Camping in the Brompton Touring Pannier

Camping in the Brompton Touring Pannier
One bag to haul them all

ar-ultralite-21I originally posted this on the Bromptontalk forum on 9 October 2008 after the 2008 Brompton World Championships. Now I have my S-Bag Saddlebag strategy it becomes much easier to pack for camping and touring.

Just thought I’d mention that I managed to do full camping equipment in the touring pannier for the BWC. The mighty bag contained:

Mountain Equipment AR Ultralight 2 tent
Thermarest Prolite 3 3/4 self-inflating mattress
Thermarest medium pillow
Vango Venom 220 sleeping bag (not quite warm enough, I think it got down to 2-4degC)
Thermarest armchair
MSR Pocket Rocket stove
Gas cartridge
Titanium billy set
Platypus 2 litre water carrier
Insulated mug
powdered milk
Socks and underwear
Fleece sweater
Cycling shorts (under the trousers in the race)
Zip-off trousers
Suit Jacket
White shirt and tie

I moved all the usual clutter out of the pannier and transferred tools, waterproof etc into my Altura Arran seatpost bag which is a bit bigger than the typical small wedge. The rear pockets held the thermarest mat and the cooking stuff. everything else went inside the main bag, it was full but just about closed. I don’t know if the waterproof cover would have gone over it.

If I hadn’t packed my racing suit I guess I could have fitted in some food and more practical clothes so it’s looking possible to do a few days camping with just the pannier and a small saddlebag. It’s taken me about 4 years to pare down the size of my kit but it’s more comfortable as well as being smaller and lighter. The Thermarest armchair is the essential extra for my creaking joints and I’ve just found a reasonably flat inflatable cushion (about 3-4cm thick) that will probably elevate the Thermarest pillow to the right height for crick-free sleeping and allow me full use of the shortie mattress.

I know some people go for bivvy bags and regard pillows as for softies but I’m not doing this as a penance. Also tarps can be very effective but not in our damp conditions in Britain. On the night before the BWC there was a thick autumn fog which saturated the tent but I was nice and dry inside. Had to pack it up wet as the fog had not cleared at 9am.

The AR is a very good tent for comfort as you can “sit up in bed” (with the armchair) with one side open (either side depending on wind) and have your stove brewing up right alongside you.

There was some pressure to race with the full kit but I decided I would be slow enough without, although it might be fun to have different classes in future BWC – campers would, of course, have to pitch the tent and make a full meal at the end of the race.


12 Responses to “Camping in the Brompton Touring Pannier”

  1. Nigel Healy Says:

    Hi Chris, hope you get some more camping now we’re emerging from winter. I never found the 3/4 length Thermarest justified exposing the feet to the cold earth, and I never really found an affordable winter sleeping bag that could fit. However, there are unaffordable bags like from PHD which may allow you to stretch into winter season.
    Although not fast, I am used to Trangia combines the stove with billy can int something stable you can brew up whilst pitching camp and to drink after dismantling. My tent is Terra Nova Laser Competitive, [Brompton (typo corrected by CR)] nearly perfectly fits in the porch but had to put some padding around the sharp bits with worry of the wind wearing a hole in the tent. I just last couple of days have back in full working order my Schlumpf Mountain Drive and my camping gear, may do some exploring of the Marin area to the north of my home in San Francisco. I have settled on S-bag for front and a Carradice rackbox for the rear, handles well with the weight low.

  2. chrisrust Says:

    I’ve found the 3/4 Thermarest OK for mild weather, September in the UK was chilly for my lightweight bag but not a problem for the bits sticking below the mat, partly because I’m not tall and if I can get a pillow organised above the mat at the top not much sticks out at the bottom. The bigger issue is making sure that my ankle bone doesn’t touch the hard ground and become uncomfortable.
    I’ve always gone for the most compact gas stove but I keep looking at the alternatives and wondering. Usually they seem too bulky to pack easily.

  3. Miguel Marcos Says:

    On the short pad issue: When hiking I’ve always just laid the backpack under my feet. I guess when bikiing I’d lay a pannier instead.

    On the stove issue: I’ve been using an alcohol stove (mine is the Whitebox). Of course, it works ideally when all you have to do is boil water, which is my case. I prepare ziplocs of oatmeal, fast cooking polenta or couscous and such with condiments, dump the water and leave the ziploc in a cozy for 10 minutes while it cooks. This system is really nice as well because there’s no real washing up to do, no need for soap, sponge. I just rinse and roll up the ziplocs (to be thoroughly cleaned at the end of the trip).

