For my ride across Central Asia, I brought along pretty much the same gear as for my ride through Bolivia and Argentina last fall. There were a few changes, however. In addition to the new suspension stem on my bike and global WiFi hotspot, I brought a different tent and sleeping bag as well as a number of other accessories.
MSR Hubba Tour
Probably the biggest change was in my tent. While I like the Big Agnes, I wanted something quicker to set up and take down (i.e., fly and inner canopy one unit) and one that offered bit more coverage against dust.
The Hubba Tour was designed with bike touring or bikepacking in mind. What makes it particularly bike friendly is that it weighs only around five pounds, and packs down to a 17 x 7 in size ready to go in your handlebar bag or pannier.
The tent uses just two poles — one for the vestibule and one for the main part of the tent. As the fly is attached to the inner canopy, the main tent pole creates an exoskeleton for the entire tent and sets up (and tears down) within minutes. This also means you can set up the tent in the rain without worrying about the inside getting wet, something I was thankful for during a few brutal afternoon thunderstorms in Kyrgyzstan.
The second pole forms the structure for the hooped vestibule and simply slides through a sleeve before securing in the vestibule grommets. This large 25-square-foot vestibule was my favorite part of the tent as I could store all of my gear there and still access it from inside the tent. On rainy nights or in places we were worried about bikes being stolen, I could even roll my bike into the vestibule. It’s also the perfect place to cook if the weather is bad as it offers plenty of ventilation. The vestibule features a floor on one end so you can store your gear off the ground while still having space to get in and out of the tent.
A second door made for easy exit and entry into the tent when my vestibule was full of gear. There are plenty of internal mesh pockets at both ends and in the ceiling to organize your gear each night.
The one downside? You can’t erect the tent without the fly so when it’s hot, you are kind of stuck. This wasn’t a huge deal as it usually cooled off at night but just meant I couldn’t go anywhere near the tent in the afternoon unless I wanted to bake.
I brought the two-person Hubba Tour 2 which offered enough space for my Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot and some of my gear. I am not sure I would want to fit two people in the tight 32-square-foot space night after night unless you were really worried about weight.
I would recommend a footprint or tarp — while I never had an issue with condensation inside the tent, the base would almost always be wet in the morning when we camped in fields or incredibly dusty at the higher altitudes. Some sort of footprint would save you from having to roll up a wet and dirty tent each morning.
While I still recommend the sleeping bag/quilt combination for its versatility in a wide range of temperatures, I swapped out the 27-degree Mira HD for the 0-degree Oberon. I was warned of crazy cold temps in the high altitude Pamirs so I wanted to be on the safe side. Stuffed with 800-fill water-resistant down, the sleeping bag kept me nice and toasty on some frigid nights. Other nights I zipped it open and used it as a blanket.
For such a warm bag, the Oberon is lightweight at just over two pounds thanks in part to its zoned insulation and compresses down into a tight package. In the warmer areas, I brought the Corus HD down blanket and left the Oberon in my permanent bag.
Packing cubes will make your life so much easier as they will not only help you quickly locate your gear at night, but more importantly, they will keep you organized enough to pack up quickly the next morning. Numerous brands make packing cubes now but my favorite are from Eagle Creek.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, gets sick in Tajikistan if not before. So be sure to bring along some antibiotics as pharmacies are few and far between in the country.
Another pro tip from our fabulous medic, Helen — Zinc oxide. Rub some of this on your bum each night before you go to bed and saddle sores will be a thing of the past. We had no problem finding this in pharmacies across Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.