Touring Tip: Making A List And Checking It Twice

Oct 05, 2012 View Comments by

List making isn’t just for jolly old men in red suits. Making a list of items to pack for a motorcycle trip can be an effective strategy for riders who want to take only what they will need—and nothing more! If we’re honest with ourselves, packing for a trip is part of the fun, it’s in those moments of preparation that we get to savor the adventure we’re about to have. Here is are our top ten motorcycle list making tips:

1. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Before starting your own list, consult lists others have used. To get started, Google “motorcycle packing lists” and you’ll find many examples to consider.

2. Remember that Less is More: Because additional weight and/or bulk can affect motorcycle handling, the goal should always be to minimize the number, bulk, and weight of items on the list. Like a backpacker, focus on items that have more than one use and please don’t take work from your day job along. Will you really need a laptop computer or several hardbound books to read while on tour? Less stuff packed = more fun on the trip.

3. Use Categories within the List: It may be helpful to arrange your list by categories of similar items: toiletries, riding gear, medications/first aid, tools, casual clothes, photography, etc.

4. Use Different Lists for Different Activities: Depending on what your additional planned activities are on a bike trip, it may make sense to have several independent lists. For example, start with a base list for any motorcycle travel. If camping will be part of the trip, then have a separate list just for that activity. If food preparation will be part of the camping activity, prepare another list just for foods, cooking utensils, and related items. Other discrete activities and lists might focus on: hiking, fishing, formal events, etc. Having component lists avoids the need to prepare a master, tailored list for every trip.

5. Consider Bulk vs. Weight: Unlike backpacking where minimizing weight is king, bulk is often a bigger limiting factor on motorcycle tours, because of the paramount need to secure items from wind forces. For instance, it usually will be more important to take a sleeping bag that can stow in less space than one that is lighter, but takes up more space. Often, though, the two considerations go hand-in-hand.

6. Make Sure it All Will Fit: Lists are fine, but all of the items on the list need to fit in the storage space available. It’s usually a good idea to assemble the items in advance to make sure they do, in fact, fit. A side benefit to laying everything out in advance is that often it becomes obvious what necessary items are missing and which items are superfluous.

7. Is the Load Secure? Ideally, all of the items packed should fit inside of some type of soft or hard luggage that is firmly attached to the bike. For items that will be stowed alfresco, make sure they are securely strapped—not bungee-tied—to the bike and that those items are not perishable or will be otherwise damaged by inclement weather.

8. Check Bike’s Max Load Capacity: To avoid an unsafe riding condition, know your bike’s maximum load capacity and make sure not to exceed it. A relatively inexpensive luggage scale can be helpful in this regard.

9. Do a Test Ride: Additional weight and bulk usually affects the way a motorcycle handles. Before leaving on a trip with a heavily packed motorcycle, do a test ride to make sure the handling is safe and the load is secure.

10. Refine Your List(s): It will be a rare occurrence when a list prepared before a trip turns out to contain the exact things that were needed on the trip, and nothing more. During your trips, keep notes about things that were taken, but not needed, and those that were needed, but not taken. Then update your packing list as soon as you return home.

Keeping your list(s) for future reference will make packing for successive trips down the road easier and easier. Eventually, you may even have them memorized! Now tell us about your list making strategies for motorcycle trips.

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