It was only when I was selecting items to fill a backpack for a three day hike along some of Turkey’s Lycian Way that I realised quite how luxurious the baggage limit for fully loaded cycle touring is. Apart from boots which have been carried on my rear rack all summer like a pair of spoiled princesses, I don’t own hiking stuff. I borrowed Justin’s hiking trousers, our friend Asher’s small daypack and a copy of The Lycian Way trail guide from an Istanbul book exchange and proceeded to try to reduce my thinking from cavernous (in comparison) panniers to a single bag which needed to weigh as little as possible.
Books were out for starters, though I snuck in the walk guide, a Turkish phrasebook and a Time magazine. If I was cutting weight further, I’d just photocopy a section of walk notes and scrawl any needed words on a piece of paper, but I planned on reading up on the route and history en-route to Fethiye where the trail started.
There wasn’t room for cookware or sleeping kit, which reduced my overnight options to pensions and hostels, though there were plenty of gorgeous spots where it would have been cool to put up a tent. I took the set of clothes I was wearing, plus a rain jacket and a merino wool top, which I wore in the chilly evenings under my fleece.
I pared down our bulky expedition first aid kit to a handful of plasters, a strip of water purifying tablets, insect repellent, sunscreen and rehydration sachets. I only used the sunscreen. A small travel towel never left the bag and carrying swimwear in the short days of December was slightly optimistic. I washed my tee-shirt every night and was surprised that it dried before the morning without fail.
I grabbed Justin’s camera, his GPS, our cellphone and my MP3 player and chucked in a head torch and a compass incase I underestimated daylight hours or got completely lost. The weight of all of these things doesn’t even make me blink on a bike (Justin says maybe because I don’t actually carry them) but if I was walking seriously long distances I would be a quick convert to a multi-function gadget.
I hefted the bag onto my back an hour or so before my overnight bus journey was due to depart and my shoulders strained at the unexpected weight. I immediately unloaded the bag to see if there was anything I could take out but when it included a bottle of water and a little food there wasn’t a thing in there that I didn’t deem important for the trip.
Out on the trail, I quickly got used to carrying a full bag on my back and with slightly better kit (a proper hiking pack for starters) I could have carried enough to allow me to comfortably camp out. It made me think about the load we carried across Europe, and if any of that will be chucked before we continue on next year. My thoughts were also with the people that we met who were walking across Europe this summer – one in particular was walking to Israel and kept on passing us as we cycled into Istanbul. How much must he have been carrying?
There are certainly parallels to cycle touring. When I first started multi-day cycling trips we carried minimum stuff and stayed in hostels or B&Bs along our route. When you’re unencumbered by stuff you can’t imagine carrying extra kilograms, but once you add items that make your trip independent of infrastructure or just generally more enjoyable, weight doesn’t factor in so heavily. But I carry hiking boots on a cycle tour, so I would say that wouldn’t I?