Motorcycle touring pack list guide | Freedom is not being weighed down by too much stuff

Motorcycles are not beasts of burden. “Less is more” is the simple principle in packing for a two-wheeled adventure. I’ve seen some on tour that seem to be loaded with everything except the kitchen sink.

I normally work backwards from my destination and then forwards as I plan the journey to get there. Will it be hot, cold, or both? That immediately makes some things essential and excludes others. I pack wet weather kit regardless, since rain is inevitable in this part of the world.

Some items listed are essential while others are optional but worth considering.

What documents will I need?

Admin first! I’ve been in lines at ferry ports where some adventurer gets turned away because they’ve forgotten essential paperwork. Sad but true.

In the UK it is highly recommended to carry your driving licence with you. The Police are entitled to ask to see it at any time, and if you don’t have it you will be ordered to produce it to a Police Station within 7 days. That could be a major inconvenience.

When travelling abroad you will require a valid passport that is not about to expire. Check if you’re passing through destinations that require a visa. You must also have proof your bike is insured (3rd party and above) and proof of ownership (V5C log book in the UK). Take colour photocopies in case any authorities want to keep a copy.

It helps to keep your documents organised (and dry) in a document wallet or a plastic zip lock bag. Being on the road and in different accommodations most nights, items can get separated and passports left behind as you check in and out regularly. The wallet is also a good place to keep a spare key.

Some destinations are still not cashless so order local currency ahead of time if needed.

The list:

  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • Visa (if needed)
  • Insurance docs (vehicle and travel)
  • Vehicle ownership docs (original)
  • Travel bookings (Eurotunnel, ferry, etc)
  • Itinerary (leave a copy with family or a friend)
  • Accommodation bookings
  • Spare motorcycle key
  • Bike’s handbook (including pin code for resetting alarm etc)
  • Recovery and emergency contacts
  • Waterproof document wallet (to keep stuff organised and dry)
  • Country stickers (if needed)
  • Bank cards and currency 
There are hundreds of different types of document wallets on Amazon. Most are A4 size which is fine if you have lots of space, or if you don’t want to fold important papers. But this A5 x A4 size is convenient for travel and opens accordion-style with 13 compartments. The material is both fire- and water-resistant. You’ll mainly be opening it for your passport or visa, or to dip in for local currency when needed.

Pros

  • Smaller than A4 x A4 so is easier to pack
  • Fire- and water-resistant when zipped up
  • Sturdy and keeps documents safe
  • Doesn't feel bulky when full

Cons

  • Will need to fold A4 documents
  • The dividers are reported to be a bit flimsy and some say the label tags don't fit
  • A few have said they don't like the feel of the material, but most are happy with it

What bike kit should I pack?

Extra gloves are always a good shout. If you’re touring in a hot climate you’ll probably be wearing breathable gloves, but if the rain clouds are setting up you’ll want to grab the waterproof pair you packed just in case. Same with the waterproofs to go over your trousers, or the zip-up onesie if your jacket isn’t fully waterproof. 

Take the most comfortable helmet you own – you’ll be living in it for a while. Some bikers take an extra helmet, which is a good idea if you have the space. Many like to switch between full face and open face depending on what the day is like, while others want a spare if their main helmet gets damaged. But they do claim quite a bit of space.

BMW and Triumph touring

When I’m going to a hot destination I always carry my armoured mesh jacket since it fits easily in my soft tail bag. 

In warmer countries I tour in motorcycle jeans which don’t usually need a wash on a typical two week tour. Either I’ll take two pairs and use one as casual jeans in the evening, alternating between the two so they last the distance, or I’ll take a chance with just one pair of riding jeans and one casual pair. I tour in full riding gear in colder climates, with a pair of casual jeans in my luggage for when I’m off the bike.

