Fully Loaded

Winter finally gave in to summer without bothering with spring this year, so over the weekend of May 10th and 11th we made our first "dry run" camping excursion to see how we managed with a full load of gear.  One question we want to resolve is whether we’re better off carrying our kit in panniers or loading it into a trailer. Our Swaledale Outdoor Club chums Nev and Saskia kindly lent us their trailer so this run was as much a test of that as it was a camping expedition.

We booked in to the Demesne Farm campsite in Bellingham, Northumberland; forty miles as the crow flies from our Hollinside abode.  To make the test as realistic as possible we took pretty much everything we expect to take on our jaunt – up to a point.  Maps of Sweden, Italy etc stayed at home but we loaded in waterproofs, fleece jackets, cooking gear, tent, sleeping mats….ah, yes, sleeping mats.  Our Mountain Equipment self inflating efforts were bought for the comfort of car camping, not light weight bike touring.  They weigh a kilo each and took up most of the trailer!  We had to leave one out.  Kathryn volunteered to sleep on the hard ground.  I wouldn’t hear of it, of course – but she insisted.

Even so it was clear early on that we would struggle to get everything we needed into the trailer.   It’s not as big as it looks, and you need to be able to roll down the top of the BOB waterproof bag to make it weather tight.  So the tent went on the pannier rack. 

Well, it was a glorious run in both directions in some very warm sunshine. 

(Newton, Northumberland)

The good news is that the trailer handles very well on the bike.  In fact, you don’t really know it’s there at all, except for the extra weight when you go uphill.  Unfortunately, as soon as we got off the bike it was a different story.  The combination of long bike and short trailer makes it very difficult to reverse without the whole arangement jack-knifing.  Also, we had to unhitch the trailer  to negotiate a big step on the Derwent Walk at Consett.  Once unhooked, the single-wheel trailer with its heavy load is very difficult to manage and tends to tip over.  Also, with everything in one bag, setting up and striking camp meant completely unpacking and repacking in order to get the bag back in the trailer in the morning – a minor irritation but over the course of a few months it might turn into a major one.

Well worth a try, though, and a real possibility.  Over the two days we managed 94 miles at an average of just over 10 mph – about the same as on the unloaded bike on the Lanchester Audax.

(Dinnertime at Demesne Farm)

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