My first motorcycle adventure was almost 20 years ago. I crammed what I could into a rucksack, stuffed a few other bits into a tank bag and headed off on the adventure of a lifetime. With a rough route scribbled on a piece of paper and an even rougher sense of direction, it felt like I was off to unchartered territory.
In fact I was going 100-miles from Bedford to the wilds of Bognor Regis on my TZR125. My footpeg fell off along the way, I was constantly getting lost (pre-Sat Nav days, remember those?), I stayed in a scuzzy B&B and lived off chips and fizzy drinks for two days, swam in the sea and buzzed along some great roads. It was paradise!
Two decades later and with over 100 different excursions under my belt, from group rides in the Lake District, to 10-day trips to France with my girlfriend on the back and trips to California and Vietnam, I have a much better idea of what you need and what you don’t when it comes to touring by motorcycle.
This no-nonsense guide is a good starting point for your next motorcycle trip. Whether you’re riding an Adventure bike to Norway, heading off to Europe on a tour with the lads, or staying in the UK and exploring great roads over a long weekend – this packing checklist is for you.
I’m definitely not saying you should pack everything on this list. It’s more a case of this is everything you could take, so you don’t have to think about things. It’s up to you to then decide what you need.
Remember; it’s easy to think you need more than you do. The chances of you having a disaster are slim and wherever you go, you can probably buy most of the stuff you think you might need. So make sure everything you pack has earned its place.
With a bit of thought, your riding kit will also double as kit to wear when you’re not on the bike. If it’s hammering it down with rain, you’ll be able to wear your riding jacket or your waterproof top to keep warm and dry. Likewise, if you pack flip-flops for your summer trip, if it does rain, you can always wear your motorcycle boots with jeans when you go to dinner at the local restaurant.
Yep, you need one of these.
Waterproof textile jacket and trousers
I never skimp on my riding gear but when you’re touring or camping, arriving wet and miserable is a sure-fire way to have a rubbish trip. Gore-Tex gear is generally more expensive than regular motorcycle textiles but it’s built to a higher standard and well worth the money. If it’s cold or wet you’ll probably spend the trip wearing your motorcycle jacket, even when you’re off the bike, so that’s why a decent quality one is well worth having.
I pack mid-cuff leather summer gloves, lightweight motocross gloves, and long waterproof winter gloves. you’re pretty much covered for everything.
Waterproof boots are a must. Gore-Tex is even better.
I never ride without a back protector and if I’m camping I use it as a base to build a ‘pillow’ on.
Great for reducing wind noise and wind chill.
If I don’t wear earplugs, I always arrive feeling knackered. They’re also super handy on the campsite to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Good quality long socks make your boots more comfortable and keep your feet warm and dry.
I pack a waterproof top and trousers. I use them on the bike in heavy rain but the waterproof top is also handy when you’re off the bike as a windbreaker and waterproof.
How much luggage you need depends on where you’re going, for how long, and whether you’re two-up, staying in a hotel or camping. This is just a rough guide.
Waterproof tail pack
I prefer using a tailpack over panniers. I find they switch over from bike to bike much easier, are easier to carry once you’re off the bike and they’re more compact. There’s no right or wrong, it’s a personal choice. All my clothing and non-essentials get stashed into a bin liner and then into my tailpack. It’s securely fastened down with a cargo net on top and it doesn’t get opened until I get to my destination.
Small tank bag
I like to carry my valuables and essentials in a small (10 to 15-litre) tank bag. It doesn’t get in the way of steering the bike and can easily be removed from the bike when I stop for a prolonged period of time. My camera, passport, phone, wallet etc. all live in my tank bag.
