40L for 12 months in Europe… challenge accepted!
As a digital media nomad for Throw Your Leg Over with my partner, Alan, our life for the past few years has been a loose routine of packing, hitting the road, unpacking and repeat.
We’re stepping it up a gear and embarking on our biggest adventure yet… riding through Europe for 12 months, from Portugal to the UK, through the European Alps, Norway, then back again.
On one bike…
I experience travel in three stages:
- The anticipation… so sweet
- The experience… amazing, exhausting, fleeting
- The memories… so precious
The challenge is to pack everything I need for this adventure, through heatwaves and arctic temperatures, from my bikini to the thermal-ist of thermals into one 40 litre pannier.
Alan has a 35 litre pannier for his gear and our camping and cooking gear gets packed into a Touratech bag, strapped across the back of Beauty, our 2008 BMW R1200 GS.
I must admit, I love packing…
The process of packing builds my anticipation, that’s for sure! But how to fit everything into such a small space? My gear falls roughly into three categories:
Luckily my bulky, heavy riding gear doesn’t go in my pannier because I’m either wearing it or it’s inside our tent… or a wardrobe if we’re spoiling ourselves with hard-roof accommodation.
I’m a fan of merino and silk fabrics because they’re warm, light and compact. Merino thermals and leggings under my bike gear are perfect for cool weather and silk scarves for neck warmth. Hiking shops are great for these.
Off the bike clothes are simple… a light summer dress plus a pair of jeans and nice top for when it’s cooler.
If it’s really cold, my long-sleeved thermal tops and puffer jacket are super-warm on and off the bike.
Shoes are pretty simple… thongs or sandals for when it’s hot and in colder weather, compact, lightweight sneakers do the trick… though don’t make my mistake of choosing sneakers with a thin sole. After an hour of walking on concrete and cobblestones, I was hobbling on sore feet.
The idea of riding to Nordkapp is freaking me out a bit, so I might invest in some heated gear… I’ll let you know how I go.
Packing cells are a sanity-saver for keeping everything organised, compact and easy to pack. I use one each for:
- Socks and undies
- Thermal tops and long johns
- Compresses the puffy jacket
- Everything else, like off-the-bike clothes, hat, togs, etc. I think of it as my junk draw.
A toiletry bag with a hook is a must-have. I’ve used showers of all sizes and descriptions… some indescribable! Hanging my bag up keeps it dry and stops everything from falling out.
Concentrate shampoo/conditioner/body wash help keep bulk and weight to a minimum.
A 50 SPF moisturiser looks after my skin and my makeup kit is minimal… foundation, eyeliner, single-colour eyeshadow, mascara and tinted lip gloss, which stops my lips from drying out.
Periods are a pain… no newsflash there; I stuff tampons and pads into my jacket pockets and pannier.
Digital media nomad life requires tech and a lot of it:
- Laptop and second screen in a padded laptop sleeve
- Powerbank for charging when camping at a non-powered site
- Two external hard drives for our pics and videos
- Travel charger for the countries we’re riding through
- A plethora of charging cords, tightly organised with rubber bands
- GoPro and hand-held camera, with their respective batteries and chargers.
Our Hepco & Becker aluminium panniers have the aerodynamics of a brick but are water-tight and dust-proof and make excellent chairs or tables when we’re camping.
I always feel a frisson of excitement when I’m deciding what to take and then arranging it in my pannier for maximum compactness; it’s oddly satisfying.
And then I’m ready for our adventure to begin ….
Here is our free interactive packing list.
By Bridget Hallam
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