Port to ride the tandem home and stage 3 will be sent out to any reliable person we can find in Lisbon.


And that's it - only 3 more days of goodbyes, staring at to-do lists and aimlessly wondering the streets of London to go and then we're off!

*For the men out there still pondering the benefits of the travel washing line you can find a bargain pegless one with suction cups here. I am yet to persuade Hol this is more useful than wet wipes.

1 comment:

Tim Smith said...


So sorry to not wave you off this morn, was waylaid at a van hire place. Another tearful man would have been unwanted I imagine.
Will see you in three weeks.
God speed on the metal beast...speak soon