We have found that this is the key to successful touring. Successful = enjoyment! Although for some not knowing what's happening next is part of the enjoyment. We have found that knowing where we are stopping at the end of the day, and having some sort of bed for the night is critical to our enjoyment. In fact the planning has been part of the fun.
It must be comfortable - so the correct size and well worn in is the key. I wouldn't recommend buying a road racing bike one day and going touring on it the next. The frames usually have relaxed geometry and have a longer wheelbase than road bikes.
We use primarily Brookes leather saddles which when worn in are great. The key is either wear in the saddle or wear in your bum.
We generally use low gearing - either road / MTB triples, or MTB doubles, generally with MTB cassettes. On our early tours we weren't frightened to get off and walk - it's another gear!
Good brakes are essential - cantilever rim brakes have let us down on occasion down steep hills fully loaded. Disc brakes are great for loaded touring but not essential.
Riding in a low position day in day out is not recommended, this doesn't rule out drop bars but raise them a little higher. Our preference is bull horn bars but that's not everyone's taste.
Examples of bikes we have used are: Genesis Croix der Fer, Specialized Hybrid, Salsa Vaya ... we have even used a GT Avalanche 29er MTB and a Giant Defy - but were a bit of a compromise but ok. Many of these bikes can be seen on our other pages.
Panniers on a rack are no longer essential now that 'bikepacking' has arrived. My preference is panniers but each to there own. Also a saddle bag for tools and essential repair items, plus a bar bag / cross bar bag for snacks.
The best luggage is probably Ortlieb but it's an expensive investment. Many cheaper brands are fine but may not last as long. WATERPROOF IS ESSENTIAL!
Accessories and tools:
Carry enough essential tools and spares to keep you going. Recommendations: multi tool, chain break, pump (type with hose as it's easier), cable ties, latex gloves, puncture repair kit, small bottle of chain lube, chain missing link ...
Navigation and communication:
We don't need to carry maps anymore although they do offer emergency cover and are good to chat around at night. GPS navigation devices can be good but are small and expensive. your mobile phone can easily double up as GPS navigation and communication device. Be aware of mounting and water - both can be combated but can be tricky. A IP rated waterproof phone is better than a waterproof case and secure mounting is essential. A 'power bar' battery source is pretty much essential as your phone battery will 'die' during a long day in the saddle.
Garmin Edge 1000 is good (small but battery life fine) and the Quadlock mount is very secure.
Food and liquid:
'Bonking' (running out of energy) is awful and must be avoided. Carry your favourite snacks and maybe a couple of gels for emergency. Also make sure you have sufficient water, two bottles is recommended, filled-up a lunch time.
On and off the bike clothing:
You will probably need to take both cycling and dancing (normal human) clothes with you 'on tour'. What you actually take depends on how long and where you are touring. Lycra dries very quickly and fits really well - it's obviously great for cycling. It isn't essential though - if you have comfortable shorts then that's ok. Remember touring is not a fashion show and looking good is not necessary. Don't carry too many off bike clothes: it's just dead weight.
Minimize your toiletries for all the reasons above!!!