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Gear Review - After 2 Years of Abuse

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by NotiersFrontiers, Apr 27, 2019.

  1. NotiersFrontiers

    NotiersFrontiers Crazy Adventure Man

    Jul 26, 2014
    The World!!

    Two years on the road are now in the books (and soon to be in physical books). From Chicago to Ushuaia, and back up to Iguazu Falls, the questions are now: what worked and what did not?
    The following is a list of the things we carried with us and why. We have not received any discounts or free merchandise for promotional purposes, nor are we paid by or affiliated with any company. We purchased these items with our own money, and due to that fact, better-quality and more expensive items may exist out there. These are simply our honest, unfiltered opinions on what we decided to bring on our trip.

    We did have an additional trip around the Rocky Mountains that thankfully weeded out a whole lot of our original failed gear... but our refined list below was used and abused, this is the report of how it held up.

    This is what we started out with. Things have definitely changed.

    Universal Bike Enhancements
    These are some great items that wont break the bank. We love them all, and some people may call them “luxury" items... but we are glad to have them. The links to Amazon are highlighted in green.
    • We have AirHawk cushions (B+) for both seats as I'm in a never-ending quest to make my ass more comfortable. At first, I had to slightly customize the AirHawk cover to allow me to stuff a scarf in the front to better support my nether regions that needed support, but(t) overall, a great product.

    • Barkbuster hand-guards (A+) They haven't snapped off yet after countless drops, and a couple of power slides. A great investment to keep your levers safe.

    • PDM power distribution module (A+) I upgraded our electrical system with outlets all around the bike to plug in our heated gear (that we ended up sending back home), charge our phones and GPS, etc. Great device, simple to install.
    • Auxbeam 4" auxiliary lights (A+) A cheap ($20) set from Amazon, have not failed me yet over 2 years of rain and hail. I personally do not see a need to spend hundreds of dollars on Aux lights. With the Mounting Kit, and an On/Off Toggle the whole set up was under $40 bucks.

    • Double Take Collapsable mirrors (A+) When the bike goes down, the mirrors just fold in on themselves as they mount to RAM mounts. This has been a great investment.
    • Slime Motorcycle air compressor (A+) and Plug Kit for flat tires (tubeless). This combo has gotten us out of trouble in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. South America's awesome back roads have little sharp surprises!
    • Rotopax 1 Gallon Fuel Container (A+) This has come in handy countless of times, from just having the extra security of another 40 miles, to easily filling up our MSR fuel bottles that we use for our stove. We were so thankful to have this in Bolivia because gas was a nightmare to obtain in some areas, but in most cases, there was no conflict if we parked away from the gas station and filled up a gallon at a time.
    • Navigation is key while riding, and keeping our phone (so much better than a dedicated GPS) locked in place is essential. After a bit of trial and error with other products, we bought the Perfect Squeeze (A+), and it has kept our phone sturdily in place over potholes, river crossings, and every Latin American speed bump throughout our journey.
    • To avoid snatch-and-grab would-be thieves while we walk around markets, or leave the bike unattended, we have two Big Panther carabiner locks (A+) with a metal bungie. We use them to secure our helmets, boots, and jackets to the bike. I also put a Grip Lock (A+) on the brake lever so no one can push the motorcycle from where I left it. Both of these cheap deterrents help prevent people from snagging our stuff.

    Cooking and Camping

    • Cooking on the road is also important. The MSR Whisperlight (A+) stove has been unstoppable and seems to be the go-to product for long distance travel. Paired with the MSR liquid fuel bottle, it can burn any fuel, and is pretty much hassle-free with the right maintenance. We do also carry an extra fuel pump, just in case the original acts up.
    • Water sources abroad are not always the cleanest, so to filter the muck, toxic minerals, and E-coli out, we use a Survivor Filter (A). Make sure you bring extra filters with you, after a year of use the filters need to be changed. But from cooking to making the essence of life - coffee - it has served us very well and kept us healthy. For extended camping, we just fill up our 6 liter MSR Dromedary bag (A+) to have plenty of water on hand.
    • Our Enlightened Equipment Quilt (A+++) Definitely keeps us warm on cold nights. It packs down small and is extremely light due to the down feathers. This was not a cheap purchase, but was an important one since keeping Marisa warm is a top priority. She often states she loves this quilt more than me.
    • On cold nights we put a Reflective Blanket under our sleeping pads. This reflects our body heat back up, containing it in the tent. I also put six drawstring attachments on it and it doubles as a bike cover.

    Life's Little Extras
    • Our G4Free (A+) chairs have been some of our favorite bonus items we have. From sitting down at campsites, on beaches, or even hours-long roadblocks, we have never regretted bringing these with us. The did need some repairs over the 2 years, but nothing a bit of duct tape and superglue couldn't fix.
    • A lot of people see our Hip Bags (A+) in photos and ask, “Where did you get those from?" We bought them cheap on Amazon, and there are plenty to choose from. They are great as a purse around Marisa's shoulder, and then strapped to her leg while on the road. I keep my smokes, stickers, and other loose items inside that are constantly needed to be within arm's reach.
    • Everyone needs a belt anyway, and a great place to stash some emergency cash is in a Money Belt (A+). It has an interior zipper to stash some extra cash.
    • Rok Straps (A+) These aren't breaking news to anyone, but just awesome ways to secure loose ends to the bike.
    • Eno Double Hammock (A+) We used this all across the States and through Central America. We ended up sending it home once we reached Peru because of the cold weather, but man was it great while the weather permitted lazy days of laying around in a hammock.

