I’m starting to get the hang of the travelling light thing now, having been on a number of motorcycle trips in the last few years. I thought I’d start a bit of a mini series of posts here on Splodz Blogz featuring some tips for packing light and well when touring, and hope this will prove useful to anyone considering a big road trip by motorbike or on foot or any other kind of trip that requires you take as little as possible.
My BMW F650GS in the Italian Alps, with all my kit for a two week tour.
In this post I want to introduce you to a few of my touring essentials. These are the some of the things I have found are either absolutely vital to my enjoyment of a trip, or make packing light easy peasy. I’ve listed them in no particular order…
My Touring Essentials
Reusable Water Bottle
An absolute essential if you are travelling, in my opinion, so you can always grab a drink wherever you are. We’ve been using 750ml SIGG bottles with the active style bite cap, but after using them for a couple of weeks in Europe we decided that’s not enough water for a day riding when it’s not possible to refill them at lunch time, and it definitely won’t be enough when we’re camping. Also, we have found the bite valve difficult to keep spotlessly clean on the go. We’ve therefore treated ourselves to a couple of bigguns from Klean Kanteen – these 40oz/1182ml steel bottles will carry loads more water and be easier to clean on the go.
Sadly there is not enough space in the pannier of my F650GS for a nice luxury thick white fluffy cotton towel. Boooooo! Instead we use towels designed especially for travelling – either made from absorbent fibre like the Lifeventure Compact Trek Travel Towel, or chamois style like the Kiefer Sports Chamois from Swimshop. These little towels pack down really small and so much more sensible when touring and living out of a small bag. Which you go for is personal preference; of the two I prefer the Lifeventure towel as it is softer and dries more quickly – although the chamois towel is smaller and still does the job of drying a newly showered body and getting the worst of the water out of sink washed clothes with ease. Using these towels when travelling makes stopping in a nice hotel even nicer!
Something to keep the mozzies at bay is an absolute essential in my wash kit when I’m travelling. This summer we explored the Cairngorms in Scotland and the Black Forest in Germany, both places well known for pesky insect bites; a decent insect spray is therefore vital! Generally speaking I will buy an own brand spray (I like the spray rather than a cream or roll on, it’s so easy to apply), but this summer I’ve been trying this Incognito Insect Repellent Spray. I can confirm I was bitten zero times when using it – and the one day I didn’t put any on (because I thought we were in an area where it wouldn’t be needed), I became a feast for teeny flying biting things. Itchy! It also doesn’t smell chemically either, with a citrussy scent, but when spraying your face keep your eyes and mouth tightly shut!! When we do our big road trip next summer we are planning on camping, so I will definitely be taking some of this!
Travel Clothes Wash
I’ll come onto the clothes themselves in another post, but in order to travel really light and feel like you’re wearing clean clothes at least some of the time, a bottle of this handy travel wash by Dr Beckmann is a must. I keep it in my wash kit and sink wash anything that needs it when we arrive at our hotel, leave it to dry over night before packing it (or putting it back on) in the morning. One thing we learnt on our recent road trip around Europe was that budget hotels rarely have plugs in the sink, or any hangers for your clothes, so we will be adding a travel plug and washing line (read: bit of string) to our on-the-road-laundrette next time.
Packing Aids – Compression Bags, Nets and Small Carriers
I mentioned in my review of the Spacepak that one thing to help keep your sanity when road tripping is to keep everything organised. Packing aids such as the Spacepak, a series of netting bags or just carrier bags will help keep your belongings neat and tidy and much easier to pack and unpack at each destination. LincsGeek uses a couple of plastic compression bags whereas I fell in love with my Spacepaks – after reviewing the blue one I purchase the yellow one and think that yellow one is even more useful.
I also make use of other bags within my bags, keeping things together so I know exactly where to find what. Sadly I find the best carrier bags are the ones you get from the Apple Store – they are just the right size and have a handy draw string closure. They also seem to last a long time, which is handy as it’s not the sort of place I shop in every week!
Wet Wipes and Tissues
Always useful, never go on a trip without either! Perfect for a bit of a freshen up as well as important personal hygiene. Need I say more?!
I have blonde hair and fair skin and know all too well the dangers of forgetting to pack my sun cream. Cheeks and noses burn even through motorcycle helmet visors! I keep a little bottle of SF30 easily accessible so I can reapply in the day – when it runs out I buy a new one. I generally choose the Boots Soltan face sun cream, which thankfully doesn’t have arguments with my very spot prone skin. I use this one kind all over to save space.
I might not be a particularly feminine female biker but I really hate having greasy helmet hair. My thin fine blonde hair doesn’t stay looking nice for long so I rely on dry shampoo when travelling and touring to at least keep me feeling like I look ok. There is something about having nice feeling hair that makes the rest of me not worry so much about being a bit hot and sweaty! (Sorry!!) I have always gone for Batiste, it’s the market leader and I love the way it gives my hair an instant refresh – I’ve tried other brands and always go back to my original favourite. I know exactly what I’m doing with it and go through way too much of the stuff; a 200ml tin like the new Eden one in the photo will last me 10 days using it daily on a trip.
Wanting to stay connected while on the move is a modern day problem that, thanks to the battery life of our favourite devices getting worse (less than a day of photos and blogging for my iPhone), has to be addressed with extra stuff in our bags. I recently purchased this TeckNet PowerZen iEP1500 Power Bank, which has already proved so useful when out and about. It’ll charge two USB devices at the same time, and will give my iPhone 6 at least four full charges before needing any power itself. And it definitely won’t break the bank – less than £25 from Amazon including the optional mains charger. It came recommended by Terry Abraham (Life of a Mountain), who replied to my tweet asking about solar powered chargers; he said don’t bother with those as they’re expensive and take an age to get any juice, if you can charge the power pack up every couple of days it will give you all the power you need. He was right, an excellent purchase – get one! I really should give this a post all to itself because it is one of those things that has been worth every penny, and more.
Zip Lock Bags
Got damp or dirty clothing? Want to protect your passport or other documents from the weather? Need to use your phone in the rain but don’t have a waterproof case (like me – really wish Lifedge did one for the iPhone 6!!)? Use resealable freezer bags such as zip-lock or press-seal bags. I carry two sizes – the small ones are great for phones, wallets and passports; the larger ones are perfect for paperwork and wet swim wear. They are an absolute must when motorcycling and probably any other kind of transport, and take up next to no space in the bottom of your bag.
Gaffa /Duck Tape and Cable Ties
Need to fix something? You should be able to do it with some strong tape or a cable tie. Simple!
My BMW F650GS enjoying a gloomy Glenshee in the Cairngorms, Scotland, back in July.
What would you add/remove from my essentials list?
I’ll tackle the clothing side of things in another post very soon. If you have any advice on camping with motorbikes, which we’ve never done but are planning on doing in North America next summer, give me a shout!
I received the incognito insect spray and the Kiefer towel to try out on my road trip. Views are, as always, my own. Some of the external links on this page are affiliate links which means I get a small percentage of the sale price if you go on to purchase after following one – it doesn’t cost you any more. Check out my full disclosure.