What to Pack for a Cross Country Motorcycle Trip

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When it comes to packing for a cross country motorcycle trip, there are a number of important things to keep in mind, including packing lightly, preparing for emergencies, and dressing in layers.

Less is More – Pack Lightly

One of the most difficult parts about preparing for a cross country motorcycle trip is only taking what you need… nothing more and nothing less. No matter how hard we try, the tendency is to overpack. How many times have you come back from a trip to find that you didn’t wear half of what you intended? Ideally, you want to pack enough clothes to get by for a few days. Pants, sweaters, and sweatshirts can often be worn several days in a row, as long as they don’t get soiled or sweaty. Ideally, you should only need to pack extra underclothes, t-shirts, and socks.

To conserve even more space, roll your clothes tightly rather than folding them. This not only saves space but also keeps your clothes from wrinkling. When it comes to packing toiletries, be sure to buy the small travel size variations or pour your favorite products in small plastic containers. It’s also a good idea to place any liquids inside of a Ziplock bag just in case you get a leak.

Prepare for Emergencies

One of the most important things to consider while riding on two wheels is to be prepared for emergencies. You won’t have the luxury of waiting for help inside the protection of a car so you must be extra prepared. In case you get a flat tire or break down on the side of the road, make sure you have a working cell phone and some sort of roadside assistance and towing service. This may be available through your motorcycle insurance company or a separate roadside service such as AAA or the American Motorcycle Association (AMA). Although most cell phone service providers cover large areas, it’s always a good idea to check with your service provider and find out if your cross country motorcycle trip will encounter any areas that have no or sparse service or signals.

Carrying a basic motorcycle toolkit is an absolute must as well. This can save you some downtime for small fixes you can do yourself, such as changing bulbs in headlights, brake lights, or turn signals. Sometimes you might find loose parts that rattle from being on bumpy roads. Even if you’re not a mechanic, it’s not uncommon for another motorcyclist or mechanic to stop by that may be able to help. Many bikes come with their own tool bags but if yours doesn’t be sure to pick one up. Other useful items for your emergency kit include: flashlight, first aid kit, extra bulbs, batteries, flares or reflectors, calling card, or spare change to make a phone call in case you don’t have cell service.

Layers, Layers, Layers… and Easy Access

It’s important to wear protective gear at all times – comfortable motorcycle riding pants, jacket, gloves, boots and a durable motorcycle helmet. Choose motorcycle gear made of leather or special materials made to withstand motorcycle crashes and the varying weather conditions you may encounter. Gear that is made of bright colors such as yellow and that have reflective areas are also recommended, but if you’re set on wearing all black you can also buy reflective tape and decals to place on your gear and helmet.

Earplugs are another necessity. Even if you wear a full-face helmet, continuous air noise can cause a loss of hearing with prolonged riding. You can buy the disposable ones or you can order custom earplugs that are based on a mold taken of your ear. You can also consider investing in a helmet with additional safety features, such as noise protection. 

Be prepared for changing weather. Dress in layers so that as it gets cold you can easily add more layers. Or, as it gets warmer, you can remove layers. Especially in cold weather, you want to be sure to layer up and dress comfortably while avoiding getting too sweaty. In the heat, you want to be sure to stay protected while avoiding getting too dehydrated. Make sure that you are confident riding in inclement weather as well, as high winds or patches of rain may prove difficult otherwise, and hold up your trip. 

Your extra clothing should be placed in a saddlebag or tank bag where you can easily access them. Rain gear (jacket, pants, waterproof booties), gloves, etc. should be readily available in case you need to pull over on the side of the road to quickly change.