Archive for the ‘Kit & Reviews’ Category


Bramwell International to the Rescue

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

After 23 months of either wearing my sandals or boots, both were starting to fall apart, Liz has even banned my shoes from the tent because of the smell. I have not even found an insect that’s been willing to crawl inside my boots for months.

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I sent an email to Bramwell International the UK importer and distribution company that deals with Source sandals. Source sandals have green dot on the sole that means if it’s still there then the sandals are in guarantee. Although the sandals are falling apart a bit, they have been through a lot and I had not really cleaned them that often, not mention, they had been chewed to within an inch of their lives for an hour by a dog in Thailand while I was having dinner. You tend to leave shoes outside the house in Thailand. I wore them just about every day through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and only swapped them for my boots in November when we got to China and the weather started to get a bit chilly. Whilst the green dot guarantees sensible use, it would not cover dog chew and blatant sandal mis-management.

Having explained the ordeals my sandals have been through and the lack of care I have given them, I really didn’t think a new pair would be forth coming….. however…. our trip, and the journey my Source sandals have taken so far, fired some imaginations at Bramwell International and we have been asked to become ‘Ambassadors’ for some of their products, Meindl Boots as well as Source sandals.

This involves using their products, giving feedback and suggestions as well as promoting their products and showing the adventures these products can take a person on. So we have a new sponsor!

Liz, who obviously glides over the earth rather than walking, does not need any new sandals or boots, she somehow seems to keep things looking new. Her front panniers look like they only came out the box the other day. I on the other hand seem to put something on and make it look 100 years old within a few weeks.

So I looked online and in a few shops in Ulaanbatar and chose some new boots and sandals to replace the smelly broken ones. I have chosen the Meindl Maine Men Mid GTX boots and the Gobi sandals. They should be making their way to Asia in a few weeks and I shall have shiny new kit that I promise to clean more than once a year.

So thanks so much to Bramwell International for choosing us to be ‘Ambassadors’ for your kit, it will certainly go on some exciting adventures with us and will definitely see some stunning parts of the world. We look forward to working with you during our Bikeabout trip and perhaps for our future adventures as well. Have a look at their products and see if there is anything you fancy. You have a big choice, Meindl Boots, Source sandals and hydration systems and Gregory backpacks. You can also find out more about Bramwell International on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

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Alpkit great outdoor equipment at reasonable prices

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Liz went back to the UK over Christmas while I carried on cycling in China. At this point we had been travelling for 15 months. We knew we needed to replace some of our equipment that was either worn out or broken and we also wanted some extra bits to keep up happy and comfortable whilst we cycled through the Gobi desert. Money was an issue, despite Liz getting a good job in the UK, we needed a lot of this money to fund the rest of the trip, so we wanted to find some good quality outdoor equipment that was not going to cost a fortune.

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There had been a lot of talk on the internet about Alpkit, we had never heard of this company before but it seemed that a lot of cyclists, travellers, explorers and outdoor enthusiasts were buying this kit and really liking it. From the reviews we read, Alpkit seemed to be well made and priced reasonably, so we contacted them to see if they could help us out. To our delight they were excited about the trip and were willing to offer us a good discount on their equipment. So we trawled the website and started to look through what they had. This is a list of what we settled on how we have found it having used Alpkit for the last 5 months

Alpkit Gamma Led Headtorch £12.50

Alpkit head torch

Fixing the laptop in the Gobi Desert

We decided to replace our broken headtorches with the Gamma. The Gamma has one main white beam and three smaller beams in white, red and green. The smaller beams use less power and the main one and the main beam has different brightness setting. The battery pack is at the back of the torch and also has a small red LED that can flash or be constant. This is great for night time cycling, as it adds an extra light to the back and we tend to use both our bike lights, and our headtorches when we cycle at night. The main beam is great and is good enough to spot pot holes on the road or camel poo if you are in the desert. The one down side is the torch only take alkaline batteries not rechargeable, however we did get over a month of every day evening usage out of one set of batteries. Overall though the Gamma is a great piece of kit and we really like them.

Fredd £4.50 and Clippers 2011-08-17 005£2.50

No not another cyclist, but some utility cord or ‘string’ as Liz calls it. Tumble dryers are hard to find on the road, not to mention unnecessary. We use this cord for a washing line and always find a way to hang it up in a hostel or hotel room to get our clothes dry. It is also good to have a bit extra, to replace broken guy lines and create interesting dens with our tarp.

The clippers are just small karabiners, we love these as they have all sorts of uses from helping to rig up washing lines to clipping our solar panel on the back of the bike.

