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ADV Prepping10 Ways To Think ‘Outside the Box’ With Your Hard Cases

10 Ways To Think ‘Outside the Box’ With Your Hard Cases

Those panniers are useful for so much more than just carrying your stuff.

Published on 08.08.2016

Using your adventure motorcycle to get your body from point A to B on the map can be mighty boring, unless you’re riding the lesser-straight roads and trails in between — it’s built for so much more than that. Same thing can be said of your hard cases. Using them just for hauling your supplies to camp and back is about as exciting as riding on the super slab.

Unlike an empty beer can, a pair of sturdy aluminum side cases can do a lot more than they were intended for if you dare to think outside the box. Loaded with fresh undies and freeze-dried ice cream —or as empty as that beer can— think of each of the hard cases mounted to your bike as building blocks and you’ll start to see beyond functional fixedness… into the reality beyond underutilized equipment.

Using just one thing for two uses proves you’re a well-seasoned traveler… using that same one thing for a dozen uses makes you a nerd… but a very smart nerd! One with the ability to survive anything your adventure will throw at you. We call that winning!


With each example below, we’ll show you how a pair of hard cases can save, help or otherwise enhance your journey, beyond carrying (and keeping dry) your comic book collection or your groceries home from the market. Scour the web for good ideas, and you’ll see many of the same uses suggested again and again, as well as a few fantasies (like using multiple cases as river floats). While we’re not going to get that crazy, we did try to look beyond the norm. Lets see how many you’ve done!

1. Ice Chest

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Ice Chest

Great escapes are made even greater with a celebratory brew at the end of a ride. Just because you don’t have a trunk to carry your gear to the campground doesn’t mean you can’t have a few cold ones stashed away. Load a saddlebag with some ice, toss in a ‘sixer’ and some steaks, and you’ve got yourself a world-class getaway!

2. Set Up Camp First

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Hanging your hammock

Getting up that mountain might have been the hardest thing you’ve ever done on your bike, and as such a cold brew is well deserved. But don’t forget to set up camp before you crack open too many beers. There really IS such a thing as too buzzed to hang a hammock! So, before you impair your balance too much, pop off one of your hard cases, lean it against a tree and tie off that hammock earlier than later.

3. Home Away From Home

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Camp Furniture

It’s typically pretty hard to find the type of adventure we want at home, so we venture out of the garage to find it. And on some occasions, we get to spend a night in the field looking for it… joy! Finding that right adventure often leads you away from the city park and to places without running water and facilities (like picnic tables). Luckily, you’ve got a dinette set mounted to your motorcycle, the left side doubles as your chair, the right your table.

4. Lather, Rinse, Repeat

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Wash Basin

Out there in the forest, no matter how many liters of storage your luggage might have, you won’t find a dishwasher in there after dinner. And waiting for tomorrow morning only leaves you with the same, now caked-on problem, dirty dishes. Let the meltwater from the ice in your side case be the water source for a wash basin. Luckily, the KP duties on a motorcycle trip will not include the silver and plateware of a hundred men. Clean up in no time!

5. Hiding the Cookie Jar

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Bear Box

No matter where you find that adventure, you’ll be sharing the land with a few more of Mother Nature’s creations. Skunks to scorpions, squirrels to bears, the smell of the things you brought along with you can be delicious. Steak to shampoo, almost everything you carried out there has a scent and should be stashed away when you head off to slumberland. No bear can? Use one of your side cases as your “bear box.” Put all your food, toiletries and anything else with a scent inside and hang it from a tree with a rope, well away from your tent, to prevent becoming any bear’s dessert.

6. Bucket Brigade

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Campfire Dead Out

When the good times come to an end and it’s time to break camp, make Smokey The Bear proud and be sure that campfire is “dead out.” “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.” Before you pack up the bike, dip your pannier in a nearby creek, lake or ocean and scoop out a few gallons of water to pour on the embers. Let’s do our part to save the landscape for the next rider… Careless actions are what gets our land rights revoked. Ride, and live, responsibly.

