If you were to be marooned on a desert island, what three items would you take with you? It’s the classic party game question that I didn’t think I’d ever need to take seriously. But now I’m playing a similar game in real life – I want to fit everything I need to work, rest and play into small bag; except I’m not marooned, and it’s a bit colder than a desert island…

So what’s in the bag? Well, firstly let’s not forget what’s not in the bag – what I’m normally wearing out on my bike:


The shorts are used for cycling, swimming, running, and for wearing while I’m washing my trousers. The black sleeves are the thermal top I’m wearing underneath the yellow cycle jersey – this jersey has three pockets on the back. The shoes are semi-barefoot style running shoes; I currently use studded off-road pedals on my bike.

In the back pockets of the yellow cycle jersey I carry my wallet, phone and cycle D-lock key. The smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy Note which is a man-sized phone with a manly processor to match – necessarily so because I manage all my business from it, use it to navigate, to take photos and to write on this blog.


Now for the contents of the backpack. It’s the Terra Nova Laser 20 litre pack, and it contains the following items:


From bottom right:

– mini can of deoderant
– razor with no handle
– toothbrush and paste all inside the little blue thing
– swimming goggles
– earphones
– headlamp (includes white and red LEDs to provide backup bike lights)
– phone charger
– one change of cyclist’s socks
– warm woolly socks
– stretchy wind-proof trousers
– Thermarest Xtherm four-season inflatable mattress inside an Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag inside the mattress inflation sack (grey)
– and in the green bag: piano tuning tools!

My current experiment is that I don’t carry any sleeping bag, instead I have lots of down clothing which I wear to bed, all made by Peter Hutchkinson Designs up in Manchester. Underneath the down pull-over is a down vest for extra insulation.


Now, inside the little green bag are my piano tuning tools:


Through the trial and error of twelve years out on the road carrying tools to clients’ houses, these are the tools that make light work of 95% of the pianos I encounter. Starting from the middle:

– piano tuning lever, wedges and A = 440 Hz fork
– one syringe containing a common lubricating oil like motor oil, 3-in-1 or WD40 to lubricate the points of friction on ancient rusty strings before tuning
– another syringe containing Protek, a lubricant from New York made specially for the piano industry for the delicate wooden hinges – this stuff works magic!
– regulation tools for key-spacing, capstans and set-offs
– wood glue in a mini-toothpaste tube
– general purpose glue (currently Evostick Serious Glue)
– pliers
– flat screwdriver
– 80-grit sandpaper
– assorted felts
– assorted felt washers
– return tapes


Q. Where’s your change of clothes?
A. I don’t carry a change of clothes because that would add weight and bulk to my pack; I get by fine with what you see above. If I want to wash the yellow t-shirt I can wear the black thermal shirt in the meantime. I can wear the trousers while I’m washing the shorts and vice-versa. On warmer days I can wash undergarments and put them back on immediately – cycling around for an hour will dry them. The only change I carry is one extra pair of socks – I wash one pair after every shower then either use an electronic hand dryer to dry them in two minutes or put them on my bicycle handlebars to dry while I ride. Alternatively I might put them one on each shoulder under my thermal top – they’re thin and synthetic so my body heat dries them quite quickly.

Q. Where’s your towel?
A. I don’t carry a towel, I use one of my t-shirts instead – after this I put on said T-shirt and my body heat dries it out quickly.

Q. What about waterproof clothing? What about a shelter like a tent or a tarp?
A. I don’t carry anything waterproof except for my backpack (to keep the contents dry). It doesn’t rain much in South-East England and I’m mostly in the city where I’m never more than a hundred yards from some form of shelter. I also daily check weather forecasts and rain radars which are very accurate in this country for the next 24 hours ahead.


Why the obsession with travelling light? It’s not like backpacking where more weight on my back would quickly get tiring – my bike can carry a lot of weight on pannier racks. So why not take a few more luxuries along with me?

It’s easiest to understand this by imagining the other extreme – try cycling around towing a motor car behind you. I think you’ll find that accellerating, braking, and climbing are significantly more difficult, and you can forget about clambering over a fence or carrying everything up a flight of stairs.

