Traveling Light

Simplifying Motorcycle Travel


April 16, 2018

Over the last few months I’ve downsized what I pack for motorcycle trips to the point everything fits in my much loved Mosko Moto Backcountry 30 liter duffle bag. No panniers needed at all unless I am bringing camping gear, even then I still have room to spare. If I am doing a fly-and-ride trip I can take my Mosko Moto duffle as a carry-on, no checked bags. With only the one bag and a set of Rok Straps I can use any bike, borrowed or rented, into a touring bike in just a couple minutes. Doing a trip on a rented sportbike or Honda Cub? No problem.

What encouraged this change was I was starting to feel like going on a motorcycle trip had become too complicated and had lost the spirit of what it should be. I wanted to get back to just throwing a bag of necessities on the bike and hitting the road, not loading up 60+ liters of panniers and top boxes with a ton of “just in case” gear, tools, etc.

My downsizing project did involve a bit of investment since I replaced many items with smaller or more efficient alternatives. Fortunately, I was able to sell some of the older and redundant gear to help fund their replacements and I tried to pick up as much as I could either used or on sale. Overall I didn’t do too badly and I only bought quality kit that will last instead of going cheap. I’ve replaced some things with items that are multi-purpose. Using “multi-taskers” instead of going specialized makes a big difference in reducing how much you pack, especially with riding gear.

Riding Gear

Although I am a huge proponent of the Aerostich Roadcrafter for daily use I’ve switched to wearing my Aether Rally jacket and Range pants for traveling. When I am not riding I can use the Rally as an ‘off the bike’ jacket which reduces the number of things I need to pack. It’s armored and waterproof but not flashy and looks and wears like a work coat when not riding.

I’m using the Icon Patrol 2 boots for touring. The Patrols are very comfortable for walking and with jeans over them don’t stand out as riding boots. This eliminated the need to pack an additional pair of shoes for walking or going to dinner, my riding boots now do double-duty.

I always carry a Warm and Safe heated jacket which compresses very small for when I am not using it. With the heated jacket as a liner I don’t need to bring a bunch of layers for cold mornings on the bike. I use a remote Heat-troller so I can plug it into any bike with an accessory socket with the right adapter.

Tool Kit

If you’ve read my older posts you’ve probably seen my post “Travel Tools for Roadside Motorcycle Repairwhere I explain how I reduced the amount of tools I carry on the bike after years of being one of “those guys”. I’ve cut this down this even further to where I now can fit almost all the tools I need plus an electric tire pump under the seat of my R1200R, freeing up luggage space. The main change was getting an amazingly tiny MotoPump and I also cut down on some tool redundancy. Two caveats are I mostly ride street bikes and I am not riding in extremely remote places like Mongolia. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this kit for a trip up the Alcan or just about anywhere that I’m not getting too far off the road system.

Trying to decide what tools to carry? Think about what you can really fix on the side of the road and what is likely go wrong with your bike. Realistically tire repair is probably the most important thing as well as tightening or adjusting things that come loose. No need to carry enough tools for a roadside engine rebuild on a modern bike though.

Photography

In the last year I’ve completely redone my travel photography setup, it has grown in the number of items but much of the existing gear has gotten smaller. I sold my Fuji X100, which I liked but never really bonded with and replaced it with the small, rugged and weather-sealed Olympus OMD EM5 MKII. I purchased a used Gnarbox for digital photo processing and backup so I don’t need to drag along a MacBook anymore. Leaving the laptop at home reduces my packing but but also makes me feel less compelled to do work when traveling. In a crunch most things can be done with my iPhone anyway.

My travel electronics all use USB charging so I bought a small two port USB charger. I can charge my Sena each night along with camera batteries, the Gnarbox or my phone. It’s also faster than the old charger it replaced. This all packs up into a small Velomacchi tool bag along with my SD cards, lens cleaner, a small USB battery, and charging cables.

I’ve added a 3 Legged Things Vyv travel tripod on the cheap as an experiment. It adds bulk but if I get a few high-quality shots out of it I’ll keep it in the setup.

Clothing

I’ve learned that packing for five days is pretty much the same as you would pack for a longer trip, the difference is really how frequently you are willing to do the wash. With this in mind I now pack a few plain travel t-shirts, a pair of jeans, ExOfficio travel boxers and DarnTough hiking socks. I’ll also throw in one wrinkle-resistant button down shirt just in case I go somewhere nice for dinner. If I need to travel lighter I’ll bring fewer t-shirts, boxers and socks and wash more often, otherwise I’ll take five of each.All of this clothing packs small by using Eagle Creek compression cubes.

Besides the heated jacket for staying warm on the bike I also pack a thermal layer of some kind. I’ll either bring a sweater or my Spidi Plus Evo to wear off the bike to stay warm.

With everything already mentioned plus toiletries, a book and some other odds and ends the Mosko still has room left for snacks or things I pick up along the way. Small essentials like a pocket knife, my trusty NoNoise Motosport Earplugs, pen and a Field Notes note pad live in my jacket pockets.

Work in Progress

After years of being a notorious overpacker on motorcycle trips this feels like the best setup I’ve had. Having less to deal with is really freeing and enhances one of the best parts of motorcycle travel, the simplicity of it. I discovered I need a lot less on a trip than I thought but I expect to further refine and reduce what I pack in the future.

Inspiration

Inspiration and ideas came mostly from non-motorcycle travel blogs, written by people who travel the world with only a small backpack. A few resources:

Tynan’s annual gear posts

Stop packing so much: The minimalist packing list

How to Pack Light: The Complete Guide to Ultralight, Minimalist Travel