7. Field Repair Tool Tray

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Tool Tray

Getting there and back isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Sometimes that adventure requires tools as well as fuel. Be it a flat tire or a blown gasket, making field repairs requires one simple thing for success, not losing any of the parts you take off the bike. There’s no cycle shop out here, and you’ll be surprised how quickly a greasy 10mm nut can find the bottom of a sand pit. Just pop the lid off one of your hard cases to use as a catch-all for everything you take off the bike. That includes wheel spacers, washers to valve caps and clutch plates…. anything you’d like to keep clean and take home with you again should go in there. A centralized disaster is much easier to manage than widespread panic.

8. Field Repair Cycle Stand

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Centerstand for KLR650

Not every Adventure Motorcycle comes with a center stand (e.g. DR650, KLR650, Africa Twin, 690 Enduro, etc.). And even if your motorcycle does, at some point you’ll end up riding with a buddy whose bike doesn’t have a center stand. How do you get the wheel off to repair that flat when there’s no rock or log around to prop the bike up? While you’re digging out your tools, pop off one of your hard cases and use it as a center stand. It’s a sturdy platform to balance the bike on so you don’t have to lay it on the ground.

9. Get On Up!

GIVI Adventure Motorcycle Hard Cases - Grab Handles

Our bikes all seem to end up on the ground at some point. In the event that you have a tip-over, side cases help make getting the bike back on two wheels a little easier by propping it up a few extra inches off the ground to start with. Hard cases also make far better grab handles than soft bags and sturdy steel racks are more securely attached to the bike than any strap or piece of webbing.

10. Mobile Lock Box

GIVI Motorcycle Hard Cases - Mobile Lock Box

On adventures in more populated places, like anywhere pavement will take you, having some place to safely stash important items is key. Without the security of a trunk space, or even doors for that matter, you’ll be hard pressed to feel safe leaving your valuables under a piece of fabric when you dismount your bike and walk more than 10 feet away. Cameras, tool kits and even spare parts zip-tied to the frame have been known to grow legs and run away when you’re not looking — running straight into the arms of a stranger unfortunately.

Adventures that require you to walk away from the bike leave you with a need for a safe place for your stuff: restaurants, shops, scenic overlooks, to international borders. While even the sturdiest boxes won’t stop a determined thief, they will help dissuade opportunists. Feeling confident that everything you left behind will be there when you return is called piece of mind, worth every penny spent.

Thinking ‘Outside the Box’

Once your brain gets hold of the idea that each side case is more than just a box mounted to the bike for hauling stuff, it will begin to find its own new uses. You’ll start finding usefulness for the box, outside the box so to speak. Then you’ll be using them as doorstops (very useful when loading into and out of a hotel’s side door), tent pegs, free weights (keeping your exercise routines active when you leave home), foot bathes, and offline brag books (where else are you gonna put that sticker from the Alcan Highway?).

How else have you used your motorcycle hard cases? Tell us your most unique story and you might win a prize… or not. Let’s see if you’re thinking outside the box first, then we’ll think about giving you a prize for it!

Photos by Alfonse Palaima

Author: Alfonse Palaima

When not in Los Angeles hiding from society, Alfonse is far, far away from home, collecting passport stamps and slicing through traffic on two wheels with a smile on his face. Slowly rounding the world one country at at time, riding countless miles, on countless motorcycles, covering 6 of the 7 continents so far. While he is a rider like you and I, he has also been a moto journalist in the field since 2003.

Author: Alfonse Palaima

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August 8, 2016 12:30 pm

Some great ideas. How about remove the top and use it as a pan to cook your bacon and eggs 🙂

Alfonse Palaima
Alfonse Palaima
August 8, 2016 5:52 pm
Reply to  Eric

That’s a good one Eric! Then come dinner time, you can heat up some water in the rest of the saddlebag and toss in some clams…. or corn on the cob! 🙂

August 9, 2016 2:36 am

Careful putting water in the cheaper cases, the nuts and bolts can rust. This isn’t an issue with GIVI or TT cases however.

Really cheap cases will dent easily if using them as a bike stand.

