Gear That Worked

Please note that most of these items were bought using money out of my own pocket or provided for me by gracious blog readers. Only a few were originally given to me by the companies that produce them (indicated by an *).

In some cases, where I was particularly happy with the performance of the gear that I personally bought, I approached the company and asked for replacements in the form of ‘sponsoring’ my journey, but their approval and/or disapproval of my request has nothing to do with my reviews below.

If I like something, I’ll tell you about it. If I don’t like something, I’ll also tell you about it (see here for What Things Didn’t Work).

The A-list:
Gear that worked exceptionally well and/or beyond expectations

Longboard Trailer (skate)
I’m sure that the designers of the Rollsrolls longboard never imagined that their longboard deck would ever be used as a trailer. But the longboard trailer is a surprisingly effective alternative to carrying gear in a pack on my back for loaded skateboard touring. Big thumbs up.

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New holey trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China Holey Trucks (skate)
Skateboard trucks, in reality, are fairly nuke-proof. You’d have to try pretty darn hard to damage or break them. An when it comes down to it, if I was using any other brand of quality skateboard trucks, they’d probably last 10,000km too, like my Holey Trucks did. What I liked about Holey Trucks however was the prompt and personalised service and answers to my email enquiries. Big thumbs up.

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The rig on National Highway 312 near Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

The Longboard Larry distance pusher east of Xinxinxia on National Highway 312, Gansu Province, China New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA

New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA

Longboard Larry Pusher longboard deck*
I love everything about this deck. The wood contruction provides shock absorbtion, the low-slung deck provides a low pushing platforn, the drop-though truck mounts allow for deck height adjustment, the concave adds great leverage to turns, the fibreglass layer on the bottom is super durable against the inevitable scrapes, the transition at the front of the deck from truck mount to standing platform is not too steep, and provides a reassuring platform to push against while pushing uphill or across sandy or gravel roads (when your deck is covered with grit and slippery road slime). And a small but significant point, the grip tape that Larry uses on the deck is fantastically durable. Grip on the grip tape provided by Rollsrolls for my Rollsrolls deck lasted three days of riding on the nice clean roads of Germany, whereas Larry’s tape is still going strong after three months of riding through some of the most terrible road surfaces in China.

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Black Diamond Jackal pack Black Diamond Jackal Pack (skate)
It seems that Black Diamond has discontinued this pack, which is a pity. It is very lightweight for an internal frame pack, and fits extremely snugly for a ‘swing’ free fit when skateboarding. The last thing you want when wearing a pack on a skateboard is a loose pack flopping about. A very comfy pack. Putting it on felt like like coming home. The only thing that it lacks is a side access zip or something. It is a single compartment pack with a top opening, which can be a pain when you want to get something out of the bottom of the pack! Perhaps the best next thing would be the Black Diamond Sphynx. Big thumbs up.

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Redbull can stove going strong near Krabbendijke, The Netherlands Beer can stove
I used this throughout Europe, and was very pleased with the performance. Not much use if you’re a gourmet cook on the road, or if you’re heading to extremely high altitudes, but great for cooking pasta in the lowlands. Very lightweight and clean enough.

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Canon G9 camera in Biloxi, Mississippi, USA Canon Powershot G9
The camera has a host of awesome functions, and takes awesome quality photos, while being really compact. I also loved the versatility of being able to use conversion lenses with the camera, as I use wide angle shots very often while taking pictures on my skateboard. Lens attachement and removal is really quick and easy too. The only drawback is durability, as is the case with all digital cameras. Unless you’re only taking a few photos every week, and storing the camera in a padded jail cell, then it won’t be lasting more than three years. I have my camera attached to my waist belt in a simple camera case for quick retrieval, so it gets a fair bit of abuse.

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Cooking in the tent - Karakol Lake, Tajikistan / テントの中で料理 - 危ねえー(タジキスタン、カラコル湖) MSR Whisperlite Internationale (cycle)
This stove is nuke-proof. The shaker-jet jet clearer saved a lot of hassle on many ocassions when I was forced to use low-quality petrol in Central Asia. It is more adjustable than the more hardcore XGK stove by MSR, and lighter too. Worked without any issues in -20 degrees Celcius, and at over 4,000m in altitude. Unless you’re skateboarding in Tibet, or somewhere you can”t get stove alcohol, this stove is a little too heavy for skateboard touring. I’d go for the beer can stove instead.

