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Equipment Planning & Logistics

Do I Really Need Ortliebs? A Buyer’s Guide To Panniers For Cycle Tours & Expeditions

Last updated in October 2020.

One day in 1884, Thomas Stevens left California on a penny farthing and, carrying a bag of gold and a pistol rolled up in a blanket, became the first man in recorded history to cycle round the world.

Today, we bicycle travellers tend to leave precious metals and firearms at home, instead packing a bewildering array of other, more practical equipment.

That’s because we expect to enjoy seeing the world by bicycle, rather than bribing and bullying our way around as Stevens often did. The equipment available today – ultralight tents, portable camping stoves, specialised bicycle tools, and a whole lot more – makes life on the road not just tolerable but sometimes even fun!

To carry all this gear, most of us will be riding a touring bike carrying a set of panniers – the traditional luggage of cycle tourists for more than a century.

A scene every experienced rider will be familiar with: rebuilding bikes and attaching panniers in the arrivals hall of a faraway international airport.

This article is all about how to choose a set of panniers that’ll fit your budget, your style of touring, and the equipment and supplies you’re carrying with you.

It’s based not just on my own 14 years of cycle touring experience but that of countless veteran riders who I’ve cycled alongside and interrogated about their own gear setups, with the goal of creating the most balanced pannier buying guide possible (no pun intended).

Alongside the detailed listings of the best panniers on the market right now, I’ll include direct links to manufacturers’ webpages and buying links for retailers in Europe and North America (affiliate links are identified with an asterisk; click here to read my full affiliate policy).

But I don’t want to assume anything about your prior knowledge, so let’s start by laying out the basics about panniers for cycle touring before we dive into the details.

What Exactly Are Bicycle Panniers?

Touring panniers needn’t be a fashion accessory, but now Brooks have entered the market they’re starting to become one.

Panniers are purpose-made bags designed to be hung off the sides of a bicycle or motorbike (or, originally, slung over a pack animal). They are almost always designed to be used in pairs, for what I hope are obvious reasons of balance and stability.

Do I Need Two Or Four Panniers (Or Something Else)?

Literally a ‘classic’ setup – two pairs of Ortlieb Classic panniers on front and rear racks.

The traditional setup for long-distance cycle touring is four panniers – a small pair at the front and a larger pair at the rear – plus a handlebar bag and a few other bits.

This is simply because, when you make a list of everything you’d need for a transcontinental or round-the-world ride, buy it all, and try to fit it onto a bike – it usually fills four panniers.

If you can live with the compromises of packing light, a single pair of rear panniers can suffice for fair-weather road trips of many months.

Two rear panniers can easily suffice for undemanding trips, such a summer ride in the developed world with bike shops and campsites aplenty.

You might also make two rear panniers work in the longer term with a more minimal approach to packing, especially as camping equipment grows ever lighter and more packable. You’ll often see more experienced riders taking this approach, because they’ve spent a long time learning what they don’t need.

Combining bikepacking bags with a small pair of panniers is a good way to achieve a nimble and versatile road touring setup.

Increasingly you’ll also see a hybrid approach, with panniers supplemented by bikepacking luggage. The panniers can be removed and stored temporarily for shorter side trips on dirt roads, allowing more flexibility over the traditional setup.

In any case, you’ll rarely see panniers used exclusively as a means of storing belongings and supplies. They’re almost always used alongside rack-top drybags, baskets, bar-bags, backpacks, or other more easily accessible bags which don’t require dismounting and unpacking everything just to find one commonly-used item.

I am yet to meet a more fully-loaded cycle touring couple than Katya and Mirko.

Sometimes, in very special cases such as deep winter, desert crossings, or other extremely remote rides, or just because you want to bring your guitar and jewellery-making kit, you might consider a trailer instead of (or as well as) panniers, which is a topic I’ve covered elsewhere.

How Do Cycle Touring Panniers Vary In Design?

There are as many ways to utilise a rear carrier rack as there are cycle tourists!

Bicycle panniers for cycle touring (as opposed to panniers for, say, grocery shopping) come in a variety of sizes, colours and materials, and are generally labelled as ‘front’ or ‘rear’. They usually (though not always) are sold in pairs, sometimes with differences between left and right, and sometimes without.

Front panniers tend to be smaller, and for good reason: whatever weight you’re carrying on the front wheel will feed directly into the steering and handling of your bike. Lighter is therefore better, particularly on rough roads.

A typical front pannier might have a 10–15 litre capacity (ie: 20–30 litres per pair). Larger panniers at the front would also be at risk of hitting the down-tube of the bike (or even the ground) when turning sharply, or interfering with disc brakes.

Rear panniers tend to have about twice the capacity; anything from 20–30 litres each (ie: 40–60 litres per pair). Tandem panniers can be even bigger.

As mentioned above, a single pair of rear panniers might suffice for even the longest trips if packed thoughtfully with lightweight gear.

What Kind Of Pannier Rack Attachment Systems Are There?

Brooks’ high-end panniers use tried and tested Ortlieb mounting hardware.

A variety of attachment systems exist, but they almost all make use of a pair of hooked clips attached the back of each pannier, allowing them to be hung from the rack tubing, plus some kind of adjustable retaining tab on the back of each pannier to hook around the rack tubing and stop them swinging about.

Although pairs of panniers can be identical out of the box, setting up the attachments to fit your racks will usually result in them being configured as ‘left’ and ‘right’ panniers from that point forward.

Riding the Zagros Mountains of Iran with two pairs of all-in-one panniers we borrowed from an Iranian cyclist in Esfahan.

You’ll occasionally see a pair of panniers attached together with a strip of fabric between them, the whole of which is then slung over the rack.

As a general rule, don’t buy these unless it’s the only thing you can get, as this style is far less durable and versatile than individual panniers and rack mounts.

What Materials Are Panniers Made From?

In terms of design and construction material, there are two main categories of pannier: fully waterproof and semi- or non-waterproof.

Riding off-road in northern Mongolia with an Extrawheel Voyager single-wheel trailer and two large pairs of panniers.

Fully waterproof panniers are usually made of laminated fabric with sealed seams, often using the same ‘roll-top’ closure system found in drybags for paddlesports. As with any waterproof gear, you should always pack a simple repair kit – a length of Gaffa Tape at the very least, or perhaps a roll of Tenacious Tape.

Non-waterproof panniers are usually made of canvas and have backpack-style lids with zips or buckles, and have some degree of water resistance and/or a waterproof plate on the rear to protect against road spray. The repair kit you should pack for this type of pannier is a heavy-duty needle and thread.

(As for which type is better, we’ll come to that later on, as it’s not a simple answer.)

Some people get hung up on the colour of the material. There’s an argument that black waterproof panniers in sunny climates will heat your belongings more than white ones. Conversely, some people think high-visibility panniers are better for safety.

Personally, I don’t believe there’s much practical difference. If it’s hot, it’s hot, and you – the rider – should always be more visible than your panniers. From my point of view, feel free to choose whatever colour panniers you like, and make a hi-viz vest the first thing you put in them.

This is a ‘concept’ bike I saw at Eurovelo 2014. Almost nobody would actually choose to ride something like this.

In short, there’s a lot of variety out there. There are, however, a few specific makes and models of bicycle pannier that have proven themselves over many decades on very long and demanding tours.

We’ll start, however, by looking at basic, budget-friendly panniers, and work our way up to durable and hard-wearing panniers capable of withstanding years of constant daily use.


No-Budget Panniers For Cycle Touring

Somewhere in Cornwall at the start of my #FreeLEJOG money-free ride to Scotland, with a scrapyard bike and a donated pair of panniers.

For the most ultra-low-budget of trips, you are very welcome to stop reading this article, take whatever cheap or free second-hand panniers you can find on eBay*, Freecycle, Gumtree, or get donated or lent to you, add a basic sewing kit, a roll of Gaffa Tape, some cable ties and a few plastic carrier bags, and leave.

I did this in 2013, wrote a detailed article about it, then cycled the length of England to prove they worked.

Panniers can be made at home using cheap plastic cool-boxes and some basic hardware. Photo © Jamie Bowlby-Whiting

If you’re good at DIY, consider making your own panniers.

Rectangular buckets with lids are available from hardware stores and pet shops and can be converted into panniers with a few commonly available fixings. Cool-boxes have travelled across continents in the same way (see photo above). The REI blog has a lengthy and useful post on making your own DIY bucket panniers*.


Cheap Panniers For Cycle Touring

Light summer touring in Europe is perfectly possible with a pair of cheap and simple canvas panniers from Halfords.

When it comes to cheap panniers at the bottom end of the market, a trip to any mainstream bike shop or outdoor retailer (eg: Go Outdoors* or Decathlon* in the UK, REI in the USA, or MEC in Canada) will demonstrate the endless options in this category.

None can really be said to be better or worse than any other, due to the lack of substantial documentary evidence besides customer reviews (which should always be taken with a pinch of salt).

To help you choose reasonably durable cheap panniers, and keep them on the road as long as possible, here are a few tips:

  • Cheap panniers are often aimed at commuters and shoppers, rather than cycle tourists, so see if you can find something that at least claims to be designed for touring use.
  • Avoid anything that relies on zips for closure of the main compartment, as cheap zips are liable to break. Go for something with straps and buckles/clips instead.
  • Avoid cheap and flimsy ‘waterproof’ material in favour of real fabric, then waterproof everything inside the panniers with carrier bags or drybags as necessary.
  • Consider buying or making waterproof pannier covers, which are essentially giant elasticated shower caps; they’ll get you to the next shelter (especially when paired with an effective mudguard to stop road-spray soaking the bags from behind).
  • Finally, pack a sewing kit, Gaffa Tape, and cable ties. I know I’m repeating myself, the point being that you can save a lot of money and solve a lot of problems with a pragmatic attitude.

Recognisable brands at the budget level include Altura, Topeak, and B’Twin (Decathlon’s in-house cycling brand).

What you’re looking for at this end of the spectrum is a capacity that matches your packing needs, compatibility with your racks, and as few things to go wrong as possible.

All-in-one pannier pairs are probably the last thing you should choose for a tour – unless it’s literally all you can get.

Of course, if it’s a simple question of what you can beg, borrow or steal, anything is better than nothing!


Mid-Range Panniers For Cycle Touring

There are a few mid-range models of pannier that don’t quite meet the criteria for high-end expedition panniers but have nevertheless been shown to cope well with some very long and arduous bicycle journeys. Here I’ll list a few of the best known examples, as well as introducing a couple of lesser known brands that show promise in this category.

Crosso Dry (£55/£60 front/rear)

A pair of Crosso Dry 30-litre front panniers mounted on the rear rack of a Kona Sutra touring bike.

Crosso are a Polish company who have been manufacturing panniers commercially since 2006 (including making bags for Extrawheel trailers for many years).

If you’re based in Europe and can find a retailer, they make for a good option in the mid range, being considerably cheaper than the big-brand panniers. They’re quite basic in terms of design and materials, but in many ways this is a good thing, and they will serve you well if you look after them. (I’ve had a pair for 9 years which I’m still happily using after a few repairs.)

The waterproof Dry panniers come in front/universal and rear pairs with a capacity of 30 and 60 litres respectively, with roll-top closures and welded seams, and a choice of 10 colours.

Full Crosso touring luggage on an island-hopping ride through southern Thailand.

The standard attachment system features two fixed steel hooks at the top, with an inverted hook on an elasticated strap at the bottom to secure the pannier in place. Once you get used to the system it is very easy to mount and dismount the panniers, and it’s surprisingly stable.

Not all racks have a lower horizontal rail to attach the bottom hook, so there is also the more expensive Click option, using traditional-style fixtures from German company Rixen+Kaul (who make the popular and widespread KlickFix system). These might be a better choice for extremely long journeys as the fixtures are replaceable.

Carradice CarraDry (£55/£85 front/rear)

Carradice’s CarraDry panniers are waterproof, feature a generous capacity (58 litres per pair at the rear) and are very good value for money. They share a mounting system with the heavy duty Super C expedition panniers (below).

Though they can’t be described as 100% watertight, with a lidded drawstring closure system rather than a roll-top drybag-style closure, they’re made of a similar laminated synthetic waterproof fabric as the other panniers in this section, with welded seams and waterproof zips, which will still keep out the heaviest rain. Like other Carradice products, they feature outer pockets as well as the main compartment.

The CarraDry might be a good choice if you’re looking for a high quality pair of waterproof panniers (and you don’t plan on floating them across deep rivers), but your budget can’t quite stretch to the top-end Ortliebs.

