Optimus Multi-fuel Stove (nova)

Having now done 20 weeks on the bike and cooked over 100 meals on our Optimus Sove we feel we can do a quick review. 

We’ve been very happy with the stove. We have mainly been burning kerosene in it as it is very easily available in Asia and is a much cleaner fuel than diesel (all your pans will be black if you use diesel). 

The stove is very compact and we keep the fuel bottle in one of our bottle racks on the bike (check the size of your racks we had to buy a special one to fit the fuel bottle). 

It’s very easy to use and cooks everything we’ve done pretty quickly. 

The best thing about the stove is its simple design – it’s easy to understand how it works and it’s pretty simple to take apart. If you start having problems (keeps going out or flame lickers) remove and replace/clean the small filter in the bottle tube. You’ll need some pliers to get it off. We ran out of filters about 4 months in and have been using a tiny piece of cotton rag instead! This has worked just as well.

With your stove comes a metal tool which opens the nuts and bolts and has a strong magnet incased at the top. Do NOT lose this tool! 

Use this (run it along the bottom of the stove) to ensure the small pin in the main body is moving up and down through the fuel hole. The pin clears the hole so fuel can escape while under pressure. 

After every use, before connecting the stove pipe to the bottle we open the green tap and let any fuel in the metal tube run out. We connect it all up and then run the magnet along the bottom of the stove.

If this small pin section breaks or you lose is as we have done don’t worry. The stove will still work without it. You will need a very thin piece of wire to poke in the hole to clear it though. We use some thin wire from an old it of electrical wire.

When we got to China Kerosene was much harder to find so we switched to using diesal – the stove doesn’t burn petrol. Because diesal is much dirtier than kerosene your pans tend to get blacker. The stove tends to take longer to prime on diesal too but apart from that it burns well. 

We needed to clean the stove a bit more after we started using diesal. Note that after a while all multi-fuel stoves need some tlc…

We also lost the metal plate for the stove and now use a flattened steel bottle top. Works brilliantly!

Don’t panic if the stove stops working – calmly dismantle it and check for blockages by blowing through the connecting tubing and clearing the small outlet hole. Remove the filter if you need to and ensure there’s enough pressure and fuel in the bottle.

Avoid dragging the connecting ends of the stove on the ground and clear out remains of old gritty fuel from bottle once in a while!

Optimus customer service is brilliant – we lost the small brass bolt for the bottom of our stove and within days we had had a new one sent free of charge to our home address in the UK.

P.s It doesn’t burn meth or petrol

Two Man MSR NX Hubba Hubba Tent


Being on the tandem means that we have to be very careful about the weight and size of our gear. We needed a lightweight, compact tent which would be suitable in hot desert conditions as well as freezing temperatures. 

We opted (like many other cycle tourers) for an MSR make and decided that the 2 Man NX Hubba Hubba would be a good choice.

After 11 months on the road and 119 nights sleeping in it the verdict is out. We have been very happy with how the tent has performed. 

It has all the features we need – it’s very light and it’s free standing which is great for when you need to camp on concrete. Only the vestibule sides need to be pegged down but if that’s not possible we tie ropes around the hook and weight these down with heavy boulders. If you need to erect the tent in the rain it’s possible to put up the waterproof fly sheet first and then clip the red inside section in after so it stays dry. In hot weather you can sleep without the fly sheet and the majority of the inside section is mesh which helps to keep you mercifully cool. You get to go to sleep staring at the nights sky too… 


We also sometimes used the tent like this in hotel rooms when we needed to protect ourselves from mozzies. It’s the best net system we have – we threw away our other mosquito net in the end! 

You can comfortably both sit in the tent without stooping. There are two useful side pockets and two places to hang camping lights inside. Once erected the tent feels very stable and solid and it’s performed well in strong winds. 

We’ve only had a few minor problems with condensation. The two windows help to keep it minimal. 

The tent is just big enough for us both to lie down with our handlebar bag sitting in the middle at our feet. Paddy is over 6ft and he just about fits. There is not much room for anything else although it’s roomier than some other two man tents we’ve slept in. Our cycling friends Andy and Clare have the 3 Man mother Hubba version of this tent and they like having the extra room especially as they have 2 bikes so more bags than us. 

Because Paddy is tall and we need the handlebar bag in the tent with us it means that the insert does touch the fly sheet at the corners and at the bottom. This is obviously an issue if it rains and we did have a bit of a problem with some minimal leaking in heavy rain. The bottom of the insert is pretty waterproof. However, we came up with a handy way of solving this problem – simply stick your 1.5L water bottles in each corner between the two layers! This pushes the fly sheet out and ensures the rain drips off onto the ground rather than seeping onto the insert.

