If you’re a regular here at Motorcycle Tourer, you’ll know we’ve been banging on about our trip to Norway for the best part of two years now.
As many of you know, it was originally planned for last summer. But having had to postpone it due to various COVID travel restrictions, it finally happened last month.
The problem with this is that the original trip was to be ridden with tried and tested kit on bikes we’d owned for years. We knew exactly what we needed, and where it was all going to fit.
But with a brand new bike on the drive, everything became an anomaly as I tried to figure out what I could take and what I had to leave at home.
Packing Plans Re-Hashed
Having toured a lot over the years, I’ve got my routine down to a tee. I can pack at the drop of a hat and plan and organise a tour pretty quickly.
I can do this because I’ve been riding with the same luggage set up on the same bike for years.
But with a new bike comes new luggage and a setup that hasn’t yet been refined. So I had to finesse my system over the weeks leading up to the trip.
At first, this change was quite stressful. But having worked on it for a while, it showed me just how much extra stuff I’d taken on previous trips. And it showed me where I could shave down weight for a more enjoyable tour.
So in this post, I want to go through my top 5 motorcycle touring packing tips that I implemented this year. And I’ve put it in a logical order to show how cutting out items to pack has a knock-on effect.
1. Motorcycle Touring Packing Tips: Adopt A Layering System
I’ve always been a big believer in layering. As a landscape photographer who hikes in the mountains, I’m accustomed to travelling light and utilising technical layers.
And whilst I’ve grown to be adept at this in my photography, I still tend to carry too many layers on my bike.
There is always that extra fleece. Or I’ll take my summer jacket to cool locations – just in case.
But for Norway, nobody quite knew what weather we were going to get. And being on the west coast meant inevitable rain!
This meant we could end up being cold and wet, cold and dry, warm and wet, or warm and dry!
And when you’re carrying a month’s worth of kit, you can’t afford the luxury of lugging around an entire wardrobe to accommodate the weather.
Layers were key on this trip – layers that could be added or subtracted (quickly) in a quest to regulate temperature or protect us from the wind and rain.
2. A Ruthless Packing System
Everybody says you should be ruthless when you pack. But the truth is, very few people truly implement it properly – including the people who advise it (like me.)
I’m sick of carting all my shit around the world, only to get back and realise I could’ve left most of it at home.
Granted, this percentage gets smaller and smaller each trip. But this time, I was determined to strip it back to the bare bones.
One of the ways I did this was by taking ONLY technical base layers. As mentioned above, technical layers protect you against all weathers when you combine them correctly.
And the ones I have look half-decent off the bike – which meant I could wear them for riding, running, and evening meals.
The other thing to remember about base layers is that they’re quick-drying. I can wash them in the shower when I get back from my ride, and they’ll be dry the following morning.
So I took three or four base layer tops to Norway – rather than a week’s worth of cotton t-shirts that never seem to dry!
I also cut down on other bulky items, like shorts and pants, by taking ONE pair of pants with zips to remove the legs (turning them into shorts.)
In essence, I streamlined my motorcycle touring packing list so all of my running and evening clothes (except footwear and pants) were made up of my riding base layers.
Toiletries were kept to a bare minimum and replaced along the way.
3. Motorcycle Touring Packing Tips: Take Less Kit By Taking Less Luggage!
So if I simply put less luggage on the bike, then I physically can’t take all the extra kit. It forced me to prioritise my gear – and it worked!
I left my panniers, tank bag, and tail pack at home and chose to ride with only a roll-bag and a top box. With 70 litres of luggage space gone, I had no choice but to prioritise what I packed.
For Norway, I employed the same strategy. But this time, I took smaller panniers (56-litre rather than 70-litre) and a small roll-bag. And I left the 50-litre top box and tail pack at home.
So if you’re wondering how to pack your motorcycle for a long trip, you simply need to leave half of it at home!
4. Voile Straps Save Time (And Skin)
I wrote a dedicated post on how and why I came about Voile straps. But suffice it to say, they’re an absolute Godsend!
Yes, they’re expensive for what they are. But in terms of time-saving and convenience, they’re brilliant.
One of my pet peeves about touring is securing soft luggage to the bike. I hate having to strap down roll-bags and tail bags!
Not only is a time-intensive, but it’s frustrating. And having to do it twice a day for a month was a thought I couldn’t deal with.
Voile straps mean I can do a 30-minute job in 30-seconds. They also save me the heartache of losing the skin around my fingernails from tying and tucking in roll-bag straps!
Finally, I’m a huge advocate of only taking multipurpose gear on tour. And Voile straps are indeed multi-use. I use them primarily for securing luggage. But they can be used for various jobs and fixes whilst touring.
5. Motorcycle Touring Packing Tips: Leaving The Sat-Nav At Home
I’ve said for years that we’ll all be using smartphones to navigate on our tours soon. Dedicated sat-nav units will become obsolete in the not-too-distant future.
We now have sat-nav on our watches. We have sexy head-up displays in smart helmets. And with a plethora of navigational apps for our smartphones (all of which are more intuitive than any sat-nav), it stands to reason that sat-navs won’t be around for much longer.
And good riddance! I’m getting fed up with sat-nav manufacturers giving us fiddly units that are cumbersome and laborious to use whilst charging us over £500 for the privilege.
Sat-navs are good. But they’re not worth the money or the faff.
Whilst I still have my sat-nav, I left the power cables that attach it to the bike’s battery on my previous bike (they were old and needed replacing anyway.)
The Switch To Smartphone
To buy a replacement cable from Garmin would cost £45. And whilst this isn’t a tremendous amount of money, I can think of better things to spend it on. Plus I’m getting tired of connecting a million appliances to my bike.
So I had a choice to make. Do I buy the cable, fit it to the bike, and risk any issues that go with it? Or do I take the plunge and dive into the deep end by committing to using only my smartphone for navigation?
Well, you guessed it. I ditched the sat-nav altogether and decided to put my money where my mouth is by going 100% smartphone.
This in itself wasn’t an easy fix. By the time you take into account phone mounts, cases, and power supplies, the cost can easily pass the £200 mark. And it’s a cost I’m not prepared to pay.
So my phone went in my tank bag (with a clear display) along with the other long-distance motorcycle ride essentials. And it was charged by a power bank stored in the tank bag.
Motorcycle Touring Packing Tips: Conclusion
I’m one of those people that isn’t afraid of change. On the contrary, I embrace it. I like anything that makes my life easier. And I like stuff that makes chores quicker or gives me more time to do the things I love.
But it was only when I got a new bike that I realised I was stuck in my ways.
In many respects, I knew the options that were available to me. But I was only dipping my toe in rather than diving in headfirst – like I usually do.
This time, I jumped from the high board. And I’m pleased with the results!
So if you find yourself wanting to streamline your packing process in five easy steps, start with these:
- The only clothes you need both on and off the bike come from layers
- Be genuinely ruthless with your motorcycle touring checklist
- Leave some luggage in the garage – less luggage means less kit
- Save time with Voile straps
- Choose a smartphone app rather than buying that expensive sat-nav
What packing revelations have you had that have made your life easier?
Let us know in the comments!
Top image: Qihao Wang