So, we have a patchwork quilt variety of gear for our upcoming trip… not one of those nice quilts from the home deco store, or the one an artisan makes with materials fresh from the fabric warehouse. This is more like the quilt your great grandma started 60 years ago from scraps and worn out clothing, that was never quite finished and passed down and added to through the generations. It will do the job but needs some work, with some patches needing repair and others replacing, and some are missing all together.
We have bikes that match in brand, but not in style, which both need a little more work to make them better tourers (especially mine!). We have only one set of matching panniers, which need new rain covers (the ones that came with are not nearly big enough). I have a good sleeping bag but Lewis’s is pretty worn out, and neither of us have camping pads that are small/light enough (well, I have one but it has a leak which I need to find). We have two good but cheap hammocks with bug netting attached, but no rain protection, nor bug protection from the bottom. Stove – check. Tent – check. Hiking packs – check (but again, no rain cover). Etc etc etc.
I would like to fill in as many of the missing links as is reasonable by making them myself. I originally wanted to make almost everything possible, including the panniers. In the end I decided that would take far too much time, and potentially my first-time DIY gear might not be durable or functional enough to pass the test… the test being maybe 2 years on the road, where failure would be a huge pain in the ass. I would just have to leave some things to the experts. Besides, my time is better used towards other preparations, and simply enjoying the last few months in NYC.
But, there are some things I can make pretty easily, while having fun designing and problem-solving, and saving money too. Here I will list the things I plan to make, with the basic materials and ideas. As I start each project, I will document the progress, show the end result, and make performance updates from the road.
1) Rain fly for hammocks. I was debating with over the size and shape of the rain flys, and the multi-functionality potential (because I love things that have more than one use). I have decided that I will make one rather large rain fly that can cover both hammocks at once, because we will most often bunk the hammocks, string them side by side, or in a “V” shape. With one fly, we only have deal with one set of attachments and only have to hang the one additional thing. It will also be useful for extra warmth to have our hammocks bunked or near each other (something I had not even though of until I was brainstorming about making the flys). The single fly will be long enough to reach near the ground when pitched at a sharp angle, and can be used also as a large basic rain shelter for setting up the tent, hammocks, or when we just want to cook or hang outside of the tent, and it can be used to protect the bikes.
2) Rain cap for hammocks/hiking packs. I haven’t quite worked it out just yet, but I am thinking of a rectangular shaped sack that can cap off the ends of the hammocks to add extra rain and wind protection, and can also be used as extra storage, keeping some things off the ground, but outside of the hammocks. I would like to make them also function as a rain cover for the hiking packs. I am thinking a basic rectangular shape that is long enough to cover both hammock ends when they are bunked, with a hole in the top and the middle to run the hammock ends through. There would be shock drawcord with a tightening toggle around the outer edge, to tighten if needed. This would also act as a tightener for applying the sack to the hiking packs. We would place the sacks on the packs upside down, so that the holes are at the middle and bottom, instead of top and bottom. I am still brainstorming ideas for keeping these holes neat, strong, functional and not too leaky.
3) Rain covers for panniers. This will be fairly easy. They will be bright yellow to add extra visibility on the road.
4) Front panniers. We are not sure yet if we will have front racks, but I would like too… at least by the time we are leaving the US and have less need to fold the bikes for transport, which often requires removing the front wheel. I would like to make a basic set of panniers… since these will be smaller and lighter, and visible while riding, I don’t feel as concerned about them falling off or breaking, like I was when I was considering making the rear panniers.
5) Rain socks to cover our shoes when biking in the rain. They will be bottomless (the bottoms would get torn up on the pedals anyway) and close-fitting, with elastic around the base. There will be a strap under the toe to keep the fronts from flying up.
6) Waterproof & warm mittens that can fit over our regular biking gloves for winter or wet riding.
7) Mosquito protection. A head net to fit over our sunhats/helmets. And a rather large sort of shelter to fit over the hammocks that can double up as protection over the bed in a shitty hotel that doesn’t already have coverage.
8) Silk sleeping bag liners. These will add extra warmth to the sleeping bags, and keep the sleeping bags cleaner. I would like to make them expandable so they can act as sheets for warm weather camping, and bed protection in grimy hotels.
9) An assortment of bags and stuff sacks that we can use to keep our things organized.
As you can see, it is mostly rain protection. This stuff ready-made tends to be bulky and expensive, or light-weight and really expensive. And mostly it is uncomplicated in design. I have already acquired many of the materials, some of which I already had laying around the house. Now it is time to get designing!
Updates to follow!
After the storm I leave the bike dry in the vestibule. The salt cake from the previous storm has been washed from tubing and gears, so I give it a break from the grime.
On the corner, no bus. I walk and am rewarded well.
Brilliant white clutching to every limb and twig. Morning sun dancing about, seemingly caught in the park’s white maze, increasing in luminance as it bounces branch to ground to branch to eye. Shrouded with snow, the trees seem to shrink the darkly dressed humans to ants as they stroll along the troughs cut through the thick blanket. The AM dog convention is proceeding in earnest in the ball fields. Clutches of humans stand in self-selected clumps laughing and sharing tidbits of news while their grinning beasts bound through the thick snow chasing balls, joy, others. Ice and snow has collected in the hurricane fence around the batting cage and the sun glints through a thousand little crystals. Yesterday’s packiness means solid snowmen and forts abound this morning.
White surrounding the streets leads you to forget for a moment the shabby brown and grey. Slush is already beginning to grasp the corners and flood the ramps, but as yet it brings smiling sidesteps rather than grumbled curses. I descend (to the subway/the stairs) with a smile.