Packing for my Motorcycle Road Trip

Packing gear in my top case

After finishing my route planning and purchasing all of the gear recommended for long distance motorcycle rides, I concluded that I’d need a truck to carry all of the gear. The good news is that I feel relatively well prepared. The bad news is that I can’t fit some of the recommended gear in my BMW R1200RT’s 49 liter top case and two-32 liter side cases. That’s 114 liters of available luggage space, and I still need to leave stuff home. So, what gear I’m taking, and what have I decided to leave behind? Here is my rationale for gear selection.

After a some trial packing and test rides, I concluded it is best to pack mostly light stuff in the top case. Otherwise, the bike feels top heavy. The only heavy piece I’m packing in my top case is my laptop. It seems better in the top case, rather than making the weight imbalanced to the right or left in a side case. So, my top case will carry two bags: one with my laptop, and the other with my clothes. I’ll take these bags into the hotel each night.

The picture to the upper right shows everything I stuffed into my overnight bag. As you can see, most of my clothes are individually wrapped in ziplock bags. This not only makes it easy to find a clean shirt, underwear and socks in the morning, it also makes it easy to stuff everything else back into the travel bag after dressing each morning. In addition to the set of clothing I will wear, I have three additional sets of shirts, underwear and socks. All of these are UnderArmor clothing. The UnderArmor clothes are small, light and easy to pack. Even better, they are quick drying, and so can be washed in the hotel room in the evening, and be dry by morning (assuming you wring them out very well). I also have a pair of gym shorts and t-shirt to wear to bed, and, along with running shoes and some gym socks could double as work out gear if I get motivated to use a hotel gym. I also have a pair of light short pants.

Top case packed for motorcycle road trip.

Top case packed for motorcycle road trip

I would like to take a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, but they won’t fit in my bag. The sweatshirt is easy to leave home since my Frogg Toggs rain jacket is comfortable (although not very stylish) to wear even off the motorcycle. I considered trading off one set of under-clothing to take a pair of jeans, but that would mean washing under-clothes in the hotel more often. In the end, I decided to leave the jeans at home. That means I’ll either wear my shorts or my motorcycle pants when not riding. I won’t be going to anyplace requiring any degree of fashion. The remaining stuff in the night bag is my shaving kit, camera, iPod, book, passport and a small camping wash towel.

The picture to the right shows everything loaded in my top case. BMW sells a bag that can be used as a top case insert. However, I didn’t want to put everything, including my laptop in one big bag. I found that Kathy’s Journey Designs USA (available through sells a nice overnight bag for cloths and miscellaneous stuff, that still leaves enough room in the BMW 49 liter top case for my laptop, roadmaps, water bottles and some food.

Left and right side bag contents for motorcycle road trip.

Left and right side bag contents for motorcycle road trip

In my side bags, I’ll pack stuff that won’t go into the hotel with me, and will stay on my motorcycle each evening. The right side bag has my rain gear, cooling vest, extra pair of gloves and lining for my mesh jacket and pants. I also have a tie down strap in case I need to strap wet clothes to the seat to dry. The left side is mostly stuff for my motorcycle such as a tire repair kit, tire pump, CO2 cartridges for the tire pump, a tire pressure gauge, windshield/face shield cleaner, oil, extra light bulbs, extra plastic bags and paper towels, flash light and first aid kit.

That’s about it. You probably noticed I’m missing something that would seem reasonably important. That is, tools. Some books I read had a long list of recommended tools. I actually have a complete tool bag for my BMW. However, it is relatively large and heavy. I only taking the under seat set of basic tools. I decided not to take any tools required to fix something I probably don’t have the skill to fix. So, the AAA card in my wallet would have to deal with any unplanned problems.

For information on my riding gear, see my post on my Road Trip Riding Gear Selection.

If you are interested in seeing more detailed lists, including stuff I didn’t take, check out the resources I discuss in my trip planning page.