Ortlieb Sport-Roller/Back-Roller City (€85/€95 front/rear)

The City series of Ortlieb panniers is a budget version of the Classic/Plus series usually chosen for touring (see below). The City is marketed to commuters, but in reality they are more or less the same as the higher end Ortliebs in terms of shape, capacity, waterproofing and construction materials, made slightly lighter and quite a bit cheaper by a couple of missing features.

So what do you lose by saving some cash? Aside from the limited choice of colours, the main downgrade is to the full roll-top closure. Instead, the buckles attach to clips on the sides of the pannier, and there’s no extra cinch strap over the top. This is a less flexible setup with a variable sized load, one less element of security for the contents.

There is also no shoulder strap or inner pocket, though neither of those are hugely important for touring. The rack attachment system is the slightly older QuickLock1 mechanism, previously used on Classic/Plus panniers which are still going strong after decades – again, not a huge issue.

On the plus side, all of this reduces the overall weight; 760g per pannier for the City as opposed to 950g for the Classic. And, as mentioned, it reduces the price too.

In my opinion, the extra versatility and feature set of the Classic/Plus panniers is probably worth the extra money if you’re already looking at panniers of this kind of quality. If you’re commuting with a pair of City panniers already and thinking about a tour, however, you’ll get on absolutely fine with them.

Alpkit Tolari (£70/£80/£90 24/40/60l pairs)

Relatively new on the UK scene is the waterproof Tolari pannier range from direct retailer Alpkit. If the quality of the rest of their products is anything to go by, they’ll prove durable and well-made, which is why I’ve included them here, but it’s important to say that they are as-yet untested on multi-year expeditions.

Available in three sizes (12/20/30 litres per pannier) in a single graphite colour and sold individually, they’ll probably be of most interest to brand loyalists, being about the same price as the Ortlieb City panniers whose reputation will likely win more buyers.

  • Buy Tolari panniers direct from Alpkit

MEC World Tour (CAD $180/200 front/rear)

Canadian outdoor equipment retail cooperative MEC has been outfitting adventurers since 1971. Their World Tour bicycle panniers, available in 20- and 30-litre capacities for front and rear use, are a solid and reasonably-priced mid-range option.

Simply designed with one main compartment plus a small front pocket, the panniers are water-resistant, although not fully waterproof – MEC does offer optional rain covers if you want more protection from the elements, as well as a wide selection of dry bags for the contents.

The widely-used Rixen and Kaul hook mounting system is easy to work with and compatible with almost all racks and carriers, and the designers have also incorporated extra gear loops on top of the pannier – useful for strapping on extra bits that you might pick up on the road.

If you’re based in or starting a tour from Canada, the MEC World Tour pannier is a decent option if you want something simple, durable and very functional without putting a huge dent in your bank balance.


The All-Time Best Expedition Panniers For Cycle Touring

Here we’re going to look in detail at panniers that have at least a decade (often two or more) of proven and documented reputation as being suitable for long-haul rides. I’m talking multi-year, round-the-world odysseys with a single set of bags. That kind of ‘long-haul’.

A full set of Ortlieb Plus panniers mounted on a Ridgeback Panorama touring bike, ready for a round-the-world adventure. Photo © Tim Moss / TheNextChallenge.org

As you might expect, the biggest concern at this end of the market is durability. Panniers take a lot of abuse, and not just the bag material – it’s also where fabric and rack mounts meet that forces will be concentrated over thousands of miles of bumpy roads.

Holes in canvas can be repaired with a sewing kit, and waterproof material can be patched with Aquaseal, Tenacious Tape, Gaffa Tape, even puncture patches, all of which are part of a more general gear first-aid kit. Broken attachment systems are harder problems to solve. Buying top-quality panniers from a tried-and-tested brand will largely – though never entirely – negate this risk.

The same pannier-buying considerations apply to expedition panniers as they do to budget ones. Are they compatible with the racks on your bike? And are they appropriately sized for the gear you’ll be carrying, plus food space?

Four large Crosso panniers, a cargo trailer and a giant dry-bag were needed to carry the gear necessary for a deep winter expedition into northern Lapland.

As mentioned at the start of this article, many of today’s bicycle travellers could get away with two large rear panniers, a varying rack-top bundle and a bar-bag. Packing for a round-the-world ride traditionally calls for four panniers – a smaller pair of panniers at the front and a larger pair at the rear – because any trip years in length will inevitably require flexibility.

You’re unlikely to know exactly what your capacity requirements are until you’ve got your gear laid out in front of you, but as a rule it’s better to distribute weight evenly and have a little extra space than to be overloading your bags and having an unbalanced bike.

Remember that – regardless of ‘official’ capacity rating – most roll-top or buckle-lidded panniers will cinch down or expand a certain amount to accommodate what’s inside.

A very typical luggage setup for a long-haul touring cyclist, consisting of two small panniers at the front, two large panniers at the rear, a bar-bag, and a rack-mounted drysack.

OK! Let’s look at the all-time best expedition panniers available today that have accumulated the most miles around the world on tours of every length, location and level of challenge. (All the RRPs I’ve listed below are per pair.)


Ortlieb Cycle Touring Panniers

Let’s get this out of the way: the single most interesting thing about Ortlieb’s range of roll-top waterproof panniers is that they’re the most popular of all the panniers being used on world-ranging tours.

Indeed, in a highly unscientific Twitter survey I conducted while first researching this article, about ⅔ of respondents used Ortliebs.

Seeing everyone using them attracts more people to buy them, and then claim that they’re the “only choice” despite never having used anything else. And so the inertia continues.

Of course, about ⅓ of respondents didn’t use Ortliebs, yet somehow were still perfectly happy.

So: do you really need Ortliebs?

Well, there’s no doubt that they make very good panniers. They’re about the right size for most users. They’re available in a choice of colours. They’re compatible with most touring racks. They’re durable (which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring a repair kit), and come with a 5‑year warranty. And they’re in the same price range as most of the other expedition panniers in this list.

In short: the price is competitive and they’re proven to work. You certainly don’t need them, but they’re highly unlikely to disappoint you.

(By the way, second-hand Ortlieb panniers are prime for being snapped up for cheap in early spring, because they’re the kind of thing people buy in January when resolving to start cycling to work and a few weeks later sell barely-used on eBay. Take advantage*.)

Ortlieb panniers come in several varieties. Let’s look at those of most interest to bicycle travellers.

Ortlieb Sport-Roller/Back-Roller Plus (RRP €125/€145)

A classic combo: Ortlieb Back-Roller Plus rear panniers mounted on a Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike.

If there was a Standard Issue Cycle-Round-The-World Kit (now there’s an idea), it would probably include a pair of Ortlieb Sport-Roller Plus (formerly known as Front-Roller Plus) panniers at the front and a pair of Ortlieb Back-Roller Plus at the rear of the bike, all in matching his-and-hers colours.

At 25 litres per pair for the Sport-Rollers and 40 litres per pair for the Back-Rollers, they’re slightly smaller in rated capacity than other panniers in this list. As with all roll-top panniers, however, you can make fewer rolls when closing them to create more space.

The buckles at the top can either be clipped together, as with a regular drybag, or clipped into a carry strap which then secures to the front of the pannier via a retaining tab near the bottom edge. For additional peace of mind when overloaded, another short strap can be fastened over the top of the closed pannier.

Other useful features include a small handle attached to the rack mounting points for easy attachment and removal of the pannier to the rack, and a removable pouch attached to the backing plate on the inside of the pannier for flat items such as travel documents and diaries.

The current version of the Plus panniers makes use of the QuickLock2.1 attachment system, which is an updated version of Ortlieb’s original system with broader compatibility with the range of racks on the market today (this includes the popular Tubus racks, if you’re wondering). With this system, the hooks are locked in place by sprung retainers, which are released when you pull up on the grab handle for easy removal. Inserts are supplied for different rack tubing diameters to ensure a secure, rattle-free fit.

What distinguishes the Plus series from the Classic series (see below) is the fabric used in their construction: a high-grade Cordura-branded nylon weave which is laminated on the inside. This makes the outer surface almost as abrasion-resistant as a canvas pannier, while remaining waterproof due to the laminated inner. As weave is less dense than laminate, the Plus is therefore slightly lighter than the Classic; 840g per rear pannier as compared to 950g.

Ortlieb Sport-Roller/Back-Roller Classic (RRP €110/€130)

A full set of well-worn Ortlieb Classic panniers, having made it from the UK to Thailand.

Slightly heavier, cheaper and less abrasion-resistant, going for the wipe-clean Ortlieb Sport-Roller Classic and Back-Roller Classic will save you a few days’ food budget whilst still giving you the sleep-easy feeling of ‘having Ortliebs’. As noted above, the fabric used in construction is a lighter and slightly more basic double-laminated polyester. Besides this, every other aspect is the same.

(It’s worth noting that I have never heard of anyone buying the Classics and then later wishing they’d bought the Pluses. Apart from that guy in the comments. There’s always one.)

Ortlieb ‘Pro’ Variants

The Ortlieb Sport-Roller and Back-Roller Plus/Classic panniers above are available in a further variation: Pro.

What makes them ‘professional’? They’re bigger. Instead of 40 litres per pair, you get a whopping 70 litres of capacity.

Can your rack handle that amount of weight? Does your bike have enough heel clearance? Do you need an extra 30 litres of pannier space?

Truth is, the people who’d benefit most from these panniers would be tandem riders (which is who they’re made for), and perhaps people biking in deep winter. The rest of us can just strap a 30-litre drybag to the rear rack and only fill it when necessary.


Carradice Super C (RRP £95/£120 front/rear)

A pair of Carradice Super C rear panniers soaking up the dust in the Sudanese Sahara.

Carradice’s Super C range is a classic line of British hand-made bags and panniers, the designs changing little in decades. (I’ve had a pair of the rear panniers hanging off my own touring bike for 12 years and counting.)

Stitched from heavy-duty waxed ‘cotton duck’ canvas of the type used for military kit and old-school tents, they’re far more resistant to abrasion than waterproof panniers with laminated fabrics or even synthetic canvas. You’ll hear stories of pairs of Super Cs being used for upwards of 30 years, by which time Ortliebs will be straining your tea, so if it’s pure longevity you’re after, they’re some of the best panniers going.

The front (or ‘universal’) panniers have a capacity of 28 litres per pair and, aside from the removable fixtures, are symmetrical in design, with one large main compartment and a small outside pocket in which I might be tempted to store a few snacks. The rear panniers have a capacity of 54 litres per pair, with an outside pocket at the rear. Both sizes have buckled lids with adjustable straps, in addition to a drawstring for the main compartment.

Carradice’s attachment system, based on two self-locking hooks along the top inside edge of the bag and with a retaining tab on the rear, has proven its durability on many a round-the-world tour. The fixtures are very adjustable, making them compatible with a wide variety of racks (adapters are available for rack tubing thicker than 13mm), and enabling them to be shifted back a long way for heel clearance. These fixtures are removable – always a good idea when transporting the panniers on planes, trains and buses.

What they are not is 100% watertight. Although the waxed canvas will keep any amount of rain out, it will eventually absorb water if fully immersed, and the lidded closure system will never be as watertight as a roll-top pannier, as discussed above.

Despite this, they are supremely durable receptacles for the (drybagged) gear you’ll keep inside, and I’ve never come across anyone who regretted buying them.

As an example of an ultra-durable canvas pannier, the Carradice Super Cs are certainly the best in the UK, with one of the longest heritages of any pannier on the market.


Vaude Aqua (RRP £110/£120 front/rear)

Vaude’s full Aqua bicycle luggage line on display at Eurobike 2014.

Part of a bigger line of commuter and messenger bags, German manufacturer Vaude make the very nice 100% waterproof Aqua touring panniers in front and rear variants.

These are strikingly similar to the Ortlieb Classics (see above), and not just superficially: they are also made in Germany, also come with a 5‑year guarantee, also have a versatile one-handed attachment system, also have inside pockets and shoulder straps, and also have a (smaller) following of satisfied users who’ve taken them round the world by bicycle.

The biggest difference is that they’re slightly larger (despite being about the same weight), with a rated capacity of 28/48 litres front/rear compared to 25/40 for the Ortliebs.

If you’re concerned about your environmental impact (and obviously you should be), you might be interested in the fact that the Aqua panniers are ‘climate neutrally manufactured’, ie: all manufacturing and shipping emissions have been carbon offset, and are fully PVC and PFC free. Indeed, Vaude have put a great deal of emphasis on their green credentials in recent years.

