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Smart touring: How to pack for every motorcycle trip

From my experience, there is no worse feeling than packing an item that doesn’t get used on my weekend motorcycle trips. This item will taunt you and serve as constant reminder of your packing mistake. On my first extended trip, I packed a spare fuel container that I never filled but instead wrestled with daily when trying to re-secure it to my motorcycle.

Years later, with countless more trips and similar hard lessons under my belt, my packing is an ever-evolving process. To help save you a similar hassle, I composed a list of helpful tips for your next motorcycle trip.

Think multi-use. Everything that you pack should have at least two uses. A great example is having a mid-layer jacket that you wear while riding and as an outer layer in camp or around town.

Pack for the trip you are embarking on. It’s easy to get caught up and pack for the RTW (Round The World) trip you read about. Are you going to be traveling through desolate landscapes for months on end? If not, you only need enough supplies for the amount of time you will realistically be away from civilization.

Be prepared. Just not THAT prepared. First-aid kits and tool kits are essential, but don’t overdo it. When it comes to tools, don’t bring items you are never going to use. An easy way to pare down your tool kit is by using it exclusively before your trip to perform all maintenance you actually will be doing. This method will clarify which tools you need and, more importantly, which tools you don’t.

Compromise your items. Save weight where you can to compensate for creature comforts. For example, I make do with short tire irons instead of long ones and pack a headlamp instead of a regular flashlight to save room and weight for things like books.

Organization is key. When it comes to actually loading your motorcycle, prioritize things in the order that you will need them. Pack your most frequently used items like snacks, a camera or maps in a tank bag or in the top of your pannier and leave things like your tent or cooking kit safe at the bottom of your luggage. It’s also helpful to put things in the same place after each stop. For instance, when you set up camp or check into a hotel, put items like keys, matches and your pocketknife in the same spot so you don’t misplace them.

Go light! The weight of your bike has a direct correlation to how much fun you will have on a trip. A heavy bike is unruly and no fun to pick up if it decides to take a dirt nap. Modern backpacking gear makes packing lightly easy. You can shave serious weight by using an ultralight tent and sleeping bag alone. The amount of weight and space you can save with this type of equipment is truly amazing.

Overpacking is a comfort blanket. Don’t succumb to the stresses of a trip and end up out on the road with everything but the kitchen sink. Research your trip as much as possible so that you have the information you need to pack accordingly. If you allow yourself more planning time before you hit the road, you can have everything you need without being overloaded.