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Packing For A Motorcycle Trip | The Complete Guide

There’s no greater freedom for us bikers than getting on your motorcycle, starting the engine and going for a ride. You don’t always need a destination. Being at one with your motorcycle is a great antidote for many of life’s challenges. We use them to get us to-and-from work and as a means of enjoyment in our spare time.

When a motorcycle really comes into its own however, is when you embark on a trip together. 

It’s only then that you really appreciate just how much you and the motorcycle can achieve together once you leave your comfort zone and venture into the unknown. 

If you’ve already completed some journeys with your motorcycle then this will sound familiar. However, most of us are still yet to find out what all-the-fuss is about. 

After clocking up thousands of miles in more than 20 countries, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about motorcycle travel. The question I get asked the most is “what do I need to pack for a motorcycle trip?”

There’s not one simple answer to this question, it all depends on what kind of trip you’re planning to embark on. Before you start packing your bags you need to answer four questions that apply to every motorcycle trip, long or short. 

How long will the trip be?

I don’t need to tell you that you won’t need to pack as many things for a trip of a couple of days compared to a trip that last weeks, even months. For day-trips your packing will be minimal and only the essentials are required.

Even when you’re planning longer trips, you won’t need more than 5-7 days worth of clothes to see you through.

Always plan for changeable weather even if the trip is short, and it’s worth keeping an eye on the weather further ahead when you take a break. 

How much storage space do you have?

One disadvantage of motorcycles over cars is that your carrying capacity is limited.

You must think wisely about what you’ll really need for your trip. Try to avoid overloading the motorcycle as it makes everything more difficult. 

Whether you have soft or hard luggage on your bike, decide if that’s all you’ll need.

For additional space consider a top-box, tank-bag or small backpack. If you are taking a backpack with you, keep it light so that you don’t put unnecessary stress on your spine.

What environment will you be in?

What will the environment be like that you will be exploring? I always say that you should pack clothes for the worst possible weather, even if it seems highly unlikely. I can’t the amount of times I travelled during summer expecting to not see a drop of rain, only to be caught in a sudden storm or rain shower.

If you plan to explore mountains, even in the warmer seasons, temperatures can plummet quickly. Also in open areas or deserts, the nights can be very cold. Don’t get left out in the cold, pack something waterproof and something warm if you can. 

If you have the choice of leather or textile-based clothing, adjust your protective gear accordingly. No matter the surroundings, protective gear should always be a must. 

Riding solo or with a passenger?

If you will be riding with a passenger, there a few adjustments you should make to the motorcycle. If it’s possible, you should make the rear suspension of your motorcycle a bit firmer to account for the extra weight. Adding some extra pressure to the rear tyre will also ensure the motorcycle handles well and is stable.

Another factor to consider is luggage space. If you are both carrying luggage, which most likely you will, then make sure you have adequate space for you and your passenger. If you usually wear a backpack, it will be more wise for your passenger to wear it for you.

Make sure your passenger has somewhere safe to hold onto and that you are comfortable with riding with extra weight. 

My early road trips through Europe saw me learning how important packing is, the hard way.

From soaking wet clothes, to a lack of tools to perform simple maintenance and repairs on my motorcycle, I’ve learned from my mistakes and grown wiser.

One of the best aspects of biking is the welcoming community that exists worldwide, we love sharing what we’ve learned through our travels.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting lots of riders out on the road tackling a range of ambitious journeys. Everyone has a different approach to touring, and what to pack. Remaining open-minded and taking the time to listen to the experiences of others can sometimes teach you a thing or two. 

It’s always refreshing to hear new advice that could help me stay safe and enjoy my own travels more.

 

To help ensure your motorcycle trips are successful, fun-filled experiences that you’ll remember for a lifetime, I’ve created the ultimate guide for what to pack when venturing out on a motorcycle trip of any length.

It’s a collection of what I’ve found out by myself and what I’ve learned from other riders. I’ll be covering everything that will help you and your motorcycle stay safe on your next motorcycle trip.

The Ultimate Packing Checklist

The Essentials

The essentials are the items that you will almost always need on any trip of a considerable length. They should be the first items of your inventory to check before setting-off anywhere. Making sure they are in good condition and not on the verge of failure is a great way to avoid any unexpected surprises when far from home.