Why don’t more people don’t buy them, then? Simple: they’re not Ortliebs.


Arkel GT-54 (RRP CAD$470 rear)

Arkel are a small Canadian outfit established in 1988 whose panniers’ reputation (and price) exceeds even that of Ortliebs. Their top-end GT-54 classic touring panniers come from an entirely different line of thinking, full of pockets and sections and zips and straps and other finery – consider them the Rolls Royce to Ortlieb’s Land Rover.

There are plenty of riders out there who would claim that these panniers are, in fact, the very best in the world.

Slightly more affordable – and perhaps easier to get hold of if you’re based in Canada or the USA – is their Orca line of waterproof panniers, which are of the simpler roll-top design.


Bonus: An extended aside on the Great Pannier Waterproofing Debate™️

There are lots of noisy opinions on the internet about pannier waterproofing. Discovering this ‘debate’ tends to worry people who are looking at spending two or three hundred pounds/euros/dollars on a full set of panniers, and planning to put a lot of stuff inside them that they really don’t want getting wet.

The question boils down to whether you should buy fully waterproof, roll-top, seam-sealed, drybag-style panniers and never worry about rain or river crossings ever again, or whether there’s any other type of pannier worth considering.

Although the 100%-waterproof option looks appealing, I haven’t met a long-term rider (ie: who’s spent years on the road) whose 100% waterproof panniers have stayed 100% waterproof.

This is nothing to do with quality. It’s because no piece of fabric can survive an unlimited amount being bashed into things, falling off the bike, being trodden on, tripped over, tied to sharp metal roof racks on buses and taxes, thrown into aircraft holds and pickup trucks, or ripped apart by hungry bears hunting for the smell of toothpaste (true story).

Some riders anticipate this and prepare for it by bringing a repair kit. Some don’t, and then criticise their expensive panniers for not being 100% waterproof. A lucky few somehow manage to avoid getting a single hole in their panniers, and claim this as evidence that they’ll be ‘bomb-proof’ for everyone else. They won’t.

If very heavy rain and wading through rivers is likely to be a regular feature of your trip, then drybag-style panniers and a patch kit is probably the better option.

If you don’t mind a little extra ‘pannier admin’, however, there is another legitimate approach: waterproof what’s inside the pannier as and when you need to.

For a little extra effort, this approach will allow you to exploit the many advantages of breathable, canvas panniers:

  • Wet gear (and smelly gear) can be isolated from the remaining contents and allowed to dry during a day’s riding,
  • Fuel bottles and other potentially messy items can be prevented from contaminating other contents,
  • In hot weather, perishable food can be kept longer in a breathable pannier than inside a sealed drybag,
  • Canvas panniers are easier to repair with a needle and thread or by giving them to a local tailor or cobbler,
  • Top quality cotton canvas is, all else being equal, more abrasion-resistant than laminated synthetic fabric, and on a long tour this will bear the brunt of the punishment while the drybags inside remain protected.
  • Canvas looks cooler. The odd hole here and there will simply add to a pannier’s character.

The extra ‘pannier admin’ involves putting your gear into drybags inside the pannier (good ones are made by Seal Line, Exped, Sea to Summit, Alpkit and many other brands); either one large drybag used as a pannier liner, or lots of smaller ones for organisation and selective waterproofing (or a combination of the two).

Either approach will carry your gear and keep it dry if you know the strengths and weaknesses of each and have a packing routine to match.

I’ve used both types myself on long-term rides in all conditions, from a free pair of shopping panniers for a rainy spring ride through England to heavy-duty canvas bags across the Middle East and Africa to roll-top waterproof panniers and canvas bags together in Mongolia. Analysing which of these systems is ‘best’ is not something I feel the need to spend any more time discussing, because all of them can be made to work.

The truth is that most long-term riders use roll-top waterproof panniers – in particular, the Ortlieb ones mentioned above – because everyone else does. It’s a conformity thing. Non-conformists might prefer the tramp-like image engendered by dusty canvas. If you can’t decide, flip a coin.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty burned out from discussing the minutiae of bags with hooks on them. Time to grab whatever’s lying around and hit the road!

Categories
Budgeting & Finance Planning & Logistics

Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Insurance: What You Need To Know (& Recommended Insurers)

Last updated in June 2020.

Travel insurance is a genius idea for a business. You buy it hoping you will never use it. When you do need to claim, something in the small print often means you can’t. Then you find out it would be cheaper to pay the costs yourself anyway. Brilliant!

Anyway – enough of my cynicism. What I want to talk about in this article is insurance for cycle touring and bikepacking, both short-term and long-term. I get lots of questions on the topic, and so this article will attempt to answer all of them in one up-to-date, thoroughly researched blast of insurance-related advice and recommendations.

I will also make specific recommendations for the best insurers for cycle touring and bikepacking. There’s a slight bias towards UK based companies, as this is where many of my readers are based, but many of them will insure residents of any country, so keep reading.

The Two Different Things People Mean When They Talk About Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Insurance

Cyclists going cycle touring or bikepacking tend to think about policies that’ll insure their bicycles while they’re on the road.

Travellers going cycle touring or bikepacking tend to think about policies that’ll cover travel and medical expenses while they’re riding a bike.

These are two totally different insurance products.

One is a special type of bicycle insurance. The other is a special type of travel insurance.

There are few bicycle insurance policies that’ll insure a rider for overseas medical expenses, and there are few travel insurance policies that’ll insure an expensive bicycle being damaged or stolen.

But in general, if you want to be covered for accidents and emergencies and your expensive bike covered for damage or theft at the same time, you’ll likely end up taking out two separate policies.

And for riders looking for this kind of insurance cover for long-term, multi-year worldwide bike trips, the unfortunate truth is that such policies are extremely hard to find.

Hard, but not impossible. Read on…

Bicycle Insurance Covering Overseas Travel

If you’re looking to get your bicycle itself insured against theft or damage abroad, what you will quickly find is that some such policies do exist — but that:

  • they are limited to trips of a couple of months at most,
  • they depend upon you using the same kind of security precautions as you would at home (namely locking the bike with a certified lock to an immovable object), and
  • they’re expensive.

Given that, if you are looking for bicycle insurance for overseas tours of up to two or three months in duration, there are a couple of such options available to UK residents.

1. ETA offer an annual cycle insurance policy that covers bikes and accessories for up to 90 days abroad, up to a value of £5,000, including a new-for-old replacement policy and emergency cycle hire, leaving you free to arrange your personal travel insurance separately. In Europe, personal accident cover is also included (but not liability). A quick quote for a touring bike worth £1,500 came to ~£137 for the year. Read the full details on their website.

2. Cycling UK offers the Cyclecover specialist travel insurance policy for overseas bike trips of up to 100 days, covering loss, theft and damage of bicycles, luggage and accessories for up to £3000, in addition to medical cover. Unlike ETA, depreciation and wear and tear is factored into any claims when it comes to replacing a bike. I fetched a quote of ~£191 for a 3‑month Europe trip. You can get your own quote on the Cyclecover travel insurance page. (Cycling UK members get a 10% discount on online quotes and access to long-term policies not available online.)

Travel Insurance Covering Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

If you’re looking to travel for longer than a couple of months, you’re willing to rely on your wits to keep your expensive bike safe, or your bike is worthless and not worth insuring anyway, you’ll be looking primarily at travel insurance policies that cover cycle touring (aka: bikepacking).

At which point you must understand that (in insurance-policy-style bullet points):

  • most so-called ‘annual’ travel insurance policies actually only cover individual trips of up to 90 days within that year,
  • most long-term travel insurance policies (aka: ‘backpacker’ policies) do not cover cycle touring and bikepacking — only cycling that is ‘incidental’ to the trip,
  • most long-term travel insurance policies that do cover cycle touring and bikepacking still exclude intercontinental trips, and
  • even the best and most comprehensive of these are unlikely to cover the loss, theft or damage of an expensive touring bike or bikepacking rig.

Cycle touring and bikepacking is considered by many insurers to be a ‘hazardous activity’ or ‘extreme sport’, involving increased risk and thus either incurring an additional premium or being excluded from the list of activities covered. Expensive touring bicycles and bikepacking bikes are also considered to be extremely steal-able things. Which they are.

Yes. This sucks. But at least it narrows the field when it comes to choosing from the few travel insurance policies that explicitly do cover cycle touring and bikepacking.

Recommended Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Insurance Providers

The following insurance providers I’ve either used myself or been recommended by veteran cyclists on all manner of global bicycle journeys. Each cover cycle touring (whose definition includes bikepacking) as an activity or will do so on request, but won’t insure the bicycle itself unless I’ve mentioned otherwise.

For each provider, at the time of writing I retrieved the lowest possible quote for a UK resident going on a 3‑month trip in Europe and a 12-month trip around the world, then listed them in ascending order of price. You should of course request your own quotes before making a decision.

1. Insure And Go have grown into one of the UK’s biggest ‘basic’ travel insurance providers, and all of their policies (including backpacker policies) explicitly cover cycle touring, though it’s worth mentioning that personal accident and personal liability are excluded. Which, in simple English, means that there’s no financial compensation for getting hurt or hurting someone else while on your bike. Cover is basic, but aspects (including valuables cover) can be upgraded. 3 months in Europe was £63, and 12 months worldwide was £342. Visit insureandgo.com.

2. Adventures Insurance specialise in — you’ve guessed it — bespoke insurance for more adventurous pursuits, and cycle touring can be specified as an activity. They’ll allow for individual items of equipment up to £600 in value to be covered. 3 months in Europe was £163, and 12 months worldwide (requiring a phone call for the quote) was a very reasonable £479. Visit adventuresinsurance.co.uk*.

3. WorldNomads’ flexible, backpacker-oriented policy offers many advantages. It’s available to residents of 130+ countries, it can be taken out when you’re already abroad, it can be extended online indefinitely, and it covers casual work and a vast range of activities. You’ll need to add Level 2 activities cover for independent cycle touring, for which personal liability cover is excluded. ‘Intercontinental’ touring is also not covered, but it does make WorldNomads a good choice for a tour of any length that’ll be taking place on a single continent. 3 months in Europe was £133, and 12 months worldwide was £714. Visit worldnomads.com*.

4. Campbell Irvine are often recommended for professional expeditions. They specialise in adventure travel, covering a vast range of activities, with the ability to extend a long-term single trip policy over the phone. It covers volunteering but not employment. While ‘cycling’ is covered, the policy wording is not explicit about cycle touring; however a quick phone call confirmed that it is indeed covered in a leisure capacity. 3 months in Europe was £213, and 12 months worldwide £747. Visit campbellirvinedirect.com*.

5. SafetyWing, based in the US but available worldwide, specialises in travel and medical insurance for full-time travellers. You can buy and renew your policy while already travelling, and – unusually – you can visit your home country without your trip being considered ‘finished’. All forms of cycle touring and bikepacking are covered in a non-professional or non-competitive capacity. Due to US sanctions, they can’t insure you in Iran, Cuba or North Korea. For the Nomad Insurance policy I was quoted a reasonable USD$119 for 3 months in Europe and USD$881 for 12 months worldwide. Their Remote Health policy also covers treatment in your home country and does not exclude pandemics such as COVID-19. Visit safetywing.com*.

6. The BMC (British Mountaineering Council), who I used for some of my first trips, offer cycle touring cover for up to 12 months at a time. You’ll need the ‘Trek’ policy for cycle touring to be covered as an activity, and while you get plenty of mountain activities and BMC membership benefits thrown in, the cover isn’t cheap. 3 months in Europe came back at £228, and 12 months worldwide came to £2,372. Visit thebmc.com.

Don’t Forget These Key Things About Buying Cycle Touring Insurance

Remember that these companies are operating in a highly competitive and lucrative field, and that negotiation over what’s covered and for how much is perfectly possible over the phone. That’s my top tip to make sure you get what you need at a decent price.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in the event of a medical emergency abroad, the claims agent’s job is to minimise the cost to the insurer. If you’re not incapacitated, the best strategy to achieve this is often to deliver your immediately to your home country in economy class on a scheduled airline, at which point your insurance cover is terminated as you’ve ‘gone home’ and it’s up to the local health service to look after you.

Finally, whether or not you insure your trip, it’s common sense to ensure your safety in the first place by cultivating a healthy attitude to travel, which will have a much greater effect on whether or not you still have your body and belongings intact at the end of your trip.

And that, I think, is a topic for a future article.