The list:

  • Helmet (optional spare)
  • Spare visor (maybe)
  • Goggles for an open-face helmet
  • Riding jacket and/or Mesh jacket 
  • Gloves x 2 (breathable and waterproof)
  • Neck tube/gaiter
  • Riding trousers/jeans
  • Spare ear plugs
  • Riding boots and socks
  • Hi-viz vest (especially in France)
  • First aid kit
  • Bike security
  • Spare glasses (if you need them for riding)
  • Water/snacks for the road
Tested by Richard Newland for over two years

The Quartz XA10/XA6 is a super strong motorcycle alarm disc lock. It is portable, tough, Sold Secure ‘Motorcycle Powered Cycle Gold’ certified lock with a shouty 110dB alarm built in. Just compact enough to slide into a big jacket pocket, it is even better if you have room under the seat, in a tank-bag or rucksack. The main body is forged stainless steel and protects a sturdy 14mm locking pin. I’ve not yet found a bike that I can’t fit it to, and after two years of all-weather use the lock still feels like new. It’s bold in bright yellow – or more subtle if you take the black option. You get three sturdy keys; a reminder cord; and a USB lead to recharge the alarm battery – but no storage pouch.

Pros

  • Solid build so is a good theft deterrent
  • Can either have the alarm in 'on' or 'off' mode
  • Easy to store under seat or in a tank bag
  • A reminder cord is included
  • The battery is rechargeable
  • It comes in bold yellow or more subtle black

Cons

  • The instructions could be a bit clearer
  • An LED light when charging would be helpful
  • Pity there's no storage pouch
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Value
    5.0

What Electronics/Gadgets need packing?

The answer ranges from those who’s only tech is their phone and/or sat nav to vloggers who travel with their camera and audio equipment.   

As an absolute basic, pack your phone charger and country-specific plug adapters along with chargers or batteries for any other personal items. 

If you do film on tour you’ll need dedicated space for various kit. It could be as basic as a GoPro and a phone, or more involved like drones and audio/lighting kits. Anything more than your phone will need dedicated battery chargers. If you use a DSLR camera you’ll likely take a small tripod. You might also need your laptop (and charger) to transfer footage to an external hard drive and possibly edit in the evening.

RST Textile Suit 2023

I used to take more electronics than clothes, but that’s all changed since I’m now filming mainly with a GoPro and my phone. I dedicate one pannier to chargers; adapters; smartphone filming accessories (mainly a gimbal and a small mic); GoPro and accessories; laptop; headphones; external hard drive; Kindle etc. Everything else fits in the other pannier, a tail bag, and my tank bag.

The list:

  • Phone charger with plug/cable
  • Power bank
  • Foreign plug adapters
  • Sat nav/charger
  • Comms system/charger
  • Filming
    • Camera (GoPro, DSLR or phone)
    • Battery chargers
    • Travel tripod
    • External hard drive
    • Laptop
    • Drone and accessories
  • Multi-socket extension lead  

Rrp: $129.99

Price: $102.22
Alternative Retailers
Newegg
$79.99
B&H Photo Video
$82.99
Walmart
$114.99
Adorama
$114.99
The SanDisk 1TB Extreme portable external SSD is a portable, high-capacity drive with solid state performance of up to 1050MB/s read and up to 1000MB/s write speeds. It is perfect for storing  high quality footage. It can stand up to a three-metre drop, is IP65 water and dust resistant, and has a durable silicone shell ensuring your data stays safe. There’s also a 5-year limited warranty. It has 256-bit AES hardware encryption, and is compatible with Windows 8, Windows 10, and macOS v10.9+.

Pros

  • Exceptional performance and reliability
  • The read and write speeds are impressive
  • Handles large video and photo files no problem
  • It is water and dust resistant so no worries carrying it out and about on tour

Cons

  • The write speed is not always what it says on the box if the files are too big - still fast though
  • It seems to slow down a bit if the connecting cable is too long

Clothes and personal items when you’re off the bike.

If you can wash clothes along the way there’s less to pack. If not, then decide what can be re-worn for days in a row and what needs to be changed regularly.

When the day’s riding is done, it’s time to relax and enjoy a decent meal in casual wear. There’s nothing wrong with appearing in the same clothes on a regular basis. I alternate between a shirt, a couple of t-shirts, a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts over a two week tour.

