MYOG Bicycle Panniers

We are off the Denmark for 11 weeks this (southern) winter with me carrying the bags.  My partner is working there but I plan to be off exploring as much as possible.  I have decided to take my bike as Denmark is very bike friendly and also rather expensive so camping is definitely on the cards.

I have a very average hard tail mountain bike but need panniers to make cycle touring feasible.  Looking around at panniers I decided to save money and try making them as I have various fabrics, tape, buckles etc lying around. In sorting though some ancient gear recently I discovered an old Karrimor Iberian pannier (80’s vintage), unfortunately one, not a pair and in poor condition.  I like the design of these panniers – not too big or too small for my minimalist needs (about 17-18 litres per pannier) with a decent sized single pocket on the rear. There is also a considerable cutaway to prevent heels clipping the panniers when riding.

Stuffing the old pannier with my sleeping and cooking gear I find that one pannier will easily hold my basic camping gear (quilt, Thermarest, pillow and cook set) with the tent strapped on top of the rack leaving the second pannier for clothes and food.

As I won’t be taking walking poles I have purchased poles for my tent. The problem with bikes and poles is that they need to be quite short or else they become a pain to pack.  I found Zpacks have carbon fibre poles which pack down to 30 cm in length to suit either my Zpacks Solplex if my partner decides not to camp or my SMD Haven if she will camp on the weekends – awaiting her decision.

I have unpicked the old pannier and now have a pattern for the new pair with a couple of minor modifications.  Once I have built the panniers I will provide a detailed pattern. In laying out the pattern on fabric I find they fit beautifully on 1 metre of 1.5 metre wide Dyneema X pack fabric I have been saving for a couple of years. The draw-cord throats will be cut from my supply of lightweight sil-nylon (1 metre x 40cm).  All I need to buy are some clips to attach the panniers to my rear rack and some reflective tape for visibility.

The pattern laid out on the fabric

The pattern laid out on the fabric

I went with Altura Twist Hook pannier clips (actually made by Rixen and Kaul) that I will bolt onto the panniers rather than use the optional mounting plate.  I like the way they clip securely to the rack so that the panniers cannot bounce off. I bought these from SJS Cycles ( costing about $40 delivered. I will use a hook and shock cord system to attach the bottom of the panniers to the frame. The reflective tape came from eBay for $4.95 delivered.


Pannier clips

Twist hook pannier clips

To stiffen the backs of the panniers I will use some 3mm plywood but will experiment with Corflute when I return from Denmark. I don’t want to have problems over there and I am unsure just how durable Corflute will be.

Materials List

  • Dyneema X fabric 1.5 metre width – 1 metre.  Many fabrics could be substituted here.  I think one of the X-Pac fabrics may be better.
  • Sil-nylon – 2 @ 1 metre x 20cm – 1.1 or 1.9oz
  • Nylon tape – 5 metres – I went with 20mm width but 25mm is fine
  • Quick release buckles – 5 –  to suit tape
  • D rings – 4 @ 12mm – lashing points for gear on rack
  • Light nylon tape – 12mm x 50cm – for D rings
  • Cord – 2.2 metres – draw cord in throats
  • Cord locks – 2 – to suit cord
  • Pannier clips – 2 pairs – Altura Twist Hook
  • Zips – 2 @ 30cm – no 3 coil
  • Reflective tape – 25mm @ 1 metre – I went with 3M 9810 silver sewn on tape

In the next post I will detail the construction.

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Sick of losing tent pegs?

Tent pegs are tricky blighters, ducking away into the undergrowth at the drop of a tent. Apart from carrying spares the best we can do to minimise losses is to nobble their roaming habits in some manner. We need a method that:

  1. keeps track of them when pitching and packing the tent, and
  2. makes them easier to locate when they go walkabout.

I contemplated ankle bracelets that get used on criminals on home detention and those devices that you attach to your keys that beep when pinged from your mobile phone; but too heavy – I do try for UL status and over the years, and many tent pegs later, I seem to have got on top of the problem.  I have used these methods for a few years and it has done the job reducing losses by 95% (statistics are a form of lie).

