The Ultimate Motorcycle Trip Packing List
Ten years ago when I started riding motorcycles, I was immediately hooked on long distance motorcycle trips. Seeing the country from two wheels and being fully self sufficient along the way is extremely invigorating. Especially when you have everything you need packed on your bike, and not having an “oh no!” moment 1,000 miles from home.
The most popular question I get asked by y’all is what gear I camp with and take with me on motorcycle trips. If you’ve never done a long distance motorcycle trip, preparing for it can be a little overwhelming at first. Every year I get a little bit better at packing my motorcycle up for the long haul. And, for 2020, I’ve really done some upgrading to all of my gear. Here’s my 2020 Ultimate Motorcycle Trip Packing List, filled with all the goodies I make sure to take with me on the road.
Riding Gear is one of the most variable factors involved in packing for a motorcycle trip. Something you’re going to want to consider is the climate where you’re headed. Is it Fall in the Rockies? Summer in the South? Maybe reading over my Winter Riding Essentials Guide will help out if you plan to ride in chilly weather. Below is a list of the riding gear I always pack on trips.
- Full Face Helmet – The Race Star is my go-to helmet for any long distance motorcycle trip. It’s lightweight, aerodynamic, vents well, and generally pretty quiet.
- Leather Jacket – You’re going to want a heavy duty leather jacket that can protect you and is ultimately comfortable for those long miles. I love all of my Roland Sands Design Jackets, but the Maven tends to be my go-to.
- Espinoza Vest – Custom made to fit me perfectly. Some days I prefer to not ride with a jacket on and to get some sun on my arms.
- Boots – There’s plenty of great boot manufacturer’s out there. I personally really enjoy the H-D Footwear lineup, specifically the Beechwood and Walfield styles. Some people need compression socks to keep their lower legs comfortable on long hauls. A tight pair of tall boots could also help. They also keep my legs warm, deflect debris from hitting my shins, and are comfortable to walk around in all day if needed.
- Gloves – I really enjoy the Hammer Down leather and mesh style gloves from Speed & Strength for warmer riding. For colder weather, I typically use deerskin gloves.
- Heated Gear – What a game changer this stuff can be!
- Rain Gear – Every time I don’t pack it, it is guaranteed to rain for hours on end. It also doubles as a windbreaker if you need an extra layer of warmth.
One year I went to Sturgis and somehow forgot to pack a leather jacket. That was quite a mistake, as temperatures dipped into the low 50’s at night, and I was nowhere near prepared. You can always buy a t-shirt or underwear on the go, but quality riding gear is an investment you usually only want to make once. Don’t forget the basics!
Camping Gear comes in a variety of forms, but to anyone who is an avid outdoors enthusiast, you’ve probably already noticed how backpacking gear is ideal for motorcycle camping. If you haven’t noticed, and you’re wondering what that means, here’s a mild explanation: Backpackers carry everything they need on their backs. Sometimes for a night, sometimes for months. Pack size and weight of camping gear are vital to making the backpacking experience a breeze. Not to mention the quality. Backpacking gear has to stand up to mother nature at all times, so it typically is of higher quality. Motorcycles only have so much room for storage. The lighter your pack, the less likely your bike is going to handle poorly, too.
- Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 BikePacking Tent – If you prefer more room, I’d recommend the 2-person version. Both pack down smaller than any other tent I’ve seen on the market and are exceptionally well made. Make sure to purchase the footprint for added versatility, to ensure the floor of your tent lasts as long as possible and is protected from any rugged terrain.
- Hammock with Straps
- Sleeping Bag: Daisy Mae 15* Sleeping Bag System
- Sleeping Pad: Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad. This is the ultimate sleeping pad. Packs down very small, is nearly 4” thick when aired up, and is significantly more comfortable than any budget pad I’ve used.
- Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra – This little guy is pretty versatile. It’s primary purpose is to help inflate the Q-Core sleeping pad, but it can easily be used to wash your clothes on the go.