The lighter I travel with my bike, the easier it becomes both to cycle and to carry my cycle over obstacles. This opens up new routes involving fences and stiles, forest tracks blocked by fallen trees, fords across rivers and footbridges with staircases. I can travel faster for longer, with less stress on my knees and I feel fresher at the end of the day.

And with the weight I’ve saved by cutting down on unnecessary gear, I’ve created space to carry what ever else takes my fancy – for example I could carry extra food and water for one of those epic rides to the middle of nowhere.

It also makes life easier when I get off the bike and hang out in a pub, café or  friends’ house because I don’t have to occupy my hands with lots of heavy bags.

But travelling light is not only about how easy it is to cycle around and carry stuff about – it means a lot more than that to me. It means ridding myself of all the unnecessary clutter in my life and the distraction and expense caused by it; it means a lot less stress because I have less things that need fixing, less things that might get stolen, and less things to rummage through when I’m trying to grab an item from the depths of my bag. It means that if everything gets stolen, I can easily start afresh without breaking the bank because there’s not much that needs buying.

Ultimately I feel enlightened, both physically and spiritually. I feel more free time and energy to give to the people and projects and passtimes that I love.

63 thoughts on “Stuff

  1. Pingback: Ultralight | Richard the Piano Tuner

  2. Hey Richard, it’s Richard. Met you at the Jugular event on Thursday. Just checked out your website and blog. Very very interesting. I dig it. Particularly the ‘stuff’ page. And change of clothes. I’m a million miles away from this kind of lifestyle, but really admire it. Keep in touch, man.


    • Hi Rich, great to hear from you. Jugular was a fun event, it promises to be quite a spectacle in the long run…

      I too was a million miles from where I am now – only two years ago! It’s amazing how resourceful you can become when you give yourself no choice!

      I’m going away now until March, but hope to see you soon maybe at he next Jugular.

  3. Pingback: Debt Free: The Piano Tuner Who Chooses to Be Homeless

  4. Wow, man. What you’re doing is so freaking cool. I would love to be able to live like that, but it seems so extreme. I’m surprised you don’t have more bike stuff – patch kit, pump, tools etc. How long do you plan to carry on like this?

    • Thanks Ed!

      I thought it was too extreme, until I tried it for a while… it’s really quite easy, the outdoors life is broken up by lots of visits to friends, pubs and cosy cafés.

      If you can make your lifestyle this cheap, you can dedicate all your time to your art, no matter how little that earns you.

      I am currently carrying a tiny bike pump and repair kit because I’m in the Argentina outback, but in London I didn’t bother because with puncture resistant tyres I never have a problem.

      These have been the best two years of my life, I have no intention to go back to a more conventional lifestyle.

  5. Hey Richard, your experience is so overwhelming, thank you for sharing.
    I can understand you very well, I’d felt like you when I was doing some tracks by myself in Nepal and when I was living in a car for 3 months in New Zealand. I’m not so extreme like you yet, but I have this kind of feelings, I think the most happier days in my life was in those moments. Xx

    • Meeeh… only as scary as you want it to be, you can decide where to go and how fast.

      Mind you I went into a big tree this morning, now my ankle hurts! Should stick to cycling.

      • The missus came too, weather wasn’t that great. If only she would travel using a bivvy, if only. That’s a tad toooo basic for Nita.
        Still we are back and I’ve got my self a rebuild/refurbish project, 1970’s Holdsworth in need of TLC. London Housesitting at the end of June, cycle North to B in F and Catterick in July-August. Guessing you’ve come back and back at work ?

        • Sounds like some nice touring you’ve got planned! I’ll be in London end of June, will send you an email just in case we can meet up for a beer.

          Yes I haven’t quite worked out the girl+bivvy thing yet, have always resorted to a small tent.

          I’m currently cycling through Wales from Conwy to Pembrokeshire. Am trying to update blog, there’s just so much to cover now…

  6. Please catch up with your blogging, they are so positive for your alternative lifestyle. Making me oh so envious, turn back the clock and I was there!

    • Hi Mike, I’m sorry for the delay there, I have every intention to keep it up, heaps of stuff to write about.