Categories
Country Guides

Tom’s Guide To Cycle Touring In… The Netherlands

As a student at the University of Exeter I once joined an annual fundraising event known as the Amsterdam Hitch. Travelling in pairs or groups, participants would have 24 hours to hitchhike from southwest England to the Dutch capital, spend a couple of nights ‘recovering’, then take a prearranged bus ride home.

This, one of my first overseas adventures, did not gave me a particularly broad or revealing insight into modern Dutch culture.

For one thing, I and my hitching partner Natalia only got as far as a truck-stop on the outskirts of Ghent, Belgium, before giving up and jumping on the train.

But mainly it was because I wasn’t travelling by bicycle.

Cycle route signposting in the Netherlands

Because the Netherlands only really makes sense when you’re on two wheels. During the later decades of the twentieth century, this former imperial maritime power literally rebuilt itself around cycling. Entire city blocks were bulldozed to make way for new cycling infrastructure. There’s a fascinating short film on Youtube of how this all came to pass. (If you don’t have time to watch it, it can be summarised as the outcome of prioritising quality of life over economic efficiency.)

Today, there exist in the Netherlands more kilometres of cycleway than motorised carriageway, more bicycles than cars, and in many towns and cities a higher proportion of journeys by bike than any other means. Where a bike path crosses a road, the cyclist always – always – has the right of way. Many Dutch only consider driving (or other motorised transport) if cycling is impractical, which is rarely.

You hear about this a lot – it’s what the Netherlands is famous for – but it doesn’t hit home until you’ve been there. And it was four years after the Amsterdam Hitch that this unemployed graduate with dreams of cycling around the world discovered that the Dutch experience went much further than almost being hit by a tram while staggering along a canal in search of a hostel whose name he couldn’t remember.

I had cycled across England to Harwich and taken the overnight ferry to the Hook of Holland, rolling off the boat and onto the LF1 Dutch long-distance cycle route (also part of the EuroVelo 12 North Sea Cycle Route), riding through dunes and beaches and seaside towns on traffic-free paths – a luxurious change from sharing English country lanes with impatient van drivers.

I remember wondering when the cycle paths would run out, as they inevitably always did, and the tedium of road riding would begin.

Ninety kilometres later I arrived in Amsterdam. And I hadn’t left a cycle path.

Amsterdam wasn’t the obvious routing. My two friends and I were ultimately heading for Spain, where we planned to ride the Camino de Santiago before looping east and reaching Istanbul before winter.

There were, however, two good reasons for us going there.

The first was that I’d hitchhiked to Amsterdam four years ago and dimly remembered it being fun.

The second was that Mark had ordered a new saddlebag from the UK to be delivered poste restante, and we had to go and pick it up.

Now, if I’d bothered to read an article with a title like “Tom’s Guide To Cycle Touring In The Netherlands” before we’d done this, I might have learned that there was no shortage of very well-stocked bike shops in Amsterdam, and that one of them would probably have a saddlebag.

Given such a revelation, ordering bike parts to the Netherlands would have felt a bit like ordering tea to India.

I knew the visa requirements for crossing Central Asia, the options for passing the Darién Gap, and which border points between China and Mongolia were open to foreigners. Yet at no point while planning my round-the-world bike trip had I realised that the gear to do it could be bought along the way.

The relevance of this anecdote, dear reader, is simply to restate that the Netherlands is a country in which you can simply turn up and spontaneously begin a cycle tour. It is, by all accounts, one of the most convenient nations – if not the most convenient nation – in the world to explore on a bicycle, or tricycle, or tandem, or any other pedal powered machine you can imagine.

In fact, if you’re planning a long ride starting in Europe, you could do worse than begin from the Netherlands. Some of the most reputable expedition bike brands – Koga and Santos perhaps the best known – have Dutch origins, and their bikes can be found widespread. And because the Dutch are not just a nation of cyclists but of cycle tourists, you’ll find all the standard touring gear here too.

Hanging out with our Dutch host

Gaining momentum across the country, we three young British lads on overloaded mountain bikes seemed to ignite a certain compassion in the hearts of the rural Dutch.

(This was in spite of having ceremoniously shaved our heads and inadvertently taken on an appearance normally associated with members of an outlawed brand of militant fascism.)

Friendly locals welcomed us to camp in the gardens of their family homes, to sleep on narrowboats, and to eat dinner with them, sharing with us – in perfect English – the simple stuff of life.

On one memorable occasion, a couple invited us to sleep on their garage floor, seeing as it was raining outside. The wife later revealed that her husband was a professional plumber and that he had installed the mother of all showers in their en-suite bathroom. Would we like to use it?

Pulling back the cubicle door revealed an extravagant control panel which not only allowed one to specify the water temperature to a tenth of a degree but also activated an array of coloured lights, music, horizontal water jets from multiple angles, and great blasts of steam from hidden orifices. I have been searching for a showering experience to match it ever since.

The rain continued, and we quickly realised that the Nederlanders’ love of cycling was not dependent upon perfect riding conditions. Yes, the thing about the country being completely flat is more or less true; the highest point on the mainland is a lowly 322m above sea level, and our biggest climbs were generally to the top of a dike or out of a subway tunnel.

But the wind – the wind was sometimes so relentless that simply inching forward felt like pedalling uphill in granny gear. And it was usually, of course, a headwind. Add horizontal rain to the mix and we quickly discarded the notion that cycling across the Netherlands wouldn’t be tough. As for sidewinds? Wearing ponchos? Forget it! Better to stop in a café and wait it out.

When it was nice, though, the Netherlands was really nice, with a lot more protected areas, forests and nature reserves than we’d expected, reachable only by off-highway cycle paths. And in general, the Netherlands was familiar enough that we could ease into the groove of long-term travel. Yet I was soon yearning to press eastward into less familiar territory – which of course says more about my 23-year-old self than it does about cycle touring in the Netherlands.

Six years later and no longer fixated on leaving the West behind, I returned to the Netherlands, this time to collect a recumbent bike from a kindly reader and ride it home to England. After many years of life-changing travel in places where bicycle infrastructure was unheard of, I was struck even more strongly by the sheer luxury of travelling through a country designed so ubiquitously for the bicycle rider.

I resurrected my wild-camping routine, this time with a hammock, though I never did find any of the Paalkamperen, a little-known but apparently wonderful network of designated free camping sites scattered across the country.

And if I’d stayed longer, I would doubtless have called upon one of the thousands of registered Warmshowers hosts in the country.

But all too soon I was riding down that very same LF route to the Hook of Holland and boarding that very same ferry to Harwich – this time able to afford the occasional coffee along the way.

Yes, it’s a trope often trotted out in travel literature, but the Netherlands really is a cycle touring utopia. And – as I discovered at both ends of a rambling world tour – that goes for total newbies and a hardened adventurers alike.

Landelijk Fietsplatform, the official Dutch organisation for recreational cycling, maintains a very informative website (in English) all about cycle touring in the Netherlands.

Categories
Equipment

What’s The Best Tent For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking?

Last updated in October 2020.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in choosing the right tent for your cycle tour or bikepacking expedition is the immense range of options you’ll find out there. Ultralight tents, freestanding tents, 3‑season or 4‑season tents, double wall or single wall, with or without awnings or footprints – and at prices from next to nothing up to hundreds (even thousands) of pounds or dollars. Which of these tents is right for you?

When you’re a newcomer, it’s natural to look for recommendations when choosing a tent for cycle touring or bikepacking. But before you get bogged down with what other people think is the best tent (which always seems to be the one they bought or were given by a sponsor), here’s one important thing to remember:

‘Best’ means nothing outside the context of your bike trip. Every ride is different.

So before you go any further, take a moment to ask yourself:

  • Are you looking for a long-lasting tent for a transcontinental trip, or something simple for a short summer adventure?
  • Are you a couple who like plenty of living space and room for your luggage, or a minimal solo rider?
  • Do you have racks and panniers to take bulky and heavy loads, or are you bikepacking with ultralight gear?
  • Do you plan on staying at nice campsites, or wild camping in the woods after dark?
  • Are you planning a fair-weather ride, or will all-season and/or winter use be involved?

There are a few tried-and-tested tents for cycling adventures that have proven themselves on a massive range of journeys.

But if you want to delve any deeper, you’ll find there’s no real ‘best tent for cycle touring or bikepacking’ until you know the answers to the basic questions above.

If you haven’t asked them of yourself, now’s the time to do so. Perhaps read my posts on the what, where, when, who and how of cycle touring. Then come back to this article.

Know what kind of bike trip you’re going on now? Great! Read on…

What Types Of Tents Are Good For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking?

I’ve spent a long time – too long, probably – looking at the trends over the years.

And I can tell you that the most popular kind of cycle touring or bikepacking tent for one rider is generally a freestanding, double-walled, 2‑berth, 3‑season tent in an inconspicuous shade of green, weighing 1–2.5kg (2–6 pounds), and strapping nicely to a rear rack or a handlebar harness, with room inside for the rider and the most important bits of their luggage.

For a couple, it’s generally the 3‑berth model of the same tent.

And for a solo bikepacker, it’s generally the 1‑berth model.

If you were short of time and you asked me to pick just one tent that ticks all of these boxes, it would be the 2‑berth MSR Hubba Hubba NX. (Click here to scroll to the full details and photos).

I’ve used and abused many tents in the MSR Hubba range over the years, including a 2014 two-berth Hubba Hubba NX, a 2012 one-berth Hubba, and a 2010 three-berth Mutha Hubba HP. (I still own and use all of them.)

If you don’t have any super-specialised requirements and you’re looking for a top-quality tent you can simply grab and ride out the door with, the MSR Hubba NX range is what I’d recommend.

How Do Tents For Cyclists Differ From Tents For Hikers & Backpackers?

Before we get into cycle touring and bikepacking tent listings, for the benefit of readers coming from a hiking/backpacking background I feel it’s important to explain how the priorities for cyclists differ slightly from walkers.

The biggest difference is that packed weight and volume is (usually) less of an issue for cyclists.

On a bike tour, you have a vehicle to carry your gear, rather than shouldering the burden yourself. This means – generally speaking – that you can safely consider slightly bigger, heavier tents that will allow you to live more comfortably, fare better in bad weather, last longer, and probably be cheaper to buy.

Long-distance thru-hikers in particular are concerned with minimising their loads. Unless you’re an ultralight bikepacker, you probably won’t be sharing that concern. (But in case you are, there are several suggestions below for ultralight tents for bikepacking too.)

A second difference is that cyclists tend to camp close to roads, not on backcountry trails.

This brings with it totally different priorities when it comes to visibility.

Many hikers prefer to be as visible as possible in a mountain landscape in case of needing assistance. Cyclists, on the other hand, typically want the opposite: to be able to wild camp undetected, close to civilisation.


The Best Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Tents In 2020

OK, theory lessons over – let’s get down to business!

The following listings represent a collection of tents specifically recommended for travelling by bicycle by experienced riders over countless miles and many years of road-testing, fully updated to reflect the latest models and prices.

We’ll start with low-budget tents for short and simple trips, visit some of the most popular all-rounder tents in the mid-range, and work our way up to uber-tents for people on worldwide bike tours of months or years.

We’ll also look at a few specialist tents suited to the weight and pack size restrictions faced by off-road bikepackers with frame luggage alone.

For each tent, you’ll find links to manufacturer’s websites where you can get detailed, up-to-date specifications. I’ve also included links to worldwide online retailers offering the best deals I can find (affiliate links are marked with an asterisk; you can find out more about my affiliate policy here).

These are not the only tents that’ll do the job.

But I can tell you from 14 years of experience that they represent the very best of what the riders of the world are out there using today.


Vango Banshee Pro 200/300 (UK, RRP £155/185)

Vango’s Banshee Pro range of 3‑season tents is a step up in quality and features, coming in a good shade of green for wild-camping and providing ample living and storage space while remaining on the lightweight side of things. Two- and three-berth versions are available under the 200 and 300 model names. The 200 is ideal for a soloist at 2.39kg, and the 300 at 2.82kg is good for a couple.

(The same naming scheme is used for other tents in Vango’s range, of which the Soul is also recommended as a budget option and the Mirage at the higher end.)

Being a British brand, Vango is very well represented in the UK, both on the high street and online, though their tents my be harder to find elsewhere.

The RRP for the Banshee Pro 200 is £155, and you’ll be able to find them cheaper online from outlets such as Go Outdoors and Amazon*. The 300, with an RRP of £185, can also be found at Amazon* and Go Outdoors.

As an alternative, the Coshee range by Wild Country (see below) is similar in design, name and price point.


