Motorcycle Camping and Trans Labrador Highway (TLH) planning

If you'd been nosey and had a look at the trip planning page (Which I deleted in 2017), you would have seen that I plan on riding the newly opened Trans Labrador Highway in the summer of 2011. They've opened the final section last year, and the plan is to pave the entire thing from one end to the other, so when a friend suggested that he wanted to ride to Newfoundland & Labrador and include the TLH, it just spurred me to get off the pot and commit to the ride this coming year as opposed to 2012.

Optimus SVEA123R

The pot is part of the kit and holds about 300ml of water.

Speaking of pots, you saw the picture and are scratching your head saying wtf has that stove got to do with the TLH? The answer is simple. I'm a cheap bastard that prefers the thought of a campsite to a hotel room, although I plan on a shower and a warm bed at some point on this journey, I'm hoping quite a bit of it will be camping off of the bike.
I used to do a ton of camping while in the army, so while being no stranger with sleeping under the stars in any weather including sleeping atop three feet of snow, I've done it the army way, which means you rarely have to worry about weight until you're on snowshoes pulling a toboggan, as the remainder of the time, the trucks handle what the soldiers don't pack in.
Whoops, did someone mention trucks? You're doing this on two wheels buddy, and if you want to enjoy the ride as a dual sport bike is capable of, then you'd best keep your cargo on the light side, as well as low on the bike. With that in mind, it's time to look at some of the gear that will get me through a weekend but perhaps may not be suitable for a couple weeks on and presumably off road.
Enter the stove pictured here. I was considering upgrading to a modern stove such as the MSR Whisperlight or similar, but I kept going back to the simplicity and rugged construction of my SVEA123R. If you check youtube or google this stove, you'll find that it's been in production for over sixty years, and while it's by no means tiny and light, it is very robust, self cleaning, and requires no pressurising unless you are in extreme cold or high altitude. In fact, you'll find many reports of "I just pulled mine out of the shed after storing it in 1970, and it still works." My story wasn't as ambitious, I pulled mine out and got a nice cuppa tea in my hands in under a quarter of an hour on six year old stale naptha or white gas.
Did I mention that in a pinch it will burn gasoline? (Yeah, it'll gum up so at some point you would need to clean the jet valve and tank with carburettor cleaner or similar to get rid of the deposits, but I was thinking it'll get you from "ran out of naphtha", to "Hey! Look! A Canadian Tire!" or similar)

My friend Darlene sent me a link to some research that she'd been doing about alcohol stoves, and I'd been able to share some links to resources that I'd had for some time.
This is a pepsi can stove I made myself over the winter. It has some rough edges (sharp too) that need refining.

Scout Alcohol stove with included windscreen and heat reflector base for $13 off of eBay

200ml cup-a-soup at -18C took three ounces of Methyl Hydrate to boil

The thought of a lightweight, no moving parts stove that can be made with a pocket knife and two pop cans is highly appealing, although transporting denatured alcohol not so much, but then I was prepared to pack coleman stove fuel, eh? But it'd make a great back-up stove if needed, and gas line anti freeze is available just about anywhere they sell fuel.  I made a purchase off of E-Bay of the Scout Alcohol Stove an alcohol side jet low pressure stove off of user hikinglite2010 for around $13 dollars shipped from the States to my front door in Canada via USPS. After testing outdoors in sub zero and above zero temps (275 metres above sea level), I have this to say about alcohol stoves:

Pros: Extremely easy to pack, light and operate. The fuel is non-volatile and flames can be extinguished with water unlike naptha or gasoline which requires an extinguisher. The fuel is readily available throughout the world as denatured alcohol, methyl hydrate and other names including "HEET" in the yellow bottle, a gas line anti freeze. The stove is made out of recycled materials and is sturdy and strong with no moving pieces to gum up or break down. Simmer control is available by moving the pot higher above the stove.

Cons: Wind will displace the heat from underneath the pot requiring either a better windscreen or a longer burn time. Cold weather (test was at -16 deg C) requires three times as much fuel to heat 500ml of water to a boil. Preheating time varies with outdoor temperatures so boil times are somewhat inconsistent over temperature extremes. Warm weather with low wind is ideal. Burns with an invisible flame in the daylite. Stove cannot be shut off, flame out and no simmer control.