      I’m working on an old baby grand piano in Camden Town today. It would be great to see you if you’re still about, will send you another email.

      • Hi Richard,
        It was great to meet you, I really enjoyed our chat. Anita says hi too.
        You just reinforced my belief in your chosen lifestyle, thank you. You also ignited an interest in lowering our footprint with both Anita and I.
        In order to keep Anita bike travelling, we are going to reduce our daily mileage and have more days off. Though to be fair all of our travels on the bike to date have had specific goals, eg hosts booked, Tour start etc.


  7. Hi Richard,
    Yes I’ve always held the journey to be the most important, though high mile days wasn’t about ego or bragging rights, as I rarely spoke to anyone about my journeys. Rather it was more about filling my day by spending it in the saddle. Hence the swollen prostrate I spoke of.
    With Anita as my companion the distance must come down to suit her needs. I’ve just got to get on with it and fill the days with sight seeing.
    We are indeed enjoying London though .

  8. Hi Richard

    Great cycling with you and Martin on the Exmouth Exodus.

    Really like your blog and the film about your lifestyle, total respect to you I’m very envious!

    Stay safe on the road and hopefully catch up with you again sometime.



  9. Hi Richard,
    All okay with you, been very quiet of late. We are back in London until Wednesday house/ grand kid sitting. Then off to Majorca yeh !


    • Sweet! What a nice way to spend the Winter…

      I might be doing something similar, I bought a train ticket to Marseille for the 2nd January, taking my new bike not thinking of coming back until April.

      My new bike, yes… it’s a perfect fit but still got teething problems… will post pics eventually.

      I’m hiding out in Bucks country for a week. But enjoy London again, and your onward journey!

  10. What teething troubles???
    By the time you catch up on all of your blogs I’ll be on mi zimmer !!!! Enjoy Marseille nice part of the world, not sure of the city though!!!!


    • Thanks!

      Not staying there, Marseille may be a fine city for all I know but it’s just my gateway to the Med, there are much warmer places I’m itching to explore, a lot further south…

      Will update the blog, I will I will!

  11. Monaco to Italy and onto Greece would be good, as would Spain and Morocco. Admit to be slightly envious. Enjoy the warmth whatever you do. Must be warmer than London in winter. Wild camping although illegal is fun!!

    • Not really, well I did bring my new bike here on the plane, but I’m mostly here on a personal quest, something to do with what we were discussing on our walk around Brockwell Park. My research into the origins of Christianity should take me around the country so there will be some nice riding.

      You in Mallorca?

  12. Love your blog and what you are doing. We are so constrained by the ‘norm’ and it refreshing to see someone thinking and living outside the box. Its somewhat more risky for a single woman to do what you are doing though. Half your luck mate.

  13. Hey Richard, I am a fellow cyclist who came across your blog from a comment you posted somewhere about wild camping. My girlfriend and I both musicians as well. We are inspired by your lifestyle. Thanks!

  14. Hi Richard,
    How are you getting on ? Still following your lifestyle of no home etc ! How’s the cycling ?
    We have moved from Bournemouth to the Chilterns. Anita has now got herself a job. So only me cycling hehe !

    • Hi Mike! Doin well been in Wales, Somerset and Wiltshire this Summer apart from London of course, mostly ‘roughing’ it but thus Autumn I’m staying with a community called Grow Heathrow a lot: we’re currently on a Channel 4 show called ‘Jon Richardson Grows Up – Money’ which should be available on 4 on demand for a while.

      What part of the Chitterns? I cycle through sometimes

    • Need our piano tuned! Where are you. We are at Angle, near Pembroke. Love your lifestyle. Bit minimal! Wonderful I,m sure! Would need to know charge etc. Let me know please.
      Avril Collins

  15. Hi Richard,
    We are in Stourton , actually Stourton Hill House. Any time your passing give us a shout. Your very welcome to call in for a feed / coffee etc.Our landline is your best bet as mobile signal is crap. 01608 684458 .

  16. Your welcome Richard! We couldnt accomodate you, as we have a tiny flat. However plenty of woods and fields to bivvy in !