The Skivvy Roll – How to fit a full outfit into your socks

Toiletries and medicines often fit into one small bag. If you forget the essentials you’ll have to buy them on the road somewhere. That gets harder with medicines. If possible, buy the travel sizes of most toiletries to save space.

BTW, toothbrush and toothpaste are probably the most forgotten items.

The list:

  • Underwear (who forgets those?)
  • Socks (riding and casual)
  • Shirts/t-shirts/blouses
  • Pyjamas
  • Casual shorts and/or trousers
  • Belt (if you wear one)
  • Light jacket or hoodie for the evenings
  • Shoes and slippers – destination dependent
  • Reading glasses (if you need them)
  • Travel toiletries and beauty/hygiene products
  • Medicines you take regularly
  • Swimwear, sunblock and bug spray (destination dependent)
  • Microfiber towel 
Price: $20.99
Maximise your luggage space with these Compression Packing Cubes featuring exterior compression double zippers for more room and easy access to packed items in your suitcase or backpack. Made with lightweight yet sturdy nylon fabric and reinforced YKK zippers, you pack your stuff into these cubes then they compress to a smaller size with the help of the zippers. The water-resistant nylon material includes odour control for sweaty clothes, ensuring no cross-contamination with other items. Available in different sizes, these travel packing organisers are perfect for clothes, shoes, electronics, toiletries, and more.

Pros

  • Makes packing easy and keeps things organised
  • The compression allows you to squeeze out excess air, reducing the volume of your clothes and other items
  • You can kneel on them to get a bit of extra compression
  • They come in various sizes, so you can easily separate different types of items

Cons

  • The large packing cube is medium sized at best so measure first to make sure your jeans or trousers will fit
  • If really jam packed they might go out of shape a bit, but that probably to be expected
  • Some find these too expensive - there are cheaper ones so shop around

Essential tools and spares for roadside repairs

Travelling with the basic maintenance or emergency repair tools for your bike is smart, even if you don’t know how to use them all. Someone will, either in your group or a kind-hearted passing motorcyclist. 

As the miles add up chains will need cleaning and lubing. Tyres may randomly get punctured and will regularly need topping up with air. Nuts or bolts may loosen due to varying road conditions. Or you might come across another biker in need of an item in your tool kit. 

To reduce the chance of mechanical failure on tour, I service my motorbike before a big tour. If something goes wrong en route I can normally find some sort of mechanic shop or service centre, but mainly I just keep an eye on the basics so it fires up in the morning and takes me through the day. On smaller ride-outs such as weekends, it’s a case of regular maintenance in between scheduled services. 

One of the benefits of touring in a group is that one person doesn’t have to have all the tools. Someone will usually have the very tool needed if it’s not in your kit. If you travel alone then cover the most likely scenario and know how to get help if it’s more serious than a puncture, or something you can fix at the roadside.

If you’re on tour with a reputable touring company they will have tools and basic spares loaded into their support vehicle. They should also have oils, lubes, greases, levers, cables, consumables (filters etc), and other universal requirements for keeping everyones’ machines roadworthy. 

The list:

  • A multi-tool with pliers 
  • Wrench and socket set
  • Hex head set
  • Spanners and Allen key set
  • Screw drivers
  • Tyre repair kit
  • Spare inner tube or puncture sealant 
  • Tyre pump
  • Cable ties and tape (duct and electrical)
  • Lubricants 
  • Common spare parts
  • Micro fibre cloths
  • Bike cleaning wipes
Yamaha Tracer GT_Touring

Ride safe and enjoy!

Packing light for a motorcycle adventure makes your bike easier to handle and safer, especially on those winding country roads, and you probably won’t be as tired at the end of the day. It makes unpacking at each overnight stop less of a hassle. 

You’ll also improve fuel efficiency, allowing you to stretch your budget by travelling further. A lighter load also means less wear and tear on your bike’s tyres and suspension, which can save you money on maintenance in the long run. You’ll also be more organised, making it easier to find what you need without rummaging through a pile of stuff. 

Overall, packing light ensures a more efficient, cost-effective, and enjoyable journey.


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