Wild Country Zephyros 2 (UK, RRP £200)

Wild Country is the budget marque of the premium British manufacturer Terra Nova. The 1.85kg Zephyros 2 takes more than a little inspiration from Hilleberg’s Akto, a favourite high-end tent for minimalists since it was popularised by TV outdoorsman Ray Mears. It requires staking out at each end, but you get a lot of space for a reasonably low weight and with a single pole supporting a single-pitch structure. Not a lot of awning space, though.

You can get the Zephyros direct from the Terra Nova website at the RRP of £200. AmazonSnow + Rock and Cotswold Outdoor all have it cheaper at the time of update.


Alpkit Ordos 2/3 (UK, RRP £270/310)

Britain’s favourite direct outdoor gear retailer Alpkit has made a splash in the bikepacking and cycle touring scene as well as with the mountaineers and climbers, with the Ordos 2 and Ordos 3 tents now almost as popular as MSR’s Hubba series (see below). I used one myself on a traverse of the central highlands of Armenia.

With 2- and 3‑berth models available and a choice of a red or green fly, these ultralight tents – just 1.3kg for the 2‑berth and 1.6kg for the 3‑berth – are roomy, practical, well-ventilated, easy to pitch, and reasonably priced, with the wedge design echoing the long-standing Vaude Hogan (see below) and Big Agnes Seedhouse. Not quite freestanding but close enough for almost all real-world purposes, they do well in warmer weather.

As with all ultralight tents, longevity is not a design priority, and I would be surprised to see these last more than a season without noticeable wear and tear.

Order the Ordos 2 (RRP £270) or Ordos 3 (RRP £310) direct from Alpkit in the UK. As with all their gear, buying direct from their website or one of their stores is the only way to get it.


REI Quarter Dome 1/2 (USA, RRP $299/349)

If your tour is beginning in the States and you need a new set of camping gear, you’d do well to head to the nearest branch of REI when you arrive. This well-known outdoor co-op manufactures a range of top-rated gear and sells it without the third-party mark-up, so you get a lot for your money.

Their freestanding Quarter Dome SL range, available in 1‑berth (1.3kg) and 2‑berth (1.7kg) versions, was the most popular cycle touring tent range among Stateside riders in my latest community poll.

The one-berth Quarter Dome SL 1 is available from REI.com or from any of their 132 retail stores in the USA, as is the two-berth Quarter Dome SL 2.

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t mind a little extra weight, and still want the REI brand assurance and warranty, check out the heavier yet significantly cheaper Half Dome 2 Plus.


MEC Spark 2.0 1/2 (Canada, RRP CAD$ 320/420)

Looking for a suitable tent for a bike trip originating in Canada? Look no further than the Spark 2.0 dome tent from Canadian gear co-operative MEC.

The 1.75kg 2‑berth version of the Spark will house you and your partner, or just you if you want a bit of space, at a very reasonable weight for the price. A 1‑berth model is also available for minimal soloists, and a 3‑berth model for couples who like plenty of space.

With two doors and two vestibules for easy access and extra storage, the 3000mm waterproof, 30D polyester ripstop fly will protect you from the most obnoxious of North American springtime downpours. And because the Spark 2.0 is designed in-house by Canada’s largest gear co-op, it also works out considerably cheaper than similar-looking tents from better-known brands, and is covered by MEC’s famous ‘rock solid’ guarantee.

Get the MEC Spark 2.0 1‑, 2- or 3‑berth tent online from the MEC website or from any of their 22 retail stores across Canada.


MSR Hubba NX 1P / Hubba Hubba NX 2P / Mutha Hubba NX 3P (Worldwide, £385/445/650 / $380/450/550)

The 2‑berth MSR Hubba Hubba NX freestanding tent with the grey rainfly option.

The MSR Hubba NX series (click for the Europe/US & Canada versions of MSR’s site) is possibly the all-time most respected series of tents among global cycle tourers and bikepackers, as mentioned in the introduction.

The range, which features 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth models, has been updated continuously over the last couple of decades as tent technology evolves, and today strikes a near-perfect balance between weight and durability. The North American models all come with a grey rainfly, but in Europe green rainfly versions are also available (and I’d recommend this for more inconspucious wild camping).

Many solo fully-loaded cycle tourers and lightweight bikepacking pairs/couples go for the 1.7kg two-berth Hubba Hubba NX for ample living space and a double entrance awning.

Couples with a full luggage setup tend to prefer the spacious 2.3kg three-berth Mutha Hubba NX.

Ultralight solo bikepackers usually go for the 1‑berth Hubba NX with a minimum packed weight of 1.1kg.

Expect MSR tents to last many years if well looked-after, with top-quality weatherproofing, well-designed ventilation, superb build quality, and super-easy setup, with a variety of pitching options for different climates. Riders love the generous headroom, the inner mesh pockets, the vast luggage awnings, and the low packed volume and weight.

msr_hubbahubbahp_fly_door_open_eu_l
The EU (green) version of the MSR Hubba Hubba NX is perfect for wild camping.

In the UK, the RRP for the 2‑berth MSR Hubba Hubba NX is £445. The cheapest I can find it is at Amazon, Alpine Trek, Go Outdoors, Elite Mountain Supplies and UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk.

In the USA you can order them at the full $450 RRP from the MSR website, or slightly cheaper from Amazon*, but the best value option is usually REI, who stock the full range in-store and online, including the 1‑berth Hubba, 2‑berth Hubba Hubba and 3‑berth Mutha Hubba. Remember that adding membership to your cart at the same time will get you around 10% of the tent price back as a dividend later on – and that much of the other gear you need can probably be found here too.

In Canada, you can find the full MSR Hubba range in-store and online at MEC, and of course on Amazon.


MSR Elixir 1/2/3 (Worldwide, £215/265/320 / $200/250/300)

The MSR Elixir 2 is a heavier and cheaper but equally durable alternative to the Hubba Hubba NX.

If weight is not of utmost importance, and you’re looking to save money, but you still want a quality tent from a reputable brand, the heavier and slightly more spacious MSR Elixir range (EU/USA* webpage) has a very similar freestanding dome design and range of sizes, including 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth models, for significantly lower prices compared to the Hubba equivalents. While more basic, you can expect these tents to last at least as long as their more expensive brethren.

In the UK you can find the Elixir range at Amazon*, Snow + Rock (2/3), Cotswold Outdoor (2/3) and Elite Mountain Supplies. As always, don’t forget to search eBay* for second-hand or clearance bargains to save yet more money.

In the USA, as well as the MSR online store*, check retailers such as REI*, Outdoorplay* and of course Amazon* for the MSR Elixir tents.

In Canada, MEC carry most models in the Elixir range, as do Amazon.


Vaude Hogan UL (Germany, RRP £430)

Another tent that has stood the test of time, German brand Vaude’s classic Hogan UL 2‑berth tent was, back in 2007, my first decent tent of any kind. I rode across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Mongolia with it for four years, so I guess you could say I’ve put it through its paces (read my original review here). Then my brother inherited it and subjected it to another few years of abuse. It’s still standing 13 years on.

It’s not the lightest, nor is it truly freestanding, but it is extremely durable, waterproof, and stable in bad weather, with a decent-sized porch and a nice natural shade of green available for the fly, and it’s pretty portable at 1.9kg.

The RRP is £430 and it’s available direct from Vaude, though you can find it cheaper from Amazon* in the UK, or Bergzeit.de in its native Germany.


Terra Nova Voyager (UK, RRP £600)

A British design that’s been doing the rounds for decades, the freestanding classic Voyager is likely the long-term favourite among round-the-world tourers from the UK, in part because Terra Nova don’t feel the need to change the design of or discontinue perfectly good tents at random (like certain other manufacturers seem to do), allowing the tent to build up a second-to-none reputation.

Weighing in at 2.2kg, top-class construction, weatherproofing, liveability and extreme durability is the order of the day here.

terra-nova-voyager

They’re expensive – £600 direct from Terra Nova, or a bit less from Amazon*, Cotswold Outdoor* or UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk* – but you get what you pay for.


Hilleberg Nallo 2/3/GT (Sweden, RRP £765–970)

The most lusted after (and expensive) tents for long-haul trips for which durability is the key consideration are undoubtedly those in the Nallo range from Swedish tentmakers Hilleberg.

They’re not the most lightweight, nor the best choice for hot climates, but they do have an unmatched reputation for quality and longevity. Hilleberg have long resisted following the trend for ever lighter and more flimsy materials: these tents are among the most tried and tested in the world and will last – literally – for decades.

The Nallo 2 (2.4kg) is recommended for solo tourers, with the Nallo 3 GT (3.1kg) delivering luxury on-the-road living for couples and their luggage.

Other Hilleberg tents often seen on the road include the minimalist 1.7kg Akto for soloists and bikepackers (see the Wild Country Zephyros above) and, for couples, the freestanding and spacious 3.3kg Allak 2. The Swedish brand predictably makes excellent winter tents, with the 2.4kg Soulo standing out.

hilleberg-nallo-2

In the UK, the Hilleberg Nallo 2 is available from many of the high-street chains, including Ellis Brigham*, Tiso and Cotswold Outdoor*. Online they’re hard to find and rarely discounted, though I’ve found them recently on UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk and AlpineTrek.co.uk*.

In the USA, Moosejaw.com* sell all of Hilleberg’s tents, including the Nallo 2*.


Best Ultralight Bikepacking Tents For 2020

The following tents are included in this list as examples of shelters that have either been developed with bikepacking in mind or crossed over from backpacking and thru-hiking circles – in any case, tents that have found favour in the bikepacking community.

You’ll also find some of the lighter tents from the list above – such as the Gelert Track 1, the Alpkit Ordos, the MSR Hubba NX, and the Hilleberg Akto – making their way onto bikepacking kit lists, possibly in stripped-down form.


Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (USA, RRP $200)

Weighing just 680g (that’s the same as a full, standard-sized cycling water bottle), the single-pole, single-wall Lunar Solo relies on being staked out and requires you to supply your own pole (it’s designed to be used with a trekking pole). It’s never going to be as comfortable as a double-wall tent with a geodesic structure – but if you’re OK with that, it’s difficult to imagine a more minimal shelter that isn’t a bivvy bag.

It is by no means the only such shelter on offer – check out MSR’s Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 to see a big-brand attempt at the same kind of thing (although without the flysheet).

Get the Lunar Solo direct from Six Moon Designs in the USA, or from Ultralight Outdoor Gear in the UK.


Terra Nova Starlite (UK, RRP £595)

New in 2018, the Terra Nova Starlite series, available in 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth options, was one of the first British tent ranges designed specifically for bikepacking. Aside from striking a great combination of weight and weather-resistance, the 2‑berth Starlite 2 weighs just 1.5kg and has a packed length of 29cm, meaning it’ll fit easily into a pannier or strap to your handlebars using the stuff-sack’s integrated webbing loops.

Some might consider its non-freestanding design a negative, but in the type of climate and terrain it’s designed for, staking it out really shouldn’t be a problem if you choose your pitch accordingly. Once up, it’s as roomy as you’d expect from a tunnel tent and very stable. That the optional footprint extends to cover the awning floor is a nice bonus. Not cheap, though.

Read my full long-term review of the Starlite 2 here. As with all of Terra Nova’s tents, you can order it direct (RRP £595). It’s well-distributed in the UK; online stockists include Wiggle*, Amazon* and AlpineTrek.co.uk*.


More Tents For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

If that’s not enough of a selection, try the following, which have also been recommended by readers of this blog:

I have also happily toured with a free Tesco Value tent I rescued from the local household recycling centre, because remember: you don’t actually need any of this stuff.


Bonus: The 12 Qualities Of The Bicycle Traveller’s Perfect Tent

If you’re still interested in learning more about the reasons why bike travellers tend to go for certain types of tent, let’s explore the criteria in detail from a cycle tourer’s perspective. The perfect tent would:

1. Weigh as little as possible

The less weight you’re carrying, the nimbler and more enjoyable to ride your bike will be while you’re on it, and the more manageable it’ll be while you’re off it. Tents of yore were built of heavy canvas, wood and steel, and weighed a ton. Modern tents, by contrast, are now absurdly light. The ideal touring tent would, therefore, weigh as little as possible when packed – particularly key for bikepackers.

2. Last as long as possible

The importance of durability increases in parallel with the length of your journey. Modern tents do have a limited lifespan and on an ultra-long tour can almost be considered a consumable item, most multi-year journeys involving a series of tents. Common points of failure include zip sliders wearing out, floors losing waterproofness, poles fatiguing and snapping under stress, and flysheets shrinking through prolonged UV exposure. Long-term riders especially therefore tend to choose tents whose durability has proven itself over time.

