Packing Tips for Motorcycle Trips

It’s me! The princess of biker blogging.

When my sweetie first suggested that we take a 3-day trip to Pennsylvania’s Little Grand Canyon last summer, I winced at the idea of trying to pack for the trip.  He traded in his Sporty for a Dyna LowRider and began outfitting the bike for travel.  The detachable saddlebags were installed, and then the Baja TBag he bought on eBay arrived.  At this point I was wondering how in the world we could fit 3 days worth of clothing and gear for both of us in a space the size of my toaster oven!!  Not to mention the fact that we would be traveling into the mountains in the fall where the temperatures could vary drastically over the course of the day, so we’d need to dress in several layers.  I was very excited about the trip, so I stepped up to the challenge.  I may not be an expert at these things, but here are some suggestions that I’ve discovered along the way as well as a few tips from my fellow (more experienced) travelers.

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DO remember safety first.  Pack a small first aid kit, emergency tools, tire repair kit, AAA card, and your cell phone. 

DO NOT carry your cell phone in your rear pants pocket!  (They have a tendency to fly out when you start squirming around in your seat because the rest area where you planned to stop is closed and you have to ride an additional 45 miles up the highway before you get a chance for a butt-break) 

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DO wear thin but warm layers.  Never underestimate the power of thermal underwear.  Wear a leather jacket with a zip-out liner. 

DO NOT pack bulky sweatshirts.  They simply take up too much room and you can be just as warm with some much less bulky materials like silk, PolarFleece, or Thinsulate. 

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DO plan on wearing an outfit for 2 to 3 days. 

DO NOT pack more than one outfit besides the one you are wearing.  You will likely pick up a shirt or two at the Harley dealers you visit along your trip anyway!  If your trip will be longer than a week, you can pay a visit to the Laundromat.  And if you get desperate, there is always a Wal-Mart nearby! 

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DO pack clean underwear and socks for each day.  You will feel much less grungy wearing jeans the second time around if you have clean undergarments.

DO NOT wear lace panties while riding.  Don’t ask, just trust me!  Bring them along only if you plan to use them in your hotel room!

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DO pack travel size deodorant, toothpaste, and a travel tooth brush.  You will definitely want a comb (not a brush) and scrunchie for your hair. Count the exact number of vitamin supplements or medications that you will need, and leave the bottle at home.  Your entire toiletries ensemble should fit in the palm of your hand. 

DO NOT bring shampoo, soap, or hair dryers…they will have them at your hotel.  Even most cheap roadside motels have hair dryers available these days (just ask at the front desk).  Leave the curling iron, cosmetics, perfume, and shaving supplies at home—you are not here to win a beauty pageant! 

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DO remember that comfort is very important while on the road.  You will ride much more safely when you are not distracted by a shirt that keeps riding up your back or jeans that are too tight and binding. 

DO NOT forget to pack your chaps & rain gear! 

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DO bring comfortable shoes for when you are not riding.  You probably won’t spend much time off the bike, but it will sure feel good to peel off those riding boots!  Personally, I like to pack my 99 cent rubber “Bride” flip flops! 

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DO bring your camera with extra batteries and plenty of space on the memory card.  After all, a large part of why you are out there is to envelope yourself in the gorgeous scenery.  You will definitely want to capture the moments. 

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DO NOT forget your sunscreen and chapstick!  These are definite essentials for protecting yourself against the elements. 

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DO plan on making room in your saddlebags as you go.  Chances are you will accumulate some souvenirs by the time you get back, and you will need a place to put them.  One great way to do this is to pack old underwear and socks, then discard them after wearing.  Or you can ship your new purchases (or your dirty laundry) home via UPS! 

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Now that you know what to bring and what to leave at home, here are a few suggestions on how to pack it all.  Mostly I can sum it up in one word: Ziploc!  Put your medications in a snack-sized baggie—it’s OK to mix them together as long as you can tell them apart!  Pack your change of clothes and undergarments in large Ziploc bags.  Zip them most of the way closed, roll the bags up from the bottom to squeeze as much air out as you can, and then zip the rest of the way.  It works just like those Space Bags, except you don’t have to carry around a vacuum cleaner with you!  Besides taking up very little space, your items will also be protected from getting wet if it should rain.  One of the best investments you can ever make is a cargo net.  It might seem somewhat tacky, but when you are packed to the gills and dying in the unexpected 90 degree October heat you can always bungee your jacket to the outside of your pack! 

Of course each person, each bike, and each trip is different.  Feel free to “personalize” this advice to your own needs.  I am sure that I have a lot more to learn, and I will probably pick up some of it on the travels we have planned for this summer.  We will be packing the saddlebags on the Dyna for many great trips to come.  If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them…please DO share! 

