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What I learned on my trip to the Alps

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  • What I learned on my trip to the Alps

    Just got back from a clockwise trip through the Alps, from England. I've only done 2 days camping before this, so I went from zero to her.... well, a little tiny bit over zero Thought I would share my observations- feel free to share, add, disagree

    Tents- I went with my stepson, who had a tiny one person tent of his own. We were able to have our own tent about 2/3 of the time, as most charged little or nothing for the tent, but mostly per person. In some places (mostly France), it was for the pitch, so you can have as many as you like It was a pain carrying it, but it was worth it to have a few hours of alone time most nights. Ground sheet for under the tent was worth the money, as there are stones, etc, that get missed when preparing the ground.

    I purchased a Ark 400+. Mixed feelings, as I loved having a 'living room' separate from the bedroom and being able to (almost) stand up, but it was quite heavy/ bulky and not the best quality. Made up a custom centre pole (more sections- shorter overall) so the pole bag would fit in the top box. I saw a few tents with only the inner fitted, which seems really nice in the sunny weather.
    If I had my time again, I would get something a little smaller for the main tent, but a slightly bigger one for the boy.

    Cooking- Before I went away, I understood that the screw on gas cannisters would be easy to buy, so I only took a couple with me, plus adapters so I could use the cheaper ones, or ciggy lighter type. Long story short, I had about a week where I could only find the pierced ones, so had to spend quite a bit eating out and missing out on morning coffees

    Perhaps one of the 'any fuel' types would have been better?

    I had a cook set that was 2 saucepans, a frying pan and a kettle nesting. I'm not sure what I should have done- perhaps ditch the kettle, so I could fit the stove and a gas inside?

    Mileage- You're never that far from the next town/ city in Europe, so mega mile days aren't necessary. I had a few long ones, such as getting from the channel tunnel, straight into Bavaria (bottom bit of Germany), but mostly kept the mileage down, so we could stop as we fancied.

    Amount of stuff taken- I think we got that about right. 3 changes of underwear, 1st aid kit, toiletries bag, swimming gear, trainers, etc. Was still surprised when it wouldn't fit in the 3 panniers, although the side one's on the Pan are pretty small.

    Cost- I underestimated 100 euros each day. Fuel is VERY expensive in much of Europe. Campsites ranged from 11 Euros to 38. Average was low 20s.

    Bedding- In my test camp, I woke up with sore hips from my Exped 9. Couldn't afford a 'proper' cot, so got a Chinese one from ebay, that is a Helicot copy. It was brutal getting the side rails in, as the material kept sticking and the poles came out. All the poles started to bend over the month, plus the brackets came 'unclicked'. Lessons learnt; a cot is a sure fire way of increasing comfort, but cough up for quality kit. Also, a cot keeps the mattress off the stony ground.

    Had loads of problems with the Exped. Firstly, we were sent a 7, despite ordering 9s. My stepson's became hard to inflate, so took him about 4 times longer than mine. Near the end of the trip, mine started loosing pressure in the night. Still haven't figured out what's what.

    Got cheap/ thin 3 season rectangular sleeping bags. Much more comfortable than a mummy bag, especially unzipped, as we had it.

    Bike- ST1300. Filled all 3 panniers, plus a 30L roll bag on top of each pannier. Too much weight over rear, made handling light at the front, most noticably on the hairpin turns. Dropped it twice, which is really easy to do with all that weight on it. No real damage done. Adjustable screen is a godsend for controlling temperature.

    GPS- Zumo 390LM. Great bit of kit, but didn't have long enough to learn Basecamp, so had to keep putting in short range locations, or it would pick a silly route. Mucked us around a few times, repeatedly asking us to do U turn after U turn, or counting the wrong turn at a roundabout. Still better than just relying on a map (we did have one as a back up).

    Hotels Vs Camping. We booked several hotels, but after a few days camping, preferred it so much, I tried to cancel as many of the hotels/ B&Bs as possible.

    Stuff- Charged off of a Powerlet bar riser, via 4 USBs. Adapters kept coming out, so didn't always charge, but when it stayed put, we could charge up a phone in a bit over an hour and a tablet in about 3. Tent light batteries didn't last long, so a rechargable one would have been good (if there is such a thing!). 5L water bag was great. 1L canteens were invaluable, especially as few places would let you have water for free. Firesteels are great and work without fuss- plus we had leg hair burning competitions 30L Oxford tank bag was great, but it touched the horn button, frightening the sh1t out of me, more than once

    What I would do differently- Should have got a head torch- it would have come in so handy so many times.

    Not put up with overpriced campsites, plus had a good list, rather than relying on what the Sat Nav suggested.

    Been even more flexible with riding, as we were constantly finding things to stop for, that we hadn't planned.

    Taken more gas, or had a multi fuel stove. Uprated our cooking skills, maybe including roadkill cooking.

    Smaller tent. For sure, I would change those crappy bent stick pegs for some good ones, plus taken a hammer (they went in so easily in my garden ).

    Learned how to use Sat Nav before we went away. Plus, mounting it higher (Migsel, or similar).

    Considering- looking into trailers.

    mounting the roll bags on the front (no idea how that would happen), or trim the stuff down, so we could get it all in the panniers.

    I'm sure I've overlooked LOADS of stuff, but I'll see if I even get any replies before adding anything else.

  • #2
    Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps



    • #3
      Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps

      Bike loaded.jpg


      • #4
        Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps



        • #5
          Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps



          • #6
            Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps

            Not really got many of the set up. Have nearly 2,000 of the trip, but that's not much help, is it


            • #7
              Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps

              Would really have loved to have made ride with you....


              • #8
                Re: What I learned on my trip to the Alps

                Thanks for the write-up. I used to ride an ST1300. Great for touring
                It can be a real pack mule and carry a lot of kit.
                Wish I could camp in Europe. Sounds like you had a good time.
                I use a Go-Kot and a Kelty tent.
                My life is a caricature of reality
                David C.
                Suzuki VStrom 650 - Sold, Current Ryde Can Am Spyder STS -" "
                Honda ST1300 - Sold, Suzuki Burgman 400 - RIP