Dealing with keeping track of the pegs:

  1. Keep your tent pegs in a separate bag.  Apart from anything else, loose pegs a great for poking holes in your gear.
  2. As you pitch the tent at each staking point take out a peg and set it.  This means there is only one potential escapee in play at any time.
  3. When finished attach the closed peg bag to the tent or put in your pack so that any remaining pegs don’t make a bid for freedom with the bag.
  4. Reverse the process when dropping the tent.  Pull out each peg in turn, clean it and into the bag it goes.

It took me a while (slow learner and chronically disorganised) but this process is now automatic.

For locating miscreant pegs I paint the top portion of the peg.  If you use pegs with holes for string then ultra bright cord can work.

I chose to use a bright orange but a bright mid blue can be also be very visible especially amongst autumn leaves. It also is good for clothing in fog.

Like all good paint jobs, preparation is the key.  The pegs need to be wiped with acetone, metho etc to remove oils left over from their manufacture.  A quick rub with steel wool to roughen the surface.c an help with paint adhesion.

To paint needle pegs it push the pegs into the end of corrugated cardboard leaving 40-50mm  exposed.  Place the peg laden piece of cardboard on something that will raise it above the ground.  You will need to be able to pick the cardboard up to turn it over and hold it to get paint into awkward places. I must add a photo o show this step. It may be useful to use both orange and a mid blue on the pegs. this just requires a bit of masking and exposing more of the pegs out of the cardboard.

When finished leave the paint to fully set for a day.  The paint often takes 24 hours to set reasonably hard, leave them a few day longer before use.

Even with all this preparation and process one managed to escape on my South Coast Track trip this January.



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Australia’s 2,000 metre peaks

All of mainland Australia’s 2,000+ metre peaks are contained in a small area 40 km by 18 km in the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales. Before anybody draws my attention to it, I am purposefully ignoring Mount McClintock (3,490m) and Mount Menzies (3,355m) in the Australian Antarctic Territory as well as Mawson Peak (2,745m) on Heard Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. As an aside, Mawson Peak is one of Australia’s  two active volcanoes.

The idea of climbing all the 2k peaks in one trip has appealed for some time. The real issue in planning my route is deciding what counts as a peak:

  • Named peaks, I count 25 based on the the 25K maps but there are some issues
  • All points 2,000m or more elevation, too many minor bumps
  • Points with a prominence of more than x metres
Main Range from Scammels Spur LO

Main Range from Scammels Spur LO

I have come up with a list of 34 peaks made up of all named peaks and any unnamed peaks  circled by at least two contour lines. I have climbed many of these peaks over the years but I discovered a couple that I was not aware of on the western side of Koscuiszko. While this whole process can be be seen as a pedantic exercise, it nicely filled in several winter evenings and planning trips is always fun. It was then a process of devising an enjoyable route to link the peaks together with good campsites at appropriate intervals. The speadsheet below shows the proposed trip with an early morning start at Perisher Valley or Charlottes Pass if starting around lunch time. I am hoping to spend 7 or 8 days completing the walk in the next few weeks.

A link to my excel spreadsheet

Apart from the first and last sections from Perisher to Koscuiszko Lookout and from Jagungal back to Perisher Valley the route would make a great component of the Australian Alps Walking Track.


The prominence of a peak is a measure of the height from the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit, to the summit of the peak.  Wikipedia has a good write up of prominence and the issues in measuring it. Prominence is often used as a method of determining the status of peaks with many peak bagging systems having minimum prominence requirements such as the Corbetts and Grahams in Scotland but not the Munros.

In determining my list of peaks I set a prominence standard of needing to cross two 20 metre contours which represents an average prominence of 40 metres but could vary between 21 and 59 metres.  This removed many minor bumps but retained most of the named peaks and others which I felt deserved to be included.

Issues with named peaks

Named peaks represent the European history of the area.  I don’t know whether anybody has collected a list of peak names used by the aboriginal tribes that used the area and if they have can they accurately allocate them to the landscape elements.  The Geographical Names Board of NSW is the formal recorder of names in NSW and these names, or lack of them, are what are shown on 1:25K topographic maps.