Airlok Drybags £3.50

2011-08-17 003We use these lightweight dry bags to separate our clothes, electrical items, journals wash kits and so on. They provide an extra layer of protection from all the elements. Panniers can leak and when you want to grab something in a rain storm is nice to know that the rest of the contents of your bag are going to stay dry too. These come in a variety of different colours and have been a brilliant in the Gobi at keeping the sand out. They are probably not waterproof enough to withstand prolonged exposure in the rain or on water in a kayak, for this the heavier duty Alpkit dry bags would be would be better. But as a cheap lightweight packing solution to keep light rain, dust and sand out of our ipods and toothbrushes they are the bees knees.

Snapwires £6.50 

We tried several different types of camping cutlery, and ended up using heavy metal KFS as it was the only thing that did not break in a few weeks. Alpkit sork and icecreamWe had some plastic sporks but they melted when we stirred our pasta sauce and broke when we tried to mash potato or eat ice cream with them. Folding Titanium seemed to be a good alternative. Lightweight and strong and very difficult to melt. Our first test with the snapwires was in a Beijing hotel with a tub of vanilla ice cream and some fresh strawberries. We managed to eat the whole tub and all the strawberries with our Alpkit Sporks, they did not bend or snap as we devoured the lot. Five months on the Sporks and Knives are still going strong they are easy to clean and will remain in our camping kit for years to come.

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Pizza in the Gobi Desert

 

Hunka Bivi Bag £30

Alpkit bivi2

Gobi Desert Bivi

2011-06-04 072 I didn’t think that something this cheap would actually work, but it does. I love having a bivi bag for camping under the stars or nipping off the side of the road and finding the smallest of clearings to make a home for the night. We also have them for in the tent as an extra layer over the sleeping bags when it’s really cold. Our first night in the Hunka Bivi Bags I was excited to try them out. We sent our original Rab bivi bags home over a year ago as we had not used them much, mainly because they were too small.  I wriggle a lot in my sleep and I also like to have my sleeping mat inside my bivi bag. So the Hunka XL was the obvious choice. I had a good nights sleep, no condensation and plenty of room to wriggle. Liz got the normal Hunka as she is smaller. Without her sleeping mat it’s perfect, but if she puts it inside, then it’s a tight fit. All in all though I was very impressed with the Hunka. For the price there is no excuse not to get one. Try some lightweight cycle touring or the 24 hour bivi challenge.

So a big thanks to Alpkit we are really glad that we have some of their stuff to keep us happy on the road. Check out the Alpkit site and see their down jackets, sleeping bags and other cool stuff. Oh and if you are thinking of asking for sponsorship read this first.

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Should you wear a helmet when cycling?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

We pretty much always wear our helmets when we cycle. However through the Gobi desert we didn’t wear our helmets much and opted for our Tilley hats instead, this was a risk we were willing to take as the traffic was pretty much non-existent and the sun was hot during the day.  In heavy traffic we wear our helmets and even put on bight yellow jackets.  Al Humphries posted this video on his site and it stirred a lot of debate.   In China people asked me why I wore a helmet, and in Australia it was the law. When James Cracknell got knocked off his bike it made me think, when is it safe not to wear a helmet and in some ways, more importantly, is my helmet adjusted correctly, is yours?   What do you think?

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New way to charge GPS and Phones from your bike

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Pedal Power+ have recently launched a new product the Super i Cable or SIC cable.  The SIC has additional advanced technology to enable complete compatibility with iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 charging systems as well as being able to charge standard mobile phones, Smartphones, Android, GPS and other small electronic devices that can be charged from USB connection.

It hooks up to your bike dynamo and has a built in battery that will help charge your favourite gadgets when your are out and about.  The SIC cable was designed as a lightweight option for mountain bikers, commuters and day riders. Imagine tracking your favourite mountain bike route without your phone or GPS dying half way or just charging your phone on the way to work, for free.  When added to the exciting V4 or V4i battery packs it gives you up to 8,900 mAh of power, great for bicycle tourists that want to get off the beaten track but still keep listening to music, update the blog, call mum and read your book at night.

We have used our V4 battery packs every day that we have cycled, over the past twenty months. Most recently this allowed us to keep the blog updated during our crossing of the Gobi desert. See our complete electronics set up here.

Some of you may know that we are sponsored by Pedal Power Plus, but we can honestly say that their products are great.  We hope to get a SIC cable sent out to us in Mongolia soon and will be reporting back on how it copes and helps us as we cross western Mongolia.