  • Clothes
    Stick to lightweight clothing. Insulated base layers are useful for cold and warm climates. Try to keep your clothing simple. 5 tops, 7 underwear, 7 socks, 2 trousers/shorts, a comfy outfit and some comfy shoes like trainers. Roll-up your socks and store them inside the shoes when they are being stored in your luggage.
  • Waterproof Jacket
    Even when visiting hotter destinations, rain can be unpredictable and sometimes last the whole day. ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’ I think they say.
  • LED Torch/Flashlight
    Hopefully you won’t need to use it often, but you never know when you might need a decent light source. More effective than a mobile phone and the battery will last so much longer.
  • Waterproof Pocket
    Keep your Passport/right to travel, insurance, registration documents, vehicle tax documents and more safe and dry. The last thing you want is them getting wet or crumpled. It also offers peace of mind as you know they are all in the same place avoiding multiple checks.
  • Powerbank/Portable Battery
    If you have a USB charging port on your motorcycle, fantastic. Either way, having a powerbank with you is like having an extra lifeline. It makes you feel relaxed and means you can afford to venture into more remote locations.
  • Re-usable Water Bottle
    I prefer the flexible types rather than solid bottles simply for the ease of handling and packing. Especially when you ride in high temperatures, you don’t want to become dehydrated. A lack of fluids severely affects your concentration, rational decision-making and your ability to cool down. On the subject of warmer locations, don’t forget to keep your salt levels under control too.
  • Security Devices
    In an ideal situation, you would have a GPS tracker with SIM card hidden on your motorbike. In some cases, there’s no way to prevent a motorcycle from being stolen. The beauty of a tracker is that you can see where the bike ended up and actually get it back. A secure lock that doesn’t weigh an excessive amount is also a great idea. The last thing you want is your whole life on wheels to be stolen. Alarmed disc locks are a good idea. Also, there are crafty locks that chain your bar-end to the frame of the motorcycle.
  • Resealable Bags
    Store any items that are wet (or you want to prevent from getting wet) in resealable zip bags. They are affordable and super useful on long journeys when you never know what could happen.
  • Bungees/Ratchet Straps/Cargo Net
    A safe and easy way to store your valuables on your motorcycle. What’s incredible about cargo nets is that they secure a lot of items safely to the motorcycle without them needing to fit inside your bags. Try to avoid overloading the cargo net and secure it well with bungee cords or straps. On the journey make regular checks that your luggage is still safe, secure and it is not moving around. With bungee cords it’s important to inspect them often to make sure they are not fraying or coming loose at the ends.

Wearable accessories

Being ill-prepared for the potential changes in weather can lead to delays in your journey and more risk on the road. If the weather conditions are too cold or wet, it will hamper your concentration and progress on the road. Prepare yourself for cold and warm climates by packing these wearable items.

  • Summer and Winter Gloves
    Perforated-armour gloves are fantastic for sun-baked road trips so your hands get a chance to breathe. You don’t want the struggle of trying to remove sweaty hands from a leather glove (think of Ross in ‘that Friends episode’). On the other hand, they won’t be so handy when you are climbing a mountain pass where temperatures plummet fast. Find some well-reviewed winter gloves that are not only thermal and warm but also waterproof. Don’t worry how the winter gloves look as long as they do the job.
  • Face and Neck Protection
    Whatever your preferred style, a thin base-layer protects your neck and face. It’s useful for cold and warm climates. Thermal head-wear is great for colder places and a thin layer for your neck in the hotter places. When it’s hot you want to be protected from bugs. I speak from experience and I can honestly say, wasp stings on the neck are not something you’d want. Necktubes, balaclavas, scarves, masks and bandanas – there’s a range for you to try. Multi-use headgear is the most useful for saving space and offering options for a range of eventualities. We recommend you check out Buff for a stylish range of well-made head and neckwear.
  • Spare Lens or Goggles
    If your helmet has a range of different lenses, make sure you are prepared for light and dark conditions. Clear visors are great for rain and most light conditions. Tinted visors are fantastic for super sunny days, but are hideously impractical and downright dangerous as soon as daylight fades. Yellow lenses are fantastic for night-time riding and work especially well in cities at night. The treatment of light can make the oncoming headlights less dazzling and easier to distinguish other potential hazards.
  • Base Layers
    A lightweight top, thermal leggings or a whole suit that you can wear under all of your gear often takes care of any unwanted cold. It also means you don’t have to wear a woolly jumper under your jacket!

Tools

Most motorcycles come equipped with a toolkit that can be stored on the bike. Whether you still have the toolkit with your machine or not, it doesn’t always contain all the necessary things you might come to need.

Having breakdown recovery is recommended for emergencies and when there’s nothing you can do. But imagine the situation when you become stranded somewhere and you know what you need to get your machine running again, but you can’t access it without tools.