    I like the idea of the bag attached to the saddle though I would opt for a backpack-type bag and some a lightweight support mechanism to push the bag away from my thighs. I remember seeing a photo in the Brompton Yahoo group of someone who latched up a sizeable backpack to the saddle. This Brompton had a rear rack and the pack rested on the rack. The pack was kept away from the thighs with a bungee I think that pulled it toward the back of the rack.

  4. velohobo Says:

    The S-Bag looks plenty spacious. There are precious few web resources for Ultralight bike-camping/touring but lots for Ultralight backpacking. The biggest weight and space savings I’ve been able to make have been with cooking and shelter. My wife and I tour using either a homemade Pepsi can alcohol stove or we use Ebsit tabs. We use a homemade wind-screen/pot stand combo with both. Zen stoves is a great source for info on making Ultralight (and cheap) stoves:

    As for sleeping, when alone I sleep under a light weight poncho. Of course my wife will not consider this, so when touring together we use the Big Agnes seedhouse 2 which can be pitched with the rainfly only.

    Sounds like you’ve got a very nice setup. I look forward to reading more about your camping adventures,


  5. chrisrust Says:

    Thanks Jack, I realise you are the guvnor when it comes to minimal touring. Nigel Healy, a stalwart of the Bromptontalk forum, swears by the S-bag for touring but he uses the larger C-bag for business travel and longer trips where he has to carry more than the minimal survival needs, which is my usual situation. Also the British climate discourages minimal camping unless you are very tough, too many different ways to get wet.
    But my cycle-camping may be limited in future as our Pino means I’m more likely to be cycling with my partner who has genuine reasons not to sleep on the hard ground.

  6. Nigel Healy Says:

    Well 50% of the joy of camping is the preparation. I am this week in UK and brought all my camping gear from USA to leave here, I return for 4 weeks in July and will be doing quite a bit of Brompton touring then. Since we posted the above, the only major product changes have been the Thermorest Neoair, I had a chance to play with one recently, its quite a bit lighter and the only major obvious change to kit-list.
    I suspect I can probably do summer-camping purely in the C-bag, although the S-bag is more aerodynamic. My next big investment will likely be a good quality down sleeping bag, my summer bag is ok but restricts to ….well… summer camping. For cooler camping the big change is the sleeping bag and small warm ones expect to pay 200+.
    Really, the only major difference between backpacking light and cycling camping is that you are not so bothered about the weight, but am sensitive to volume.
    To keep total volume to minimum, I’d like to find a winter bag which stuffs into the C-bag rear pocket.

  7. Martin Hartley Says:

    A “Touring/Camping” Race would be interesting. Race around a course, set up your tent, sleeping mat and bag, boil water and make a cup of tea would be an interesting sort of competition. No doubt I would still come last because I like to take my time (my best average trip speed when touring was just over 12mph last time I travelled).

  8. chrisrust Says:

    Hey stop bragging. I struggle to get over 9mph

  9. Miguel Marcos Says:

    Sounds like an opportunity to found the Slow Bike movement. I’d be a charter member myself.

  10. Nigel Healy Says:

    a cycle/camping touring trip of just a few miles will likely be dominated by the type of tent and stove, not the bike nor the rider’s fitness. To win that race I’d probably use a bivvy and a Jetboil or something reputable for fast boiling. However that’s not representative of true cycling-camping as if I’m cold/hungry/thirsty I start my stove off to the side and then erect tent so parallel cooking+pitching as slow-stoves can be ignored to a degree. And of course there’s pitching tents quickly, and there’s getting it tight all way round capable of surviving bad weather.

  11. chrisrust Says:

    Well clearly we need proper rules.
    1. To be judged by an expert nominated by the Camping and Caravanning Club
    2. Camping equipment to be suitable for cycle touring in October in the UK, ie likelihood of heavy dew, somewhere to unpack your stuff out of the rain, so a proper tent.
    3. Extra time credits to be awarded for each luxury the competitor includes, eg sleeping mat, bedtime reading, hot water bottle whatever
    4. Clock stops when the tea is ready to drink, the bedding laid out ready for sleep, Bike parked neatly and all luggage stowed/unpacked as appropriate.

  12. George Leach Says:

    I’d take a quechua tent, they just pop up, poor on aerodynamics but I think I’d save enough on pitch time. A Jetboil would be the obvious chice for boiling. I’d take a PHD minimus and a two speed brommie. Probably put the equipment in a rucksack to speed up folding and unfolding. Essentially it’d be nothing like cycle touring.

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