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While my colleagues do enjoy teasing me about my tendency to overpack, I have a pretty extensive background in motorcycle touring and, before that, backpacking. Also, I believe that I’m the only member of the MO staff that has ever lived on a bike for a period of months. (While chronologically, my cross-country trek took over three months, I spent about four weeks of that period living in a “nest” of gear in the corner of a friend’s Phoenix apartment.) Before settling down to a life of domesticity, child-rearing, and working in the motorcycle industry, my periodic freelance employment allowed me to hit the road for extended road trips. From these two-wheeled forays, I will now give you a little insight into the twisted world that is my technique for preparing for a motorcycle tour.

  • Jon Jones

    Excellent article!

  • Mahatma

    #11:Protect the paint (if that is important to you…)

  • Vrooom

    In addition to balancing the load, I try to pack my bags so that I know where to find stuff, you’ll be surprised how hard it can be to find that small part your looking for in 3 full bags. So I try to put my camping supplies in one bag, maybe food, shoes and tools in another, and my sleeping bag and clothes in a tail bag. At least that only leaves one bag to search, again presuming you can keep things balanced. As Evans suggested, once you have a list of gear that works, save it, and simply cross things off it next time you go. Nest as much stuff as you possibly can, coffee can be stuffed in your cup, which also fits over the top off a Nalgene bottle, etc. I do a lot of 9-16 day camping/riding trips, and can usually carry dehydrated food for the whole trip without being overloaded, presuming I’m eating light, skipping lunches except for some dried fruit, and maybe restocking on coffee halfway through.

  • TimCC

    I like to organize gear by situation as well, for example what do I need when it rains, gets cold, gets hot, when I leave the bike unattended, when I have to pack up a wet tent. It’s no fun to realize that you put the rain gear on the bottom of the saddlebag when the storm catches you.

    I find a lot of value in taking an overnight trip the week before as a shakedown. It doesn’t have to be far, but packing and unpacking in the field will tell you more than doing it a dozen times in the living room.

    oh yes, I take a post trip inventory to see what I actually used, usually a lot less than I packed.

    • 12er

      Dry run prior is always good, especially with new gear. Ive done the 18 hour camping trip before…

  • JMDonald

    A lot of good info. I have go bags with lists attached because I am so friggin old I forget what’s in there. Having travelled for business for so many years I have gotten pretty good at packing smart. Most importantly there is nothing I repeat nothing like a shakedown cruise. I thoroughly enjoyed this article.

  • gjw1992

    And keep the lists for ever tho continually refining/categorizing them. Zip lock bags – genius. Good stuff – thanks

  • https://m.youtube.com/c/motoshane513 MotoShane513

    Great article. I always make sure my rain gear and first aid kit is easy to get to. If I’m going with a group I make sure they know where the first aid kit is located on my bike as well. Just in case.

  • Old MOron

    I genuinely appreciate riding with MOrons like all of you. Your careful preparations complement my wing-it approach so well.

  • DickRuble

    If you need to carry that much gear, just get an SUV and be done with it. When traveling by motorcycle, in the US, I carry a flashlight, a tire patch kit, a basic set of tools to get the the carburetor, a super light poncho, one extra pair of each socks and underwear, and a credit card with a (fairly) high limit. My phone takes 20 megapixel pictures. There’s plenty of room left for a 1 qt of emergency fuel in the hard bags. A big disk lock and the bike alarm complete the travel kit. I could squeeze all of this in the tank bag but the hard bags are fairly water proof and lockable. Hotels will give you soap, toothbrush and toothpaste so no need to carry those. Be free..