It’s great that the tent has two vestibules. We don’t like leaving our bags on the bike overnight and we can just fit our four panniers (2 X 27L and 2 X 20L) inside one of the vestibules leaving the other side free for us to use as an entrance and to store our shoes and empty rack bag. This also means you have a vestibule free to cook in if you wake up to rain.

The zip seams are designed well so the water runs downs easily from them. 

It’s quick and easy for one person to erect. 

In our experience MSR customer service is brilliant. Naturally after 1 year there is some minimal wear and tear to the tent (e.g. A few small tears in the fly sheet and a small crack in a pole). They got back to us within 3 days and offered to send us a replacement pole section, patches to fix the tears and four new pegs to a destination of our choice all free of charge.

The ground sheet (and the poles) make a good awning for siestas! 


Other Downsides: 

  1. you have to buy the groundsheet separately. 
  2. Two of our pegs sheared at the top and you don’t get spares with the tent so make sure you take some with you. MSR did replace these free of charge though.

Fully Loaded

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Packing light and buying the right gear for the particular conditions we will be facing has been an important and really exciting part of our planning. We have spent MANY hours researching and buying our gear and we’ve enjoyed doing this together.

It seems not all cycle tourers invest in brand new, lightweight gear. In their blogs, many claim to have invested in a good set of panniers and not much else. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money but packing light has been important and a huge advantage for us.

Deciding to travel by tandem means you are seriously limited for space especially if you decide that taking a trailer isn’t for you. We are really excited at the prospect of getting rid of all our possessions for a year but I’m sure there would be many ultra-light tourers who would look at our list and scoff! I guess it’s about finding what’s right for you. For example, having a good tent set up and being comfortable while camping is important to us. Some may say our travel Helinox chairs were a ridiculous luxury but we know that we will value relaxing in them after a long day of pedalling (read our review here).

We have planned our trip over a series of months and we couldn’t have done it without the range of blogs, reviews and online articles that have already been written by other cycle tourers online. The list below is another small contribution to this ever growing online resource – we hope it’s helpful to future tourers. We have also tried to talk in person to other cyclists who have done similar trips already – being members of warmshowers.org has been a great way to do this!

You might also want to check out: Travelling Two, Adventures by Tandem,  The Touring Tandem, Tandem Revolutions, Crazy Guy on a Bike, Family on Bikes, Pedalling About, Bicycle Touring Facebook

Front Left Pannier  (Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 40L)

Annie’s Clothes:

Annie’s Toiletries: moisturiser, tweezers, razor, mascara, toothbrush, mooncup, nail file, monthly contact lenses and bottle of solution, 2 weeks of daily lenses, glasses, earrings

1 x quick dry towel, 1 x money pouch, 1 x roll up backpack (Quechua)

2 x cycle shorts (b-twin), 1 x padded underwear (VeloVixen) – don’t buy these!, shoe covers (Shimano), 2 x cycling gloves (long and fingerless), snood, warm hat, 1 x waterproof jacket (worth investing in a proper Gortex one), 1 x waterproof trousers

1 x leather sandals, 1 x North Face Goretex walking trainers, 1 x belt, 1 x down jacket (Quechua)

1 x convertible trousers (Craghopper Nosilife Stretch), 1 x shorts (Howies), 1 x cotton knee-length dress (Sea Salt), 1 x yellow cycle jersey (I threw this out early on), 3 vest tops (Howies),  1 x cotton shirt, 1 x long sleeve cotton top (Joules), 1 x merino leggings, 1 x merino long sleeve top (Howies), 1 x bra, 2 x mesh sports bra (Patagonia), 1 x bikini (threw after Thailand), 4 x underwear, 4 x merino socks

Would have made a 100% cotton Longhy to use as a towel instead which also would have doubled up as a long skirt for visiting temples. I need more warm base layers for China and the stans – Helly Hanson is the best.