3. Pitch anywhere

Especially when wild-camping, perfect pitching conditions can never be guaranteed. As well as this, a long tour may well incorporate a variety of environments. The ideal tent would go up anywhere, regardless of the availability of flat, level ground, and with or without the ability to use pegs/stakes. That is, rather simplistically, why cyclists tend to choose freestanding tents, in which the poles support the whole structure, or tents requiring minimal staking out.

4. Blend into the background

Successful wild-camping is largely about avoiding detection. Part of this is having a tent that does not stick out like a sore thumb in a landscape. The ideal tent, therefore, would exhibit chameleon-like properties, blending perfectly into the surroundings. Tents with green or neutral-coloured flysheets are therefore a good bet, while bright orange or yellow mountaineering tents are less than preferable in this regard.

5. Go up quickly

Once a suitable pitch has been found, the last thing a cycle traveller wants is to waste time pitching or tweaking an overly complicated tent, particularly in bad weather or when stealth-camping under cover of darkness. This, again, is one of the reasons why cyclists tend to prefer freestanding tents with simple, ideally one-piece, pole structures, which are technically pitched in a few seconds, all stakes and guy lines being optional.

6. Keep you dry in a monsoon

Any tent worth its salt will keep its occupants dry. The best tents will do so in a torrential downpour and on waterlogged ground, and many riders will have to anticipate such conditions. In practice, this means choosing a tent with an additional footprint to provide extra waterproofing to the floor, an adjustable fly sheet that can be cinched down closer to the ground to avoid splashback, and a good level of protection around the edges of the inner tent as well. It might also mean a footprint that extends to cover the space beneath the awning where your gear is being stowed.

7. Stand up in a hurricane

Extreme weather, by definition, is the exception rather than the norm. But the longer the trip, the higher the chances of being exposed to it. The ideal tent would take stormy weather in its stride, remaining firmly planted even whilst houses, pets and automobiles are being blown clean away. So-called ‘geodesic’ and tunnel tents tend to do well in strong winds when properly pitched and oriented, while wedge-shaped tents are among the worst performers in this sense.

8. Ventilate in all climates

Climate control is a perpetual concern for the camper. Condensation in particular can contribute far more to a soggy night’s sleep than rainfall itself. The ideal tent would feature adjustable ventilation options for all circumstances, including plentiful mesh panels on the inner so it can be pitched alone in hot weather and allow a good breeze to come through.

9. Provide a view when you want it

Tents are enclosed and often claustrophobic spaces designed to isolate and protect from the elements. But when the elements are at their most desirable, the ideal tent will provide a viewing platform from which to drink all that natural beauty up. This usually means choosing a tent with an awning that can be tied right back and a mesh panel on the inner door to look through, if not a full mesh inner tent.

10. Give you privacy when you need it

Sometimes, after a long day on the road, all you’ll want to do is retreat to a save haven. The ideal tent will feel as secure, safe and impermeable as a padded cell. If you think it’ll be warm and dry enough to pitch only the inner tent without the rainfly, a full mesh inner will afford no privacy whatsoever. A tent with a combination of mesh and fabric panels, on the other hand, may strike a better balance.

11. Allow room for all your luggage

Tents being necessarily restricted in size for practical reasons, it’s usually possible to bring some of your belongings inside, but often it’ll be necessary to leave at the very least your bicycle to brave the elements overnight. The ideal tent provides space for everything to be brought inside or stowed in the awning.

12. Provide space to live

In a similar vein to the above, tents are more or less well designed for doing anything other than sleeping. The ideal tent will exhibit Tardis-like qualities, providing space to unpack, rearrange, work, play, get changed, entertain guests, repair bicycles and more, in addition to simply sleeping.


Which tent(s) have you successfully used on tours or bikepacking trips? Which would you recommend to a friend planning a trip? Let us know in the comments.

Categories
Equipment

What’s The Best Camping Stove For Cycle Touring Or Bikepacking?

Last updated in October 2020.

Every cycle tourer and bikepacker loves to eat. In fact, one of the pleasures of bicycle travel is being able to eat whatever you want, and as much as you like. Ride a bike for a living and your body becomes a calorie-burning machine – one that needs regular feeding!

TL;DR – skip to the best canister gas burners for soloists/groups, the best alcohol/meths stoves for soloists/groups, and the best multi-fuel (liquid fuel) stoves for simple boiling or actual cookery.

While a camping stove and cookset isn’t an essential part of a cycle touring or bikepacking kit list, many adventurous cyclists find it convenient and morale-boosting to cook hot meals at camp at the end of a long day, or at least to boil water for hot drinks.

That’s why I’ve always carried a camping stove on my own bike trips, from multi-fuel expedition stoves in Outer Mongolia, to simple canister gas stoves in Europe, and alcohol camp-stoves in the Middle East and former Soviet Union – even a wood-burning kettle on some occasions.

In this detailed article, I’ll help you figure out how to choose between the many different types, makes and models of camping stove for your next cycle tour or bikepacking trip.

To achieve that, we’ll break down the subject into the three main categories of camping stove preferred by cycle tourists and bikepackers, discuss which is most appropriate for you, and look at the most tried-and-tested camping stoves from each category, as attested to by other riders over many years of road-testing.

I’ll include buying links to retailers in Europe and North America (affiliate links are marked with an asterisk; full policy here), but many of the stoves mentioned in this article are available globally.

Ready? Cup of tea to hand? OK – let’s begin.


3 Critical Questions To Answer Before You Choose A Camping Stove For A Bike Trip

As with all equipment choices, clarifying a few simple facts about your cycle tour or bikepacking trip will make your buying decisions easier.

So I want to start by asking three basic questions that will help you identify which type of camping stove will suit you best on your cycle tour or bikepacking adventure.

1. Where Are You Going, And For How Long?

Camping on the edge of a polo field in England, using a home-made meths stove to make a morning brew.

The single biggest variable when choosing a camping stove for a cycle tour or bikepacking trip is fuel availability.

For this reason, knowing where you’ll be riding is critical.

This is partly about continent, country and region, but it’s also about how far from the beaten track you’re planning to ride.

It’s important because you’ll buy a camping stove once, but you’ll buy fuel for it over and over again – every few days if you use the stove regularly.

If you are riding through parts of the world with a strong camping culture and therefore plenty of outdoor shops and campsites – eg: Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand – you’ll easily be able to find butane/propane gas canisters for camping stoves.

If you’re heading further afield and/or off the tourist trail for longer periods of time, denatured alcohol (eg: methylated spirit or surgical spirit) and/or liquid fuel (eg: white gas, kerosene, petrol/benzine and diesel) are likely to be easier to find.

So take a moment to think about where you’re going, and how easily and frequently available these different types of fuel are likely to be.

Remember also that you cannot bring compressed gas canisters with you when flying, either in checked baggage or in the cabin. You’ll need to buy them on arrival.

2. What Do You Mean By ‘Cooking’?

Making Eastern-style coffee in a jazzve over a simple top-mounted canister gas stove.

When you say ‘cooking’, do you really mean ‘boiling water for coffee or instant noodles’?

I ask because simply boiling water can be accomplished with minimal extra equipment or an all-in-one integrated stove like the Jetboil (on which more later).

But if you do want to do proper cookery (see Tara Alan’s excellent Bike. Camp. Cook* to see what I mean by this), you’ll need a versatile and adjustable stove; lots more pots, pans and utensils; and perhaps even a folding sink!

So think about what’s going to be important to you on your cycle tour or bikepacking trip: quick and simple fuel; or tasty and varied meals.

3. How Many Mouths Are You Feeding?

One of the more disastrous attempts at camp cookery in my repertoire – wok-fried anchovies over an MSR DragonFly running on dirty diesel in northern Turkey.

It might sound obvious, but cooking more food means bigger pots and a appropriately larger and more powerful stove.

Just as domestic stoves have burners of different sizes, camping stoves are available with a range of pot supports, flame spreaders and heat output ratings, suitable for everyone from soloists boiling a mug of water to couples and groups spending hours preparing gourmet three-course meals with frying pans and steamers.

It’s crucial to match your cookset to your stove, too. A big pot on a minimal top-mounted canister burner will not just be precarious – with tents or dry tinder around, it could be dangerous.

So consider how much food you’ll be cooking on an average night, and how much flexibility you need when it comes to using pots and pans of different shapes and sizes.


All done with the three questions above?

Great! Let’s look in detail at the different types of camping stove for cycle tourers and bikepackers.


Canister Gas Camping Stoves For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

Natural gas is the ideal fuel for cooking, which is why most professional kitchens use it. It burns (relatively) cleanly and efficiently, the flame is adjustable, and the pressurised canisters that deliver the fuel make stove design simple.

Light and compact canister gas camping stoves suitable for bike trips can be found in the backpacking and hiking departments of outdoor stores and online retailers, rather than the car-camping or caravanning sections.

They can be subdivided into top-mounted burners, in which the burner is threaded directly onto the canister and placed on a flat surface; remote burners (aka: ‘spider’ stoves) with a flexible hose connecting a gas canister to an external, self-supported burner; and all-in-one integrated stove systems with canister, burner and cookset in a single assembly. We’ll look at each subcategory separately in the listings below.

A UTC screw valve gas canister feeding an MSR WhisperLite Universal stove

There are two main types of disposable (ie: non-refillable) canister for camping stove gas – and a third type you should know about if you’re doing a lot of riding in the developing world.

The most common type of stove canister worldwide is the UTC (Universal Threaded Canister, which has an EN417 standard 7/16-inch Lindal B188 self-sealing screw valve. You’ll find UTC canister gas widespread in North America and Europe, as well as in specialist outdoor stores worldwide. They have a capacity range of 110/230g/450g (4/8/16oz) and a diameter of 110mm (4.33″). Some have a narrower diameter of 90mm (3.5″); these are designed for integrated stove systems such as the Jetboil (see below) and tend not to be as widely available.

Another common type of canister, which you’ll often see in Western Europe, is the blue, unthreaded, valve-sealed CV type made by long-running camping stove brand Campingaz, onto which the burner clips, rather than screws (not to be confused with the old-fashioned pierceable cartridges that are still made for older stoves). CV canisters come in 240g (90mm diameter) and 450g (110mm diameter) sizes.

Most stoves fit only one type of canister. Which type is likely to reflect where you bought the stove and therefore what type of canister predominates. A few stoves are compatible with both UTC and CV canisters, and I’ve indicated them in the listings below.

Much noise is made by canister manufacturers about the efficiency of their particular propane/butane fuel blend. I can promise you right now that unless you are camping in deep winter conditions, timing each boil to the second and weighing your canister between uses, you will not notice the slightest difference. The best brand of canister is the one that’s available when you need it.

I sometimes get asked if you can actually refill these so-called non-refillable canisters to reduce waste. The official answer from the manufacturers is no, both for safety reasons and because they want you to continue buying their disposable canisters. The unofficial answer, as a quick YouTube search will show you, is yes. Whether you are comfortable with the risks inherent in playing with pressurised gas is something only you can know.

The third type of camping gas canister is the disposable pure-butane cartridge, about the size and shape of a cycling water bottle. These are mainly sold by hardware stores for refilling lighters or for use with compact blowtorches, as well as for certain larger models of camping stoves more often used by car-campers. The valve is a clip-on, self-sealing type, which can be converted to work with the stoves listed below with a cheap valve adapter from eBay or Amazon*. Globally, these cartridges are a lot easier to find outside of the ‘outdoor gear zone’ (and much cheaper), so if you’re planning a world-ranging trip and you want to maximise your stove’s canister compatibility, it may be worth throwing such an adapter into the bottom of a bag. Make sure you read up on how to use such a setup safely, ie: without accidentally turning your stove into a flamethrower.


Compact Canister Gas Camping Stoves For Solo Bicycle Travellers

Small, top-mounted canister gas burners are a good choice for the solo cyclist. They work best with smaller pans, mugs and coffee pots which won’t make the setup too top-heavy.

The price of the stove will change neither your cooking skills nor the boiling point of water, but if saving weight and space is key, spending a little more will get you an extremely light and minimal top-mounted burner. The peace of mind (and warranty) that comes with a big-name manufacturer may also justify spending more, especially if you see this purchase as a long-term investment.

If your tour is confined to Western Europe, you’ll easily find CV canisters for the classic 180g/1300W Campingaz Bleuet Micro Plus (£15 / Amazon / eBay), the entry-level camping stove of choice for decades, widely available on the high street in non-specialist stores. It has a relatively low power output, being mainly aimed at families on holiday and festival-goers who want something cheap, simple and timeless.

