I love going to events and talking about packing. I write books about it. I harass friends over it. I even have been known to look at my Fiancee’s bag and shake my head sadly over the sheer amount of stuff she wants to bring everywhere (it’s mostly food). Despite all this I am repeatedly asked about packing. I have some of the same people in the same classes every year, telling me I make it look simple, but when they start to pack their motorcycle things just sort of pile on.
Elsewhere on this site I have my packing list, and I am planning to break things down more in future blog posts, but the simple truth is that my packing list won’t work for everyone – what you need when you start to pack you motorcycle is a packing plan. Many riders spend months or years working out where they want to go and how they want to get there, but then spend only an hour or so packing. These are the ones who end up overloaded on their motorcycles, as they just grab things and stuff them into the luggage, hoping it will all work out.
Below are things you should be thinking about when you start to plan what to pack for a long motorcycle trip. This isn’t a list of what to pack, but only a guide for you form a packing plan of your own and (hopefully) reduce what you are carrying, since light motorcycle is a happy motorcycle.
Have a Theme – Have an overall plan for what you want to pack on you motorcycle. Mine is simple – nothing goes on the bike that doesn’t extend my travel budget. Everything packed saves me money is some way while I am on the road, which means I have more money for actually traveling and doing things. If it doesn’t save me money, it doesn’t get packed.
Do Laundry – Recently I was with some one on a two week motorcycle trip. They were carrying two weeks of clothes. Not quite, they only had 3 extra pairs of pants, but it was still a huge amount of clothing. There are laundry mats just about everywhere, do some laundry now and then. Find a place near a cafe with wifi and use the time to back up pictures.
Pack Naked – Okay, not really naked. Especially if you park your motorcycle outside. But pack everything expect the bare minimum of riding gear – all the liners, extra gloves, long underwear – things you might be wearing when you start off on your trip. Pack them on the bike, then take them off to put on that first morning. That way you will definitely have space for them once you need to take them off.
Don’t be Self Sufficient – I know it’s every overlander’s dream. Fully self-contained, self-confident, self-sufficient. Just you, the motorcycle, and the world. Well, that isn’t how it happens. I do know what the posters say, but it just isn’t possible to be fully self-sufficient on a motorcycle, or any overlanding vehicle. Be willing and able to accept help. You end up with the best friends that way.
For Short Trips, Just Leave It – if you are only traveling for a week, or long weekend, and aren’t sure if you should being something along, then don’t. Even if you find you want it once you are no the road, the trip won’t be long enough for it to be a real problem and you’ll know for next time. But odds are you won’t need it and can leave it home from then on.
Let go of “Just in Case.” – This is related to the last couple things. We all have them – the things we pack “just in case.” Things we never use, and end up cluttering up the bottoms of our luggage. Or things that we bought because they were cool or fit an imagined need that never quite developed. If it’s not something you are going to use, don’t pack it. This means special tools, spares, woodburning USB chargers (you know the motorcycle makes electricity, right?), all that stuff can stay home.
If you can keep these six things in mind while you are standing next to your empty motorcycle and pile of gear, you might find you are putting fewer things in the luggage. Maybe the luggage won’t even be full when you’re done packing, which is good. Don’t see the empty space and add more things to fill it, just be happy you’re underloaded and enjoy the trip. Maybe you can even get some souvenirs to bring home, now that you have space for them.