Check out the great deals on all the PedalPower+ products here

 

sic cable

The all inclusive SIC set includes:
A high capacity 2200mAh 18650 Protected, Rechargeable, internal battery that is customer replaceable. Do not use any other type battery.
A short iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPod cable
A short Micro USB cable
A short Mini USB cable
A short standard female USB cable
Nokia 2mm and 3.5 adapters
A led test cable
A piggyback adapter set
A handlebar clip mount
International wall charger set
External mini USB charging socket
Cable ties
Owners manual

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Millican and the ‘Gobi Coolers’

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Before embarking on our Gobi adventure, it occurred to us that with the cold temperatures and the sand, we might need some insulation for our kit, fuel and water. With temperatures below zero we were concerned that our drinking water might freeze, particularly overnight and perhaps when cycling due to the wind chill. Fuel for cooking is essential and cold temperatures can mean that it doesn’t pressurise and pump very easily. In fact when we toured in England on our John O’Groats – Land’s End trip, it froze one night in the peak district and we were unable to boil water or make porridge the next morning! We are also carrying laptop, cameras and our V4 battery packs for our bike dynamos. Neither of us were very sure how well they would cope with the cold, and most electrical items dislike sand!nicky_jorrit300

Millican are a client of Liz’s and she designed their website, and even works for them on the road, internet permitting. Jorrit and Nicky are based in Keswick, near our home in the Lake District and whilst Liz was back in the UK she met up with them and happened to mention that we were thinking about some insulation for the Gobi. Jorrit and Nicky offered to make us some custom bags and covers, and the ‘Gobi Coolers’ were born!

Millican produce organic cotton canvas bags and accessories, with a high attention to detail and design. Some of their products use locally sourced, Herdwick wool, which is a fantastic natural insulator. Our Gobi Coolers would also be using Herdwick wool and would be handmade by Vera the Dame of Sewing.

Liz left the UK to return to China and meet up with Chris again. Shortly afterward a package arrived for us in Beijing, containing our Millican Goodies.

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The box contained 2 fuel bottle covers, 1 laptop cover, 1 camera bag, 1 battery cover,  Derek the Drinks Holder, with Andy the water bottle including a new sports top. We were delighted! Now that we have been in the Gobi for two weeks, we wanted to share our thoughts with you all and tell you about our Millican Gobi Coolers.

Fuel Bottle Cover

Stove with Millican fuel bottle cover (1024x768)These are great, robust and compact, and our MSR fuel bottle fits inside perfectly, with a neat drawstring at the top to prevent dust and dirt getting in. So far we have been keeping the fuel bottles in their covers the entire time, even to fill up at the petrol station.

It has dropped to –5 degrees overnight and we have had no problem cooking porridge in the morning and the stove has lit first time! We are very pleased with these indeed!

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We strap the fuel bottles to our bikes, in a water bottle cage, both for easy access and to keep the fuel away from everything else.

 

Laptop case

2011-04-06 006 This case is a sturdy, nicely padded cover that fits our 10” notebook very well. Chris carried the laptop in one of his back panniers and if the bike falls over, we don’t have to worry much about it being bashed as the case will protect it. Some people use jumpers to wrap around their computers, but out here we’ve been wanting to wear all of our jumpers!

The pocket at the back is excellent for a dongle, cable, pens, maps and a little notebook. We’ve used it as much off the bikes, in the cities, as we have on the road. However the best feature is the protection from the dust, it really does make a huge difference.

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Millican currently have Joe the Ipad Cover if you are interested in a similar product. But if you like the idea of a laptop case, why not email them and tell them.

Camera bag

2011-05-12 066 We attach our small Panasonic camera to the front of the handlebars for easy access when cycling. The Millican bag has a roll top design, with a press stud style fastening. There is room for a spare battery, a cable as well as the camera.

We are finding the roll top design to be excellent at keeping the dust out and superior to design with zips as the sand can break zips pretty quickly. The stud fastening is more secure than it looks too, which is great.

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Liz likes the roominess of the bag and the fact you can just drop the camera in and take it out with ease. Chris would prefer a smaller, more compact version of the case longer term, as our camera is only small.

Millican are looking to release camera bags as part of their range in the future, so we hope than any feedback we can give them at this stage will be useful! What do you think, big, small or both?

Whilst it’s not been as cold here in the Gobi as we had expected, due to us being delayed in Beijing, it’s been great to have the Gobi Coolers. We really value the support of Nicky and Jorrit, and appreciate all their efforts to help us on our travels.

flashhomeharry

If you are interested to find out more about their product range (or perhaps you need a more original Father’s Day gift than last year!), please visit their website: homeofmillican.com. It is now the season for summer shows, so if you are interested, see where they will be over the coming months.

A big thanks to all at Millican!

p.s. check out their cool and inspiring blog for more travel ideas!

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