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Touring Tip: Traveling Light

Written by: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel
Touring motorcyclists can learn a lot from the traveling light strategies employed by backpackers. When a hiker has to carry everything he or she will need for several days, every ounce of gear and clothing carried becomes important. Because necessity is often the mother of invention, backpackers take only what they absolutely will need and each item usually has more than just one use.

For touring motorcyclists, however, traveling light is often more about bulk than weight. The goal of taking only those things you will need, however, still holds true for us two-wheeled adventurers. During a recent three-day tour on a café racer-type of bike, I was able to carry everything I needed in a small backpack and tankbag. It would have been nice to have more storage space, but I, indeed, did have everything I needed. This included a digital camera and an iPad for downloading photos.

Here’s my list of thirteen essential items for motorcycle touring, including clothing items worn on the first day of travel:
  • Protective motorcycle riding gear: full face helmet, boots, gloves, jacket, sunglasses and pants (perforated jacket and pants in summer) If room permits, I also throw in a pair of casual shoes.
  • A hydration pack (for use in both warm and cool weather) and power bars, in case food stops become scarce.
  • Rain gear, which provides additional warmth if the weather turns cold.
  • Small digital camera and batteries or charger.
  • Smart phone (and charger) for monitoring weather and calling for help, if needed.
  • Critical personal information: name, next of kin phone number(s), medications, drug allergies, blood type, etc.
  • Maps and/or GPS device (I usually take both).
  • Fresh underwear and socks for each day of the tour.
  • One pair of bicycle-type shorts for riding comfort, which are aired-out or rinsed each night, as necessary.
  • Two form-fitting synthetic shirts, which are rinsed and air-dried each night (like those sold under the UnderArmor brand, which hold perspiration close to the body and provide an evaporative cooling effect).
  •  A light weight long-sleeve turtleneck for cold mornings and whenever additional insulation is needed.
  •  A minimal toiletry kit, which includes any daily medications.
  •  A polo type shirt and a pair of jeans for casual wear after the day’s ride is complete.
OK, I’ve probably forgotten something or maybe you have a completely different list of essential items. Anyway, let us know what’s on your list of “must have” motorcycle touring items.


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12 Responses

  1. Great list. You certainly made sure that every useful thing has been included. Guess I'll mirror you on the packing. Thanks for sharing your ideas especially since everything in your pack has a specific purpose. 🙂

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing these wonderful tips. I know that packing for rides ain't that easy. You have to be wise with whatever you need to bring so it will not add up to the weight you are carrying. It will be such a burden to have heavy package.

  3. Thanks for pointing this out. I have a friend who joined a bike trip one time and he expressed disappointment over his travel because of the inconvenience of carrying a heavy bag while riding. Perhaps he didn't do research prior to the trip.

  4. I agree that you only bring those you really need like those that are for personal necessities. It is important to know how to pack your things so that it will fit and also to have a backpack that is just enough that will not hinder your ride. 🙂

  5. spare key
    spare fuses
    tool kit (at least OEM if not your own collection)
    owner's manual with wiring diagram
    couple of feet of stranded wire
    electrician's tape
    cash and credit cards
    Leatherman tool
    tire gauge
    couple of zipties
    saddlebags ( I despise wearing a backpack on a bike)
    couple of bandanas
    baseball cap
    small first aid kit
    compass (old school – pre-GPS)
    small notebook and pen/pencil
    air pump and tire/tube patch kit (old school – pre-tubeless tires)
    bungee net

    We'll leave the list of camping gear for another day.

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