- Head Lamp – Ever get to camp after dark and have trouble setting up your tent, holding your phone in one hand and a tent pole in the other? With a head lamp, you’ll have your tent set up and dinner cooking in no time.
- Camping Pillow
- Earplugs – I’m a light sleeper when I camp. Earplugs definitely help me get a better nights rest, and I can definitely tell a difference the next day. These are also helpful after a few hundreds miles of hearing the rumble of my exhaust. Sometimes, your ears just need some peace and quiet.
My Minimalist Camp Kitchen
Let me start off by saying that investing in this minimalist camp kitchen setup in order to cook my own meals at camp was the best upgrade I’ve done in a very long time. I love going out to eat when on the road. (I mean, that’s part of the reason this blog exists in the first place!) But, being able to be self sufficient while saving money for extra tanks of gas or a nice campground is a huge plus. There’s a ton of other things I could carry in addition to this minimalist “kitchen” set up, but I wanted it to be easy to transport while not taking up tons of room in my pack.
- Jetboil Minimo – I chose this Jetboil over other options due to it’s size and ability to cook food. Some Jetboil systems are better for just boiling water (like the Flash), and others are better at doing a little bit of everything. The MicroMo is a slightly smaller version of the Minimo, but I really have zero complaints about the size of mine.
- Cooking Utensils
- Sea to Summit Collapsable Bowl
- Fuel Canister – I buy the 230 gram canister. It’s only $1 more than the 100g and is still fairly small.
- GSI Outdoors Dish Cleaning Cloth – Helps to clean out my JetBoil after cooking.
- DIY Camp Cozee – Another backpacking world inspiration. These help save on fuel when rehydrating meals, or even rice! I followed the directions on this YouTube video to make my own.
I can store the cleaning cloth and utensils inside the Jetboil while it’s in transport, so it really is an optimal “minimalist” kitchen kit. If you’re one of those people who needs caffeine in the morning to function, there’s tons of accessories out there that will easily allow you to make a fresh cup of coffee at camp. Check out the Sea to Summit Coffee Dripper and the Jetboil French Press for starters.
Everyone always asks me about the bags on my bike. They’re the LeatherPro retro FXDXT Bags. Any saddlebag is a great option if you need additional storage space, but I love the look and versatility of these bags.
I also use a detachable sissy bar with a luggage rack. You can purchase an OEM one from H-D or surf J&P Cycles for an aftermarket option.
I also use cargo nets to strap items down when needed. They come in various sizes, so it may take a little experimenting to figure out exactly which sizes hold your stuff down best. Another tip: make sure you buy ones with rubber on the hooks so that they don’t scratch your paint.
So what goes into all these bags and nets? Let’s dive into it!
Camping Gear and Food Storage
- Sea to Summit 20L Big River Dry Bags: I use two of these. One for my Camp Kitchen, and one for my Camp Gear (both listed above). I purchased the Big River versions of these dry bags over the thinner, lightweight options for overall durability purposes. Nobody wants to get to camp and realize their sleeping bag is a soggy mess. Keeping your gear in a dry bag will definitely save you some unexpected headaches.
- Odor Proof Bags: I keep all of my prepackaged food in these bags to avoid any run ins with furry critters.
Over the years I’ve primarily used Ziploc Bags to store my clothes, but this past year I upgraded to compression travel cubes. I use both the REI Brand travel bags and the Eagle Creek Compression Bags. The REI ones feel a little more durable, but both brands work extremely well. You can pack a TON in these. So again, try to not overpack.
Depending on how far you intend to ride, and for how long, will definitely determine how much clothing you’ll need. My general rule of thumb is, if I’m leaving for 5 days or more, I pack for 3-5 days:
- 1 extra pair of jeans
- 4 extra t-shirts or tank tops
- A Hat or Beanie (usually both)
- 1 pair of leggings for sleepwear or activewear purposes
- 1 pair of shorts
- 2 bras (sports bra, bralette, whatever you want)
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 1 Long Sleeve Shirt
- 3-5 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of shoes
- 1 pair of flip flops
Any additional clothing I pack usually involves a sweatshirt or wind breaker for added layers on the go. These don’t get compressed into the cubes since I need quicker access to them.