Front Right Pannier (Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 40L)

Paddy’s Clothes:

Paddy’s Toiletries: shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, nail clippers, wet wipes, ear plugs

1 x quick dry towel, 1 x money pouch, 1 x roll up backpack

1 x warm hat, 1 x snoodshoe covers, 2 x cycling gloves, 2 x cycling padded short inserts, 1 x Gortex jacket

1 x sandals, 1 x cycling shoes, 1 x down jacket (Quechua)

1 x cycle jersey, 1 x merino t-shirt (Alpkit), 1 x long sleeve merino top (Alpkit), 1 x cotton shirt, 1 cotton t-shirt, 1 x shorts, 1 x convertible trousers (Craghopper Nosilife), long johns and matching top (Helly Hanson), swimming trunks, 3 x pair of socks, 3 x boxers


Handlebar bag (Arkel: Large)

A great bag (solid, completely waterproof) and would recommend over ortlieb especially if you are on a tandem – we got the biggest size and hold a lot of stuff in it. What’s very useful is it has zips instead of clips which means you can padlock any unneeded valuables (e.g kindles) while you go off without the bike to do a two day hike etc.

1 x Canon 650D DSLR Camera + 3 batteries and 2 lenses

1 x ipad in waterproof case (armour-x)

1 x iphone in waterproof case (armour-x) – – normally mounted to handlebar while riding

1 x Samson Galaxy phone – normally mounted to handlebar while riding

2 x wallet, passports, notepad

2 X sunglasses

2 x kindles, 1 x ipod

Front pocket: snacks, pen, bike keys, small padlock (useful for locking bag when handed into ‘left luggage’ at a hotel/hostel.


Back Left Pannier (Altura Orkney 56L)

1 x large mosquito net (never used as our tent was the best net)

1 x rechargeable LED tent/camp light – also charges your phone (great buy!) – (Lampray from Alpkit)

Gravity water purifier (LifeStraw) and UV SteriPEN ultra –read our gear review here

Dice/cards/embroidery, sowing kit, clothes line and 9 pegs

1 x toilet roll and baby wipes in dry bag

2 x emergency dry meals (Expedition Foods 800cal)

Cooking Gear

1 x multi-fuel stove and wind shield (Optimus)

1 scrubber/scraper, 1 lighter, 1 matches, 1 tea towel, 1 pen knife, 1 kettle, 1 pots, 1 frying pan, 2 plates, 2 x cups (Summit), chopping boa, serrated knife, peeler, grater, scissors, tin opener, wooden spoon, spatula, knives, forks and spoons. Salt and pepper, spices, hand sanitizer, washing up liquid, plastic bags, tuppawear box, elastic bands, bag clips.


Back Right Pannier (Altura Orkney 56L)

Box of bike tools

Spare bike parts: spare tyre, spare spokes, chain link, spare brake pads etc

Two man lightweight tent and footprint (MSR NX Hubba Hubba)

Gaffa tape (lots)

Medical Kit in dry bag:

3 x needles and syringes, antibiotics, diazepan, Naproxen pain killers, malaria tablets, thrush tablet, dressings, bandages, burn treatment, antibac wipes, cling film roll, ear plugs, plastic gloves, paracetamol and ibuprofen, rennies, constipation tablets, thermometer, cystitis sachets, dyorolite, eye wash and ointment, e45, savlon, barocca, caneston cream, allergy tablets, bite cream, plasters, cyprofloxin antibiotics

Electronics in dry bag:

camera charge cable, ipod/ipad/iphone charge cable, kindle charge cable, 2 x universal adapter, battery pack (A5 Zendure), SD card reader and SD cards, headphone splitter, sat phone

Papers etc:

Many passport photos (including head covered ones for Annie’s visas in Iran and Central Asia) papers, note book, pens, injection books, maps, insurance, passport copies, visa copies, spare bike/padlock keys


Back Rack Bag (Ortlieb 31L)

2 x bungey cords

3 X carrabena clips

1 x down double sleeping bag (Big Agnus: King Solomon)

2 x single air mattress (Quechua) (slip into Big Agnus sleeping bag to create bed)

1 x double duvet cover

2 x inflatable pillows (Quechua)

tent poles and pegs


Small Frame Bag  (Alpkit)

2 x head torches (Petzel elight)

1x leather man/Swiss army knife, Biker’s Balm – For All Your Moving Parts, Vaseline, Whistle, Pencil, elastic bands, emergency pain killers, rennies


Medium Frame Bag (Alpkit)

Insect repellent and bands, head phones, tissues, Compass, hand sanitiser


Saddle Bag

Sun screen, 1 x Spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, set of Allen keys, bike lights, Annie’s gloves


Bike Frame

2 x foldable lightweight chairs (Helinox)

3 x water cages

0.6L Optimus Fuel Bottle

1 x fog horn

1 x tablet bike mount (Multifunction Armour X mount)

Bike pump 

Mirror

Cable ties

Bike lock

Spare Spokes