I always go light on clothing. It’s tempting to pack a jumper and jeans and shoes but these all add a large amount of bulk. My riding kit always doubles up as useful stuff to wear off the bike. For example, a light fleece and your motorcycle waterproof top is all you need on a cold evening. Then your fleece stuffed in a T-shirt doubles as a pillow. Jeans just get wet and stay wet. The same goes for shoes. As a general rule, steer clear of cotton clothing and instead opt for moisture-wicking kit. Cotton hangs onto moisture and sweat and takes a long time to dry out.
Gadgets make your life easier but they need power. I always take a portable motorcycle jump starter as it also works as a USB powerbank and has a built in LED torch. Pretty much all of my devices use the same USB cable, so I only need the one.
This really doesn’t require a description. Much as I hate to admit it, my phone is a camping essential.
Phone charging cable
I have a 3-in-one cable to charge my stuff and anyone else’s.
Most campsites have power and a USB plug means you can use your cables to charge your gadgets. No power at the camp site? Then your local cafe will probably let you use their power while you sip a cuppa!
A quality battery booster can jump start a motorcycle but its main use for me is a portable powerbank to keep my gadgets from going flat.
I have a cheap headband torch which is compact and super useful.
A lantern is handy in the tent but also in the evenings when sat around the campsite. It’s better than an LED torch which has a harsh light and is directional. Mine has a rechargable USB-powered battery and different lighting modes. It lasts for hours.
These make it onto my packing list because they are tiny and useful. If I’m camping on my own, I’ll listen to podcasts and if I can’t sleep for whatever reason, these have proven to be good company.
You can carry a lot of useful stuff in a tiny washbag the size of a pencil case. Buy your tablets and cut them into strips and just take a few of each type. Take a manual toothbrush not your fancy battery-powered one.
Compact wash bag
Ideally one that’s waterproof.
A little travel-sized one is ideal
First aid kit
A basic one is all I carry. It contains a few plasters, some steri-strips, safety pins, a few different-sized gauzes and a bandage.
Deals with mouth ulcers and helps with any toothache.
Riding can take it out of me and a bad night’s sleep is a killer. Plus I never eat healthy food when I go camping. A good old glug of Berocca at least makes me feel like my body’s got what it needs to crack on!
Useful to deal with small cuts, also handy at cleaning off dirt and grease.
Travel tissue packs
A much better choice than toilet roll in my humble opinion. Toilet roll is big and bulky, almost always gets wet. Sealed travel tissue packs are the way forward as they’re compact and stay dry. That said, almost every camp site has a toilet and toilet roll these days..
Luxury toilet roll and a shower in a packet! Also handy for a thousand other things. You can buy travel packs with 10 or so wet wipes. Super handy.
These are great as they are compact, absorb a lot of water and dry quickly too. Hang it under your tarp in the day to dry out. Handy pillow-fodder too.
A few choice tools make all the difference and don’t take up that much space. These handy extras will help you sort out any bike problems but also will help you set up a comfortable camp.
Puncture repair kit
A puncture can ruin your trip but with a repair kit you can keep going and not have to wait for a recovery truck or a local bike shop to open. A simple tubeless motorcycle puncture repair kit will get you out of a tight spot.
As long as it has a knife and a bottle opener you’re sorted but scissors, a screwdriver and a saw are all handy extras.
You can never have enough! I genuinely pack about 30 in three different sizes. I have used them to: hang lanterns, secure a tarpaulin to a tree to act as a shelter, attach luggage to the bike and hang wet kit. Definitely pack these.
Velcro cable ties
As above but reusable. I only discovered these a couple of years ago. Best use is for handing wet kit, towels, wash bag etc.
Useful for all manner of things, like patching up holes, holding on fairings, mending tent poles..
A small tin is ideal and not only keeps your chain lubed but is also handy on anything that squeaks or rusts.
Useful to secure your tarp and build a shelter or as a washing line, a belt or to strap down luggage. I take two 2-metre lengths and one 5-metre length.
Printer-Friendly Motorcycle Touring Packing List
Everything listed above but without the additional text, so you can just print this page off and use it to check off your bits as you go.