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乾燥しているよ(烏魯木斉と 天池の間) Shimano Cycle Sandals (cycle)
I loved these sandals, and used them in temperatures down to about minus 5 degrees Celcius (with wool socks and Goretex waterproof socks). I see that Keen Footwear now makes a cycling sandal too, that might be a litte more comfortable than the Shimanos, as comfy as the Shimanos were.

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Merino wool clothing (cycle/skate)
I loved my 140 weight (really really lightweight) Icebreaker merino wool t-shirt in the heat of China. I could wear it for days without it stinking, and it was very cool in the heat due to being really breathable. Really easy to wash by hand too. Also, by layering up lots of layers of thin wool tops, they made a great thermal layers for the cold spots too.

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Road Warrior universal travel plug adapter (cycle/skate)
Really lightweight and compact and adapts a US style plug to any socket in the world. I liked it a lot.

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PET water bottles (cycle/skate)
There are a lot of very technologically advanced and ultra’lightweight water carrying containers out there, from hydration packs to special bottles that tell you how much you need drink, using a digital readout. The reality when you’re travelling for a long time however is that PET bottles (standard soft drink bottles) are lighter, easier to clean (you don’t clean, you just chuck them out – oops I mean recycle them – when they get manky), are cheap as anything, are really durable, and when you’ve got a few of them strapped to your bike/pack/skateboard trailer, you don’t look like a rich western tourist.

The B-list
Gear I was happy with, but still have some reservations.

Lazy day in the rain near Gautier, Mississippi, USA MSR Microzoid Tent
I enjoyed the light weight of this one person bivvy/tent. It was a nice comfort zone at the end of the day to crawl into this tent and sleep. But the problem was just that…you had to crawl into it. Only enough room to prop yourself up on your elbow. Also, the full mesh inner tent was a little cold, as drafts would find their way into the tent. MSR has now discontinued this tent, and the nearest equivalent would be the MSR Hubba HP, which offers more room, more protection from the elements, and weighs less than the old Microzoid.

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New shoes courtesy of Billionaire Boys Club / Ice Cream shoes BBC Icecream Flip skate shoes (skate)
I loved the incredible durability of the soles on these shoes. They also never gave me blisters. The only reservation I have is the non-breathability of them. In summer, my feet would have melted and/or rotted in these. Also, you may want to get an anatomical insole, since they are not very supportive; I was over-pronating like crazy in these. Otherwise, they were OK. I was impressed enough with the lack of blisters and sole durability that I asked BBC Icecream for some more pairs, and they sent me three funky pairs. Bordering on a little too funky for my tastes, personally.

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Keen sandals keeping my feet cool near Minlou, Gansu Province, China

The feet got new shoes in Hong Kong - Keen sandals at 3,400m near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China The sole repair job on the Keen Sandals near Huini, Gansu Province, China

Stripey feet from Keen sandals (Lanzhou, Gansu Province, China)

Keen Newport H2 sandals
Realising that the BBC Icecream shoes were not going to be suitable for skating in the Eastern China summer heat, I got on the lookout for a practable sandal alternative. In Hong Kong I spied these sandals, and had high hopes for their use as long distance skating footwear.I liked the big rubber toe protector, the mushy soft anatomical footbed, and the relatively flat, durable-looking, thick outersole.

The sandals are now a favourite of mine, and I love skating in them. They are super comfy, with the soft footbed absorbing road vibration well. The elastic ‘laces’ draw the sandal upper around my feet, creating a really secure feeling. When moving, the air passing across my feet is great; keeps my feet cool.

The only drawback with these excellent sandals is that they were designed for watersports, and therefore have a very soft, grippy sole. Grip on a longboard deck is excellent, but footbraking wears them down very quickly. To make them last across China, I am getting durable car tyre rubber attached to the heel of my braking foot, which is working well.

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