Pack Light, Pack Right

Pack Light, Pack Right

Motorcycle travel might just be the greatest way to explore our country, or any country for that matter. BUT, packing for motorcycle travel is not so easy. There is finite space on a bike and therefore critical decisions must be made. Sorry blow dryers, you didn’t make the cut. Our job here at Butler Maps is to ride motorcycles, we spend many a night sleeping next to our bikes and thus have narrowed down a few helpful tips to make your next ride slightly less, shall we say… cluttered. Follow these tips and remember, less is more.

1. How many bags is too many bags?

Lets just say this, sixteen bags is too many and zero bags means you probably stink. Somewhere closer to four seems to be the right number for us. Two panniers or ‘saddle bags’ on the rear, a small waterproof duffel on the back and a tank bag for quick access to things. Trust us, you can go months on end with just four bags, if you do it right.

2. On cooking from your bike.

This is not like car camping, you don’t just throw in the charcoal grill for the heck of it. That said, you don’t have to eat like Bear Grylls either. Nobody likes eggs that require adding water so forget that. Take cues from backcountry hikers and buy the same stuff they use. MSR among other brands have kits with everything you need, conveniently folded into a ‘Tetris’-like package of convenience. Pot, plate, bowl, cup, knife, spoon, fork, gas cartridge and micro-stove should all fit nicely into each other in one contained unit. Wedge in a sponge and a few shop rags, they help keep things from rattling around and with cleaning. has all the bits and pieces you need. Remember, less is more.

3. But I like those jeans.

Yes, we all have our favorite jeans, but pick one, just one pair of jeans for a motorcycle trip–they are too bulky to be packing multiples. Surprisingly, denim can go many days before hitting critical stank. Did grandpa pack three pairs when he rode this bike across the country in nineteen-diggity two? Probably not! Looking good, pop-pop.

 4. This, not that.

If you are camping from your bike, especially if it’s your first go at it, you’ll be tempted to pack a whole bunch of stuff that you think you need. Think carefully, you don’t need that cast iron skillet, get a full cooking set from GSI of MSR. Yes, you need a light, but you don’t need a gas-filled lantern. Get two headlamps (you’re bound to lose one). A critical piece of gear is a sleeping pad, it will make life better, but a big one will take up an entire pannier. Get a lightweight air filled pad, it should pack down to the size of a big water bottle. We use NEMO pads and tents and give them two thumbs up.  Sleeping bag, yes of course you need one, but don’t even think about your flannel LL Bean from middle school sleepovers. For us, a single bag has done the job in almost every situation. It’s a Mont Bell zero degree goose down bag. It packs tiny and is very versatile.

5. And what not – small things we’d never leave behind.

Buff – These incredibly simple tubes of fabric do so much. Use as a neck warmer, wind protector, goggle cleaner, snot rag or tourniquet.
Hot sauce- It just makes everything better.
JB weld and duct tape– If you can’t duct it…well, you know the saying.
Goose Down camping boots– Warm feet are happy feet, plus down booties stuff easily into your sleeping bag, you’ll never know they are there.
Monkey Butt Powder- For your bum, for your boots, for the friendship of your riding partners.
Dr. Bonners soap- Cleans you, your dishes and your cloths. Plus it’s “Eco-friendly.”

Comments (6)

  • Dianne Reply

    Great article and while humorous it provides some very timely info. Having never camped with my bike yet it gave me insights that I’m sure will save my a$$ and, from a standpoint of having done a lot of camping with a 4 wheel auto it just makes sense knowing that adjustments need to be made.

    April 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm
  • John Clement Reply

    Great maps, and good advice. Love to see people encouraged to take that first trip. For increased credibility sake, you might recheck your spelling and grammar use. Not being a jerk, just a sincere suggestion. Too much, not to much, and a couple of other minor things. Cheers.

    April 9, 2015 at 12:36 pm
  • Keith Brown Reply

    Think of It’s like backpacking except on a motorcycle…

    April 17, 2015 at 10:37 pm
  • Mark P Reply

    Sums it up!

    May 11, 2015 at 10:40 am
  • Drew Reply

    Love the maps, use them all the time planning trips in the west.
    One suggestion about packing light, Western Mountaineering. They are American made and every bit as good as Mont Bell. Also they make bags for the more portly of us that the lighter tighter (made for skinny people) bags that I can’t take a deep breath in.

    June 20, 2015 at 2:49 am
    • butlermaps Reply

      Thanks for the tip Drew. We will check them out. A good sleeping bag is a top priority.

      June 23, 2015 at 5:40 pm


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