When I did a week of touring last year on the way to the Mallee Routes audax ride I cut my load down to the bare minimum and it worked really well. I had everything I needed and I was able to cover good distances each day without feeling I was being slowed down by too much gear. I made a mental note to write something on ultralightweight cycle touring for this blog but then of course forgot all about it. My memory was jogged when I was going through some photos today.
The photo to the top left (ignore the appalling hotel bedspread background) contains everything I took for a week of touring. From left to right, the most important bits were: wool jersey, merino t-shirt, coolmax t-shirt and lightweight long pants; three pairs of and winter and summer gloves; cycling shorts and longs, lightweight off-bike shoes, toiletries, tools, lock, torch and phone. The panniers and handlebar bag are on the right. Not shown is my rain jacket.
Now this amount of gear was just fine for a hotel-based adventure where a tent and cooking gear aren't needed. That's the sort of touring I enjoy the most, it's not quite the old "credit card and toothbrush" experience but it's pretty close.
The whole load fitted into my two small panniers, racktop back and handlebar bag.
The wool jersey I bought last year is particularly handy for this sort of trip because it can be worn on and off the bike and can go a few days without the need for laundering. Similarly the lightweight merino undershirts which can double as t-shirts if needed. The coolmax shirts dry extremely quickly so they can be washed in a hotel sink.
Next time I think I'll ditch the rack top back and instead buy one of the lovely Gilles Berthoud handlebar bags instead. I've declared my undying love for handlebar bags already, I just need to save my pennies. I'd probably also ditch the spare shoes, because they took up a fair bit of room in my bags. I've also refined my toolkit down considerably.
I'm planning another trip later this year. The lessons I learned on the Mallee Routes trip last year will come in very hand indeed.