It was Hemingway who argued that the best way to get to know a country is to explore its contours on bike, however, he didn’t give any indication as to whether you should bring your own bike or rent one. Travel and the pursuit of outdoor adventure is a combination that leads one off the beaten path, up craggy peaks, across miles of forgotten farmland, and to beaches with plenty of surf and no other tourists in sight. Experiencing the natural wonders while kayaking, cycling, or skiing is an incredibly unique and authentic way to experience a place, but it also requires gear and transporting gear overseas can result in a headache.
Although there are a lot of people who would advocate just renting gear (and there is something to be said for that), there are instances when you just want to bring your own gear. Maybe you have a kayak or bike that fits you perfectly or maybe you just don’t feel prepared to take on the Alps without your tried and true backcountry skis. Whatever the reason, if you can’t imagine exploring a new country without your trusty [insert preferred piece of gear] in tow, here are a few things to consider before you set off.
Yeah, it’s true that buying a hard case for your bike, skis, or paddles can be an added expense, but having to replace damaged gear is a lot more expensive. While insurance can help mitigate the costs of damaged or lost gear, it will definitely put a wrench in your travel plans. Make sure you have adequate carrying cases for your gear.
Is there anything worse than showing up to an airport, bus, or train station and being hit with oversized luggages fees that you weren’t expecting? It puts a major damper on your trip when you have to shell out an extra few hundred bucks so don’t put yourself in a position where you have no other option. Check ahead with the transportation agency to figure out their policies and fees. Nowhere is this more applicable than with budget airlines like RyanAir or EasyJet. If you know you’re going to be traveling with gear ahead of time, I’d recommend checking the oversized baggage policy of the airlines before booking your flight. Some airlines won’t charge you extra for oversized baggage as long as your gear is within the normal weight restrictions. Others will charge you an extra $50 while others will tack on some exorbitant fee upwards of $100.
Ability to Secure It
Traveling with your stellar 5,000 USD carbon road bike? Awesome. Leaving it unsecured and having it stolen? Not awesome. In addition to the obvious tip of never leaving your treasured gear unattended, take extra precautions to secure it by buying insurance, bringing all necessary locks, and never leave anything in an unsupervised locker or luggage room. If you want to spend a few days exploring without your gear, this is the perfect time to take advantage of any friends living in the area.
You’re going to want to get travel insurance for this one. Check the airlines policy, make sure you have a receipt for the gear you’re towing, and take out an insurance policy that will cover lost or damaged gear. The advantage of having travel insurance that covers sporting gear is that not only will they replace it, they’ll cover the cost of renting gear until you are able to replace yours. It gives you the security of knowing that although you might not have the trip you imagined, you won’t have to pay to rent gear because yours is missing in action.
If you decide that when all of the above factors are brought into consideration, bringing your own gear is just too much work, then be sure to make advance preparations for renting gear. In areas where outdoor recreation is popular (such as cycling in France or whitewater kayaking in New Zealand), there are numerous options to rent great gear for a reasonable price. You also have the advantage of putting wear and tear on someone else’s gear rather than on your own. Also, if anything goes wrong with the gear, you can get it replaced or fixed very easily and at the expense of the rental shop rather than your wallet.