Will I pack one for the TLH? Yes, but only as a backup and I don't plan on bringing more than 16oz of fuel for it. Perhaps for wash water and the like. The SVEA123R burns hotter, and will heat 500ml of water to a 3min boil four times on one four oz tank of fuel.

They used to sell these as fuel bottles, but now they're for water. Unless you're Rotten like me. :)
I bought some Sigg bottles to use for Naphtha fuel storage. They used to be terribly common and inexpensive as fuel bottles, but MSR has pushed them aside as the newer stoves seem to mate only with the MSR brand of fuel bottle or so similar that it doesn't matter. I've a couple of older Sigg 600ml fuel bottles, but I need to carry more fuel, so I opted for what Sigg is now calling a water bottle, four 1 litre containers (I bought them  on sale at $7.98 and now they're listed at $2.99 :(  )

Post Ride Notes:

The SVEA was a workhorse and I used 600ml of fuel to heat my own rations and those of friends, but we also ate out more often than I expected, and we used the ration heaters a few times late at night, so I was very impressed with how the stove ran on six year old fuel, easy to light and work with, although the Whisperlite stoves were faster to boil up food, I was very happy with my SVEA and will pack it along again. One rider used an MSR pocket rocket canister stove, and in zero wind it worked well and packed neatly, but in a 30kph wind took three times longer to boil water, so a windscreen is necessary.

Now to take a look at making my shaving gear lighter. Camp suds? A shaving brush and bar soap?


Primus Himalaya Omnifuel
My friend Dan has a brother-in-law who is an honest to god mountain climber, and when asked to recommend a stove, he suggested a Primus Himalaya Omnifuel, which seems to date from 2001. I looked at a few reviews, and while they agree that it is a pricey stove, it's a performer, and few reviews mention packing spare generators and the like. It'll burn just about anything with the correct jet installed, and canister gas as well, but the best part is you can use canister gas in sub zero temps as you can invert the canister attached to the remote hose thus allowing liquid gas to travel to the warm burner to vaporize. Have a look and see if you agree. The current price point is $159 at MEC.ca here in Toronto. I'm still taking my SVEA123R, but this will be my replacement stove when it blows up.

Maps, Tracks, Waypoints and guide books

Currently the province of Newfoundland offers a free travel guide and map on their website available to order online here:  http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/PlanYourTrip/TravelBrochures
It shows Labrador and Newfoundland in good detail, enough for a trip by road certainly, although it doesn't show any of the fuel stops I was hoping for so I made sure that I loaded a track from a person who cycled the TLH last year, and posted a nicely detailed track including fuel stops and other interesting sites while he slowly made his way from Blanc Sablon to Baie Comeau.  http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?page_id=80600

I plan on riding the T'Railway, part of the TransCanada Trail system. You can download maps and gpx data here: http://www.tctrail.ca/tlocator/tlocator_en.html or download all the trail gpx data here: http://www.tctrail.ca/GPX/getfile.php?file=NL.gpx

Printable maps in PDF format for the entire T'Railway: http://www.tctrail.ca/pdf_maps/NL_maps.zip

Ride The Rock has some great information about Labrador and Newfoundland

ADVRider has a number of Ride Reorts, but this one stands out for beautiful pictures and gps results showing how far they went each day on their trip. http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=620129


I bought a case of American Army Meal Ready to Eat or MRE's as they're known. Twelve meals in a case for about $135 dollars from Costco in Canada.
Meals Ready to Eat MRE

These MRE-based meals were designed by and for the US military and are the most advanced shelf-stable food in the world. Provides complete nutritious meals anytime, anywhere. Using the included flameless ration heater you can heat these meals by using 59.1 ml (2 oz.) of water, no stove needed! FEMA has purchased millions of these meals because they are perfect for emergency preparedness in case of natural disasters such as floods, power failures and anytime you can’t get to the grocery store. They are also perfect for hunting and camping trips or anyone who works in the field or remote area.

