Top 10 Items To Carry In Your Tank Bag

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

The tank bag is the ideal location for little necessities you might need on a ride

News flash: most motorcycles have very little cargo-carrying capacity. That’s why tank bags were invented. You can easily carry the little essentials you may need on your ride in a form factor that’s easily removed from your motorcycle. Still, in all my years riding, I’ve never had a tank bag stolen or looted when sitting unattended on my bike. For riders who have hard bags on their bikes, I’ve seen folks use a nylon bag with organizer pockets to carry many of the items on this list, making it possible to compartmentalize the gear like in a tank bag.

Yes, I know I have a reputation for overpacking when the MO gang goes on tour, but I’d always prefer to carry a little bit of gear I didn’t need than find myself stranded. Look at each of these items as a suggestion and then consider whether it applies to your riding situation. For example, after living in Southern California for almost 30 years, I stopped carrying the rain gear that was always in my tank bag when I lived in the Northeast. Use the comments below to list the necessities I’ve forgotten.

10. Battery for cell phone

Smartphones are like dogs, they’re born hungry. So, why not carry some extra juice to keep your phone fully powered when you’re on the road. This is particularly helpful if you’re using the battery-gobbling GPS function. My Goal Zero Venture 30 is a perfect example of a battery to use. For those who are really heavy power users, you can always install an accessory power outlet on your bike and wire it to your tank bag like I did.

9. Flat fix kit

Flats happen. And they usually happen at the most inconvenient times. You can take some of the sting out of it by carrying a flat fix kit in your tank bag. The kits that have the CO2 cartridges don’t take up much room and can get you home in a pinch. Just be sure to check on the kit from time-to-time. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting on the side of the road with a flat tire and a patch kit that has had its vulcanizing glue vulcanize inside the tube.

8. Multi-tool

If multi-tools weren’t a good idea, Leatherman wouldn’t have spawned an entire industry of overly-functional gadgets. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to get what you need either. Besides you can find some inexpensive knock-offs if you look for them. I won’t tell you exactly what to carry, but I humbly suggest that it include a knife, pliers, wire cutters, and screwdrivers. I’ve had these little essentials save my bacon out on the road many times.

7. Rain gear

Back when I resided in a part of the country where it rained regularly, my rain gear lived in my tank bag, available for rapid deployment. My motorcycle was my only means of transportation, and even my first commute home from work as a newly minted motorcyclist was in the rain. So, if there is even the slightest possibility of rain, my rain gear goes in the tank bag.

6. Flashlight

With the advancement of LED technology, flashlights have gotten smaller and much more powerful. The situations that you could need one on a motorcycle are endless – like fixing a flat after dark or finding the key that tumbled into the dark recesses of the fairing (Yes, I’ve done that.). Tuck the flashlight away in your tank bag and forget about it. You’ll be glad it’s there when you need it.

5. Extra gloves

Carrying extra gloves may sound silly until you end up staying out later than you planned and you find yourself facing a 45 minute ride home with temperatures in the 50s. Those vented gloves just aren’t gonna cut it. The same goes for when the temperature goes up after your chilly morning commute. Not sweating your whole way home is priceless.

4. Sunscreen

If you’re out for an all-day ride, you can get a pretty nasty sunburn on your neck if you’re not careful. Why not carry a travel-sized container of sunscreen with you? After all, if you spend the whole day attending a rally or watching the races, sunscreen may determine whether your spouse is happy to see you or calls you an idiot when you get home.

3. Visor cleaner

You don’t need a big can of cleaner. A little spray bottle will do. Still, it’s nice to be prepared when a massive bug decides to end it all against your visor. You can find other convenient uses for the cleaning cloth, too. My personal favorite is drying the dew off my bike’s seat before a nighttime ride home. Nobody likes a damp butt…

2. Tire pressure gauge

Carrying a tire pressure gauge is pretty dang obvious, but you’d be surprised at how few people do. That’s probably why so many motorcyclists ride on under-inflated tires. Are you going to trust your expensive motorcycle tires with the accuracy of that beat up old gauge the gas station attendant loans you? A good gauge doesn’t take up much room, and it’s handy when you need it.

1. Clear visor for night riding

There’s a reason why so many new helmets have built-in dark visors. However, if you don’t have one of those and you like to ride with a dark visor during he day, you should carry a clear one in your tank bag. If you’re worried about it getting scratched, you can find a soft visor sleeve or simply use a tube sock. Once you ride for 100 miles in the pitch black of night in a dark-tinted visor without the luxury of streetlights, you’ll never want to experience that level of moto-blindness again. So, why not just plan ahead?

Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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  • Junker Junker on Mar 05, 2018

    Things that are always in mine: lens tissues, multi tool, tire kit, bandana, portable reading glasses(lol).

    I carry other things like water, thermos, different gloves, poncho.... depending on situation. It is crazy how big some people's lists are that I've seen...even bulky non-motorcycle items that most people wouldn't even put in a car. While I'm starting to wonder if my motopump is going to be an item i carry for the rest of my life, since I had that ONE flat, and never use again.

    Just depends how, how long, where you ride, I guess.

  • CruisingTroll CruisingTroll on Mar 23, 2018

    Flat kit? Really? Perhaps I've been blessed, but in 150,000 miles of riding, I've had exactly 1 flat out on the road. By the time I came to a stop, the tire was DEAD, no resurrection possible. Note: I am not riding a dirt bike through the thickets of East Texas. But hey, if your experience or risk assessment says "carry flat protection", go for it. Full Disclosure: I do carry a flat kit, in my left side bag. If all I had were a tankbag on a streetbike, I wouldn't spend the space on it.

    Carry your Leatherman on your body, a damn sight more convenient that way.

    Extra gloves & visor, yea skippy! Like many others, I carry a headlight rather than a flashlight, although I often have a flashlight also. Big tankbag. Often carry a 20oz bottle of water. And chapstick. Pen/pencil and a notepad is handy as well. And extra earplugs.

    Not mentioned, but should be carried: Common OTC meds that one frequently may require. For me it's pain killers, allergy meds, and antacids. Also, you should have stashed in your tankbag enough money to get you a meal and a tank of gas. I also carry a 5mm wrench for removing body panels if needed. And a hat for when I'm off the bike. I also carry a pair of lashing straps in case I need to tie something to the bike.

    I'll be getting a new tankbag soon, so I may have to revisit my loadout.