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  1. Robert Ewing says:

    to Bryan Knysh — When asked what was #1 on her “Bucket List” my wife said a motorcycle trip around the USA. We completed a round the USA trip in ’10 =10,500 miles, 63 days; & round the USA & Canada trip in ’11 = 13,300 miles, in 85 days. If you have not ridden up the Oregon coast you have missed a great ride. In addition to the above we did LA to Seattle – all up the coast hwy – back in ’94 and have enjoyed each trip. Suggest you have an I-phone with you as it does so much with so little. We needed it when we had an inch long cut in a fairly new rear tire in Montana riding our 1991 Yamaha Venture Royale motorcycle and had to call for help.
    In 1999 we did a 3 week ride thru Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belguim, Luxenburg and back to Amsterdam. Have also completed an “Outter Banks” ride from Atlanta, GA to Bangor, Maine staying with the coast all the way as much as possible.
    We live in Gainesville, GA., north of Atlanta, and I guess you could say we have done our share of long distance trips. Guest column feature in AMA mag December 2010 was one article. Glad to see you rode the Avenue of the Giants hwy, as that is a personal favorite. We are both 65 this year and will continue our riding trips by motorcycle as long as health permits, no trailer, no trike, just the two wheels and loving it. Sunday returned from a “guys only” 8 day, 1600 mile trip with 3 male friends thru TN, KY, WVA, VA, NC and back to GA home. Suggestion, don’t quit your plans too early. Do freeway only if it is important to do so and near the end of the trip if possible. You miss so much when you go by freeway.
    Good luck and keep the rubber side down. Drop a note if you come this way for a free night stay and a meal you won’t forget.

    • Robert,

      I’m envious. Hopefully some day I’ll have a long list of travels like you. I have been up the Oregon coast. It’s beautiful. That’s one reason why I didn’t feel bad about bypassing it to make up time on this trip. Your are right about the iPhone. I had one on the trip. The MyRadar app was a savor riding through eastern thunderstorms. I was hopping from town to town whenever MyRadar showed a break in weather, or showed an alternate highway around a storm. Macdonalds Restaurants also proved handy since most have free WIFY.

      Sounds like you live down in the LA area. I was down in the LA area in March. I did a dual sport ride on a BMW R1200GS through the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. I have some blog posts about it ( I have to admit that riding a 1000 miles on 4 wheel drive trails through Mojave and Death Valley was just as fun as 10,000 miles across the country. My next trips may be dual sport rides to the Moab and Grand Canyon areas. You can discover some amazing sights when you get off pavement.

      If you are ever in northern California, let me know. I’m always looking for excuses to ride.


  2. Robert Ewing says:

    For long trips – Pack for 3 days worth of clothes. Almost all motels have washers & dryers plus every town has a laundry mat to clean clothes. If you wear riding gear (like I sometimes do) great, your clothes will last you longer. Prepare your I-Phone and you will have all you need except what cash you want to take. I charge everything that way I have a record and make one payment.

    • Robert,

      I took Under Armour polo shirts, underwear and socks to wear under my riding gear. Under Armour have some clothes made of quick drying material that can be washed in a sink at the hotel, hung over the shower rod, and be dry by morning. That way, I didn’t need to find a washer and dryer. The clothes probably weren’t as clean as with a washer, dryer and soap, but at least the clothes didn’t smell and seemed relatively clean. My wife and daughters seemed a little repulsed by the idea of living seven weeks with three sets of clothes washed in a hotel sink, but I was riding alone and it worked for me. The fast drying Under Armour is also moisture wicking, so worked great on hot days under a meshed jacked. The only down side of fast drying Under Armour is that it doesn’t provide a lot of warmth under a meshed jacket on cold days. For the few times I was cold, I put my Frogg Toggs rain suit over my ride gear for warmth.

      The one thing I would have done differently for this trip would have been to take a GPS unit. My iPhone GPS app was fine in the USA, but I didn’t have a Canadian data plan, so it didn’t work in Canada. I also didn’t have a weather proof mount for it, so I could only listen to the instructions through my bluetooth headset. My short term memory isn’t what it used to be. I had to regularly stop and refresh my memory on the route plan. Especially when I needed to change my route for some reason. I now have a Garmin 660 that I used on my Mojave Desert and Death Valley ride. I found it nice to have, and less intrusive than I had expected.



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