  17. Dear Richard,
    Very interested in your lifestyle. I believe a rich man is not defined by how much he owns but how little he needs. Although I don’t live outdoors regularly, there are periods where I too have slept outdoors in London out of choice, often on the rural fringes. What originally seemed daunting soon became a pleasure. I find the experiences have allowed me to have a more stoical and robust attitude to the supposed problems we have in everyday life. It also really makes you realise how little one needs materially speaking and what are the real things that make one happy. Just a few questions: Do you think you will pursue this lifestyle indefinitely? or will potentital relationships/ having children require a more permanent abode. Also how do you find the practicalities of sleeping outdoors in the harsh periods of winter? Keep doing what you are doing, and best of luck to you.

    • Thanks Ol! Have spent the last two Winters abroad in Argentina and Israel, camping there was warm. This Winter I’m piano tuning in exchange for accommodation in various houses and boats. Have previously spent one Winter mostly outdoors in London, it was alright, kinda fun, but while there are warmer alternatives…

      There are more adventurous outdoorsy kind of girls I could hold out for one of them… to be honest I wasn’t actually planning to ever start a family, was quite happy on my own and seemed like too much work for no reason. However I’ve recently fallen in love with a girl who lives in a conventional house. So lets see what happens!

  18. Hi Richard, let me know should you ever find yourself in Beskydy mountains. I will lend you my favourite wool blanket and you should be plenty warm by a long fire 🙂
    Best of luck,

  19. Hi Richard,

    I’m aware of your concern with the environment and would like to hear your opinion on a resource-based economy. If you don’t know what it is, take a look at The Venus Project or the Documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. They’re amazing!

    That system is much better than this modern capitalism we’re living in.

    • Hi Diego,

      I find the Venus project inspiring and I think that it should definitely be built, tested and experienced for evaluation.

      The Zeitgeist films were thought-provoking – I found some inaccuracies and I’m not sure about some of the conspiratorial claims, but there seemed to be a good assessment of some of the problems of the currently prevailing version of capitalism.

      What’s wrong with our current economic system, and what’s right with it? What would be an ideal system, and how to get there? These are the questions I’m trying to answer this year, so I’ve gone back to school.

      I’ve also noticed a lot of people dismissing the current system too lightly, and romanticising the hunter-gatherer societies of prehistory, when evidence suggests that such societies were more violent towards each other and the rest of the ecosystem than we are today. Never before in the history of humanity have so many had so much – about six billion people have food and health, and this is no small feat. Rewind to any point in history and things were worse. However the recent population explosion has presented challenges and it’s a constant struggle to keep up…

      At the end of Zeitgeist the people gather in a city centre and throw away their money, literally ditching capitalism. Obviously this would only work if the vast majority of society has agreed to do it all on the same day. Otherwise there will be big winners and losers. However it may be symbolic in which case many people are already doing this through communities like the Transition Towns Network. How do you think we can transition to a resource-based economy?

      • Building the first experimental city would be a huge step forward. Then a full-length feature film to increase the population’s awareness.

        For further details I’d visit, concretely the Aims and Proposals page.

  20. Hi Richard,

    I first came across your story when I saw the England Your England film back in 2012 when a tutor at art school recommended a watch. I was really overwhelmed and touched by your perspective on the world. This week you suddenly popped back into my head when researching alternative housing solutions and watching the film again along with discovering your blog, I’m more inspired than ever. During your experiment, have you come across many others doing what you’re doing? Is there a small community out there? I’m 23 and would be really interested to know if there’s other people my sort of age considering (or living) the jump.

    All the best,

  21. Yo, had no idea you were imprisoned but just spotted your face in the article pictures and the name rang a bell! Very happy you’ve been released so thought i’d come for a re-read of your old blog posts but can’t seem to locate them! Anyhow, hope all is well and huge respect to you.


    • Apologies. I was expecting us to cause a stir in the media and we did, so I had to take the blog down before the Daily Mail had a field day with it – tabloids love to twist stories and smear genuine campaigners.

      Have so many more adventures to recount since… alas so far too busy adventuring to invest time in this website.

      Hope all is well,kind regards from Richard

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