Some named peaks have very little prominence.  If they were not named people would largely ignore them apart from the views they offer.  The peaks on my list that fall into this category are Mount Stillwell, Alice Rawson Peak and Watsons Crags, the last two having magnificent views.

South Rams Head

What I know as South Rams Head (2080m, in centre of the image) is not a named peak.  The name is applied to a small rise (1,951 m) further south on the ridge as it descends to the Murray River.  My South Rams Head is the southernmost 2k peak with almost 100 metres of prominence and a large trig which goes unmarked on the maps.

South Rams Head

Byatts Camp Peak

There is a locality near this peak called Byatts Camp but the peak commonly given this name is not formally named according to the Geographical Names Board of NSW.

Dicky Cooper Bogong

The altitude of this peak is often shown as just less than 2,000m but current maps have elevated it to 2,003 m so it needs to be included in the list. A worthy inclusion with great views.


Again a peak included in many lists but the name applies to the entire ridge not the highest point although this is often recognised.

Unnamed peaks

While many of the unnamed peaks are crossed just by following the high ground between named peaks, there are a number that deserve to be included in any list.  These include my version of South Rams Head mentioned above, a rocky peak with 100 m prominence SW of Koscuiszko which should offer great views down the western slopes and the high point on the Kerries Ridge.

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Cook kit options

It seems to be impossible to get my cook kit just right.  I keep buying pots and stoves trying to find the perfect combination, but finally seem to be settling on three setups.  In this post I introduce the pots. Future posts will look at the stoves and fuel, and how the pots, stoves, fuel and nick-nacks package up.

4 pot choices

The 4 contenders

First off I need to set the scene.

  • My trips:  3 season, 2 to 4 day local walks and long distance routes in Australia and abroad. I don’t seek out snow but am equipped for conditions down to around -5C.
  • My cooking style is simple; not freezer bag, but not gourmet.  Hot drinks and packet soup, one pot, home dehydrated dinners that may take a bit of simmering.
  • My wants are: light, simple, flexible, robust, easy to use, compact, stable – yes, I want it all!  For reference my base weight varies from 3 to 5 kg depending on the trip.
  • I usually walk solo but my partner may join me on easier trips.

While the image above shows four pots, there others in the arsenal. From L to R:

  1. 550ml Ti mug from Ti Goat with carbon fibre lid.  92mm (dia) x 70mm (h), 71g including lid 9g modified with reflexit section added as part of the cozie and handle.  I have also added silicon tube to the handles. Actual capacity 540ml.  I like the tight fit of the lid and squat shape. Not big enough to cook pasta spirals but ok for couscous based meals.
  2. 700ml Evernew Pasta pot (ECA521). 90mm (dia) x 115mm (h), 92g inc lid 17g. Actual capacity 750ml. I like the snap on lid, pouring spout and capacity markings. Would prefer a slightly squatter shape.
  3. 850ml MSR Titan kettle.  112mm (dia) x 90mm (h), 126g inc lid 36g. Actual capacity 870ml. I have added silicaon tube to the handles. I like the squat shape, pouring spout and tight fitting lid. Dislike the lid weight (29% of the total) and lack of capacity markings (I have crudely added my own).
  4. 900ml Evernew pot with frying pan lid (ECA265). 110mm (dia) x 132mm (h), 124g including frying pan lid 30mm (d), 40g. Actual capacity 1,025ml + 320ml for the frypan.  So far I haven’t use the frypan but I plan to try making pikelets in it.

I measured the capacity of each pot by putting it on my scales, taring the scales, then filling the pot to the absolute brim with water and reading the weight.  I rounded down to 5g and assumed 1g of water = 1 ml.  The usable capacity is of course somewhat less.

Size measurements are internal diameter at the base and total height. I was surprised to find that all these pots taper slightly (3-5mm). Remember that the actual size will be a little larger after allowing for the lip and handle.

I use the 550ml mug when trying to go ultra light on overnight trips. I feel it isn’t quite big enough for my more general requirements but copes well when I do couscous or rice based meals but I do like my pasta. Unfortunately pasta spirals are space hogs so I need a larger pot.