For UTC canisters, Coleman’s 77g/3600W FyreLite (£25 / Amazon / Go Outdoors / Millets / Mountain Warehouse / eBay) is a slim, powerful burner that does the same thing as stoves twice the price. It’s most widely found in the UK and Europe at mainstream outdoor retailers.

Slightly heavier, cheaper and less powerful is the 102g/3000W Vango Compact (£20 / Amazon / Decathlon / Cotswold Outdoor / eBay).

UK-based bikepackers looking to minimise weight might favour the titanium Alpkit Kraku (£28, direct), which at 45g is the lightest stove at the lower end of the budget scale, though less powerful than the competition at 2600W.

Originating from North America, a classic among premium top-mounted gas burners for cycle touring and bikepacking is the 73g MSR PocketRocket 2 (£35/$45 / Amazon / Alpine Trek / REI / MEC / eBay). Fitting UTC canisters only, the burner is best suited to fast boils in narrow-diameter mugs and small pots. An evolution of the original Pocket Rocket, this remains among the most respected top-mounted canister burners ever made, favoured by users who need a dependable stove for intensive, long-term daily use. Combo kits including mugs, pots and pans also exist, and it’s widely available in the UK and Europe too.

Another favourite top-mounted premium burner in the USA, the 75g Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0 ($50 / Amazon / eBay / REI) is similarly recommended for its build quality and durability. Like the Pocket Rocket 2, it’s on the minimal end of things, with a narrower flame diameter suiting smaller pots and mugs; again on UTC canisters only.


Large & Powerful Canister Gas Camping Stoves For Couples/Groups On Bikes

Bigger pots are best paired with stoves that have broader supports, wider flame spreaders, and a higher heat output.

Top-mounted canister gas camping stoves of this type do exist, and a couple are listed below, but if size and weight are not critical I would suggest a remote burner which attaches to the canister with a hose and rests directly on the ground for stability.

Aside from price, what differentiates premium stoves from the basic models listed below is typically durability, power output, cold-weather performance, and of course brand assurance and warranty.

A good choice in the top-mounted category for cooking bigger portions is the 146g Coleman FyrePower (£39 / Amazon / Go Outdoors / Millets / eBay*), with a broad burner and pot stand and a massive 7000W of heat output for rapid boiling or bigger volumes. It takes UTC canisters only and is primarily aimed at the UK/European market.

Another tried-and-tested stove in this category is the 195g Primus Mimer (€28 / Amazon* / Alpine Trek* / Ellis Brigham* / eBay*), big and stable, cheaper than the Coleman, and with a significantly lower heat output at 2800W. The 233g Duo version (€33) burns both UTC and CV canisters, making for a versatile stove for tours involving Western Europe and North America.

Among remote burners in the budget category, the 200g/2600W Vango Folding gas stove (£30 / Amazon* / Blacks* / Millets* / eBay*) is a solid option and comes officially recommended for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions.

You might also try the relatively new but favourably reviewed and very powerful 3800W/314g Coleman FyrePower Alpine (£50 / Amazon* / GoOutdoors* / eBay*).

Among affordable ultralight remote burners, the 124g/2800W titanium Alpkit Koro (£48, direct) is incredibly compact and light, but also much smaller overall than the stoves above – a good choice for two bikepackers sharing gear. I use it solo with a MyTiMug and windshield, as pictured above.

At the higher end of the budget scale, the remote-burning 3000W/346g Easy Fuel from Primus (£90/€100 / Amazon* / Alpine Trek* / eBay*) is good value for money, designed for cooking for up to four people (ie: two hungry cyclists). Like other premium remote burners it has a pre-heated fuel line for better performance in the cold.

For a little extra, the 385g Easy Fuel Duo (£100/€100 / Amazon* / Alpine Trek* / eBay*) has a multi-purpose valve attachment for both UTC and CV canisters.

A similar stove from the USA is the 290g MSR WindPro II (£100/$100 / Amazon* / Alpine Trek* / Trekitt* / eBay* / MEC), which loses CV compatibility but gains a canister inverter stand, a pre-heated fuel line and a heat reflector – three useful features in winter conditions. As usual with MSR, it can be found cheaper in its native USA than elsewhere.

My final suggestion for premium remote burning canister gas camping stoves is the 3700W/178g Optimus Vega (£80/$95 / Amazon* / Alpine Trek* / Trekitt* / REI* / eBay*), the most powerful of the remote burners in this list. Like the MSR, it has a built-in canister inverter and windshield, as well as a pre-heated fuel line, pointing again to suitability for cold conditions. It has a smaller flame spreader than the alternatives, however, and for more than two people a broader burner might be a better choice.


Integrated (All-In-One) Canister Gas Stove Systems

Integrated stove systems, aka: all-in-one stoves, have been popularised in recent years by Jetboil, whose Flash (see below) is the classic example.

These systems combine canister, burner, windshield and pot, maximising efficiency and convenience of use at the expense of versatility: you can often only use the supplied pot or mug, and a limited range of canister sizes.

As the name suggests, they are mainly designed for boiling rather than cooking, prioritising the needs of hikers in the mountainous backcountry. Just pour in the water, press the ignition button and you’ve got a hot, insulated mug of tea or coffee (or a dehydrated meal) within a couple of minutes. These systems deconstruct and pack into their own pots/mugs, so they’re relatively compact and simple to store, too.

If that appeals to you and you’ll be able to find canisters – go for it. Remember, however, that many riders grow to appreciate the versatility of a traditional cooking setup in the long run. If you’re bikepacking with frame luggage, shape and size also need careful consideration.

Alpkit’s popular BruKit all-in-one stove system is modelled on the Jetboil but comes in at half the price. Photo © Alpkit.com

At the budget end is Alpkit’s 1500W BruKit (£45, direct), which is heavier and bigger than the competition when packed, but then it does cost half the price of even the cheapest ‘premium’ integrated stove system – plus you can use the bigger 110mm-diameter UTC canisters. It comes with a pot stand for use with other cooksets, as well as a canister support for stability.

The 2600W/371g Jetboil Flash (£110/$110 / Amazon* / GoOutdoors* / Cotswold Outdoor* / Snow + Rock* / REI* / MEC / eBay*) has a mug capacity of 1 litre, no flame regulator (it’s either on or off), and claims to boil 500ml of water in 100 seconds. The packed diameter of 104mm is just framebag-friendly, and as with many of these systems it’s designed for 100g/90mm-diameter UTC canisters, which fit in the mug for packing. These are good on short solo trips on which you just want to boil water and be done with it.

Also from Jetboil, the 1750W/415g MiniMo (£145/$150 / Amazon* / Cotswold Outdoor* / REI* / MEC / eBay*) has a shorter, wider pot and a flame regulator for simmering – good, perhaps, for cyclists who want a little more versatility, but to me it seems overpriced considering the competition. Its packed shape likely won’t suit bikepackers with frame bags.

MSR Windburner components laid out on the ground for display

MSR’s 1l-capacity, 430g WindBurner (£135/$150 / Amazon* / GoOutdoors* / Alpine Trek* / REI* / MEC / eBay*) has a flame adjuster, can be used with the larger sizes of UTC canister, and is slightly cheaper than the equivalent Jetboil (the MicroMo). Beyond the basic model, you can choose from a variety of upgrade kits* with different sizes and shapes of cooking pot and pan.

Finally, the 1500W Primus Lite+ (€130 / Amazon* / Alpine Trek* / eBay*) is the minimalist’s option, with the smallest packed size and weight but only 500ml of capacity in the supplied mug, although supports are provided for other pots and pans.

You can spend a long time ploughing through the specifications to find that these integrated stoves all do more or less the same thing. The differences to watch out for are capacity, canister compatibility, and, for bikepackers, packed shape and size.


Alcohol-Burning Camping Stoves For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

Alcohol stoves are designed to burn high-strength liquid alcohol. Methylated spirit and surgical spirit (aka: medical alcohol or rubbing alcohol) are the most commonly available, though it’s also found in other forms.

The key is a very high alcohol content – at least 90%, preferably 95% or higher. Because of the many and varied uses of alcohol, some form will be available pretty much anywhere you find civilisation – even in ‘dry’ countries such as Iran. (There’s a very detailed list of stove-compatible alcohol-based fuels at Zenstoves.net.)

Alcohol is slower to cook over than gas or liquid fuel, but its wide availability and relative cleanliness is what makes it viable. Because the fuel does not need to be pressurised, these stoves tend to be even simpler and lightweight, making alcohol stoves a favourite with ultralight bikepackers. They don’t do well in very cold temperatures, however, and the unpressurised flame can be vulnerable to wind – hence why many alcohol stoves have integrated windshields.

The classic example of this type of stove is the Swedish-made Trangia, which is often referred to simply by the brand name. Consisting of little more than a fuel pot with a few holes in it, alcohol stoves burn simply, cleanly and efficiently, needing no complicated mechanisms for pressurising the less volatile fuel. The fact that there are no moving parts to worry about makes them the most simple and durable stove you can get for a cycle tour or bikepacking trip – not to mention the lightest.


The D.I.Y. Beer Can Alcohol-Burning Stove

One of the best gifts I ever received on the road was a stove made from a single empty Gin & Tonic can. More than ten years later I am still using the same stove, having taken it on bike tours, overnight trips closer to home, festivals, and even used it in city parks while waiting for trains in order to save money on hot beverages.

In 2013 I tracked down the creator of the stove and filmed a short ‘how-to’ video in which he demonstrated in detail how to make it, far better than I’m able to do in words here. It’s had an amazing 3.5 million views, and will probably be the most successful film I’ll ever make.

Making the stove will take you about 10 minutes and requires nothing more than a pocket knife and one empty drinks can. You also get that priceless smug feeling that comes with having a) pulled off a really cool DIY project and b) saved yourself a hundred quid on a WhisperLite.

More than one of you? Get a bigger pot, then make three burners and arrange them in a triangle. Windy? Use your cheap foam roll-mat or a couple of panniers as a windbreak.


Compact Alcohol Camping Stoves For Solo Ultralight Bikepacking & Cycle Touring

Alpkit have recently entered the alcohol stove market with the 150g Bruler (£30, direct). As with all Alpkit’s gear, it’s simple, lightweight and very good value, and pairs up nicely with (and fits inside) their 120g MyTiPot 900, resulting in a frame bag-friendly packed diameter of 123mm and a total weight of 270g. The main advantage over the DIY option is the addition of a windshield and a flame regulator. This is a great option for a solo rider looking to save weight and pack size.

Almost as light and slightly cheaper is the 350g Mini Trangia (£30/€35 / Amazon* / Go Outdoors* Alpine Trek* / eBay*), in which a 0.8l pot and a small nonstick frying pan are included. Designed for mountain marathon competitions, it also prioritises light weight and small pack size, occupying just 67mm of width in your frame bag.


Full-Featured Alcohol Camping Stove Systems For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Groups/Couples

Trangia have made their name from alcohol-burning stove sets, supplying them for military as well as civilian use – a sure mark of durability. The brand is now synonymous with this type of stove, and there are few alternatives worth mentioning in this category.

Trangia stoves are modular systems, in which you choose the most appropriate size and combination of pots and pans, plus a choice of bare aluminium, hard-anodised or non-stick finishes, to suit your budget and cookery ambitions (you can also buy all the components separately and assemble your own system). They’re far from the smallest and lightest cooking systems, making them a better bet for fully loaded cycle touring than ultralight bikepacking, but they are extremely reliable and time-tested.

Each system includes the burner itself, a windshield and pot stand, and the cookware, and it all fits together for packing in a rather pleasing fashion. Basic systems include two 1‑litre aluminium pots and a frying pan. The most comprehensive packages include 2 hard-anodised pans, a non-stick frying pan and a kettle.

The Trangia 27 series sets (from £60 / Amazon* / Go Outdoors* / Alpine Trek* / eBay*) are advertised for solo or couple travellers in terms of capacity. Given the size of the cyclist’s appetite, however, I’d recommend this series for solo travellers only.

The Trangia 25 series sets (from £70 / Amazon* / Go Outdoors* Alpine Trek* / eBay*) are more or less the same except that everything is upsized for more people. This is a better bet for couples; you could also feed three in a pinch.

A final point about the Trangia systems is that you can swap out the alcohol burner for an optional gas, gel or multi-fuel burner – perfect for those looking to cover all fuel types with a single stove kit.


