We might not have been able to head off to Europe for a two-week seven-country road trip as we’d planned this year, but we still managed to get away to explore by motorcycle. As I was putting my selection of pants, socks and tees into my old Flight 001 packing cube before our UK based road trip recently, I thought sharing an up-to-date road-trip packing list might make an interesting and useful blog post.
I’ve talked before about packing for backpacking trips and road trips, and I feel that over the years I’ve honed the skill of packing light but not leaving my luxuries behind. In fairness, with the exception of perhaps a JetBoil to make a lunchtime cup of tea, my packing list for a seven-day road trip in the UK and a two or three-week non-camping road trip across Europe, doesn’t change much. And now that I have collected some really good quality basics, made with travel and adventure in mind, I know I can keep the number of items in my bag to a minimum.
In this post I am featuring some rather fantastic merino wool clothing I’ve been gifted by Isobaa. More on that shortly, but know from the outset that this isn’t a sponsored post, and I am only featuring them here because I genuinely and absolutely love the quality, fit and style of the clothing they sent.
Motorcycle Packing List: What I Packed In
For this trip and other non-camping road trips, I will use the luggage that is “fixed” to my bike. On my BMW F650GS I’ve got a pair of the official Vario panniers, giving me 50-ish litres of luggage space (with them on the smaller setting), and my aftermarket Givi Trekker top box (complete with stickers) with another 52 litres of capacity.
I have bags within those bags, so I can leave the hard luggage on my bike overnight but take my gear inside; a couple of panier bags (similar to these) and a handy packable rucksack (normally this one by Hi-Tec, surprisingly great quality and very easy to pack and carry) do that job for me. I also have my Wunderlich handlebar bag (mine’s not available anymore but this is the newer version) for bits and bobs I might need quick access to when riding.
If you’ve seen the Vario paniers you’ll know they extend to provide 68 litres in total, but that makes them wider than my handlebars and so I don’t like doing that unless I really have to. And in fairness, I don’t need them on the larger setting, 50 litres is fine. Additionally, I keep the contents of my top case to a minimum to allow space to store my lid and jacket when we’re stopping at cafes or viewpoints, so I don’t have to carry those around with me. That also gives me room for unexpected extras such as food, if needed (the Givi top case is perfect for leftover pizza…).
When we camp, or if we’re doing a trip for which I also want my hiking boots or other such gear, I’ll also carry a roll pack on my pillion seat, the size of which depends on what I’m carting about (this Lomo 40l roll pack is brilliant, or my The North Face Base Camp Duffle. I can go through our motorcycling camping kit another time, if you’d be interested.
What I Wear
I plan on writing a full post on my current motorcycle kit, because I have recently purchased a new lid and have some good things to say about my old and very well worn Alpinestars suit. But to give you an idea of the things I wear that aren’t packed in my luggage, this is what I have on my person.
My suit is the Alpinestars Stella Andes (the first version of this one, mine looks a little dull after being sand blasted in Death Valley), which I’ve had for years (and years). Being an autumn trip, underneath that I wore a pair of merino leggings by Smartwool, and my merino tee and jumper from Isobaa. Generally speaking, I leave my suit’s thermal liners at home, they’re just too bulky, and wear good quality base layers instead, adding a puffy coat if I really need the extra. I should probably mention that I always wear a supportive bra in the form of my bralette from Oddballs when motorcycling, it can get bumpy both on and off road and no-one wants to jiggle around too much!
Head protection is of course very important; this was the first outing for my new Arai Tour X4 lid, purchased just the week before we went. I have the Cardo Packtalk Bold intercom system fitted, and actually need to move the speakers a little further forward to get the best from that in my new lid, which means I can chat to my fellow riders and hear my phone give me satnav instructions or even listen to music.
On my feet I wear a pair of Sidi Adventure 2 boots, men’s ones because women’s fit motorcycle boots do not fit my chunky calves and I wanted full height boots to help protect me when riding on gravel and dirt. And under those I wear good socks; in this case a pair of Isobaa merino blend socks, thick enough to be comfortable and warm, long enough to protect my leg from the top of my boots.
I need to sort out my hands, at the moment I’m wearing a pair of Buffalo leather gloves, which are comfortable but far from waterproof. The only other thing I always wear when riding is a Buff. An absolute must regardless of the weather (and these days doubling as a face covering when entering shops and cafes).
My Personal Kit
I try to be nice and organised when motorcycle road tripping, so that I know where everything is. Ideally I organise my kit so that things I know I will need to take into our overnight accommodation are in one pannier, and things that I don’t normally need overnight are in the other. This means I use the larger of my two panniers to hold my clothes, wash kit and shoes.
I use my old yellow Flight 001 packing cube (the underwear version is the right size for my panniers) to hold all my clothing, which for this trip included a pair of trousers, three tees, a jumper, my underwear, and my pyjamas.
For one week away I pack one pair of walking trousers, in this case my Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Stretch (which I wrote an ode to), because they pack down small, and are perfectly smart or casual for anywhere we might end up in the evenings or even days off the bike, and can easily cope with a week’s worth of evenings assuming I don’t spill my dinner down them. To go with those I have tee and my Isobaa jumper specifically for the evenings, so I always feel like I’ve been able to change once I’ve finished riding for the day, which is surprisingly important.