10 Ways To Think 'Outside the Box' With Your Ha...
August 9, 2016 4:25 am

[…] Using your adventure motorcycle to get your body from point A to B on the map can be mighty boring, unless you’re riding the lesser-straight roads and trails in between — it’s built for so much more than that. Same thing can be said of your hard cases. Using them just for hauling your supplies …  […]

David Viosca
David Viosca
August 9, 2016 6:30 am

Use as a club. Be nice to have a handle…

August 9, 2016 10:20 am

Use as a sit down toilet. No not inside the cases, but just placing them on the ground with a suitable gap for doing your business. Worked a treat for me.

Alfonse Palaima
Alfonse Palaima
August 9, 2016 10:25 am
Reply to  ANDREW

Good one… but you don’t want to see the photos we took… believe me!!! 🙂

Gerry Tonkin
Gerry Tonkin
August 9, 2016 4:34 pm

Preventing arguments with the pillion in a million . Tell her that the left side pannier is all hers . You have the right side pannier . Obviously if the right side pannier is bigger she gets to use it !
If she wants to bring the kitchen sink etc then getting it in there is her problem . She will soon realise that 20 pairs of knickers isnt going to fit either and will rationalise what is essential . Who does she blame- the pannier and not you !

August 10, 2016 8:33 am
Reply to  Gerry Tonkin

You could also put a sticker with her name on it to make her feel extra special! 🙂

August 9, 2016 5:20 pm

Use the bigger pannier as an actual toilet itself. Carry a small roll of suitable size trash bags, put one in the pannier and roll it over the top, pad the top edges with a couple of pieces of foam pipe insulation and Voila! Tie up the waste bag, TP and all, and deposit in the nearest receptacle. If you’re REALLY out in the boonies and don’t want to pack that bag-o-waste for 100 miles, then perhaps forego this method and stick to Andrew’s idea.

October 24, 2020 3:55 am
Reply to  Jeff

Pack a couple Double Doodie bag instead. They’re thicker than trash bags, and won’t leak. They are two bags in one. The outer has a zipzlock seal, and the inner has a liquid absorbing powder. They also come with a bit of TP and a hand wipe.
You can find them at Bass Pro. There are cheaper versions around, but they aren’t as stout as the DDs.

August 10, 2016 11:03 am

My son and I actually made a thin wooden top to act as a table between the two pannier boxes while camping to give us a nice area to cook, eat, and place the candle lantern at night. We strategically placed a few holes so that it can even be stored upright in one of the boxes and takes up little space and adds very little weight. It was a great father son project that took less than an hour to make and we didn’t even need to buy anything as I already had scraps in the woodshop that worked perfectly. It has now been used a number of times and makes camp feel a little more “homey”.

August 10, 2016 10:58 pm
Reply to  Dave

Nice work on your part Dave.. on the parenting AND the craftiness! 🙂

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[…] off the showroom floor, can tackle the world and take all your gear with you, including the kitchen sink. If long-distance, off-road travel is your ‘thing’, the Adventure is a more capable machine and […]

August 17, 2016 9:12 am

A friend of mine has an R850G/S outfit. Rather than the normal bike and sidecar job, this is a lightweight outfit that he regularly takes off road – truly impressive to watch.
The passenger seat on the sidecar is actually an alloy case with covered foam on the lid. The whole outfit is so finely balanced that it is impossible to ride without the weight of the passenger or another heavy object on the sidecar. To get round this there is a tap at the bottom of the case. To collect his wife from the train station my friend fills the case with water then opens the tap when he arrives at the station. The water drains out, keeping the whole outfit in balance when his wife climbs aboard.

Givi Trekker Outbacks – MotoInsider
August 21, 2016 3:34 pm

[…] Read about ’em on ADV Pulse! […]

Ryder White
Ryder White
August 22, 2016 6:54 pm

I’m a fan of hard cases when it comes to my bike. I feel more secure that my things will still be there whenever I am not around and I leave my bike somewhere. I haven’t tried using it as an ice chest though but I’ll give it a try one of these days. Thank you for these ideas!

Viktor V
Viktor V
January 10, 2017 3:09 pm

I was once in Spain for a couple of weeks during test-rides and I met a gentleman that had a Serrano Ham fitted on a wooden hard case… it would flip over and stand as a table, ready for some delicious cuts.

There was plenty of people recording it so there must be somewhere in youtube.

That’s some proper out-of-the-box thinking! haha


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