Packing Tips

As it turns out 80% of what I pack is the same regardless of whether it is a weekend trip into the mountains or a 4 month excursion to explore Africa.

You can pack with all the luxury items you want to be comfortable at camp and be so heavy you can’t enjoy the ride or pack so light that you are always wishing you had something and feel like a homeless vagabond. My goal is to aim for the middle… I want to use everything I bring but never miss anything I left behind.

Everything I packed with me in Africa
Everything on the XT

I consider items like tools and clothes to be fixed items, although they may be adjusted slightly they remain relatively constant. Flexible items are those that are likely to change significantly such as camp gear.

Sorting out gear and determining what is critical and what is luxury is something most of us struggle with. If you’ve ever seen a motorcyclist traveling from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia you can almost always tell what direction they are traveling. Riders at the beginning of their ride are normally heavily laden whereas riders near the end look much lighter. It’s amazing what you decide it really important when you have to pack it up every day or you have to lift your overloaded motorcycle for the umpteenth time.

My wife on her fully loaded GS in Guatemala on a 4 month trip

Packing Considerations

When packing for an ADV style adventure it is important to consider movement, weight balance and total weight are far more critical than when doing road touring. Some considerations you need to make before settling in on your final load are…Weight and load balancing

  • What type of luggage will be best for you?
    • Hard luggage looks less inviting (security)
    • Soft luggage is safer if you fall and get caught under it and is less likely to damage your motorcycles sub frame or the luggage itself.
  • Where will your luggage be carried?
    • If you are heavily loaded to the rear or high on the bike it will through the bikes balance off and could cause significant instability, early wear and tear or even break the bike.
    • Will your luggage interfere with your movement when riding in tough situations…  large tail bags or tank bags will inhibit you from moving forward or backward when standing can cause you to crash.
  • How easy is access?
    • If you have to dig through your bags every time you need to put on rain gear or find papers at a border crossing this can get fatiguing or cause you to lose important items.
  • Is your suspension up to the task?
    • Make sure your suspension is set up for the rider/passenger an luggage. Most OEM suspension will need to have new springs to handle the load.
  • Where will you keep your documents and money?
    • When traveling in foreign countries you will need quick and easy access to documents and will likely carry far more cash on you than you are accustomed too.
  • Do you plan on camping?
    • Not all countries are camping friendly… research this before you leave
    • Is your tent going to be used for camping or emergencies… can you even use a tent?
  • Tips for saving weight/space
    • Quality gear
    • Less gear
    • Multiuse items
    • Sharing the load
  • Do you like cooking?
    • Adventure camping brings you through towns almost everywhere in the world
    • Is the weight of a kitchen needed?
A couple in Guatemala on a 1 month trip (he has a fully loaded sidecar too!!!)

One way I learned to lighten my load is by decreasing what I packed every time I travel. If you don’t travel frequently or don’t have experience camping have others look at your kit and pull things out they see as unnecessary.

The packing listed below is my kit for a 4 month trip riding through Europe to the tip of Africa along the west coast. I had to deal with rain, deserts, freezing weather and over 100 degree days. As is typical this load was somewhere between minimalist and luxury.

For information on my travel drugs check my other blog

For more information come join me at the 2019/2020 International Motorcycle Show series. I will be giving free presentations in the Adventure Out area or join me for training at my school. You can find event details here

5 thoughts on “Packing Tips

  1. since many years i am using Odlo underwear. You can wear it for two weeks (maybe more) without washing. Not smelling at all. Super comfortable and lightweight. Getting dry after washing superquick. Ok, they are pretty expensive (around 40euro) but you need only two of them. Odlo is from switzerland. Best regards, Martin


  2. This is a very helpful article. Thank you for being a good source of reliable information from an experienced ADV veteran.

    Will miss ya on mototrek. I first discovered you and all your resources through them. Also learned you reside in WA state. Maybe one day I can take a class from you. Happy trails!


  3. Thank you so much for this share of experience, it’s really useful. Old man but young owner of a massive GS BMW I learn precious informarions


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.