My packing list also includes a couple of additional tees for on the bike; a second short sleeved merino wool top, and a long sleeved one. This gives me a choice, which feels luxurious, means I have something dry if we get soaked through one day, and gives me opportunity to wash one and wear one at any time I need to.
Other than the underwear wear to travel in, I pack one additional bra, another Oddballs bralette, and three pairs of socks and pants. This means that on a one-week road trip, I need to do one lot of washing, which is not too onerous. Not having seven pairs of socks saves so much space, and with merino wool socks being so easy to wash in a hotel room sink, easily drying overnight, it’s a small price to pay for the space to carry a jumper.
And of course I pack some comfortable pyjamas to sleep in, normally a pair of long cotton trousers and a baggy tee; there is nothing worse in my opinion than being uncomfortable in bed, and so this is one of the items I know some people say is a luxury that I never go without.
In the same panier but outside the packing cube I carry a pair of trainers and my puffy coat, along with my wash kit.
On Isobaa Merino
Merino clothing is fabulous. A good quality merino piece will keep you warm when it’s cold and breathes well when it’s warm, keeping you comfortable whatever the weather. It’s also quick drying, naturally odour resistant and sustainable, ideal for any travel packing list.
I’ve got a selection of items, gifted by Isobaa, including their Merino Crew Sweater and Merino 150 Short Sleeve Tee, both of which made it into my packing cube on this trip and have become absolute staples since they arrived. I’ve now also added a Merino 180 Long Sleeve Crew to my arsenal, and that will replace the old cotton long sleeved tee I packed this time around.
The jumper especially is just lovely; the goes-with-everything style, the a-line fit, and that hint of orange all mean it very easily made it into my Currently Loving list back in September. Made from superfine nine-gauge Merino, I’ve already been wearing this sweater loads as it’s ideal for layering on cool summer evenings, and now have a second one so I always have a clean one available!
I also wear Isobaa’s Merino Blend Everyday Socks when I’m motorcycling. I’ve often talked about life being too short for rubbish socks, and I stand by that, it means I generally wear hiking or running socks on a daily basis. These a blend because they have a half terry sole to keep feet comfortable all day, and are long enough to come up above the height of my Sidi Adventure Boots. Most importantly, as with the other items, these socks are very easy to wash in a hotel room sink, and dry out nice and quickly, making them ideal for travel.
The key thing I have found with any packing list is working on getting the basics right so that you can pack less and wear more… Isobaa might be expensive, you’re not going to pick it up in Primark, but you get what you pay for in terms of fabric, fit, quality and sustainability. I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase an entire packing cube of expensive merino today, but working my way up to a kit bag full of great quality basics is the goal for me.
In the Other Panier
With one panier being dedicated to my personal kit, the smaller of the two is more about the rest of the random things I need to carry.
This is where I’ll have a packet of tissues and baby wipes, a spare pair of gloves (warmer ones for when the weather is pants), a spare buff or two, a beanie hat for if it gets super cold, a reusable bag in case we need to carry any shopping, some travel wash and an elastic washing line (this one – a travel essential in my opinion), and a small microfibre towel (one of these) in case anything needs drying off.
The joys of having a chain driven bike means I need to carry chain lube on bike trips to ensure that it lasts as long as possible (I don’t have a Scottoiler fitted). I use the Wurth Dry Chain Lube, and try and carry a small 150ml tin so it doesn’t take up all the room in my luggage. As far as tools go, we carry a selection between us including allen keys, screwdriver and bits, and the like. Along with that we carry a tyre repair kit and a small air compressor in a pouch (like this one) that runs off the bike. Of course, we also have cable ties and Gorilla Tape on hand, which almost always get used, you just never know when you might need to stop something falling off…
It’s fair to say that a week in the UK doesn’t really warrant needing a huge toolkit as we can use our breakdown cover if we really needed it, but it’s good to be at least a bit prepared. We’ve got our eyes on the Motion Pro trail tool for future trips, as it’s small and neat – have you got one, is it worth the price?
Finally, in this panier, I pack my iPad and headphones. Definitely a luxury item, but it is much easier to plan routes, check hotels, find places to visit etc on an iPad than it is on a phone. And, of course, I also use my iPad to edit photos, and it’s ideal for watching films or box sets on in the evenings if it’s dark and wet and there’s nowhere else to go. Another reason to do washing half way through a trip!
Quick Access Essentials
I keep a small rucksack in my top box with my essential items, that I can quickly grab as and even I need them, and also pick up to carry with me if we go wandering away from the bike. This includes my water bottle, baseball cap, charger block and cables, notebook and pen, wallet, and handful of snacks (always carry snacks!), that kind of thing.
In that handlebar bag I mentioned at the beginning I carry my wallet, phone case and cable (so I can charge when riding), spare earplugs, hand sanitiser (even before covid…), my sunglasses case, and any documents or route notes I might need for day. I don’t have tank bag, I’m short and I find they get in the way, and so that handlebar bag is where I put anything I might need on-the-road.
And I think that’s about it. As you can see, I don’t pack very much at all, I’ve learnt over the years that I just don’t need to carry a whole bunch of stuff to have a good time on a road trip. Or maybe you think I over pack and need to sort that out?!
Do you road trip by motorbike? I’d love to hear what you take with you. Give your hints, tips and advice in the comments below.
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