So this page is dedicated to my tweaks and home made items that will a) save you lots of money and b) make life a bit easier. Some of these are of my own invention whilst others were ‘stolen’ from elsewhere. It is a work in progress so I will be adding more as time goes on. Please feel free to add your own hacks in the comments.
Make your own tent footprint.
When we bought our Macpac Citadel tent to go bike touring, the footprint (which is a groundsheet shaped exactly like the outline of the tents bottom) didn’t exist. No problem, I decided to make my own. I used something called ‘weed matting’ for this. You can get it from a hardware store and it is used in garden beds underneath mulch to stop weeds from poking through. It is made out of plastic and is SUPER CHEAP. My tents Footprint cost me $10,- and it took me one afternoon to put together:
I erected my tent and sewed two lengths together to get the right width. I then cut the outline of the tents groundsheet and hemmed this all the way ’round. I then got a brass eyelet kit and after placing the tent on top outlined where the tent pegs were situated. Following this I made a hole in the weed matting and inserted the eyelets.
Granted, this weed matting is not water proof, but I’m not worried about that. It keeps the vestibules in the tent clean from dirt, keeps the panniers off the bare earth and gives another layer of protection to the tents’ groundsheet. Because our tent is not symmetrical, I’ve written on it in permanent (white) marker so we always have the right side up!
Use a Simmer Ring when cooking on a small camping stove.
This is not my idea, I saw it on Cycling About’s website, but this idea has been a God sent! We both love our Whisperlite International stove as it runs on so many different fuels, is compact and lightweight. BUT it only has two settings, blast furnace and off. It is extremely hard to get a low heat setting so enter the Simmer Ring. Ours is the round bit from a mini spring form cake tin that I purchased at the local supermarket for $3.- Just pop the bottom out and place it in between the stove and the pot. Presto, no more burnt pots. Andrew cooked a slow cooked 3 hour beef stew this way, and we probably use it more often than not.
Nail polish, not just for nails.
Ever packed up a tent and left tent pegs behind? Yup, pretty annoying huh. Why not pop down to the local cheap shop and purchase the most shameful colour you can find for a couple of bucks and paint it over the top of the tent pegs. Much cheaper and less mess than a can of spray paint!
Whilst you’re there, get another bottle that matches the colour of your bike (mine’s black, yay). Any time a pannier rubs a bit of paint off, or the bike falls over and gets a scratch, whip out the nail polish and cover it up straight away before rust has a chance to set in!
Eucalyptus Oil for just about everything.
I carry a little plastic travel bottle of this stuff and it’s uses are amazing. It’s great for getting chain grease out of clothes. It gets any sticky residue off. I rub a few drops into the inside of my cycling knicks before washing to kill any nasty bugs that might have been festering there whilst getting all sweaty on the saddle. It’s good to use as an antiseptic, on insect bites, the list is endless!
Hot cuppa as soon as you crawl out of the sleeping bag in the mornings.
We carry a S’well thermos with us and we always fill it with boiling water at night when we are cooking dinner. The next morning we can have a cup of tea straight away, without having to get the stove going. Then whilst cooking breakfast, we will boil the kettle usually three times, 1) another cup of tea/coffee, 2) to do the dishes, 3) to fill the thermos for our lunch time tea.
Mini First Aid kit in the handle bar bag.
So I realise that this is doubling up, BUT, this has actually come in very handy! As well as my usual first aid kit, I carry a mini one in my handle bar bag. It has a couple of band aids, wound wipes, head ache tablets and gauze in it. It’s no bigger than a packet of travel tissues. It saves you having to dig through panniers when you just need a band aid. But also, when we do a day trip somewhere and
you come off the bike (like I did earlier in 2015 ouch!), you have just a few basic with you to get you going. No need to go find a chemist. Hubby was most impressed when I was able to clean my gravel rash with my mini kit!
Mesh Drawstring bags.
I absolutely love these. They are super light weight, you can see whats inside, dirt etc falls straight through and they keep everything in the panniers neat and tidy. Another bonus is with our kitchen kit that if anything isn’t quite dry after washing up it can dry inside the bag before being packed into the panniers.
Turn any pot into a non-stick one.
This is my very own invention and it involves a sheet of BBQ liner which is a non stick square of plastic that most people use to put on their BBQ to keep the food off the yukky surface. Well, I cut a circle out of mine and use it inside my stainless steel MSR fry-pan to make it non stick. This has worked so well I even surprised myself! No more baked on food, it makes cleaning up a breeze and the added bonus of it not flaking/scratched off like the usual teflon pans out there!
Cleaning drink bottles the easy way.
So for this hack you need to go to the supermarket and get some denture cleaning tablets. a box of 48 homebrand
tablets will set you back about $4.- Follow the instructions on the pack and presto, clean drink bottles without having to scrub. Just make sure you rinse well! The best bit is that if you get the ones that are individually wrapped you can just throw a few in for short trips. Oh and apparently you can use them to clean a heap of other stuff too, from toilet bowls to jewellery, go figure.
So you know those travelling elastic washing lines you can get for a couple of bucks? Well we have one in our tent permanently. Yup, its looped up to the two tent hooks and we leave it in all the time and pack the tent up with it in. We don’t use it for laundry though… We actually use it to hook the iPad over when we watch movies (instant cinema), or hang a head torch from so its easy to find in the dark, or to hang anything really that you would like to find in a hurry.
Zip lock bags.
I use these for just about everything! They are super cheap and great for storing tea bags, sugar, herbs & spices, small bit & bobs, you name it in. I always take a wad of empty ones with me in the pannier. They are much lighter than jars and if one breaks, which doesn’t happen very often, you can easily replace it.
Carry only basic ID.
So when I’m on tour I have a teeny wallet/purse, it’s a Sea to Summit one. I leave my usual monstrosity at home as most of the cards in it I will never use/need, such as a drivers licence or the hundreds of store loyalty cards… The only cards I take are a credit, bank debit, medicare, private health insurance, and my Coles staff discount card. Also a photo of my three kids and aside from some cash, that is it. Everything else stays home. This way, should anything go missing or get stolen, it is not such a drama having to replace every single card that I would normally carry. I realise that when we go overseas next year this will be slightly different with many, many travel documents, but here in Australia I’ve gotten by just fine with out.
DIY Tent awning.
When we had a wet day in Tasmania in 2014, I came to the realization that once you are out of the tent that’s it, you are wet! So I designed myself a tent awning. I purchased a 3×4 metre SIL waterproof tarpaulin, a length of reflective tent rope, some guyline runners, six extra titanium pegs and two aluminum tent poles. By half draping it over our tent and then using the two tent poles we’ve made a huge extra area that is out of the weather. An added bonus is that at night it is a lot warmer sitting outside under the awning. Granted, its no good in windy, stormy weather, but for a light rain it is perfect!