Please, justify each item/action you take/do to qualify to be self-supportive during touring. My problem is independent touring around the world. The term self-support per se means no extra luggage, among other things, because you cannot carry them.

UPDATE I will award the bounty to person who makes my hope possible: I want a new clearer community wiki -format so that no-one will get credit and everyone are free to make edits, without creating duplicate answers and keeping this question clearer and more accessible for future users. If there is no willing mod, I will reward the bounty to a person that makes the largest contribution to find self-supportive tips on this site or other sites, appropriate to touring.

Discussion in meta here.

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    While this is an interesting topic for discussion, I don't think it makes a very good question.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 19:39
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    @hhh - What Jay means is that, while this is a good topic, it's not a single, answerable question that has a single answer -- that's the way Stack Exchange works -- it's a call for discussion. You're not asking what the term means, you're asking for people to discuss it. Stack Exchange is not a discussion board. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 7:48
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    I already explained, and so did Jay, and both explanations are clear. If you'd like to discuss further, please create a thread on meta rather than keep discussing this here. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:41
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    @hhh: Moz has provided a very good answer, I don't see why you would break it up into 5 separate answers? Consolidating multiple answers into one improved answer makes sense, but not the reverse.
    – darkcanuck
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 4:39
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    @hhh: One big summary is better for the StackExchange format. Approved & highly ranked answers drift to the top of the list, so if you split up an answer, sections with few votes may not get viewed by someone interested in the topic. If the answers are too massive, then the question is too broad. Try to ask focused questions that can be answered in a reasonable amount of space. If you want information about transporting your bike, ask "What is the best way to travel with my bike from A to Z?" and list some of your criteria in the question body.
    – darkcanuck
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 4:50

4 Answers 4


Self-Supported Touring

I do most of the obvious things - I have a hammock, stove, basic first aid and bike repair equiment, carry food and water etc. As I often tour in places where there are no shops and that motor vehicles can't go this is necessary. I do get food parcels and other necessities posted to me and pick those up along my route. Having a cellphone/internet device makes it easier to arrange those drops. I use a digital camera rather than film, but that's become the norm.

Extra or unusual things I do:

  • carry a small solar charger to recharge my phone and music player
  • eat roadkill from time to time (it's free and environmentally friendly). In NZ where it's legal I've also carried a slingshot to kill pest species and eat those too.
  • use a hammock rather than a tent because it's more flexible and less obvious, so it's easier to free camp
  • wear long sleeved shirts and pants rather than using sunscreen (personal preference, but also more sustainable/self-supporting)
  • use a liquid fuelled stove (in NZ) or fires (in Australia) rather than disposable gas cartridges to get more cooking per kg of carried weight. It often hard to find fuel for a cooking fire in NZ even when it's legal to use one.
  • I use public transport to get to and from tours. Or I just ride from where I live. Since I don't own a car that's easy for me, but I meet a lot of people whose "cycle tour" involves driving further than they ride.
  • shop mostly at supermarkets rather than tourist shops or corner shops to save money. In Australia especially it can be 1Mm or more between supermarkets. So I often carry food for a week or more between shopping expeditions.

My experience is limited to countries where I already speak the language and have citizenship rights so I haven't faced any of those issues. But my tendency is to learn the language etc anyway, and since I'm a geek citizenship has not been especially hard to get. When you're young a "working holiday" visa is often easy enough to get and is worthwhile (since it lets you work legally).

I do cycle tour as a holiday, I regard it as a break from my normal life. I usually quit my job, stop renting somewhere to live, give away or sell my spare possessions, and go ride my bike for a few months. I've worked hard to get into a position where that's possible.

I don't usually prepare physically for a tour, I just pile up the stuff I need and go. The first week is slow and hard, after that I get fitter and start riding further and faster. Usually I lose ~5%-10% of my bodyweight while touring and come back with more muscle as well. I suspect that means I'm fat and lazy...

  • @hhh: no, because your question is about self-supported touring. If you want separate answers you need to ask separate questions. Jay and Neil have both explained this to you.
    – Мסž
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 22:05
  • +1 Moz, you've obviously done some serious touring. The long sleeves is a good tip, I developed a permanent allergy to ordinary sunscreen after a 2-month tour.
    – darkcanuck
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 4:35
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    @darkcanuck: not serious, fun! moz.geek.nz/mozbike/ride/nz-2005/01-20-twizel/… If you look carefully I'm exposing only my hands and face. And that shirt is still white! Another tip is to buy gloves that don't have ventilation holes in them, for the same reason. Somewhere there's a photo of me wearing pink fluffy cleaning gloves on the bike because the black cycling gloves were too hot.
    – Мסž
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 5:02
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    @hhh: I bought a cheap USB solar charger thing with battery on fleabay for the last trip because I only needed to charge USB devices. Normally I carry a 6W glass panel with various smart chargers that run off that. But the weight of that is over 1kg and it's fragile, so I'm not sure it would work for upright cyclists using panniers.
    – Мסž
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 4:02
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    @hhh: there are some dyno hubs coming out with all sorts of attachments for this stuff. Perhaps look at those - they're mostly aimed at charging cellphones but I'm sure that's not all they can do. one example is pedalpower.com.au
    – Мסž
    Commented Mar 10, 2011 at 20:31



  • world-travelling bike suggestions here


I. Clothes

The tips are copycatted partially from the source.

