The allure of the open road on a motorcycle is strong. Miles of flowing road along the coast. Fresh mountain air. Setting up the tent in the middle of nowhere with unrestricted views and glowing sunsets. That’s what happens on Instagram, anyway.
What you don’t see is the time spent unpacking wet gear from the motorcycle, trying to keep dry in old tents, and attempting to cook food on weak stoves. There’s a better way to road trip and camp on a motorcycle.
This gear list will get you started with the basics — everything you need for overnighting anywhere on a motorcycle.
First off, a couple of tips to make the journey a bit easier. Before riding to South America and camping 60 nights in a row, do some small trips and refine your kit. Set everything up in the backyard. Do it at night and in the rain. Repair a tire in the garage. A little practice goes a long way in the field.
Second, don’t take the kitchen sink. Space and weight are limited even on the largest motorcycles. Lightweight backpacking gear is going to be the smallest and most packable. Bring the essentials to be safe and no more. The desire to overpack will be strong.
Now, let’s get to the gear.
Carrying all your gear on a bike is a bit like Tetris. Everything has to fit exactly in its place. Panniers and duffels are popular methods to hold all of it.
Metal racks and boxes can hold a lot of gear but they can also be expensive and bend the frame on your bike if you crash. Soft panniers like the DrySpec D20 saddle bags just sit on the back of the bike and tie on with the included straps, no racks required. Installation only takes a few minutes. To remove, pop the two straps out of the D-rings and carry the bags to the tent with the grab handles.
The thick vinyl material and roll-top closure are completely waterproof so you don’t have to worry about clothes and bedding getting wet even in complete downpours at highway speeds. A plastic insert inside keeps the round open shape so it’s easy to just throw a couple of things in. If you’ve already got a duffel on the back, these bags can hang on top of that. Each bag holds 20 liters.
Two saddlebags don’t offer a whole lot of space for your clothes. A waterproof duffel like the Drybag 350 from SW-MOTECH holds 35 liters of gear and can be tied anywhere on the bike. It can fit along the back of the bike or sideways over the panniers.
The Drybag 350 rolls on the top, not the end, so it’s easier to pack like a duffel but still stays completely dry. Straps to tie it to the bike are included. Smaller and larger versions of the bag can also be mounted beside or on top with the same straps. When you aren’t using them they fold flat. The Drybag 350 is also carry-on size if you need to hop in a plane.
Now that we’ve got space for all the gear, we need to make sure we can get to those prime camping spots. Extra-large fuel tanks help but can be bulky for riding every day.
Rotopax makes a Fuel Pack Kit that can mount to nearly anything. Fill up the Fuel Pack, slide the mount through the center, and lock it down. The mounts can be mounted to hard panniers, side racks, rear racks, the back of trucks, just about anywhere. Extensions are available so you can carry two packs or larger packs on each mount. Or, swap out a fuel pack for a water pack to carry more drinking water.
Nothing is ever perfect riding off-road. Things break and tires get punctured. It’s better to be prepared for the worst than be stuck in the middle of nowhere on a broken bike.
Off-road bikes typically come with tires with tubes in them. A small patch kit like the Stop and Go Tubed Tire Patch Kit and Motion Pro tire spoons can fix up small punctures in those in no time.
For tubeless tires, your job is a little easier.might be all you need. Make sure you have CO2 canisters or an air pump to re-inflate your flat tires.
If things really go south, you might need a full set of tools to get rolling again. The Motohansa Pro Compact Tool Set has enough options for basic repairs on the road.is specifically for KTMs but just make sure the kit you get has what you need for your bike.
Laying out a sleeping bag in a field for the night is great on warm summer nights, but in the event that Mother Nature is intent on drowning your camping trip, we need a dry place to call home for the night (or 20).
Spending every night in a tiny, cramped two-person tent can be trying at best, so MSR as added a whole garage to the brand’s legendary Hubba series of tents. The Hubba Tour 2 is basically a two-person Hubba Hubba but with a massive vestibule off one side.
The extra space can be used for organizing gear, playing cards, cooking dinner, or just drying out wet riding gear. Part of the vestibule has a floor to keep your gear off the ground. The Tour has two doors for easy access and an external pole system so the inside stays dry even when setting up in the worst weather. MSR’s new super durable Xtreme Shield coating lasts three times longer than other tents so you’ll be three times happier inside, guaranteed. (Not actually guaranteed, but very likely).