When choosing pasta I use wholemeal pasta and always look at the suggested cooking time.  I find the wholemeal spirals are meant to take 8 minutes but by putting them in cold water and bringing it to the boil they only need to be placed in a pot cosy or simmered for a couple more minutes to be fully cooked.

The MSR was my first pot and it has seen the majority of use. It has handled my requirements well but I would like it to be a little lighter if cooking for one or a little larger if cooking for 2.   I am pleasantly surprised to find both Evernew pots bigger than their stated capacities as part of my dilemma is being able to cope with cooking for 2 on occasions and the MSR would struggle. The 900ml Evernew should handle this task acceptably. The Evernew Pasta pot looks like it will handle my solo cooking requirements and saves 34g or 27% of the MSR weight.  I do have a few concerns about its stability though.

In the next installment I will introduce the stoves.

Posted in Bushwalking, Cooking, Gear, Lightweight | 1 Comment

Walking the GR52

I have just revived my web site where I plan to publish details of some of my walks.  The first is the GR52 in the French Alps which I walked in 2004 as the final section of my North Sea to Mediterranean walk on the GR5.

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Tent footprints – worth using?

I recently bought a Terra Nova Laser Comp to replace my Macpac Microlite for a saving of just over 1kg.  While the Macpac is a great tent it certainly isn’t microlight, but it handled quite severe conditions for a 1 pole tent and had plenty of room.  More importantly to this topic, it has a solid floor fabric unlike the Laser Comp which survived a couple of hundred nights use intact.  This has set me thinking about footprints and whether they were worth the weight or not.  Given the price of the Laser Comp I would like to get plenty of use out of it.  My plans for the next 18 months see over 100 nights use;  the Australian Alps Walking Track in Dec-Jan and Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne in August-September 2011 are the major contributors.

The footprint options seem to be

  • Don’t use one and end up doing minor repairs on an increasingly frequent basis
  • Buy one off the shelf and add 250 grams or more to the pack weight
  • Build one – largely a cut out job using a very lightweight material such as Tyvec.

The other aspect I am playing with is trying to get multiple uses out of a footprint if I am going to use one.  I was thinking about using a rain cape but then decided to look at using 3mm closed cell foam.  This should provide really good protection, add a little to the warmth and comfort of the tent and make the tent floor a little less prone to condensation.  On investigation the lightest closed cell foam is 30Kg/cubic metre which equates to 30 grams per mm or 90 grams per sq metre of 3mm foam.  This density is used for sleeping mats so it should be perfect.  The sheets available in Australia are 2 metres by 1 metre while a useful size may be 2 x 0.75 metres, giving a weight of 135 grams – worth checking out.  There are not a lot of places that may stock this in Canberra so if I can’t find it locally it will have to wait until I go to Sydney in a few weeks time.

The only downside I can think of right now is that the bulk will be considerably greater than a fabric footprint. A quick calculation says 4.5 litres for the proposed size.

Does anybody have a thought on this?

Posted in Bushwalking, Camping, footprint, Gear, Hiking, Lightweight, tent, Ultralight | 4 Comments

Some opening remarks

Welcome to my blog!

The topic I intend to blog about is lightweight bushwalking, particularly long distance walks.  The walks I have done and have in the planning stages cover Australia (home) as well as Europe (including the UK – only the Conservatives think it isn’t part of Europe).  In the future there are vague but developing ideas encompassing the superb long distance trails of the USA and no doubt there are many more across the world that I will discover and hopefully explore.

As part of this interest I am actively seeking to cut my pack weight and have enjoyed reading the many, particularly the European, blogs on the subject. The climate and geography of Australia create a somewhat different set of requirements when selecting gear and I hope my blog will expand on this.  One thing I note is that when I started walking in the late 1960’s around Sydney the standard lightweight kit included a fly sheet for shelter and sand shoes for footwear.  What goes around …

It will take a while to get to grips with WordPress and get this blog looking a little more professional; so please bear with me.  I don’t expect to ever match some of the superb photography on many of the other blogs in the field but I will try!

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