  • 12 complete meals: 4 breakfast and 8 lunch/dinner meals)
  • Each meal features entrĂ©e, side dish, dessert, wheat bread, drink powder, hot chocolate and condiments
  • Spoon, napkin and moist towelette included in each kit
  • Flameless ration heater in each kit
  • 5-year shelf life
  • Over 14,000 calories per case (equivalent to 7 days of food for 1 adult)
  • Rugged packaging – waterproof and rodent and insect proof

Post Ride Note: These bulked heavy, and I used only a third of the accessories I brought with me, I have oodles of the crackers, bread, and desserts. I found that I'd eat the entrees then fall gratefully to sleep. The breakfast meals were quite good to my suprise, although with no variety, so it was hashbrowns and pork sausage patty over and over. Yummy!

Solar Power:

I was looking at a solar charging system, and read some good articles on it so thought this might be a good place to share some information.


Sunlinq 6.5 Watts

Solar power follow-up:

I found a seven watt panel on eBay that out performs the Sunlinq in that it comes complete with a USB ouput and a 12V output, including a battery pack that was included in the kit. http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/79/Guide-10-Adventure-Kit

Guide 10 Battery Pack

Output Port
USB 2.5 watts 5V:0.5A)
Product Weight (no pkg)6.4 oz / 0.18 kgs Product dimensions2.5 x 4 x 0.75 (inch)6 x 10 x 2 (cm) WarrantyTwelve months
Operating Temperatures
Optimal Operating 32°-104°F 0°-40°C Optimal Storage 32°-86°F 0°-30°C
Nomad 7 Solar Panel
Input Source
7 watt mono-crystalline solar technology
Output Ports
USB output 5 volts DC output 12 volts
Product Weight (no pkg)0.8 lbs0.36kgs Product Dimensions (Folded)6 x 9 x 1 (inch)15 x 23 x 2.5 (cm) Product Dimensions (Unfolded)19 x 9 x 0.1 (inch)48 x 23 x 0.25 (cm) WarrantyTwelve months
Operating Temperatures
Optimal Operating 32°-104°F 0°-40°C Optimal Storage32°-86°F0°-30°C

It works as claimed and managed to charge my Blackberry Torch off of the solar panel itself or just the battery pack, as well as topping up my iTouch 2Gen. For camping or simply extending the battery life of my phone it seems like I picked a winner that packs into the size of the school binder you used to lug around between classes. I now feel like a planet wrecker when it sits folded up and not in use while I burn electricity to spin up hard drives and the like, knowing that it could be quietly charging batteries all the while the sun burns.

Update: 2011/07/08

Just over a week to go before we let out the clutch and I've tons to do yet for the trip. For fuel I'm just going to buy the one litre containers they sell at Canadian tire. They hold a litre and are designed to hold the fuel while under moderate pressure. Doh!

The good news is that the water bottles I bought are now being used in my work truck as water bottles so they're no great loss and I've gotten quite a bit of use out of them already.

So far I mounted some Kenda 270's with new heavy duty tubes for the trip, wired in a power source for my GPS, a battery volt meter, and will do an oil and air filter change this weekend, as well as test pack the bike to see how the load goes.

Oh, I was reporting horrible fuel mileage after my 685 rebuild, pulled apart the carb to shim the needle back down a bit to lean it out, and found that I'd installed the needle incorrectly (Thanks Willys from KLR650.net) and am now running it with a KLX needle in the third clip position, and need to make a test ride to see what I can get out of a tank. One stretch of the TLH is just over 400km long between gas stops.

Update: 2019-09-30 Power Banks

Over the last eight years I've changed up how I recharge my electronics while on the go. I now carry a 10,000 mAh power bank that I use to charge my phone and my Cardo Scala G4 overnight. During the day I recharge the power back directly off of the bike itself using a Battery Tender Jr. USB Charger (SAE to USB with up to 2000mAh output ). It's a great system that has worked well for me. If I were to camp in place for more than a few days, I would perhaps find room for a solar panel to recharge the power bank during the day.

An older 6700 mAh charger worked quite well provided it was charged during the day while on the bike.
RavPower 6700 mAh

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