You really don’t need a ton of clothes on the road. From a friend’s house, Washaterias (that’s what us Texans call laundromats) to DIY sink laundry machines or the Big Agnes pumphouse, there’s always an opportunity to get your clothes cleaned.
In 2015, I purchased this 5 liter Herschel Supply Bag to use as my daily makeup bag, and still use it on a daily basis to this day. I store all of my makeup and general toiletries in it when I’m on the road without a hitch.
As far as Shampoo, Lotions, and other Shower Gels go, I’ve tried the tubes you can get from Target or other grocery stores, and I’ve also tried the higher end ones like Go-Toobs. If you’re on a budget and you don’t travel often, the Target 3oz tubes will be just fine. Just as an extra precaution, I usually store the cheaper tubes in a ziplock sandwich bag together to avoid leaks. If you’re more of a quality person, the GoToob brand is great for all of the above.
For showering and face washing, I use the REI Mini Towel and these Large Microfiber Towels. What a game changer to be able to pack a towel with you on the road that takes up barely any space! From hot springs, watering holes, and campground showers, the XL Microfiber Towel has come in handy on various occasions.
I usually try to avoid buying travel size items when possible. I take my regular hair brush, toothbrush, paste, and deodorant usually. And, the most important toiletry of all: toilet paper! It wouldn’t hurt to throw some in a ziplock bag and stash it somewhere convenient.
Water / Outdoor Recreation / Daily Use Items
Of course, don’t forget to pack sunscreen, chapstick, and any other items you think you might need.
I always carry water with me on the road via a 48oz Nalgene bottle, HydroFlask, or water bladder. The HydroFlask is awesome at keeping water cold or hot, but it isn’t a necessity. Always fill up your water bottle when you have access to clean drinking water, or pack a small water filter if you plan to get off the grid.
If you plan on riding in any hot weather, I’d advise purchasing this 3 Liter Camelbak water bladder. Mine fits in my armor pocket on the back of my jacket, but you can also purchase bladder/backpack combos. You can read more about tips for riding in extreme heat, here.
If you want to get off the bike and into the outdoors on foot, or perhaps just want an easier way to carry your clothes and toiletries to the shower facility, a stuff-able backpack is a great option. These backpacks fold up to be smaller than a soda can when not in use.
A tool kit is definitely important to take with you. However, if I threw a list of sockets and wrenches into this blog, they might not fit your bike. Make sure to take the most useful tools with you, but not the entire tool box. Additional things that you should consider beyond the the wrenches include:
- Tire Repair Kit
- Extra Spark Plugs
- Zip Ties
- Electrical Tape
- Vise Grips
I’m not a very good mechanic, but I can do basic roadside maintenance, like plug a tire or change a battery. It’s always a good day when you can avoid paying a dealership an absurd amount of money to fix something simple, if you just bring along the right things to do the job. Do a little research on your bike and find what works best for you.
Content Creation / Tech Gear
Taking camera gear with you is a great idea. I’ve always loved documenting my adventures, and I’m sure you do, too!
- Camera Bag
- DSLR Camera
- Action Camera
- Travel Size Drone
- Memory Card Holder
- Storage Bag for charging cables, batteries, etc.
Charge Your Things On the Go!
If you enjoy camping, you probably already know that you can’t always rely on power sources to be readily available. Here’s two different charging options:
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Don’t be. It took me many years to invest in all of this gear. In fact, my motorcycle trip packing list has changed dramatically over the years as I’ve learned more about traveling on two wheels. But, having quality gear is worth the investment when you enjoy trips on two wheels. Have any other comments or questions? Leave a comment on the blog! Think a friend could find this information useful? Share it with them on your favorite social channel.
Most of the links in this post are affiliate links. Any purchase you make through them supports this site at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and I’ll see y’all on the road!