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ADV PreppingPacking Light for Adventure Motorcycle Day Trips

Packing Light for Adventure Motorcycle Day Trips

Tips for saving weight when you are just going riding for the day.

Published on 05.20.2015
packing light for short motorcycle trips

We’ve all seen that guy out on the trail with his adventure bike or dual sport so loaded down with “necessities” that he’s unwilling (or unable) to tackle anything more challenging than asphalt. His panniers are bulging, his tank bag is stuffed, and his rear rack is piled high. If the bike goes down, it’ll take at least two people to muscle it back onto two wheels.

All that, and the guy’s out on a day trip. It may look like he’s traveling from Alaska to the tip of South America, but he’s not even planning on camping for the night.

I’ve been that guy. When I started riding adventure bikes in 2004, I’d load my BMW 1150GS down with twice as many tools as I needed, unnecessary supplies, and heavy provisions. I gave no thought to how all the extra weight would affect the bike’s handling, because I was on an “Adventure Bike” and they can go anywhere, right?

pack light for a motorcycle trip
The KTM 690 Enduro R with Giant Loop Mojavi Saddlebags (13.5 liters), all packed and ready for a day-tripping adventure.


I’ve since realized the direct correlation between how much weight you’re carrying and how much fun you have. If you ride off road, even on easy dirt roads, weight is your enemy. Over the last 11 years, I’ve pared down my adventure motorcycle day trips kit considerably. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to save a lot of weight.

The Light Tools for the Job

You’ll need tools when, not if, things break. But tools are heavy, so think hard about what you really need. Then think some more. For example, do you really need a chain breaker on a day trip? If you maintain your chain and replace it when it’s worn, probably not. What about that socket set? Odds are you won’t need all of it.

There are as many ways to keep your tools to a minimum as there are riders. Here’s what I carry. It all fits in an inexpensive vinyl tool roll I cut in half to save weight and bulk:

motorcycle day trips tool kit
Tools are heavy, so think hard about what you actually need to carry for your bike.

Tire irons: Two are a necessity, three are a luxury. Mine are steel, but you can buy super lightweight (and pricey) titanium spoons if you are serious about shaving ounces.

Multipurpose Folding Knife: Thank the Swiss army for this idea. This is your knife, bottle opener, file, punch, pliers, etc., all in one tiny package.

Wrenches: Go through your bike and figure out which fasteners are the most common, then pack wrenches to fit them. Titanium wrenches can save a lot of ounces if you are willing to pay the price. I carry only 8, 10, 12, and 13mm open end wrenches. If your bike has a lot of Allen heads, bring a the most common Allen wrenches. (My bike has a lot of Torx bolts, but most are also common hex head metric sizes so I skip the Torx driver.)

Axle Nut Wrenches: My KTM came with a lightweight double-ended wrench for the front and rear axle nuts. Other manufacturers may not be so considerate. Instead of carrying two large wrenches for the front and rear axle nuts, you can use one adjustable wrench that can handle most axle nut sizes.

Sockets: Again, bring only what you’ll need. And ditch the case. My kit includes 8, 10, 12 and 13 mm sizes, a quarter-inch ratchet and a short extension. Tusk offers a light-weight folding T-Handle set that includes common sizes.

Screwdriver: KTM kindly included a short, reversible unit with my bike. It has a phillips head on one end and a flat head on the other. You can pick up something similar at any hardware store or purchase online.

Zip Ties: Don’t leave home without them. Handy for everything from attaching broken bodywork to fixing a busted clutch lever. Pack long, heavy duty ones that can be cut down to size for smaller jobs.

Pump It Up

When it comes to carrying capacity, bicyclists have it worse than we do. Every ounce they pack they have to move with their own muscles, so they tend to take the less-is-more thinking to the extreme. Which is why some bicycle gear is great for weight-minded dual sport riders.

Tire pumps, for example. Bicycle pumps are light, simple, small and require no battery power. While some riders like CO2 cartridges for the same reasons, I prefer a manual bicycle pump. It can take three to five CO2 cartridges to get a tire up to pressure, and if you run out and don’t have a backup plan, you’re stuck.

topeak mountain morph bicycle pump

The Topeak Mountain Morph weighs half as much as a mini compressor and fills a rear tire in about five minutes.

There are dozens of options out there. When choosing one, keep in mind that motorcycle tires have more volume, and less pressure, than bicycle tires. Pumps designed for fat-tire bicycles are the best option for motorcyclists. I pack a Topeak Mountain Morph, which is 13 inches long and weighs only 8.8 ounces, about half as much as the lightest electric pump out there. It’s designed for high volume, but can still produce 160 psi, far more than you’ll need to seat even the most reluctant bead. If you work at it, you can fill a rear tire to 25 psi in about five minutes.

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Author: Bob Whitby

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Michael Fitzpatrick
Michael Fitzpatrick
May 21, 2015 11:09 am

Good article. I might add a small bottle of bleach for emergency water purification.To treat your water, add 2 drops (0.1 mL) of unscented household bleach (about 5.25% chlorine) to 1 litre of warm water. Mix the bleach and water together. Cover it and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking. You should notice a slight chlorine smell after the 30 minutes.

Giant Loop MoJavi Saddlebag Review - ADV Pulse
October 12, 2015 9:00 am

[…] an overnighter at a secluded camping spot in the woods. The MoJavi’s small size forces you to be efficient with your packing and its design carries gear low and tight on the bike so that the bike’s handling is […]


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