18 Responses to “Packing Tips for Motorcycle Trips”

  1. Great article Diana! You hit on so many great tips. I learned to “roll” my clothes along time ago, while still in the military, and that long established talent comes in very handy when my hubby and I take a weekend trips on the bikes. I can pack each of our saddle bags so precisely, that H usually has to get to me to repack his bags while we’re on the road, because he can’t get it all to fit. This information, you so graciously put together, will serve as a great check list for travelers to reference. Thanks for sharing! Lady R

  2. Dammit…what am I going to do with all my lace panties now??

  3. Exactly what I was thinking…no lace panites?. Ok, I am going to share some unconventional wisdom. If I expect to hit rain, I go commando. I know, I know, but honestly, you dry out a whole lot faster and avoid the rash that can come with wet underwear. Laugh but it only took a few wet long distance rides to help me figure that one out. Agree with everything else, especially the socks. I can be covered with crap for days as long as the socks are clean. I have a sock fetish.

  4. Yes! Someone else rolls. It works great!

  5. OK, OK guys…lace panties are great (but not for riding in)!
    .
    Dave, Thanks for sharing…I think…
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    Lady R, I am a bit of spatial relations guru myself. Fitting everything just right is my specialty! The other thing I like about the ziploc bags is they are smooth — makes it easy to slide them into a tight spot!
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    Everyone — keep the comments coming! I’d love to hear your tips & suggestions too 🙂

  6. For the ladies – keep your drivers licenses in your front pant pocket. If “heaven forbid” you’re in an accident, the police/EMT will not dig through the saddle bags looking for a purse and you will be listed as a “Jane Doe”
    Also, for those with soft saddlebags – don’t forget to place your bike registration and insurance card in a ziploc bag as well – if it gets wet it won’t get ruined.

  7. I am honored to have a comment from the Director of First State HOG. Thanks Teri!
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    Lady R, Joker and Dave – you guys know you rock! Thanks again for your comments.

  8. Great advice ma’am. It’s amazing how much stuff you think you’ll need on a trip but never use. I learned these things years ago when I was into backpacking. Besides, you’re just passing through these places. Who cares if ya stink and don’t look your best. The journey is about the memories we make not the way we look to others.

    Ronman

  9. Ronman,
    Who said anything about stinking??? Shower and use deodorant every day. LOL Besides, centuries ago (and even now some places in Europe) people didn’t bathe for months! It’s all what you are used to.

  10. Great tips Teri! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 I’ll be sure to keep the entertaining articles coming!

    Also, as long as we are discussing safety tips:
    if any of our new readers didn’t see Jay’s post about programming emergency contacts into your cell phone…check it out here http://roadcaptainusa.com/2008/01/23/ice-in-case-of-emergency/

  11. Thanks for the tips!! I made my hubby read this since we’re riding cross-country here soon!!! I have this article bookmarked!

  12. Thanks for stopping by Connie. It is always good to hear from new readers!
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    Traveling cross-country??? Whatever will you do with the baby!!

  13. I have a trip coming up in The end of June, I’ll be riding over 4,000 miles in15 days. My wife thinks I’ll never be able to pack for it, but I’ll show her. I consider myself to be an organizational afficianado. For me packing is like working a three-dimensional puzzle, and if I can visualize anything in 3-D, I’ve got it made.
    One tip I can offer is if you do pack comfy shoes, but not flip flops, you can pack little things like maybe those lace panties ya’all were discussing (just don’t forget them!) or maybe some socks or light shirts inside the shoes to avoid having lost all that space.
    Great article, Thanks!

  14. Great idea Camron! Take advantage of every inch of space you’ve got. I have also been told that especially if you are going on a long trip and you know where you will be staying, you can ship a package of refresher clothing ahead so it is waiting for you when you arrive. (Then of course you ship the dirty stuff back) And definitely use UPS, not one of those “mailboxes” places…it’ll cost you like $5 instead of $20!

  15. The idea about ID in your front pocket is okay, but you might consider http://www.roadid.com – it’s a wrist band that provides your identity, emergency contact information and any pertinent medical conditions. I try to have it on every time I ride.

  16. IMPORTANT LEGAL UPDATE:
    It has been brought to my attention that in most areas it is illegal to carry prescription medications without their original containers…so don’t pack them in a ziploc bag, especially if you plan on crossing a border or something!

  17. My parents are flying out here to drive my husband’s truck and they’ll have the baby with them!

    Sorry it took me so long to respond… I’ve been without a computer until a few days ago!

  18. I know this article is relatively “old” but here is a very valuable tip I learned from a biker couple we rode to Rolling Thunder with…..Purex Laundry Sheets!!! Take up virtually no room and they have the soap/softener together. take minimal clothes( Most people will gather souvenir shirts along the way) Not to mention if kept in the dirty clothes it will keep them from stinking up the clean until they can be washed. Also small can of air freshener for your bathroom in the hotel (yankee candle or even the small car fresheners from auto dept or scentsy work well also)

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