What to Pack on a Tour
One of the things people ask before taking our tour or going on an extended ride is what they should pack. The long and short of it is, as little as you can get away with. Your list should include things that you need to bring and items that you want to bring.
I personally tend to over pack. With two panniers and a top case, I still strap a bag onto my back seat. I try to organize things in such a way that I know what is in each pannier based on usage or expected need. I try to keep my clothes and items that go with me into the room each night, in my dry bag, strapped to my seat.
Considerations should be taken based on where you are going, the weather conditions you expect to experience and any activities you plan to enjoy while stopped somewhere.
I suggest packing with layering in mind, since this gives the rider the best opportunity to adjust with rising and lowering temperatures you may encounter throughout the day. It is not uncommon to ride out of the mountains in 40 degree weather in the morning and then head down to 100 degree weather into the afternoon. Welcome to California.
Some like to use heated gear and adjust the heat accordingly with the weather. This works great in a perfect world. In most cases this is a good option, although remember most heated jackets can pack bulky. Be prepared though, heated jackets can fail, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I do use heated gear and my controller failed while out on a month long ride. Bring some layering options just in case, but keep in mind it adds to the bulk of your luggage. A sweatshirt or light fleece jacket works well under the heated jacket. One thing I have found that works really well, is wearing my rain jacket as a wind blocking garment. It helps hold in the heat and it packs small.
I usually wear my Motoport Kevlar Mesh jacket. It allows air to flow pretty freely and keeps the hot sun from hitting me directly. I prefer to ride in T-shirts during the summer and will wear a fleece jacket, flannel shirt or a sweat shirt, as part of my layering in the colder months. I do wear my heated jacket as a layer when riding or even off the bike walking around. Just unplug all the wires and I am good to go in mine.
Lately I have been using my Duluth flannel shirt. It fits a little big and I can wear it over other shirts. It’s comfortable, plus I am wearing a collared shirt when we stop for lunch, sight see on foot, or?
I will generally bring enough t-shirts and underwear for 3-5 days, depending on the ride. When I’m out on the road for a month or so, I use the 5 day plan and do wash every few days. Some guys can wear things for a few days as needed; I can’t and find myself doing laundry once or twice a week. Most hotels and motels have laundry rooms. I use the hour or so it generally takes to do laundry to sit and do my blog, map planning, etc. I can say that so far it has never really been an issue having to do laundry this way.
For a longer trip, I tend to bring one pair of jeans, and one pair of convertible hiking pants that have the zip off legs, so that I have shorts also. I also bring one additional pair of shorts for lounging around the hotel, etc. The jeans and convertible pants allow me to wear pants under my mesh overpants, based on the weather or whatever activities we are riding to for the day. The convertible pants are very light and great for warmer weather.
For socks, I recommend the hiking socks available at good camping supply stores. They are designed to last a couple of days without being washed if need be and can be washed in your hotel room and are generally dry by the next morning.
Believe it or not there is a lot of conversation on the forums about what underwear is best for riding and people ask about this also. The answer is that underwear is a personal choice. I have found the active shorts that wick moisture away from the body are a comfortable choice for long days in the saddle. They wash easily in the hotel sink and dry quickly. Cotton shorts seem to hold the moisture in and can get uncomfortable on a long day of riding. Some people wear padded bicycle shorts or other specialized shorts. To me the bicycle shorts felt like I imagine an adult diaper would feel like. I am not ready for that. Try what works for you in advance so that you can fine tune your preferences.
Let’s talk about your rain jacket for a minute. So many riders wear their rain jacket, outside of their armored riding jacket. What happens if you go down, that rain jacket shreds, leaving you without one. Now you are riding, making repairs, or waiting for a tow, in the rain and without rain protection. If possible, I suggest buying your rain gear so that it fits under your riding jacket. This will keep you protected and holds the warmth in and against your body. I wear Frogg Toggs under my Motoport mesh gear and have had great luck this way, riding in both rain and snow conditions.
Riding boots are another personal choice. Some people like motorcycle specific riding boots. I prefer to ride in either my Red Wing Logger Boots or a pair of Military style/tactical boots. The Loggers are insulated and although a bit heavy, they keep my feet well protected and they are comfortable to walk around on shorter walking tours or hikes, on our destination tours. I also bring walking or running shoes on my trips. They are bulkier to pack but worth it when I am on my feet for longer walking days. I ride with some who bring only their boots for footwear for the entire month on the road. Bringing just the one pair of boots certainly saves a lot of space but I prefer to have the choices.
For toiletries, pack small and bring only what you know you will use. I keep mine in a zip loc bag in with my luggage. I keep some odds and ends in here too, like Tums, disposable ear plugs and Tylenol.
Packing it up
My clothes all go in a dry bag which I strap to my passenger seat using ROC straps. This is really convenient when I get to my hotel in that I just grab the bag and go into my room. The down side is that my bag is accessible to wandering eyes when I am off the bike on foot somewhere. One of my riding partners, keeps everything in his panniers or top case and then just brings a small shopping bag with just the items he will need for that day, leaving everything else on the bike. This works for him and he does it well. I tried it and found I would forget something on the bike and have to go back to the bike a few times anyway, so I use the dry bag.
In my panniers I carry my rain gear, extra gloves and my cold weather items, like my heated gear, my tools, first aid kit, patch kit and a portable tire pump all in one side. The opposite pannier carries, my CPAP, camera equipment maps and additional supplies, and travel information for the trip. My top case is usually mostly empty. I use this to carry a water bottle, my baseball hat and whatever seems appropriate for the day. Leaving it fairly empty allows me to leave something out and unpacked I may need later and a place to lock up my tank bag and GPS when I am off the bike.
My tank bag carries the maps for the day, sunscreen and small odds and ends.
It is important that you the rider try things out and find out what works for you. I could say you need to know before the long trip, though that’s not really the case. I have experimented over several trips to figure out what works for me. I have shipped things home I was done using them or realized I wasn’t going to use them and bought other supplies while out on the road. You just need to get out there and do it.
Don’t forget your camera. I use my Iphone, a digital SLR camera and a GoPro as options for the trip. I may bring a couple of them, or all of them, depending on the trip.
Join us! Or We’ll see you out there! Ride Safe.