Touring Tip: What To Take?

Dec 05, 2014 View Comments by

Touring Tip: What To Take?

Deciding what to take on a multiday motorcycle trip can be as important as deciding where to go. Taking too little or the wrong items can pose certain risks and taking too much can make the daily loading and unloading a hassle. Less seasoned moto-tourists typically take too much, possibly because they have not yet experienced the limited storage space available on a motorcycle. Even if a particular motorcycle does have voluminous luggage capacity, there’s still a maximum load limitation specified for each bike (which can be found in the Owner’s Manual). So, figuring out just the right balance of what’s truly needed on a motorcycle trip is part science and part art, but also a lot of personal preference.

Probably the nearest parallel to traveling by motorcycle is backpacking or bicycling. In that world, minimum weight and multi-use items is very important. In our motorcycle touring world, I would add minimizing bulk to the backpacker’s list. Because we’re traveling at highway speeds with our luggage, it’s important that everything taken be stowed in cases, bags, or is otherwise securely attached to the bike. Bulky items can use up valuable luggage space.

As mentioned above, because deciding what to pack for a motorcycle trip is dependent on circumstances and personal preferences, I can’t tell you precisely what you should take, but I can share with you my own personal top ten list:

  1. Riding/Protective Gear: It goes without saying that we at RoadRUNNER always ride with full protective gear. In addition to that I always take earplugs, full rain gear, including waterproof shells for my gloves, and an extra pair of riding gloves. Depending on weather and other riding conditions, I also may bring jacket and pants liners, heated gear, a neck warmer, and/or drinking water.
  2. Clothing: Donning and removing layers of synthetic clothing, particularly on the upper body, is usually a good way to regulate riding comfort when temperatures fluctuate between morning and dusk, and for changing elevations. Even when riding in summer months, I usually take a turtleneck sweater for unexpected cool weather. Of course, an adequate supply of underclothing and socks are always needed, but not an excessive amount. On longer trips, I wash clothes to cut down on the volume. I also pack one pair of casual pants, a polo-type shirt and, if storage space allows, a pair of comfortable shoes.
  3. Navigational Aids: On most trips, I will program my intended route on my computer and transfer it to my Garmin, which is then mounted on my bike. Call me old school, but I always take along paper maps. They give me the larger geographical context of the touring area and, as digital navigation aids occasionally fail for one reason or another, good old paper maps are vitally important to have along.
  4. Camera Equipment: Since most of my travel either requires photography or I simply want a camera along in case an interesting photo opportunity presents itself, I always include at least one camera and related equipment in my luggage.
  5. Personal Identification & Health Information: I’ve had unexpected situations on the road, resulting from illness or other unfortunate events, when it was important to have key health information readily available. This includes information about any drug allergies, blood type, daily medications, etc. Of course, I always carry my driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance policy information, health insurance cards, and emergency contact information.
  6. Personal Hygiene Items & Medications: I always take an overnight kit with toiletries, pain relievers, allergy pills, and daily medications. Over time my overnight kit tends to accumulate duplicates and other detritus. I do an inventory and repacking of the kit at least annually to keep it lean.
  7. Cell Phone and Charger: You’ve probably heard the old bromide that all riders really need on a motorcycle trip is a cell phone and a credit card. Although cell coverage is still far from universal, I’ve used my cell phone to get me out of trouble more than once. Today’s smart phones, though, can do so much more than just making a call. They can be used for checking weather radar, making/canceling reservations while on the road, sending text messages, finding local motorcycle repair shops, finding a pharmacy, locating a gas station, or mapping a new route when the Garmin fails—the list goes on. Of course these capabilities all evaporate in a day or so, if you forget to bring the battery charger, don’t forget!
  8. Credit & Debit Cards and Extra Cash: In today’s digital economy, the dollar volume of cash purchases is declining rapidly. Consequently, credit cards have become a must have on any road trip. But, I’ve experienced situations where a cash machine wouldn’t accept my card, a bank cash machine ate my card during non-operating hours, and a foreign transaction triggered a hold on my account. And, of course, there’s always the risk of theft. For these reasons, I always have multiple cards and an extra stash of cash and a credit card stored in a hidden location. Also, I always take along a list of my credit cards with their number and the 800-telephone number for calling the credit card company.
  9. iPad: I use an iPad instead of a computer (which is heavier and more bulky), to digitally back-up photos, write notes about my trips and, if needed, research people, places, and things on the Internet.
  10. Tools, Manuals, etc: As motorcycles have become more technologically sophisticated and reliable, the need to make repairs while on the road has diminished. The contents of tool kits found on new bikes, however, also have diminished. I supplement the factory toolkit with the following items, particularly on longer trips:
  • Tire repair kit (tube or tubeless)
  • An extra front inner tube (because it can be used in either the front or back tube type tire), along with the necessary tire changing tools
  • Sockets and ratchet
  • Extra spark plugs and wrench
  • Hex head or Torx, Philips or slot bits (depending on what the bike requires), which will fit either on a socket wrench or in an accommodating screw driver
  • Chain lubricant
  • Extra bulbs for head and tail lights and turn indicators
  • Air pressure gauge
  • Owner’s Manual
  • Duct tape
  • Spare ignition key
  • Proof of insurance

However, riders need pack only those additional tools, which they can personally use to fix a problem. Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying the extra weight?

Your “must haves” list may be, and probably is, different from mine, so let us hear about your top 10.


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