2-Wheel Adventures: Packing Up

41721-700x466
July 19, 2011

There are few things that conjure up images of adventure and freedom more than motorcycles and camping, so why not put them together for the ultimate getaway?

With stunning scenic roads across America that were just made for motorcycles and with KOAs along the way, you can admire nature from afar and up close in the same trip, while still being guaranteed a hot shower, and maybe even a pancake breakfast or a steak cookout for dinner.

There’s nothing quite like hitting the open road for some touring with all you need packed on your bike, but for the first-timer that might seem like a daunting proposal, so here are some tips to make sure you have a great experience.

The First 2 Questions

When it comes to prepping for your trip and packing your bike, the first two decisions you’ll need to make are:

• How do I want to sleep?

Do you want to camp out in a tent? Or are you going to take advantage of one of KOA’s Camping or Deluxe Cabins? Although both options require that you bring certain items with you, some KOA deluxe cabins come complete with towels and linens—reducing the items you’ll need to carry with you.

• Just how light am I prepared to travel?

If you are an experienced backpacker, bike packing won’t be too much of a transition for you, as you’re used to space being at a premium – you just won’t have to worry about weight as much.

However, if camping for you usually means setting up a home-away-from-home, complete with camp stove, folding chairs, giant coolers and maybe even the kitchen sink, then you’ll need to go through your standard packing list and decide on the bare essentials (be ruthless!).

Check out Backpacking Light and Backpacking Lightweight for tips on how to pack light for camping, as well as the Forum for Gear reviews.

If you just can’t do without that cast-iron Dutch oven, then you’ll need to look at pulling a trailer. Bear in mind it might cut down on the fun of the twisties when you’re riding, but more importantly, trailers can affect stopping times and have other safety considerations. Also be aware that buying the wrong kind of trailer for your motorcycle can void the warranty.

Check out this Motorcycle Trailer Guide to help you decide what trailer to get and how to install it or other FAQs.

It’s In The Bag

If you are ready to shed all the non-necessities, the next big decision is: hard bags or soft bags for the bike?

This is mainly a matter of personal preference, but here are some points to bear in mind when making your decision:

• Hard Bags: 
Positives – keeps your stuff dry, more durable, can be painted to match your bike

Negatives – larger investment, requires frames and mounting gear to be put on your bike, which means: a) you have to make sure the bag manufacturer has the right frames for your bike and b) when you arrive at camp and take your bags off, if you want to go out riding you’ll have the frames sticking out, which doesn’t look as good and can catch on clothing.

• Soft Bags:
Positives – cheaper, no mounting brackets sticking out when you remove the bags, can themselves be packed away in other bags, tank bag can be handy to carry maps, rain gear, money for toll booths, etc

Negatives – not as waterproof (but generally still keep things pretty dry) or durable, can’t change their color

Check out Motorcycle Luggage Superstore for your different motorcycle bag options, and the AMA’s “Guide to Carrying Stuff on Your Motorcycle”

And Remember…

• Waterproof nylon stuff sacks are always a great idea to help keep things individually packed and dry
• Consider putting things that really shouldn’t get wet in heavy-duty plastic freezer baggies.
• You can never have too many clamp straps. Make sure every item is securely fastened, and to the bike itself – never strap bags onto other bags!

Check out ‘How to Pack for a Motorcycle Trip’ for a detailed packing list and instructions.