There are several skills to master on a motorcycle, but nobody talks about one of the most difficult ones: deciding what to bring – and what not to bring – on your upcoming trip.
You can find tutorials all over the internet about how to ride an adventure bike in all kinds of different situations.
Still, not as many people talk about the nitty gritty details of what to pack and how the length of your trip should help you decide what to bring.
We’re going to tackle this topic today. Adventure motorcycling means different things to different people, but it involves getting out on your bike and exploring at its core.
Naturally, this also means bringing some things with you. Since space is tight on a motorcycle, you need to pack smart. Be ruthless with your decision making and ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”
The catch, of course, is leaving for several weeks means taking more things than if you just left for a weekend. So let’s talk about both situations.
What’s Needed on a Long ADV Motorcycle Trip
First Aid Kit
Do we really need to explain why? Motorcycling is dangerous, and riding off-road presents its own set of challenges – most of which can hurt you if you mess it up such as a crash.
Even if you’re fine or riding with friends, having basic medical necessities could be enough to help someone return to civilization and get professional care.
*Disclaimer: if someone is seriously hurt, seek the help of emergency services immediately.*
As an added precaution, it never hurts to carry the name and contact info for someone back home who can be called in case of an emergency.
As with most endeavors in life, you need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. One of the most basic elements of preparation is carrying identification on you so others can figure out who you are if you can’t.
While you’re at it, include your blood type, allergies, medications you’re on, and once again, emergency contact info. Nobody likes to think of what might happen to us in the worst of times, but being prepared will give you the best chance of survival.
Motorcycle Tool Kit
Roadside repairs for mechanical issues are less common these days with the reliability of modern motorcycles, but the chance of breaking something if you drop the bike is always a real threat off-road.
A basic motorcycle tool kit will get you back up and running at least long enough to get a proper repair done elsewhere. Unless a tree root blows through your oil pan or crankcase. You’re screwed in that case...
What to include? For starters, you’ll have basic wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets, allen keys, and torx bits (we’re looking at you, GS owners). Duct tape, zip ties, JB weld, a flashlight, and batteries are also a good idea. Since we brought up GS owners, it’s also a good idea to carry specialty bits that may be specific to your motorcycle.
If this is a new bike to you, try performing some basic maintenance at home. Take note of the various bits you used, the bits you need, acquire them, and pack them in your tool kit. If you can grab a tool kit designed specifically for your bike, go for it.
Flat Tire Repair Kit
We could have included this with the tool kit above, but it’s important enough to include on its own. Why? Because you’re bound to get a flat eventually. Plug types or patch types are good, proven, and reliable means of patching an ADV motorcycle tire or tube.
They do require a small learning curve, so if you’ve never tried one before, it’s best to practice using one from the comfort of your home.
Avoid getting the liquid sealer “slime” type things from the local auto parts store, if possible. It’s incredibly messy and will need to be cleaned off your wheel once you can get your tire repaired or replaced correctly.
Also, if you’ve never done it before, you’re likely to burn through your entire lexicon of curse words before the job is finished.
Now, it’s not generally a good idea to carry a wad of cash on you, but having a few extra bits of currency is good to have for those unexpected moments. Credit cards are better for security reasons and if you’re forced to make a large purchase (heaven forbid).
The card you choose is also essential – Visa and Mastercard are accepted nearly everywhere. American Express? Not so much.
The point of a long trip is to get out there and explore. And while getting lost can be fun sometimes, it does reach a point, eventually, where it gets old, and you want to find your way again.
Hello, navigation. A GPS with pre-programmed waypoints is ultra-convenient, and some GPS devices are even sophisticated enough to include off-road paths just for adventure riders.
However, should your electronic devices fail (and they inevitably do), a good old-fashioned map is always at the ready.
One of the joys of being on a motorcycle ride is getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life – your cell phone is likely chief among them. But when you need to make a call or have someone call you, a phone is invaluable. So, take it along. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, turn it off and pack it away, only to use it if you need to.