  • wear long sleeved shirts and pants rather than using sunscreen (moz)
  • long sleeved riding clothes (for sunny days) (moz)
  • short sleeved riding clothes (for overcast days) (moz)
  • non-bike clothes: "usually long pants and a collared shirt made of synthetic fabric" (moz)

II. Diet

  • control your vitamins and other important agents here
  • maintain your medicine more here
  • water here
  • eat roadkill (moz)
  • eat pests, carry a slingshot (moz)
  • food parcels and other necessities from post-offices on the route (moz)
  • shop mostly at supermarkets rather than tourist shops or corner shops to save money.
  • with low-supermarket-density "carry food for a week or more between shopping expeditions" (moz)
  • use a liquid fuel rather than gas to get more cooking per kg (moz)

III. Electronics

  • carry a small solar charger to recharge my phone and music player (moz)
  • many batteries to phone
  • a cellphone/internet device makes it easier to arrange food drops (moz's idea)
  • a digital camera rather than film (moz's idea)

IV. Sleeping

  • "hammock rather than a tent -- less obvious -- easier to free camp" (moz)
  • "US MILITARY GoreTex BIVY Sleeping Bag" -oversupply, cheap and good in rains


I. Transportation

  • public transport to get to and from tours (moz)
  • boxing a bike for an airplane, more here
  • Shipping and bike cases here

II. Bureaucrasy

  • mark locations of embassies to your map
  • passport and some cash (cash belt good in unknown places, cards may not work)

Since self-sustainability is a question of degree, I don't think there is a definitive answer.

To me, self-sustainable mainly means that there is not bus following me or my group. So I take along everything I need during the day. To me it also means that I carry all my luggage (no luggage transport for tours of more than one day).

I have never gone so far as to try and avoid buying anything during the day, as I generally cycle in populated areas, but it might make sense if you are cycling in remote areas.


You must know how to prioritize.

tight budgeting, reuse and substitutes

  • new/expensive items can attract high import duties so be well prepared with some extra grit and perhaps-even-auction-site-sell-outs, more on the final page here.
  • money belt (still open the safest way)
  • wine cask bags to store water, more here
  • cooking oil to clean dirty chains, more here

light-weight, double-duty and independence

  • no nice heavy leg-pump so high-volume endurance tires because they won't easily break and they are easy to pump
  • light utensils such as Light-my-fire -item
  • replace your U-lock with things such as locking skewers, two-open-ended cable, rear-cycle-lock
  • Your catastrophe heater works in cooking and purifying water, more here.
  • have some prescription drugs more here and your other meds
  • passport, some cash, phone
  • first-aid-kit
  • some emergency-tools like powerful-flashlight-knife/pepper-spray/equivalent.
  • sleeping bag rather than a tent should have your top priority, more on the page 20 of the book [x].
  • bivy bag, tarp-tent and hammock with parachute cord (about 1-2meters per end in your hammock with knots along)
  • lights: torch with rechargeable batteries and hub-dynamo-lights (theft-risk i.e. expensive) like here (nb the open-ended cable). Recommendation to have one flashlight for touring front-light and for camping the better, more about the double duty on the page 4 [x].

Books & Checklists

  • US-biased tips about sleeping on the page 111 in the book [y], covers shortly legality and such things. In summary, AYH, how-to-act-in-hotels/motels, where-to-look-sleeping-places, lawn-sleeping, --
  • Availabitily of bicycle parts in different locations such as African countries on the page 67 of the book [x]
  • claims-to-be-complete checklist here but contains some oddities like pepper-spray, QR axle -- and misses prescription meds (just an overview)
  • self-contained bicycle gears here: covers important things such as how-to-use iodine/chlorine tablets, white-water-bottle-instead-of-clear, why-to-add-some-extra-grit-to-your-items-in-entering-a-country,


[x] the book "Bicycle touring: how to prepare for long rides" by Steve Butterman

[y] the book "The essential touring cyclist: the complete guide for the bicycle traveler By Richard A. Lovett, Vera Jagendorf"

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