Packing for Off-road Adventures: the LIST.

Please: think before you pack. He didn’t.

Here’s the thing: writing about adventure motorcycling means that packing lists most assuredly figure in my fate.

So, that makes this the day to trot out the clichés:

You can’t fight fate.

Time waits for no one.

Man does not control his own fate; the women in his life do that for him.

Oh, that last one isn’t really what I’m getting at — it might be true, but not what I’m getting at….

Packing lists are the first thing many people ask me about; they’re the last thing most riders agree on. And that means I’m going to ruffle some feathers.

Rustler. Ruffler. Whatever…

But I’m not really a ruffler. So let me approach my first kick at the can this way. I’m not going to push my opinions or make any judgements. I’ll simply tell you what I pack.

But first you need a couple details.

The gear I take on any overnight adventure bike trip is always the same, whether for one night or 30. The only variable items are food.

Here’s how it works. I roll into some little town with my bike loaded up, find the local greasy spoon, and use GPS and maps to plan a route through the desert or forest to the next town. Then I provision with food to last me two to three days, top up my fuel tank and water bladders and get riding. When I reach the town I’ve targeted…well…lather rinse and repeat.

The problem’s between your legs.

The limiting factor to how far I ride in two to three days is sloshing around between my legs. The gas tank of my TE610, combined with the two litres of supplemental fuel I carry, gives me close to 300 kilometres’ range. It doesn’t seem like much distance for a three-day ride – especially if you’re used to road riding – but the terrain is often challenging, so the riding pace is slow. And I stop to take lots of photos.

Oh, and I’ve a got a problem with mornings, so I usually start riding long after the early bird has not only found but digested his worm and is looking for a copy of Reader’s Digest to peruse in the bathroom….

45 litres of luggage

Okay, that was my first long-winded explanation before I give you the list. Here’s the second: I fit all my gear in approximately 45 litres of luggage space, plus a tool tube mounted to the front of the skid plate.

adventure bike luggage
Packed and ready to ride — 3 days or 30.

My luggage breaks down like this:

  • Outdoor Research Drycomp compression backpack – 30 litres *strapped to the seat with Roc Straps; my camp chair folds around the pack.
  • Wolfman Enduro saddlebags (pair) – 11 litres total  *discontinued, but similar to the Wolfman Daytripper bags
  • Tankbags (pair) – 4 litres total  *homemade, using two old fanny packs
  • Tooltube – 2 litres total  *homemade (yes, this is a theme with me) from 4″ ABS piping

47 litres is enough volume for all my gear, 7 litres of water, food, tools and spares. 

I also have two litres of gas in bottles flanking my rear fender.

extra fuel bottles

To put that in perspective, many soft saddlebag sets fall in the 60 to 80 litre range; riders usually add a tail bag as well, and these frequently offer about a 30 to 40 litre capacity. So I’m toting no more than half the 90 to 120 litre volume I see on most adventure bikes.

So that’s…50% smaller, right?

Yes: I’m doing the math and blowing my own horn. And finally – drum roll please (how many of these can I shoehorn in here?) – here’s my packing list.

General equipment

  • Wallet (water resistant):
    • Passport, credit card, debit card, license, health card, auto club (CAA or AAA) card, travel health insurance card, cash, bike insurance, spare motorcycle key
  • Electronics:
    • Cell phone
    • Batteries (4 x AA), USB 12V DC battery charger, 6″ USB cables (1 each, mini and micro USB)
    • Camera
    • GPS (x 2: Lowrance iFinder; Garmin Oregon 600)
    • Flash drive with motorcycle information
    • Kobo reader (mini)  *Remember: I mostly ride solo. I take this because I spend lots of time reading in the evening and don’t want to rely on my phone in a rough, dirty environment — although I do also load books onto it.
GPS and maps
Those are pulleys for my Z-drag recovery kit mounted on the left mirror stalk. You can see my pair of GPS units and paper maps and AA battery charger on the handlebars.
  • First aid kit  *detailed list of contents in an upcoming post
first aid kit
As a solo rider, I carry a substantial first aid kit prioritizing two functions: bandaging and pain relief.
  • Journal and pen
  • Compass
  • Lighter
  • Knife
  • Headlamp
  • Sunglasses, cloth case
  • Eye drops, TUMS, Lip balm (in small Ziploc bag)
  • Repair tape (Tenacious)
  • 2 carabiners and z-drag (mechanical advantage) recovery kit
  • Flares (x2) and launcher
  • Tire gauge
adventure bike accessories
Note high-tech reference scale in photographs, courtesy of Honda Civic.

adventure accessories packed

Camping gear

  • Camp chair  *rolled around the backpack in the bike photo above
  • Ground sheet
  • Sleeping mattress (Thermarest NeoAir XLite, short)  *take a repair patch
  • Tent (REI Passage 1)
  • Sleeping bag (down fill)
  • Pillow (Cocoon ultralight inflatable)

camping gear

adventure camping equipment
Camp chair, with tent and poles. And really fancy high-tech reference scale phone-thingey.