    Electronic Gizmos
    • Phones... so expensive, even more so when waterproof. But, for our GPS-dedicated device, we needed one. The Kyocera Duraforce (A+) is the adventurer's phone, and it has been unbreakable. For less than a hundred bucks, and the addition of Google offline maps, OSM+, iOverlander, and Maps.me, this is in my opinion the best navigation set-up there is. Waterproof, dust-proof, shock-proof, life-proof. And if stolen, you are only out ~$90.

    • I charge everything through the tank-bag using a surface SAE Connector I hook directly to my battery, via the PDM. I then route it through my tank-bag via a separate Entry Cable Adapter, and then finally convert it to two USB Ports. This set-up lets me charge my phones, Senas, and anything else via USB.

    • Magnetic Charging Cords come in real handy. They take away the wear and tear of constantly plugging in and disconnecting your gadgets. And if you keep your phone or GPS plugged in while riding, the bumps of the road can ruin the port. Please check these out, they are cheap and very convenient.

    • Communication on the road is key. And even more so, music! We have the ever-so-popular Sena Bluetooth Headsets (A+). We love them! Hours on the road have dramatically changed for the better when listening to anything from Guns & Roses to Jack Johnson. We can communicate with each other and also listen to our own music separately. In Marisa's case, it is one big epic movie soundtrack as she meanders around the world.
    • To charge all the nicknacks when we are wild camping multiple nights in a row, we bought an EasyAcc Portable Charger(A+). It has four USB outlets, and we can charge both of our phones, and both of our Senas at the same time. Great investment. For emergencies only, we have a Rugged Geek Portable Jump Starter (A+). We thankfully have never needed to use this on the trip, but it did successfully jump the bike back to life in the cold midwestern winters.
    • For “action" videos, we splurged and bought a GoPro Hero6 (A+). I know, it's expensive, but it was worth it. It takes amazing footage and is much more reliable than the cheaper $100 range action cameras, two of which we went through before purchasing the GoPro. Plus, it has amazing stabilization and slow-motion. And the footage it takes is so good, some of our most popular pictures are actually screenshots from a GoPro video!

    • To save all of the pics and vids, we wanted a solid-state external hard drive. We had purchased the standard disk drives, and they failed us. You definitely do not want that happening and loosing all of your glorious footage! We bought a MyDigital SSD (A+) drive, and it has served us flawlessly. For a smaller, more portable thumb-drive, we each have a Samsung 128 gig flash drive (A+). It is perfect for saving documents and other easier access items quickly, and is unbelievably small.
    • As a middleweight camera, not a DSLR, but not a standard point-and-shoot, the Panasonic Lumix G7 4k mirrorless camera (A+) has been an amazing piece of hardware that has captured all of the great images that we have taken along the way. I love this camera.
    • Our right, left, and top soft luggage cases are by Mosko Moto (A+), and I love these bags! When the bike falls, they act like airbags and are able to survive the fall relatively unharmed. We have had to duct tape some fraying straps, but that's because we put these bags through absolute hell.

    • The Pelican Hard Case (A-) was left at home, but did make for a nice set-up for shorter trips. This is a large, robust case that had served us well prior to the trip.

    • KTM Tank Bag (B-) We obviously love KTM, and this matches the bike, but after 3 years of use, the zipper broke. I fixed it with my amazing seamstress abilities and it is still in use!

    KTM 1190 Specific
    • Powercell pod air intakes (A+) Critical upgrade. They work amazingly, and the KTM Powershop in Bogotá, Colombia, said they had never seen an 1190 with such a clean airbox as ours! We highly recommend these.

    • Puig Tall Windshield (A-) The tall windshield makes me think I may decapitate myself if I fall forward while riding off-road. Hopefully it will be a nice clean cut under the chin of my helmet, severing my head without pain or discomfort. But it is nice on the highways. I like the Puig much better compared to the Genuine KTM 1190 Adventure Tall Windscreen (C).
    • KTM heated grips (C) If its 65 degrees, and you want it to be 67 degrees, they work awesome... for any real cold weather, they don't really do all that much, even when cranked on high.

    Personal Gear - Tim
    • KTM/Shuberth modular helmet (A) This is a recent purchase in Costa Rica because my old Fulmer modular helmet was old, and it might have been seven sizes too big. My new helmet fits well, though I had to make some padding adjustments since I was not used to such a tight fit. It's a great helmet but can get a little hot.