At a bare minimum you at least need the tools required to remove plastics/panels from the motorcycle to give you access.

If you have the toolkit for your bike it should include a spark plug removal tool, mine does. If this is not the case, pack one with the rest of the essential tools below.

I keep a compact selection of just enough tools with me that have never let me down.

  • 10/13mm double-ended spanner
    2-in-1 combo of the most common sizes we usually need, this one saves a lot of time.
  • A tough, long and strong flathead screwdriver
    For increased leverage (or protection).
  • Compact impact driver
    Avoid rounding off and perishing hard-to-release bolts, save a headache or two. Pack an impact driver to hammer your way out of a bad situation with a broken or rounded bolt-head.
  • Compact tyre pump
    Maybe you want to adjust your tyre pressures for a change in road surface, or perhaps even you notice your tyre is suffering from a slow-puncture. A compact tyre pump is something you simply can’t recreate on the road. A pump that is effective won’t cost too much and could save you when you need it most.
  • Mini multimeter/electrical testing device
    Worth their weight in gold and they are very cheap. If you get into a pickle and want to narrow down the cause of the problem, pack one and make sure you don’t forget to leave it turned on after use.
  • Small 1/4" Ratchet
    8mm, 10mm, 12mm and 13mm sockets.
  • Screwdriver with interchangeable tips
    A flathead, crosshead, posi-drive. Hex-heads and star-drives are a plus, (look out for a ratchet attachment on the end of the handle if buying new, it’s a worthy upgrade).
  • Allen Keys on a rail
    I like to pack a kit witth 2-10mm with rounded long-ends for extra accessibility.
  • Long-nose or bent/nose pliers
    An invaluable for those hard to reach places. Sometimes getting at things with your hands, especially when it’s cold can hurt your fingers and cause small injuries.

Remember: You only need to carry the tools that apply to bolt sizes on your motorcycle. Full kits take up unnecessary space.

Snacks

It might sound ludicrous to carry snacks around with you while you ride. Especially when it’s possible to stop somewhere to eat.

But eating a quick bite while on the road is a great way to lift your mood, help you concentrate for longer and maintain your energy levels.

If a 5-minute stop to eat means you can hold off for a few more hours of riding, then you can imagine how much time they can save you in the long run.

Be wary of foods that are heat sensitive like soft cheeses and yoghurts as they can expire quickly in hot weather and cause a mess and possibly a stomach ache.

Other Handy Items

So far we’ve covered all the gear you should carry to be prepared for any situation. Here are a few more special items that I like to pack on longer trips in case of unforeseen circumstances. With these items packed, you can ride into the most obscure and remote locations with more peace of mind. 

  • Zip/Cable ties, Mechanic's Wire
    For fastening, securing, or replacing a bolt, even holding it all together. For ties, unlock and reuse where possible instead of cutting and wasting.
  • Strong tape
    A good quality duct tape can hold cracked bodywork together and practically anything else imaginable if you tape it right and tight.
  • A rag
    Exactly that, something useful to wipe surfaces of hands that yyou won’t miss if it gets covered in oil, grease or dirt.
  • Hydrophobic solution
    A fluid that effectively repels water from surfaces like your visor or screen. Personally, Rain-X works best, reapply the layer when you see its effects are fading. Get a small bottle and keep the rain out of your eyes so you have a safer ride. Not being able to see when it’s raining heavily can be scary and dangerous.
  • Pocket Knife
    Useful for preparing food on the road, to cut anything free or even to protect yourself from wild animals depending on where you are! I usually bury it into my luggage for borders and have never had any trouble. In many countries it’s pretty normal for somebody to carry a small knife as long as it’s not visible.
  • WD-40
    Ahhh, the aroma of my childhood, WD-40. This magic solution has a variety of uses from releasing stubborn bolts,to keeping areas protected from water and corrosion. It will effortlessly clean off unwanted gunk, remove crud and lot’s more. Get a small bottle to keep with you on your travels.
  • Tweezers/Sewing kit
    Tweezers are the best tool for removing hard-to-reach, small items or splinters. A small survival sewing kit can be used to repair torn or damaged material on your gear and prevent you from spending to replace damaged items.

Time to hit the road!

Overall, being resourceful and resilient is the greatest tool you can possess as a motorcycle adventurer. If you forgot to pack something, you can try to purchase it somewhere or be creative in and find something you could use around you.

Be adaptable and trust those around you that offer help. With time you adjust your inventory and begin to get creative to push your adventures into new territory. If there are any items you’d like to add, we’d love to hear from you. 

 

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you go! 

Have a great ride and we’ll see you on the road.

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