Everyone has their favorite for the best sleeping bag but there’s no denying that a durable synthetic sleeping bag can last a lifetime. The Mountain Hardwear Lamina 15 sleeping bag will keep you warm and rested through the worst of the weather.
The synthetic insulation is relatively light and packable but dries quickly and keeps you warm when it’s wet. The insulation is welded into place inside the bag so it’s not going to move around, creating cold spots. A durable water repellency coating on the outside helps prevent moisture from your tent or clumsy buddy’s coffee spill from getting inside in the first place.
Weighing only a couple ounces more than the lightest mats out there, the Ultralight Insulated Air Mat from Sea to Summit is more comfortable and much quieter. Some mats sound like a pack of nylon-clad hikers running through the woods but this mat has softer material to the outside. This also prevents ending up in a heap at one end of your tent in the morning, having slid off the slick nylon mat in the night.
The air-sprung cell design mimics pocket coils in a mattress at home by trapping warm air against you and keeping your shoulders off the ground. The stuff sack doubles as an inflator bag to prevent moisture from getting inside. If any does, an anti-microbial coating prevents mold from forming and destroying the insulation.
Away from the city lights, the night can get wicked dark. A main light and a backup is always a good thing to have. Your cell phone is a great backup, but for a main light, it falls short. Something like the Nitecore HC33 should be the go-to light in your kit.
The L-shaped design of the HC33 makes it more flexible for use around camp and home. Clip it on your belt around camp as night is falling. Slide it in the head strap for hands-free use when it’s totally dark. The bottom is a magnet so you can attach it to your bike or car as a mini work light.
Mini doesn’t mean dim though. The HC33 packs 1,800 lumens when used with an 8 amp 18650 battery. That’s almost enough to double as your bike headlight in an emergency. Get the Nitecore rechargeable battery if you can, as it’s good down to -40 degrees. On low, the battery is good for 330 hours.
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Being able to get anywhere on a motorcycle doesn’t always mean you remember how to get home. Maps and a compass are part of the 10 essentials and you should never head out without them, but bikes have no hood to spread a map on. Garmin has a solution.
The GPSMAP 66i from Garmin is a tough GPS and satellite communicator in one. It comes pre-loaded with topo maps but it’s easy to add others with the MicroSD card slot. The 3-inch screen is easy to see in the bright sun. On “Expedition” mode, the battery can last 200 hours but if you can, wire a powered mount to your handlebars. The built-in inReach satellite communicator can text anyone, including search and rescue, from anywhere in the world.
The best thing after a long day riding? Hot food. The best thing for an early morning start? Hot coffee. The faster the better.
Dehydrated meals and coffee don’t take much chef skill, just hot water made as fast as possible. The Jetboil Flash does that without even blinking. One of the fastest stoves out there, it can boil a liter of water in 100 seconds. Coffee start to finish in less than 2 minutes? Yes, please.
The cozy on the outside of the Flash keeps heat in and actually changes color as the pot heats up. The lid has an integrated strainer. The bottom cover is a measuring cup and bowl. An optional Java Kit lets you do Fresh-press style coffee right in the pot. Even lighting is quick with the push-button igniter.
The scoop holds the same amount of coffee but with a shorter handle. A thin container tucked under the lid holds up to 20 paper filters at a time. Even the stir stick folds and slides into the top of the plunger when it’s all packed up. For the photographers out there, it’s the same size as a camera lens and fits very well in the pockets of a camera backpack.
Gone are the days of terrible military rations being the only quick, shelf-stable food for long trips. There are hundreds of options now for delicious, lightweight, packable dehydrated food. Patagonia hopped into the game recently and, as usual, makes a premium product while saving the environment.
Patagonia Provisions is shelf-safe food so good, you’ll want it at home. Slabs of wild sockeye salmon, spicy buffalo jerky seasoned with Argentinian Aji Molido, and organic fruit and almond bars are just a few of the options. Some, like the salmon and mussels, are just packaged to be opened anytime and eaten. Others like the red bean chili are meant to be rehydrated quickly with water. Just don’t forget to bring a dry bag and rope to hang your food in a tree in animal country.
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