Kit reviews

Arkel XM panniers

I chose them because they're yellow, probably not the best reason however they're very well designed. The XM models are really made for mountain bikes to cope with the reduced heel clearance but then the alternative GT-54 Grand touring model didn't come in yellow. Edinburgh Bike Co-operative had the rear XM-45s which I bought and immediately loved. I had to contact Arkel directly to get hold of the matching front XM-28s, fortunately they had some in a warehouse down south somewhere and had them shipped to me. The people at Arkel could not be faulted on service.

The panniers have a cordura outer with a black waterproof liner bag in the main compartment. This means that side access is through two zips which is something I've never done, preferring to root around the bag from the top. They're not blessed with pockets but the little top pocket with diagonal zip is easy to access. The XM-45s have a long pocket on the back edge which holds a surprising amount. The best thing is the hook attachment locking device which is really secure and easy to undo, especially when yanking off a heavy full pannier. The handles allow you to carry all four panniers at once with two in each hand back to back. The fastening straps work in a way which pulls everything into a slender, compressed package, close to the bike for stability.

The front XM-28s are very cute but really need to be fully packed to retain their shape. Less than full and the top tends to flop over when fastened. I've altered mine by replacing the back board with a taller plastic sheet, which makes the lid stand up even when the bag is half full. Maybe Arkel should consider this re-design.

They've done a few miles now and still give every impression of being bombproof.

Garmin Edge 705

Brilliant in every way though expensive.

The full features of the Garmin Edge 705 bike computer come alive when used in conjunction with a computer. Online, I used to create GPX route files downloaded to my mac, a really very simple process. These were then dragged and dropped into the GPX folder on the Edge via the USB cable. The result is turn for turn navigation, full bike computer data and maps together with recording of actual route, elevations, cadence and timings. All this data can then be shared on Garmin's Connect website.

There are more advanced models available now with touch screen technology.


In April, I spent a very enjoyable couple of days on Jura, camping and walking. It was warm during the day with bright sunshine in a cloudless sky, but very cold at night. I discovered that my trusty Tesco finest sleeping bag was sadly no longer up to the job and as I shivered through the night, resolved to find a new bag urgently.

I searched online for a lightweight, compressible, dependable sleeping bag and read a number of comments in bicycle touring forums. PHD came highly recommended and I very nearly specified my ideal bag using their excellent 'design your own bag' feature. I hesitated due to the tight lead time and found another posting suggesting Alpkit as an alternative to PHD. I'd never heard of Alpkit and their website was a revelation.

I chose the PipeDream 400 sleeping bag which seemed to fit my requirements. It weighs just 790g and is highly compressible for stuffing in its tiny bag. Out of the bag though it lofts up amazingly and is very snuggly and warm. I'm fairly tall and probably at the limit of its comfort lengthwise, however I marvelled at the improvement on Tesco's finest. It's fairly minimalist with 400g of 90-10 goose down, a DWR coating for damp protection and a right hand baffled zip. Comfort value is +2°C, limit -4°C and extreme (not recommended) -20°C.

I could have spent a small fortune but limited myself to some cook wear starting with a new stove. The Kraku caught my eye being 'possibly the world's lightest commercially available ultralight gas stove'.

I bought the Koro stove instead as I like the ability to tip up the canister to eak out the last of the gas. It really is high powered with a pre-heat tube, fine adjustment for simmering, armoured hose and sturdy titanium construction. It weighs just 124g and collapses nicely to fit in its little mesh bag. You can watch the video on the website for more information. It also works well with the Brupot.

The Brupot aluminium cooking pot is brilliant. It's like the top bit of a Jetboil, a nice big one litre pot that has a heat exchanger on the bottom that really does increase the efficiency of the heating process. It has folding handles, a neoprene jacket cosy, silicone lid and a mesh bag. I only used mine to heat water for drinks and boil-in-the-bag food, which it did brilliantly on top of the Koro.

The drinks that I made in the Kelvin mug. It's a titanium twin-walled insulated mug that comes with a lid that seals in the top, the twist lock arrangement reveals a drinking slot. This too has a mesh bag. I love this mug for its simplicity and effectiveness. I left the tea brewing in the mug, confident that it'd still be hot after the food was ready. It fits nicely in the hand, stays cool on the outside and doesn't spill.

The best thing is that the Koro just about fits inside the Kelvin and a gas cylinder fits inside the Brupot with room for a lighter. In other words, my entire cooking paraphernalia consisted of just two packages.

Kit list

I've compiled a list of cycle touring kit and wild camping gear that I take with me and this can be downloaded either as a PDF or MS Word document. I hope that I remembered everything, you could edit the word document and use it as the basis for assembling your own kit. Click here to access the download selection page.

I hope some of this is useful, please send your comments and feedback to me at