Don’t forget to use your phone to take cool pictures of the various things you spot along your ride.
If you do take – and use – your phone, pairing it with a communicator in your helmet can be a big advantage. Then you can ride and talk at the same time. Or your phone can give you directions, play songs, or even a podcast. Of course, this changes if you lose service or enter a dead zone, but for the most part, it can provide entertainment during the boring parts of your trip.
Bungees and Straps
You never know what you’re going to acquire along the way, and since space is at a premium, you generally have to pile stuff on top of your passenger seat or saddlebags. Having straps makes securing these items down easy-peasy.
Gear and Clothes
Long rides inevitably mean you’ll face a wide variety of weather conditions. Be ready. Have layers packed away that you can put on when it gets cold (don’t forget to cover your neck!), but also be ready to sweat when the weather gets hot. Wearing a sweat-wicking polyester base layer between your skin and other layers will help get things on and off, and when it’s hot, the poly base layer will help keep you dry and cool as the wind passes through.
Also, don’t forget to bring general clothing for those times you’re not on the bike.
Going on an adventure often means sleeping away from civilization. You’ll need to have a makeshift roof over your head.
Don’t forget the camping gear. At the very least, this should be a MotoTent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and food/cooking utensils. Personal hygiene is also essential, so if you don’t plan on stopping at a hotel or friend’s house for a shower every few days, bring wipes and a toothbrush.
What’s Needed on a Shorter Weekend Adventure Motorcycle Trip
Shorter weekend trips don’t need as much stuff. So, using the list above as a guide of what to bring, here’s what we think you can leave at home.
A little clarification: don’t leave your entire tool kit at home. But since you’re going for just a weekend, we assume you know the area and terrain you’ll be encountering and you feel comfortable riding there.
You can probably leave some of the more specialized tools at home, or at the very least, carry a much more basic kit with just the essentials to fix common trouble spots on your motorcycle (if any).
Bungees and Straps
On such a short outing like a weekend trip, many people pack out what they pack in. As such, the need to be prepared to haul extra stuff via bungees and straps isn’t necessary. However, considering how tight and compact straps are, it’s easy enough to carry them with you, just in case.
We’re not saying to leave your gear at home! However, for a short two-day trip, look at the weather forecast along your route and at your destination. If the weather is forecasted to stay consistent the entire time, it’ll help you make a smarter decision regarding what to pack. Going for a warm ride? Then leave the extra layers at home (and maybe reconsider your jacket choice, if possible).
ADV Motorcycle Packing Tips
Following are a few overall notes on packing your adventure motorcycle, whether you’re leaving for months or a few days:
- Weight distribution: Try to evenly distribute the extra weight you’re packing between each side of the bike. Your motorcycle’s handling could be greatly affected if you have a significant amount of weight biased towards one side.
- Quick access: As you’re packing, be mindful of the items you’ll need to access frequently during your trip and place them in easy-to-reach places. For example, waterproof gloves, goggles, water, your phone, and identification are all things you’ll want to be able to grab quickly without having to rearrange other items.
- Weight: Be mindful of your motorcycle’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). While it’s unlikely you’ll surpass this number, this one’s aimed at the pack rats out there. Or, if you’re riding a small-displacement motorcycle, this one’s also aimed at you. Not only could the bike’s performance suffer, you could stress the motorcycle’s subframe or suspension limits while riding.
- Suspension: While we’re on the topic of suspension, make sure to adjust yours, if possible, to account for the extra weight. Usually, a turn or two of rear preload will help.
Going on a motorcycle adventure is fun! Heck, even if you forget an item or two along the way, the challenge of overcoming that obstacle can make for a funny memory later.
However, not having something you need can be a giant pain – and a potentially serious one at that. So make a checklist, scrutinize it, and mark it off as you pack.
It’s always best to be prepared, so pack smart and be mindful of the length of your adventure motorcycle trip.
A long vacation might warrant packing a little extra, but if you’re only gone for a weekend, think long and hard over whether you need to pack a seventh pair of socks. No matter what, enjoy the ride.