Multi-Fuel (aka: Liquid Fuel) Camping Stoves For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

Multi-fuel or liquid fuel stoves are designed to pressurise and vaporise many types of liquid hydrocarbons. Two of these are extremely common on the roadside – petrol and diesel – and it’s this that makes the multi-fuel stove a common choice for long-haul expeditions across many countries or continents.

These liquid fuels are ‘hacked’ into a cooking flame using a fuel bottle with a presurrising hand pump, coupled with a delivery system that vaporises the fuel using the stove’s own heat. Unlike any other type of stove, this is why they need to be primed before use.

Multi-fuel stoves are made by companies who usually specialise in mountaineering and expedition gear. They are expensive but extremely durable and versatile, and the best can be considered once-in-a-lifetime purchases.

Like anything with moving parts, multi-fuel stoves need occasional maintenance to keep them performing well. This could mean anything from unblocking the fuel jet to cleaning soot from the burner, lubricating the pump cup, or replacing seals and O‑rings. All come with a basic maintenance kit included; spare parts and more extensive kits are available separately.

Although they are simple to disassemble, it is worth practising at home before embarking upon a trip of any length.

Cleaning and lubricating the fuel pump of an MSR DragonFly stove during a rest day.

Fuel bottles are not included as standard with multi-fuel stoves, the idea being that you’ll choose the size(s) that meets your needs. You’ll need one special fuel bottle designed to be fitted with the fuel pump and pressurised. It’s recommended to buy one from the same manufacturer as the stove, or buy a ‘combo’ kit in which stove and bottle are included.

As a rough guide to real-world fuel consumption, one 600ml bottle will give a solo rider about a week’s worth of simple evening meals and morning brews. For a pair, the same bottle might last 3–4 days.

Many riders stow fuel bottles outside their luggage for safety and in case of spillage, often in a frame-mounted cage. The BikeBuddy used to be ubiquitous, but the proliferation of bikepacking means many other solutions are now available.

Most of the stoves in the list below can burn petrol, diesel, kerosene (liquid paraffin), jet fuel, white gas (aka: Coleman fuel), and perhaps more, but not alcohol. As a cyclist, you will probably come across roadside filling stations more often than camping equipment suppliers, so your two most accessible fuels will likely be unleaded petrol (aka: benzine) and diesel. Of these, petrol is the cleaner-burning and easier to prime, but more volatile. Diesel produces more particulates and achieving a simmer is more difficult, but it might be your only option in places where agricultural vehicles dominate.

Dig around and you’ll find complaints from people who claim that the flame is tiny or spluttering, that they singed their eyebrows in a massive fireball, or that their stove cakes everything in black soot. Around 90% of the time this will be user error; the other 10% will be poor quality fuel. Watch a few Youtube tutorials to save yourself from future embarrassment, fuel leaks, singed eyebrows, and obnoxious rants on internet forums.


Simple Multi-Fuel Camping Stoves For Boiling Water On Bike Trips

The following stoves have limited or no flame adjustment features, though you can ‘hack’ them in all sorts of clever ways. (My favourite is to bend the windshield around the pot supports and place the pot on top, as pictured above.)

The simplest in design of all multi-fuel stoves, they are highly versatile, designed to burn almost any liquid fuel, and will boil water in the most demanding conditions.

MSR WhisperLite International (£105/$100)

The 320g MSR WhisperLite International (Amazon / All Outdoor / Alpine Trek / Ellis Brigham / REI / MEC / eBay*) is the flagship model in MSR’s multi-fuel stove range, with a track record of nearly 40 years, and can be found on the kit-list of many a world cyclist. Why is it called the WhisperLite? Because, unlike most other multi-fuel stoves, it burns really quietly.

The design is easy to take apart and clean, and while basic tools and spares are included, MSR make an expedition service kit for the stove, which if you’re likely to be on the road for more than a few months is a worthwhile investment.

The flame spreader of the WhisperLite International is large in comparison to some of the other stoves in this list. This makes it better for wider-diameter cooking pots. For the smallest solo cooking pots and mugs it’ll spill heat around the edges, burning fingers and melting handles in the process.

If you want to cook simple meals anywhere in the world, to invest in a good-value stove that’ll last a lifetime, and if ultra-minimalism is not your goal, look no further than the WhisperLite International.

Note: Do not confuse this with the regular WhisperLite (ie: non-International), which looks the same but burns only white gas, a highly refined type of petrol. It’s designed primarily for backpackers in North America, where this fuel is most readily available.

MSR WhisperLite Universal (£160/$140)

The 320g MSR WhisperLite Universal (Amazon / Alpine Trek / Cotswold Outdoor / REI / MEC / eBay*) is a WhisperLite International (see above) that burns canister gas – albeit with a messy change of both fuel jet and hose attachment – and doesn’t burn diesel.

All other physical characteristics are the same as the International. In canister mode, the Universal allows more flame adjustment than when running on liquid fuel, and in this mode could be categorised as a proper ‘cookery’ stove, rather than just a stove for water-boiling.

If you’ll be travelling where UTC gas canisters are available, and you don’t mind the extra cost, the only reason to stick with the plain International is if you’ll be going where diesel is the only available fuel.

(I reviewed this stove in detail when it was launched back in 2012 after a two-month ride down the US West Coast.)

MSR XGK-EX (£160/$160)

The MSR XGK-EX (AmazonREI / Moosejaw / MEC / eBay*) takes the functionality of the WhisperLite International, focuses the heat into a smaller area, and turns up the power to eleven. The result is what for almost 40 years has been the undisputed king of mountaineering stoves, boiling water rapidly in any conceivable weather and circumstances.

While MSR describe it as “the number one choice on expeditions worldwide”, let’s not forget that you’re riding a bicycle, not climbing K2. It’s a blunt tool, leaving room for little else than noisy, rapid boiling, but it’s included it here in case you’re planning a minimalist bike trip in remote, mountainous, high-altitude backcountry where only low-grade diesel is available. (Which does occasionally happen.)


Full-Featured Multi-Fuel Camping Stoves For Proper Cookery (ie: Simmering) On The Road

If my memory serves me correctly, this was a chicken curry with sautéed vegetables on the side, using both an MSR WhisperLite Universal and a DragonFly side-by-side.

The longer your ride, the more you’ll crave variety in your diet. The following stoves all feature flame adjustment, allowing you to cook an omelette, simmer some vegetables or rice, reheat a takeaway, or do something far more clever*.

Similar in packed weight and size, multi-fuel camping stoves designed for simmering are slightly more expensive than the stoves above, and they tend to have slightly longer boiling times, though this is unlikely to bother most bicycle travellers.

It is worth noting that liquid fuel (in particular diesel) is not well suited to delicate cookery, so there is a physical limit to how low a flame you can achieve. Below a certain temperature, the vapourising mechanism will stop working and the fuel will be emitted as liquid, resulting in yellow flames which will cover your gear in soot and make your clothes stink of exhaust fumes even more than they already do.

MSR DragonFly (£140/$140)

The MSR DragonFly (Amazon / Go Outdoors / Alpine TrekREI / Outdoorplay / eBay*) is a noisier, slightly more expensive stove than the WhisperLite International above, with the same fuel compatibility plus the all-important ability to simmer via an additional flame adjuster control between the fuel hose and the burner.

It functions identically to the Optimus Nova below, and it’s a tiny bit cheaper and significantly more popular worldwide. It’s similar in packed size and weight to all the stoves in this list.

Although it has a slightly narrower flame spreader and a slightly longer boil time than the WhisperLite, it’s built to support a bigger range of pots (up to 10″/25cm diameter, according to MSR).

In other words, the DragonFly gives you options.

Among world cyclists in it for the long haul, the MSR DragonFly is one of the most popular stoves of all. I started out with a DragonFly myself back in 2007, and if I was touring alone and out of range of gas canisters, I’d still pack it in my kitchen pannier today.

Optimus Nova (£145/$150)

The Optimus Nova (Amazon UK / Alpine Trek / Moosejaw / eBay*) does the same thing as the MSR DragonFly, except that it looks slightly cooler, is slightly more expensive, and some people will make a lot of noise on the internet about how much better it is (it isn’t).

Optimus bill their flagship multi-fuel stove as ‘legendary’, which I personally think is more about what its users have achieved than anything about the stove itself, but – like the DragonFly – it does come with the peace of mind of a long-standing reputation.

Why you’d buy the Nova instead the DragonFly comes down to availability, whim, and whether or not you can find a good discount.

(If you’re craving some specification sheets to look at and compare, you’re wasting valuable time you could be using to brush up on omelette-cooking skills or to teach yourself to tell the difference between diesel and petrol by fragrance alone.)

Optimus Polaris Optifuel (£150/$180)

The Optimus Polaris Optifuel (Amazon / Alpine Trek / Cotswold Outdoor / Moosejaw / eBay*), on the other hand, does manage to squeeze in a meaningful extra feature: the ability to simmer both on liquid fuel and on UTC gas canisters with the same fuel jet – like a more intelligent and better-looking mashup of the MSR WhisperLite Universal and the Dragonfly.

Of course, you’ll pay handsomely for these features, and it doesn’t have MSR’s 35-year reputation for faultless long-term reliability (or that of the original Optimus Nova).

I’d choose this over the time-proven alternatives only if you really need to burn both diesel and canister gas with the same stove and you’re comfortable with having a relatively new piece of gear at the centre of your cooking setup.

Primus OmniFuel (£190/€215/$170) / OmniLite Ti (€240/$200)

The 375g Primus OmniFuel (Amazon / All Outdoor / Alpine Trek / Cotswold Outdoor / Primus USA / MEC / eBay*) does exactly the same thing as the Optimus Polaris Optifuel: it simmers on both liquid fuel (including diesel) and UTC canister gas. It costs a bit more, weighs a bit less, puts out a bit less heat, and is slightly more widely available than the Optimus, especially in North America.

The OmniFuel is of sufficient renown to have become the staple expedition stove for British Exploring (formerly B.S.E.S.) excursions, winning the OmniFuel a plus point for proven reliability.

If you want the simmering functionality and assured reliability of the DragonFly plus the ability to burn canister fuel and money is no object, the OmniFuel is probably your stove.

If money is no object and you want the lightest multi-fuel stove on the market, take a look at the titanium-bodied, 230g Primus OmniLite Ti (Amazon / Alpine Trek / Cotswold Outdoor / OutdoorGear UK / Backcountry.com / Primus USA), which is the same stove made out of a more expensive metal.

Otherwise, you can save loads of money on the ability to burn both gas and liquid fuel by buying a DragonFly and a cheap top-mounted canister burner to go with it.


Bonus #1: How To Get An Expensive Multi-Fuel Camping Stove For Cheap

Multi-fuel camping stoves are a great example of expensive pieces of equipment that people convince themselves they need when they actually don’t.

It doesn’t take long for some buyers to realise that canister gas is much more pleasant to cook with, and that they’re not really going on a massive round-the-world expedition anyway.

The result is that barely-used multi-fuel stoves turn up pretty regularly on eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist, climbing and outdoor forums, Facebook gear exchange groups, etc.

If you do actually need one of these beasts, and you want to save as much money as possible, you’ve little to lose by buying second hand. Even a relatively well-used stove, if it’s been looked after, will keep going for years.

Bonus #2: How To Go Cycle Touring Or Bikepacking Without A Stove

Perhaps the best stove for your bike trip is no stove at all…?

This seems like a good opportunity to remind you that the simplest way to feed yourself on tour is to buy food from supermarkets and bakeries, eat street food and restaurant meals, and skip cookery altogether, losing about half a pannier’s worth of gear in the process.

It’s often a more expensive way to feed yourself – but just for good measure, here are a few simple ways of keeping costs down in the no-stove scenario:

  • Subsist entirely on cold picnic food. It’s all calories at the end of the day.
  • Make extensive use of Couchsurfing or Warmshowers: your host(s) will almost certainly let you use their kitchen, and may well even feed you (though you shouldn’t take this for granted).
  • Most budget hostels have cooking facilities, as do many campsites. Rustic campgrounds in the USA provide fire braziers and might sell firewood.
  • Take a single pan or mug and get good at lighting cooking fires. If this immediately makes you concerned about your environmental impact, know that it’s possible to leave no trace if you know how.
  • As a compromise, consider a Kelly Kettle or similar wood-burning camp stove.
A Kelly Kettle is bulky but provides a way to boil water using nothing more than a handful of dry twigs.

So here you are, 7,480 words later, at the end of my guide to buying a stove for a bike trip. Well done. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Now grab whatever stove is closest to hand and go cycling already!