    • Spidi H2Out motorcycle jacket (C) It does its job taking the brunt of the dirt, dust, grime, and rain. But the original waterproof liner was not 100%, and the thermal layer attached awkwardly. It does have nice basic shoulder and elbow protection, but we scrapped the thermal and waterproof layers for a down jacket and rain jacket with a hood that could be worn separately from the touring jacket.

    • Sedici motorcycle pants (C) Same as above... the waterproof zip-in liner was a joke. It had a wide “V" where the material separated at the crotch, right in the spot where most of the water funnels while riding through a rain storm. We have since purchased heavy-duty rain pants.
    • Alpinestar Toucan (A+) motorcycle boots. Great protection, and can still hike around in them for short periods of time. We climbed some Mayan ruins in them, I don't suggest that, way too hot. Great all-around boots!
    • Mountain Hardwear (A+) down jacket. This is another part of our gear that Marisa may love more than me. It keeps us warm on the coldest of days, and doubles as a pillow at night.

    • Ascend rain jacket and pants (F) At first I thought this was a great replacements for the not-so-funtional waterproof sections of the touring jacket and pants. Then Marisa started complaining about getting wet, then actually got pneumonia, and exchanged hers for a cheap plastic version in Colombia which works much better. Then in Ecuador, we got into such a horrible storm, that I was cold and wet for hours afterwards, and have since ditched my Ascend rain gear. I've now purchased a local plastic jacket that is so far working better.
    • Every type of glove that was ever made I have bought, none of them are waterproof. I may have a problem with buying gloves.

    Personal Gear - Marisa
    • Schuberth modular helmet (A-) Marisa says it can get hot, and the vents do not provide a difference in airflow. Besides that, she loves it. It blocks a great amount of the outside noise, and is comfortable. It's black, and when it's in the sun for a long time, Marisa swears it shrinks on her. Then again, we've been in some extremely hot places.
    • Spidi motorcycle jacket (C) Marisa's jacket also came with useless liners.
    • Joe Rocket motorcycle pants (C) Didn't come with any waterproof liner, but is great for its protective padding. And with the addition of rain pants underneath, serves well in all types of weather. There is the added frustration that it's nearly impossible to find pants the fit women properly, and these do not. Plus, the front buttons never stay snapped. Marisa is currently looking for something that fits her better.

    • Ascend rain jacket (F) Despite being a rain jacket, it was not waterproof. So she ended up buying a set of cheap plastic cyclist jacket and pants in Colombia, and though they are hideous, they work great. She wears the rain pants under her motorcycle pants, but puts the jacket over her touring jacket and says that breaks the wind better.

    • Mountain Hardwear down jacket (A+) Packs down small, is light, and most importantly, is warm. Only problem is it's hard to wash.
    • BMW Allround waterproof boots (A+) Marisa was not really a fan of her old boots (BILT), so she purchased a pair of very expensive, but very comfortable boots that she has been able to hike in (a little bit) and wear daily in cold and wet weather.
    I of course have to plug my book Maiden Voyage: within its chapters are even more insights to our original gear. You can read about how we were woefully unprepared for our trip around the Rocky Mountains. None of the gear we had first purchased made it onto the current trip/s we are undertaking.

    Bonus News! Marisa and I are getting married on June 22nd, 2019. While we are back in the States, we need to replenish some of the wearable items we have used and abused for the last two years. Some of these items are listed on our Wedding Registry. If you would like to supply the pair of shoes that I will walk in for the next two years, or the pots we will cook in daily, or provide filtered water for every cup of coffee, we would be forever grateful!

    Let us know your "must have" gear, what has worked, and what has failed on your day trips to extensive overland travel.
    Shaolin, Helibee, Xsv and 6 others like this.
  2. Elderber

    Elderber Adventurer

    Mar 24, 2015
    Whidbey Island
    I’ve been looking for some cheap led auxiliary lights, I will give those a try.

  3. Butters

    Butters Kwyjibo Supporter

    Oct 10, 2008
    I appreciate the real-world review - especially after tens of thousand of miles on a motorcycle. Lots of stuff seems great at first only to find it isn't durable or only works in certain conditions. It sounds like your equipment probably faced it all at some point. I'm not sure about your scale - lots of A+ and even an A+++ (I'm nitpicking). But I take those to mean they worked exactly as intended which is the most important part for moto gear.

    I may give those aux lights a try too. One of my cheap LEDs just failed after about 5 years.
    Oeths and NotiersFrontiers like this.
  4. Dan Diego

    Dan Diego Long timer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Tampa Bay
    I much appreciate your gear review. Thanks for taking the time to put it all down in writing to help the rest of us.

    And congrats on your upcoming nuptials.
    NotiersFrontiers likes this.
  5. Aircooled6racer

    Aircooled6racer Been here awhile

    Mar 27, 2018
    Thank you for posting your real world use of the gear.
    NotiersFrontiers likes this.
  6. rd400racer

    rd400racer Long timer

    May 14, 2013
    Louisville, Ky
    I ordered the Auxbeam light kit myself last night. I've been looking at different light options for months and I figured if they handled that abuse, they should be fine. Thanks for the write-up.