Cooking and kitchen

camping kitchen

camping kitchen kit


*all clothing items except t-shirts are synthetic; I wear cotton T-shirts because I generally ride in hot, dry weather and don’t require the wicking properties of synthetics. Plus they feel better. For cooler weather and nighttime, I change into my synthetic base-layer top.

  • Baseball cap
  • Toque
  • Shorts, usable for swimming
  • Underwear (x 2 pairs)
  • Socks (x 2 pairs thin, 1 pair thicker)
  • Long-sleeved fleece top
  • Long-sleeved base-layer top
  • T-shirts (x 2, cotton)
  • Pants (1 pair)
  • Waterproof stuff sack to hold it all
  • Flip flops (in plastic bag)
  • Jacket (synthetic PrimaLoft insulation) in compression stuff sack
camping clothing
Heavy socks and fleece sweater are not included in this image. Forgot em.

camp clothes

Riding gear

  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Helmet with goggles
  • Mesh jacket
  • Mesh pants
  • Ear plugs

Bathroom kit

  • Pack towel, mini
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush
  • Glasses (in cloth bag)
  • Contact lens solution
  • Contact lens case  *I’ve cut mine in half; since my prescription is the same in both eyes, I can drop both lenses into one cup and not worry about mixing them up.
  • Contact lenses  *on my eyeballs
  • Contact lenses, spare pair
  • Baby powder
  • Sunscreen
  • Soap
  • Dental floss
  • Prescription meds if you got ’em
  • Stuff sack to hold all these items

*I pack toilet paper separately, in a Ziploc bag.

bathroom kit for adventure motorcycling

bathroom kit packed



camping gear for adventure motorcycle
That’s pretty much everything…

adventure bike camping gear

On the bike

  • Saddlebags (11 litres)
  • Backpack (30 litres) *my old Summit Sack holds a bit more than the new 27 litre model
  • Roc Straps
  • Tool tube (2 litres)  *look for upcoming posts on my tool kit. In the meantime…
  • Fuel bottles (2 x 1 Litre)
  • GPS mounting brackets (x 2)
  • 12VDC to USB adapter for charging batteries
  • Paper maps

As I am a true gourmet, you’re likely desperate to know what kind of food I might take. So the following list fits under the “Don’t blame me; you asked for it” kind of maxim.

Food — or, as Yvonne calls it, “Seriously? I’m not eating that.”

  • Milk powder
  • Granola
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Pasta and sauce prepared meals
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Ramen instant noodles
  • Power bars

What’s on your list?

Let me know if I missed something, or if you want details about specific items. And hang around for future posts: I’ll fill in some gaps about camping gear, first aid kits, tools and luggage.

9 Replies to “Packing for Off-road Adventures: the LIST.”

  1. What brand are the smaller dry bags you have pictured?

    1. Hi Mark!

      The 2 and 7 litre ones I use for my synthetic jacket and my clothing are from Mountain Equipment Co-op, [Pack Rat Sil Stuff Sacks.]

      Pack Rat Sil Sacks, in 3 and 7 litre sizes.

      They’re silicone treated nylon, so not actually waterproof. But they compress their contents well, are virtually weightless, and provide good water-resistance as a backup to the waterproof compression sack I put them in and strap on my rear fender. That’s the [Outdoor Research Drycomp Summit Sack] I’ve written about in another post.

      Outdoor Research DryComp Summit Sack

  2. Thanks Kevin! They look like they would be great in soft luggage like Giant Loop, etc. I’m going to try some.

    Thanks for excellent tips and advice!

    1. You’re welcome, Mark; I’m happy to share ideas with a fellow dirty rider.

      I’ve used roll-top, water resistant stuff sacks like this in our Giant Loop Coyote, and they pack down much smaller than the heavy nylon draw-string sacks Giant Loop provides.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the useful guide. Maybe I will have an adventure ride alone to take the experience

    1. You’re welcome, Cindy! Anything you like to take along that I’ve forgotten? See you on the trail some day…

  4. Dan Schultz says:

    Just a belated thanks for the helpful advice. Used your tips on my first time combining camping and riding (NMBDR last June solo). Some wild camping and a few established campgrounds. Glad I kept gear minimal per your recommendation, every bit of weight felt at end of day, wasn’t looking for more! Later in 2018 did COBDR and UTBDR (group rides). Will be 3 weeks in AZ/NV/Grand Canyon in 2019. Anyway, appreciate the inspiration and guidance, love being independent from hotels!

    1. Hi Dan! Hey, I’m sorry: I don’t know how I missed your comment for the last 4 months! I suspect I’m better out on the trail than I am at the computer. I’m glad you found the information helpful. Did you discover any gaps or improvements for the list? The BDR system is great, isn’t it? I rode part of the Nevada BDR by accident on this ride: I love the American southwest; maybe we’ll meet on the trail one day!

  5. I am genuinely glad to glance at this webpage posts which contains tons of helpful facts, thanks for providing these kinds of statistics.

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